White sand beaches, turquoise water, swaying palms … this Indian Ocean island has it all.
Mauritius is a fascinating, world-in-one-island slice of paradise. Its very name of conjures up images of tropical luxury and stupendous extravagance. While in many destinations famed for cobalt-blue seas, white sandy beaches and luxury hotels, you may eventually find yourself wishing for something to do besides sunbathing and swimming, it’s often hard to know what to do next in Mauritius. The island is loaded with historic sights, cultural diversity, geographic variation and almost limitless activities to distract you from the daily grind of beach and pool. But perhaps its single biggest asset is the relaxed charm of its warm and welcoming people.
No matter where you stay in Mauritius, chances are you’ll come across rhum arrangé – rum flavoured with local fruits and spices. On the island’s south, Shanti Maurice resort’s newly opened Rum Shed serves the island’s largest collection of rums: over 180 types from around the world. If you care to try and make your own, Veranda Resorts in the north of the island offers lessons as part of its cultural programme.
First destination-must is the capital, Port Louis. Wander around its pretty landscaped waterfront flanked with beautiful old buildings, reflecting the eras of Portuguese, Dutch, French and English colonisation. Throw in the colour and culture of the Indian and African migration and you have a united nations of style and exotica. You can easily spend a few hours here, and there are plenty of restaurants for a leisurely waterside lunch.
A visit to the island’s main markets is not to be missed. Even if you’re not a foodie, the produce market is worth a look with its huge array of exotic and colourful fruits, vegetables and spices. Then browse the clothes and craft bazaar for inexpensive buys: sarongs, saris, jewelled sandals, cashmere wraps, turquoise, coral and pearl jewellery, brightly coloured woven baskets and local artefacts.
Port Louis is packed with designer boutiques and it is here you will also find quality cashmere, fine gold jewellery and diamonds, all products of the island’s industries. For more leisurely shopping, head 20 kilometres up the coast to the tourist town of Grand Baie, which is also a perfect waterside spot for lunch or an afternoon drink.
If you’ve shopped ’til you dropped, set aside a day for a bit of adventure. Go east and snorkel at Ile aux Cerfs, a small island surrounded by coral reefs and crystal-clear water. Go west and swim with dolphins in their natural habitat at Tamarin Bay. Or take a walk on the wild side with lions in the Casela Nature and Leisure Park, where you can actually stroll and hang out with the big cats. Their trainers are on hand at all times, but still it’s a heart-stopping thrill.
Whatever you do in Mauritius, make time to dine. Street food is fantastic, with Indian, Creole, Chinese and African on offer (try a dholl puri, a flatbread with curry). There are many great restaurants, from local eateries with delicious authentic fare to top-notch places with exquisite fusion food. The curries are many and wonderful, seafood is a mainstay, rougaille is a delicious Creole stew worth a try, the island fruit is sweet and delicious, and “millionaire’s salad” (heart of palm) is an everyday dish.
Where to stay:
Zilwa Attitude. Book this hotel on http://www.TheR8.com or call our free concierge service on 1800 908 254 to book this hotel.
What to pack:
Swimsuits for day, island chic for night.
What to eat:
Any type of curry with all the trimmings – it’s addictive.
What to drink:
A mojito, or any cocktail made with the local rum.
A cashmere wrap, and a carving of the extinct dodo.
Getting cosy with a big cat.
Tandem skydiving from 10,000 feet for stunning island views.
P: 1800 908 254
resource references: Traveller.com.au, lonely planet