Voluptuously tropical, vibrantly cultural and wrapped in a catchy Creole vibe, Mauritius weaves a spell that’s indelibly magical. Discover its charms for a truly special island getaway.
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It was this romantic destination that inspired Mark Twain – a man not short on comparisons – to ponder that God must have modelled this island on paradise itself. Happily, the heavenly connotations remain abundant: exultant tropical beauty, rhinestone-sparkly lagoons that kiss sugary sands, high-kilowatt smiles, the ever-present promise of fulsome pleasures. Mauritius is most remarkable however, for the way it goes to your head – in all the best ways.
Gloriously adrift in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa, Mauritius is, in essence, a mindset: a gumbo of escapism, exotica and runaway romanticism. The catchy Creole mood sets Mauritius apart, at once suave yet unpretentiously laid back, languid yet enlivening, but most of all – inescapably seductive.
The spell is cast upon catching sight of the luminously green jagged peaks laced with layers of brilliant blues, lake-still thanks to the encircling reef. Suddenly, everything seems brighter, bigger, more vividly alive and resoundingly sensual. Hibiscus appear as large as dinner plates; people, who seem to laugh more often than they speak, wear bolt-bright clothing; cascades of bougainvillea coat sorbet-coloured cottages. Towering mango and banyan trees shade statuesque plantation mansions, timber shop houses fringed with iron lacework and hole-in- the-wall local eateries and bars where chillies are hung out to avert killjoy spirits.
Teasingly ambiguous scents such as vanilla, sandalwood and ylang ylang blend with the delicate chimes of puga bells which spill from citrus-hued temples, to mingle with fervent hymns wafting from grand cathedrals, calls to prayer, impromptu cricket games and ardent games of mahjong.
Mauritius has become synonymous with beachy delights, full-throttle pampering and seriously sumptuous lodgings. And again, the reality surpasses the accolades. Resorts here take the form of pleasure palaces, fusing cultural echoes – touches of Gallic glamour or jungle earthiness, perhaps – with stellar levels of service and indulgence, think outdoor bathrooms, aromatherapy menus, bespoke yoga and tai chi sessions, spas opening onto lush gardens, buffets bursting with globally inspired, delectable cuisine. All-inclusive packages combining food, spa treatments, mountain bikes, kayaks, windsurfing, water-skiing and boat trips offer excellent value. So unshackling is the resulting relaxation that guests – even the once tightly wound and self-conscious – begin nonchalantly wandering about in dressing gowns.
There's also plenty to thrill adventure-seekers here. The Blue Bay Marine Reserve, along with the west coast, regales with compelling snorkelling and diving. On the wilder, mountain-hugged south coast, sea-mist works its way deep into your lungs and feels like a gossamer loofah.
Venture onto the locals’ favourite beaches, such as Grand Baie, and, almost inevitably, you’ll become part of a picnic or party. Whilst an intensely regenerative break is assured if you barely budge from the splendid beaches and resorts, that would entail missing what makes Mauritius so special.
As Mauritius is delightfully compact, exploring is relaxing and, given the extent and variety of intrigues, immensely rewarding. Uniquely, Mauritius offers the opportunity to lap up distilled highlights from some of the world’s most exotic cultures in combination with a luxe travel experience. Thanks to a succession of fortune seekers, Mauritian’s hail from Indian, African, European and Chinese backgrounds; speaking Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, French, Mandarin, and Creole, for starters. Whilst the official language is English, French flair prevails, producing that most fetching of accents and attitudes. Communities here are proud of their multi-racial heritage and eagerly embrace each others’ festivals, such as fire-walking ceremonies or Divali, when the island is aglow with lanterns. It’s a hot-pot of history that’s quite literally delicious: think feisty curries, biryani, Creole rougalles, spring rolls, pasta, crepes and spicy street snacks.
To work it off, there are energetic walks into misted mountains, such as those of the Central Plateua or Black River Gorges. Or, if a contemplative stroll is more your style, discover romantic nooks and giant water lily-filled ponds at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden, the oldest botanical garden in the Southern Hemisphere. However you choose to fill your days, you'll spend them simply enchanted by Mauritius's seductive sights and mesmerising culture. Tropique magnifique, indeed!
Thinking of escaping to Mauritius for a tropical getaway? Find the perfect place to stay here
Images courtesy of Unsplash and Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority