As the British winter drew to an end, I flew out to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius for seven days exploring what the island had to offer, both in terms of hotels and experiences.
Landing into the island, it is hard to miss the fact that Mauritius has an incredibly varied landscape with stunning mountains dotted across the island. These mountains create almost a microclimate with weather incredibly localised from north to south and east to west.
Mauritius offers a wonderful standalone destination for a beach holiday with superb beaches, beautifully clear water and a very tropical feel. It is malaria free, so perfect for families and the numerous activities possible both on land and water can also keep teens entertained. Meanwhile adult-only resorts and hotels are perfect for honeymooners and couples wanting some peace and quiet – the island can cater for everyone! We, of course, most commonly use Mauritius as an extension to a safari holiday and it combines easily with South Africa (and southern Africa) as well as Kenya.
My time in Mauritius incorporated all corners of the island, with each offering something slightly different. The south is quiet, with few hotels, so getting away from the crowds is easy. Le Morne on the southwest of the island is fabulous with the basaltic monolith of Le Morne Brabant offering a spectacular backdrop a few hundred metres from the beachfront. Further north, the beaches are superb and there are some excellent larger resorts, perfect for families. The east coast has fewer beaches, but some of the finest hotels on the island offering top five star luxury. The majority of people will focus on one area of the island for their stay, but for extended holidays it is certainly possible to combine different areas of the island for contrasting experiences.
Safari is my main passion and being busy, exploring and seeing the sites is my preference as opposed to relaxing on the beach. I took advantage of a quieter day with fewer hotel inspections and headed with my guide into the mountains of Black River Gorges National Park in the south of the island. There isn’t much wildlife to speak of in Mauritius aside from macaque monkeys and wild boar. However, the landscape is breath-taking and in this southern part of the island the highlights of Chamarel, Seven Coloured Earth, Black River Gorge and Grand Bassin are certainly worth visiting. Even if you enjoy taking the pace slower, a full day to explore this area offers great variety.
Chamarel is an impressive waterfall 100 metres high, set amongst thick vegetation and feeding into the Saint Denis River. Nearby, Seven Coloured Earth, as its name suggests, is an undulating, natural formation of varying colours of sand in an open clearing. Created over time by a number of chemical reactions and geographical processes, it is almost lunar in its appearance. It is also home to a coffee shop (with delicious locally grown coffee) and several Aldabra giant tortoises.
While Black River Gorges affords stunning views, one of the highlights of my trip was Grand Bassin. A sacred spot for the Hindu population on the island, Grand Bassin is a lake roughly 550 metres above sea level and the area is dominated by a 33 metre high statue of the Hindu god Shiva (and his wife Parvati). On the lake itself are a number of smaller statues of the main Hindu gods which are fascinating to learn about, especially with insight from the local guides. On the day I visited it was a Telugu (a sub denomination of Hinduism) holy day, so spending time listening to the sounds and watching the prayers and offerings was incredibly spiritual (something I didn’t expect!).
Another draw to the island is golf. Mauritius is home to a number of championship golf courses which attract keen golfers from across the world. Some resorts have their own courses and green fees are often included in the nightly rate, so for golfing breaks on a tropical island it certainly is a great option. In the south of the island the Heritage and Avalon are two of the top courses. Further north the likes of Mont Choisy, Legend, Ile Aux Cerfs and Anahita are championship options. Being a (sometimes) keen golfer myself it was wonderful to see how well kept the courses were, but unfortunately I had to resist temptation as I didn’t have time for a round!
Focusing more on the Indian Ocean itself, most resorts have in house water sports centres which allow you to make the most of the azure waters. In a lot of cases non-motorised activities such as snorkelling, kayaking, paddleboarding, windsurfing and sailing are included, while other activities such as deep-sea fishing and scuba diving are possible to arrange at an extra cost. Some resorts also have dive centres on site which cater for both beginners wanting an introduction and more experienced divers, and most offer the PADI certification.
Mauritius offers a very polished beach experience and tourism is a vital part of the country’s economy, so the industry is cherished. The levels of service and hospitality are superb, with attentive, friendly staff and little touches that really make for a wonderful stay. As a destination for picturesque beaches, clear waters and excellent accommodation options to suit varying budgets, it really does offer a wonderful add on to a safari or a standalone beach stay.
Joe stayed at: Anantara Iko Mauritius Resort and Villas, Heritage Awali Golf and Spa Resort, Paradis Beachcomber Golf Resort and Spa, JW Marriott Mauritius Resort, Sands Suites Resort and Spa, Troux aux Biches and Anahita Golf and Spa Resort.
Joe visited: The Residence Mauritius, Preskil Island Resort, Heritage Le Telfair Golf and Wellness Retreat, Shanti Maurice, Dinarobin Golf Resort and Spa, LUX Le Morne, Maradiva Villas Resort and Spa, Victoria Beachcomber Resort and Spa, Le Méridien Ile Maurice, Royal Palm Beachcomber, LUX Grande Baie, The Oberoi Beach Resort, Seapoint Boutique Hotel, Paradise Cove Boutique Hotel, Constance Prince Maurice, One & Only Le Saint Géran, Shangri-La Le Touessrok and Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita.