“Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied from Mauritius” ~ Mark Twain.
This famous quotation summarizes Mauritius very well. And I would vouch for that. This tiny jewel in the Indian Ocean has a lot of diversity and many beautiful sights making it an ideal destination for a lovely vacation. We holidayed in Mauritius in the last week of May.
The commonly known things about Mauritius are its azure and turquoise waters, serene beaches and the extinct Dodo maybe at the most. At least that’s what I used to think before reading an article about Mauritius last year. There is something or the other for everyone here.
The most obvious are the beaches for lazing around and relaxation. For the adventurer in you there are plenty of water sports to indulge in. For a nature lover there are some endemic species here not found anywhere else in the world. A varied landscape which ranges from hills to seemingly never-ending sugarcane fields flanked by the beaches is a photographer’s delight. For the history buff, there is a vibrant history explained well in various museums. For those who like a little bit of hustle and bustle there is the Casino or the horse races. The foodies can enjoy some unique dishes which are a result of the wonderful potpourri that is the Creole culture. Add Orange, Coffee and Vanilla flavored rum to the mix and the combination is quite heady! (pun intended!)
Relax in Mauritius
Mon Choisy Beach
This idyllic beach was very close to Trou aux Biches where we were staying. The refreshing water is irresistible. We took a glass bottomed boat ride from here and had an amazing journey getting to see the stunning coral reefs and colorful fishes. Not to forget a Hanuman idol, of all things, we chanced upon among the corals!
The name of the place meant the place of the unlucky and poor people supposedly. But today it definitely doesn’t seem to be so. The chapel of Notre-Dame Auxiliatrice de Cap Malheureux is a postcard worthy sight. The red roof of the church surrounded by greenery with the ocean in the background makes it a memorable sight. The cobble stones strewn over the beach add beauty to the place.
Coin de Mire
The name of this island translates to edge of the wall as explained by Gopaul bhai. This is due to the shape of the island. The island lies North of Mauritius and can be seen from Cap Malheureux.
Trou aux Biches
A village in the north-west of Mauritius where we stayed. Anandi Villa apartment was indeed a good place to stay. Thanks to Gopaul Bhai for arranging our stay here and Mrs Veda our host who ensured that we were comfortable while there. Every morning we were woken up by the birds. Gazing up at the beautiful skies as soon as I woke up and waiting for the Bulbuls and the Madagascar Fody to arrive in the garden at what seemed to be their regular haunts will always be memorable. We were greeted by a perfect rainbow on our second morning here and it was great that we could watch it from the comfort zone of our balcony.
The beach was just a stone’s throw away from our apartment and we spent two evenings here. The beach is a hive of activity in the evenings with tourists relaxing in the chairs along the beach and a group of local people playing volleyball. Others choosing to swim or stroll along the beaches. The coast guard keeping a watch out. The boats returning to the shore after a long day. Ships sailing in the distant horizon. The sunset followed by blue hour. Rishi had a great time playing in the water and attempting to build sand castles when pulled out of water :)
Flic en Flac
This is a white sand beach on the west coast of Mauritius. We stopped here for a while on our way back from Casela. As the beach was too crowded we clicked a few pictures and did not spend much time here.
The colour of the water in the Blue Bay on the east coast is mesmerizing to say at the least. The Blue was much deeper than the other places that we saw. We spent some time walking around this place. The clouds were ominous and it was windy. So we skipped taking a boat ride here. We had an amazing lunch consisting of delicious pizza and an out of the world Banana Flambe for dessert at the Cafe Bouganvillea. The waitress got the caramelized bananas and poured some rum around it and lit the flame right on our table!
Be one with nature in Mauritius
SSR Botanical Garden
This garden named after Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, the first Prime Minister of Mauritius is the oldest botanical garden in the Southern hemisphere. It was founded by Pierre Poivre in the late eighteenth century. This sprawling garden has a wide variety of plants native to Mauritius. Some of the flora that I can recollect vividly are the Bottle Palm, Lipstick Palm, Walking Tree, Giant Water Lilies, Shower-head flower, ebony and spice trees. It is worthwhile to hire a guide here. An old Creole building along-with the samadhi of SSR can also be seen here.
Trou aux Cerfs
This is a dormant volcano in Curepipe having a crater. The crater seems conspicuous due to the dense vegetation around it. It was raining pretty heavily when we reached the view-point from where the crater can be seen and the whole place seemed to be engulfed by mist. The view might have been much better sans the rain.
The Black River Gorges national park is one of the places where many varieties of flora and fauna abound. All the endemic Mauritian birds are supposed to be found here and there are multiple hiking trails. Since the trails were closed when we went there we had to be content watching it all from afar from the road. However we went to a view-point not far from the road where a waterfall can be seen. A van selling sugarcane juice was parked on the road. We made ample use of the opportunity and had some delicious sugarcane juice. The whole area was carpeted with lush green trees and bushes. Chinese and French Guavas grew in the wild all along the way from Ganga Talao to the national park. Gopaul bhai got these absolutely yummy fruits for us. He also found some strawberries for us. He also got us a sample of the Papyrus plant pith.
