If the thought of a lush tropical isle adrift in the balmy Indian Ocean has you double-checking your passport validity, would a seductive blend of African spice and French sophistication seal the deal?
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On maps it may not rate much of a mention, more ink spot than island; a tiny spin-off from Madagascar’s south-east coast, but Mauritius offers a ‘big-fun’ sort of holiday experience. At just 45km wide and 65 long the island is a roundtrip of spotless beaches with a lush interior of waterfalls, lakes, forests and tiny villages. Fancy snorkelling through calm, crystalline waters or a round of golf played against a spectacular backdrop of volcanic mountain ranges? Active couples are well catered for here with a range of water sports and activities, while those looking for a more sybaritic getaway can soak up the sun (daytime temperatures rarely dip below 25°C year-round) and indulge in the vast array of spa treatments on offer at the equally plentiful five-star resorts.
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To enjoy the best Mauritius has to offer start with the beautiful beaches of the west coast; work your way down to the scenic and surf-friendly south coast; enjoy the colourful open-air Flacq Market and cosmopolitan Caudan Waterfront development at the capital Port Louis in the east, and finish off at the north’s picturesque Grand Baie. Your travels will give you ample opportunity to drink in the green plantations of sugar cane which still help define the Mauritian landscape. The local economy was built on these stately stalks, with tea production, textiles and tourism taking up the slack in recent years. If one spoonful just isn’t enough, visit the sugar factory-turned-tourist attraction, Sugarworld near Pamplemousse in the east, which charts the chequered history of this sweet commodity from slave times to modern day.
Mauritius may still be synonymous with the long-departed dodo, a rather tragic flightless bird which met its end during the 17th century, but you can still get a dose of oversized and ancient at the oldest botanical garden in the southern hemisphere, Jardin de Pamplemousses, home to the famous giant water lilies Victoria regia and prehistoric-looking giant tortoises. And if you’re looking for a memento beyond a dodo snow globe or the irresistible handwoven baskets you’ll see everywhere, handmade sailing ships are a Mauritian speciality – not as easy to stow in your hand luggage though!
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Need to Know
Do take a trip to Grand Baie in the island’s north. Touristy but with a great buzz and picture-perfect views, this area offers a range of dining options, nightlife and good shopping.
Don’t miss a chance to get out on the water. Take a catamaran cruise, snorkel the pristine waters and enjoy a lunch of super-fresh barbequed fish. Check out Le Morne Anglers Club as a base.
Couples will love the relaxed Mauritian lifestyle, scenic interior, gorgeous beaches (and divine beachfront resorts) and water-based activities.
Wine and dine in Mauritian cuisine the abundance of fresh local seafood converges in a most delicious way with the island’s strong African and French influences. Enjoy it at every opportunity! For an elegant luncheon, take a trip back in time to colonial days at the plantation – style 19th century Maison Eureka, located just south of Port Louis.