Mauritius Pearl of the Indian Ocean
Amazing white coral sand beaches and crystal clear lagoons are set against the backdrop of black volcanic mountains – forming a strong and beautifully inviting contrast. This is the first impression that Mauritius leaves on people.
Mauritius is a small, multi-cultural island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, and about 2,000 kilometers off the southeast coast of the African continent. It was created by volcanic activity some 8 million years ago, surrounded by more than 150 km of white sandy beaches and lagoons protected from the open sea by the world's third largest coral reef. The whole island enjoys a quite diverse geography. The east coast has some of the most beautiful beaches, as well as an array of world-famous luxury hotels and resorts. Heading south, you will see a more pristine and natural picture, represented by basalt cliff, hidden sandy bays and old fishing villages. The southwest is covered by forests, featuring several well-known scenic spots such as Black River Gorges National Park, Seven Colored Earths, Le Morne Peninsula and more. Local citizens mostly dwell in the middle of the island where lots of lakes and extinct volcanoes spread. Therefore, if you want to experience the authentic Mauritius life rather than a popular tourism destination, go to the middle area.
Mauritius was colonially ruled by Netherlands, France and Britain before it finally declared independence in 1968. Such an unusual past has bestowed the island with a unique charm integrating multiple cultures.
Life in Mauritius revolves around the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Visitors can try out a variety of water sports and activities including pedaloes, kayaks, water skis, sea karting, surfing, stand up paddleboarding, glass bottom boats, catamaran cruises, and big game-fishing… But that is not all.
Most islands offer dolphin watching activities, but the chance is rare when one can really encounter dolphins, let alone a group of them. In Mauritius, however, everyone can swim abreast with the lovely dolphin team.
Every morning, nearly a hundred mild bottlenose dolphins will gather at Tamarin Bay in the west Mauritius to seek food. Take a motorboat or catamaran to the sea, and you will amaze at these lovely creatures jumping in the water. And you can also jump into the sea to swim with them if you like! The catamarans are bigger and slower, suitable for middle-aged and older people, while the motorboat is welcomed by thrill seekers for it is much more speedy and can take one closer to the dolphins. If you happen to be in Mauritius in September, you may even get to spot the whales as they migrate at that time of the year.
With 330 kilometers of coastline encircled by a coral barrier reef, Mauritius offers exclusive diving experiences all year round. When you dive down, you will immediately be greeted by a whole world of color reefs and tropical fish. Mauritius is a five-star diving destination granted by Professional Association of Diving Instructors. There are at least 40 diving centers on the island that provide a range of diving programs and advanced equipment to different levels of divers.
In Blue Bay, a nature reserve in the southeast of the island, you can take a glass bottom boat into the reserve and then snorkel in the lagoon. There are huge coral thickets where groups of reef fish shuttle back and forth. For more changing diving experience, the Colorado diving spot features plenty underwater breaches, channels and rocks where lobsters, pikes, garrupa and mullet hide. The diving area in the north offers some of the most unforgettable experiences for some shipwrecks are found there. The beautiful Waterlily and Emily are two ships which sank in 1987 and now lie 26 meters underwater. Due to the mild climate and a constant water temperature between 22 to 28 cent degrees, you can dive any time around the whole year.
You cannot possibly leave Mauritius without learning to dance a few Sega steps. Whether you have twinkle toes, or two left feet, this vibrant local dance with distinctive African rhythm will have your hips undulating to the beat!
Sega is not exclusive to Mauritius but is commonly seen in Madagascar, Reunion, Seychelles and other islands in the Indian Ocean. However the Sega in Mauritius is surely the most gorgeous, vibrant and inviting. Sega was brought to Mauritius by black slaves from Africa. It was then innovatively infused in European musical elements including polka from Czech, Waltz from Austria, and quadrille dance of the 19th century, thus forming the characteristic Mauritius Sega.
Each resort has its own Sega show, which is a perfect way to end an evening. The spirit of Africa resonates through the musical instruments – usually ravanne, maravanne or triangle are played, while the songs, sung in Creole, depict the Mauritian way of life. If you want to keep moving to the beat, you can purchase a range of Sega music in all music stores around the island. A well-known Sega artist is Ti Frère but there are dozens to choose from, each with their unique flare.
As early as 1844 when Mauritius was still a colony of Britain, the first golf course on the island was built, making Mauritius the third country in the world that introduced golf. Owing to advanced facilities, breathtaking ocean views and privileged warm climate, Mauritius is highly praised by golf lovers. There are eight standard 18-hole golf courses and five standard 9-hole golf courses on the island and most of them are inside hotels and resorts. The hotel guests usually have the chance to enjoy free plays.
Le Touessork Golf Course extends nearly the whole island of L’Ile aux cerfs. One has to take a boat to arrive at the first hole. Vast white beaches and green hills spread around to make the playing quite enjoyable. The Anahita Golf Course on the east coast is the first course in Mauritius that is designed according to USGA standard. The wide fairways and quality vegetation largely improve the success of first tee. Therefore, it welcomes a lot of primary level golf lovers. The Afro-Asia Masters Golf Tournament is held here every December.
Flora and Fauna
Thanks to its volcanic origin, age, isolation, and unique terrain, Mauritius is home to varied flora and fauna, with many species unique to the island and some of the world’s rarest plants and animals. To fulfill the wishes of nature lovers, the Mauritius government has built a dozen nature reserves and botanical gardens, plus mountainous vistas, waterfalls and tropical forests.
Located to the west, the Black River Gorges National Park extends over 16,680 acres. There are around 311 species of native and endemic flowering plants and nine species of birds that are only found in Mauritius including wind hover, pink pigeon and echo parakeet. You can walk along a number of dedicated trails inside the gorges itself or even hike up to the plateau. Make sure you wear the right shoes and clothing if you want to attempt a hike, and take food and drinks and other supplies along with you, as there are no shops or medical support within the park. The most ideal visiting time is September to January when flowers come to full blossom and trees turn the most green.
Created in 1750 and considered to be the oldest botanical garden in the Southern hemisphere, the Ser Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens in Pamplemousses has 500 species of plants, including giant water lilies and more than 80 varieties of palms, including bottle palms, royal palms, talipot palms, raffia palms, sugar palms and more. The giant Victoria Amazonica waterlilies sway with the breeze. It takes only a few hours for the newborn tender leaf to develop into a two-meter wide saucer shape. Flowers are wrapped in the middle which bloom every other day. There are also numerous birds and deer in the garden.
Located off the southeast coast of Mauritius, Île aux Aigrettes is a small 27-hectare island, home to the last remnants of dry coastal forest, once found around most of Mauritius. A professional will guide you amongst the kestrels, giant tortoises and pink pigeons that have been rescued and freed after a 30-year conservation effort.
Mauritian cuisine is one of the most diverse in the world, borrowing from French, Indian, African and Asian kitchens to create its own unique flavors. They are based on Creole cuisine with curry and tomato as the major boiling sources. Be sure to scan restaurant menus for daube, a classic tomato-based chicken stew, and fish vindaye, a Mauritian take on Indian vindaloo.
You can also try Mauritian snacks like Dholl Puri, a traditional flatbread filled with spicy ground split peas and served with chutney. Roti is another best seller. It’s a thin pancake wrapped into a tube. The pancake is made of corn flour while the fillings include various flavored curry made from potatoes, tomatoes and more. It only costs 10-20 rupees (1-2 yuan RMB). Magic Box is exactly like its name, with a full array of fried egg, shrimp, maize, mushroom, green vegetables, agaric, green pepper and more things being orderly placed on the rice or noodles, mixed with garlic sauce. Moreover, don’t miss the Gateaux piment, a spicy pastry, Samoussam, a triangle curry pancake and Alooda, made of agar, milk, vanilla or almond.
As a tropical island, Mauritius never lacks for seafood – tuna, dorado, oyster and mini lobster, to name but a few, and fresh fruits and vegetables, which are the main ingredients for local specialties like quail and strawberry vinegar sauce salad, fried banana, chicken roll with mango and coconut. Besides, the delicate ‘heart of palm’ salad is famous and something to try if your budget allows. It takes five years for a palm to grow mature and only the heart of the palm can be eaten, and one palm can serve only eight people. Since Mauritian history and prosperity are linked to the sugar cane industry, its by-products, such as rum, remain extremely popular.
Hotels and Wellness
There is a wealth of accommodation to choose from in Mauritius – ranging from small to medium-sized hotels and charming villas right through to luxury resorts. More and more hotels in Mauritius now begin to recruit staff who can speak Chinese. Major hotel groups include Accor, Starwood, Four Seasons, Hilton, Intercontinental, Lux* Island Resorts, Indigo Hotels and Resorts, Sun Resorts, Veranda Resorts and Heritage Resorts, and One&Only Resorts, etc.
Surrounded by white, sandy, spotless beaches enclosed by safe turquoise lagoons, a wide range of small and medium-sized hotels offer more homely and cozy experience. These establishments place emphasis on ‘the human touch’, customised services and delicious home-cooking – Mauritian style.
Most hotels and resorts have spas, in addition to a series of day spas. With the increase in demand by foreign visitors, the market has become extremely competitive, resulting in an amazing range of pampering treatments and state-of-the-art health and beauty facilities. The big cosmetics names such as Clarins, Givenchy, Guerlain, La Prairie and Shisheido, are found in the best spas in the country. A local brand, Seven Colours, has earned wide respect from clients as well.
The island’s mix of cultures has inspired an eclectic blend of therapies, with visitors able to choose from a range of Asian Ayurvedic massages, ocean-inspired treatments, and African and Creole treatments made from locally grown flowers, herbs and essential oil. Making the most of their beautiful surroundings and the warm year-round temperatures, some wellness centers have created dedicated outdoor treatment areas, in gardens or private gazebos on the beach. If you are not staying in a resort, do not despair! Most hotels and resorts welcome non-guests to their spas and there are a number of independent health and beauty centers around the country.
Special local experiences include Navasana Spa at Outrigger Mauritius Beach Resort which boasts a hammam set in a Moorish atmosphere, a perfect place to experience the secrets of Moroccan wellness. Guests can enjoy various treatments and soothing Mauritian massage, as well as hydro-massage corridor, sauna and solarium featuring a swimming pool. Or visit Les Mariannes Wellness Sanctuary nestled in the lap of a mountain where the expert team of qualified health practitioners, spa therapists, fitness instructors and nutritionists will ensure a personalized service for every individual. As mentioned above, the local brand Seven Colours has something quite original. According to age-old Eastern wisdom, light – the primary source of energy – breaks down into seven colours, which resonate with our seven energy centers, called “chakras”. Seven Colours, seven chakras – that is where the name comes from. Seven Colours draws on the island’s natural richness as well as local know-how and multicultural influences to offer a colorful array of experiences. An optimal energetic atmosphere is created through chromotherapy lights, vibrational music, aroma therapeutic fragrances, energized water and healing hands, for the stimulation of all the senses and the harmonization of the chakras.
From cosmetic surgery to dentistry and hair grafting, Mauritius has become one of the top destinations for medical tourism. The tranquil, dreamy location is a sure recipe for a relaxing vacation while the quality of the healthcare and the competitiveness of the prices are very attractive.
Embraced by the tranquil azure above and the vast ocean all around, Mauritius is also a nation full of energy. A trail of amazing events runs through the whole year. The monthly Regatta takes people back to the past. The Marathon held every July is a must for running lovers. It is not only a match but more a chance to meet the beauty of the island. Other traditional events like the Holi Festival, Creole Festival and Mauritian Light Festival give visitors a deep understanding of the culture of this marvelous island.
Generally, the best time to visit Mauritius is between June and November because it is the cool season without too much rain. January to March, however, sees much rain and frequent visit of tornado and the weather is hot and humid. Visitors with China passports are exempted from visa applications to Mauritius.