This place is famous for its seven coloured earths formed by natural phenomenon of decomposition of basalt rocks. We learnt during our stay in Mauritius that this place is also famous locally for its coffee plantations and rum that gets produced there. In fact we had Chamarel coffee daily :) The way to Chamarel from Black Gorges NP was laced with sugarcane fields and pineapple fields. We drank some excellent fresh pineapple juice at a restaurant in Chamarel. We saw some giant turtles near the coloured earths. The mist covered hills provided a good background to this place.
Ile aux aigrettes
An island on the eastern coast that is a must for those interested in flora and fauna. The island has endemic species and lot of effort has been put in conserving some of the endangered species of birds by the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation. The endemic birds that can be seen here are the Olive White-eye, Mauritius Fody and the Pink Pigeon. Their efforts are really appreciative considering the fact that these birds are found only in Mauritius and nowhere else in the world. At one point of time only 9 Pink Pigeons were left and today there are about 450 out of which 60 odd are found in this island.
The island can be reached by boat from the road going to Blue Bay. We were accompanied by a guide who explained to us about the various endemic trees and birds.
One of the most wonderful places that I have ever been to. This place is unique. It is located at the southernmost tip of Mauritius. The cliffs of the coast can be seen from the view-point here. There are no coral reefs here unlike other places on the Mauritian coast. The waves are much higher and crash against the cliffs constantly. It was so windy that we were not able to stand still. The views were truly out of the world. Another popular spot here is the Roche Qui Pleure point where we can walk on one of the cliffs and get some amazing views. This place is also called weeping rock due to the waves crashing against the cliffs making the rocks look as though they are weeping.
A surprise visit to this falls that turned out to be pleasant was planned by Gopaul bhai. We were caught unaware as he drove through a narrow path in the midst of sugarcane fields. The falls formed by the water of Savanne River is close to Souillac and Gris Gris. The falls are not on the normal tourist circuit due to the awkward path to reach the place. The rocky portion behind the falls is rectangular in shape. We spent some time here enjoying the music of the rumbling water. The tender coconut in the fruit stall nearby was so sweet!
This hill in Western Mauritius is shaped like a sleeping woman. A perfect example of the creativity of nature.
Have your fill of adventure in Mauritius
ile aux cerfs
The hub for water activities while in Mauritius. This island on the east coast can be reached by taking a boat from Trou D’eau Douce in Flacq district. We took a full day package via Vada VIP tours. The package consisted of the boat ride to the island, lunch, visit to the Grand River Waterfalls, para-sailing and a boat ride around the whole island as well as its neighbouring island. We enjoyed the onward boat ride to the island with the wind blowing and our boat speeding up cutting across the bluish-green ocean. After spending some time on the island enjoying ice candy we went on a boat to see the Grand River Falls. As we approached the falls, White-tailed tropic birds which looked so gorgeous could be seen flying high up. The falls looked so beautiful. After having lunch in one of the smaller islands nearby we proceeded for para-sailing.
As we landed on the wooden pedestal from where the sailing starts, we were immediately taken and tied to the para-sail wing. We never got any time to back out :) The experience I must say was just awesome. To be up in the air tied to a bright parasail wing with your loved one over a beautiful sparkling ocean and blue skies for company is an absolute delight. We had asked the boat guy not to give us a dip in the ocean before landing down. Once we started enjoying the ride we were thinking that a dip might have been nice. At the exact moment we were gently nudged and given a perfectly gentle dip in the ocean by the boat guy who I guess had not heard what we said earlier :) We returned by boat to the island and relaxed for a while on the beach chairs with umbrellas. As we were sipping coffee, we spotted plenty of Yellow Cardinals and Sparrows near the cafe. It was time for us to leave and we took the speed boat ride around the island.
The Tamarin bay is a wonderful place to catch up with the Dolphins and do snorkeling. Sightings are supposedly better early in the morning. We reached Tamarin around 8 in the morning. It had been drizzling on and off that morning resulting in beautiful rainbows. The scene that unfolded before us as we went in the boat was amazing. There were only few boats with people who had also come to watch and swim with the Dolphins. Kayaks could be seen closer to the shore. Soon we were duly rewarded with sightings of schools of Dolphins. Their movement was amazingly synchronous. One of the boat guys who had accompanied us went swimming and directed our boat towards the Dolphins. Rishi who had been watching the Dolphins intently all along decided to take a plunge to watch them from up close. He was super excited to have got a golden opportunity.
After spending some time with the Dolphins we set forth towards the coral reefs for snorkeling. While the guys had a good time snorkeling and watching the world below the ocean unfurl before their eyes, we ladies did not have too good an experience as the masks were not fitting us properly. To add to my woes I did not know swimming which might have helped me breathe in water without the mask.
Casela Nature Park
The Casela Nature Park is located in Western Mauritius. The park has an impressive collection of birds as well as animals. Activities here include Zip-lining, Canyoning, Quad and Buggy rides, Segway and Fishing. Animal lovers can visit the petting farm or go on a walk with the Lions or go on a safari vehicle to see the big Cats like we did.
We spent some time watching birds and headed to the restaurant which has great views of the surrounding area. We hiked up the observatory hill near the restaurant and the views from the top were amazing. It was so windy that we couldn’t stand properly.
After lunch we went on the safari vehicle to watch the big cats. The Tigers in the enclosure seemed to be in a playful mood. We saw 4-5 Lions as we drove through the enclosed area. Some of them were hardly visible initially in the tall grass which acted as a very good camouflage.
The history buff in Mauritius
The hill that rises right next to the ocean. A UNESCO world heritage site. We saw this beautiful hill afar from a view-point on the west coast road. Apparently slaves who escaped in the past would come to this hill. When slavery was abolished in Mauritius, a police contingent was sent to let the former slaves hiding here know that they are free men. What a folly! When the slaves saw the police contingent approaching they assumed that it was to bring them to task and back to the life they had left behind. Many chose death by jumping off le Morne instead of going back to the dreadful life. How sad!
L’Aventure du sucre
An old Sugar mill that is now a museum. The museum has been organized very well with lot of information related to the history of sugar in Mauritius and the process of extracting it available for the inquisitive. The highlight of the tour is the sugar tasting that can be done in the boutique at the end. All eight varieties of sugar produced in Mauritius had very distinct tastes and were way too delicious. Unfortunately the sugar produced locally is very expensive and therefore gets exported to Europe. The islanders use sugar imported from South Africa. We also tasted excellent Orange and Vanilla Rum as well as the Coffee and Vanilla Rum.
Hustle and bustle in Mauritius
The tourist hub in North Mauritius. Most notable point is availability of delicious street food like Dholl puris and Namki. The bay was decked with white boats presenting a very good view. The hills in the distance adds to the beauty of the bay.
Ganga Talao/Grand Bassin
Most sacred place for the Mauritians of Indian origin. The popular faith is that the water of River Ganga is available here. One of the widest roads in Mauritius leads to this beautiful place. A giant 108 ft statue of Lord Shiva is there to welcome the pilgrims and visitors as they arrive. The lake around the Shiva temple has many Eels and fishes. We spent some time feeding bread to the fishes. We then visited the Shiva temple. Other gods and goddesses like Hanuman, Lakshmi and others are also worshiped here. This place is extremely crowded during Maha Shivaratri every year and roads across the island get blocked as pilgrims trudge their way to the temple. On a clear day the view from the top of the nearby hillock can be rewarding. However it was raining when we went and the visibility was poor.
Champ de Mars
This racecourse in Port Louis is the oldest in Southern Hemisphere. We went here on a Saturday afternoon and sat near the fence to watch the races. A huge crowd had gathered and betting was in full flow. Gopaul bhai advised us to be careful as lot of pickpockets prowl here during races and one can get robbed easily within the blink of an eye. We stood near the fence and watched three races. The galloping horses and the jockeys were a mesmerizing sight. The overall experience was good. The race course has a nice view of the hills. The hill that can be seen from the parking lot is called Signal Mountain due to lot of antenna towers present there.
Shop till you drop in Mauritius
Mauritius Glass Gallery
A glass building place as well as gallery on the outskirts of Port Louis. The hand prints of celebrities made out of glass flanked the walls of the first room that we passed through. A series of different types of mirrors greeted us as we wound our way through. We watched glass trinkets being made. The gallery had an impressive collection of glass items for sale. We bought a miniature glass Dodo as a souvenir.
Wondering what this one is? It is a model ship making factory. We were taken around by one of the staff and the whole process of making these models was explained to us. Care is taken to ensure that all details of the actual ship are incorporated. Blueprints of actual ships are used to make the models. Some of the popular ships that we saw were the Titanic, Vasa, Sovereign of the Seas, Cutty Sark, HMS Victory and the Santa Maria. Models can be bought here at discounted prices than the shops outside. The models come in many sizes. We bought a medium-sized model of the Swedish ship Vasa enclosed in a glass case.
Le Caudan Waterfront
Last but not the least, the heart of all activity and night life in Port Louis. If you are one for a good party, it is the place to be on a weekend. The Le Caudan Waterfront.
The wide plethora of restaurants and shops draw the crowd from all over the island. This place has a charm of its own and looked beautiful both during day and night. We walked all around this place getting a chance to observe the catamarans and boats from up close. We tried the Tamarind Juice at Mystic Masala restaurant and it tasted superb. We bought souvenirs from the Craft Bazaar here.
Allow me to end this lengthy post with some more beautiful pictures from picturesque Mauritius. Or as the Mauritians call it, Ile Maurice!