Eat, Swim, Play: Your Best Bets in Mauritius

There’s a little-known island gem 1200 miles off the southeastern coast of Africa that belongs on everyone’s tropical bucket list. “Discovered” by the Dutch in 1598, the Republic of Mauritius is often called “paradise island” as much for its happy, inviting people as the breath-taking blue waters and whiter than salt beaches.

This Indian Ocean republic consists of the main island of Mauritius as well as the islands of Rodrigues, Agalega and St Brandon.  All of them are surrounded by turquoise blue waters that can easily give Hawaii, the Caribbean and the Maldives a run for their money. We were impressed with Belle Mare beach and its long stretch of pure white sand, making it the nicest Mauritius’ east coast.  It didn’t hurt either that Belle Mare is home to some of the nicest luxury hotels in the country. We recommend the astoundingly affordable LUX hotel or the Constance Belle Mare and its award-winning golf course.

You can also get your tan on at Le Morne on the southern-most tip of the island. Along with stunning water, perfect beaches and gorgeous reefs, you will also find the best kite surfing. If “riding with the wind” excites you, you can also horseback ride along the beach and through the black forest of Morne, which we freely admit sounds extremely Lord of the Rings. The “elephant in the room” here is eye-catching Le Morne Brabant, a monolith of basalt that towers nearly two thousand feet above you.

Quick travel tip: The sun is intense here, even for the most avid sun worshippers, so be liberal when applying sunscreen. A nasty sunburn can ruin your skin not to mention your vacation.

For snorkelling enthusiasts, head to Blue Bay Marine Park to see gorgeous angelfish among many other species. For your best chance at seeing sea turtles, you’ll want to head north to Pointe aux Piments and its protected reef. Many consider Trou aux Biches the best place for snorkelling and its beautiful beach will not disappoint any landlubber in your entourage.

Given the amazing quality of the diving in Mauritius, the first thing you will notice, other than the crystal clear visibility, is the lack of people. You will feel like you have these magnificent underwater treasures all to yourself. With more than 100 dive sites, your biggest problem will be choosing where to go. If you fancy one-stop convenience, Grand Bay has 12 fantastic underwater destinations in one location. “Cathedral” at Flic en Flac is a favourite for its caves and caverns.

Back on dry land, Mauritius is a nature lovers’ paradise filled with wildlife in the mountainous interior. You’d enjoy great hiking in the Black River Gorges National Park, the rainforest home to the flying fox and populated with idyllic waterfalls. If you are into birding (bird watching), you’ll love Mauritius as it is one of the few places on earth where you can see the pink pigeon and the Mauritian kestrel. Point of fact, this tiny island nation has saved more bird species from extinction than any other country.

If you require more adrenalin than hiking or spotting a pink pigeon, your first stop should be Domaine de L’Étoile, an action sports playground featuring zip-lining, quad riding, buggy driving, and mountain biking down the slopes of the scenic Bambous Mountains.

We also highly recommend visiting a tea plantation or the Sugar Museum and Factory. Tea and sugar have been staples of the Mauritian economy and have dramatically shaped its history. We don’t typically advise people on a tropical holiday to park themselves indoors, but missing the Sugar Museum would leave a bitter taste in your mouth. No matter what, absolutely try sugarcane juice, the country’s favourite beverage.

Like most any island vacation, one primarily focuses on outdoor activities at postcard-pretty beaches. However, that would be short-sighted as Mauritius is home to an impressive and truly vibrant culinary style that uniquely assimilates Indian, Chinese, French and Creole cultures.

While in Port Louis, the capital and largest city, start with a robust sampling of the amazing street food like Roti Chaud – butter bean curry, pickles and a tomato sauce wrapped in flatbread. Another “street treat” is miniature Victorian pineapples seasoned with sea salt and chilli flakes. You’ll find the Indian influence front and centre with samosas and fritters filled with curried peas and don’t forget the to-die-for octopus curry.

One of our favourite Mauritian traditions is table d’hôte, a family table with a prix fixe menu of signature dishes. Basically, it’s like being invited into a local home to dine and should not be missed as much for the food as the people’s warmth and generosity.  Among the best examples of this magnanimous custom is Chez Tante Athalie.

For incredible seafood and beachfront dining, where your feet are literally in the sand, dine at Le Case du Pecheur, a thatched hut restaurant serving mouth-watering, locally farmed giant shrimp, crab and lobster.

After dinner (or all day sitting on a chaise lounge at the beach), kick off your night with locally distilled Mauritian rum and watch a fantastic Sega dance, bursting with African rhythms, Creole singing and brightly costumed dancers that exude a festive and joyous Rio Carnival vibe!

There are hundreds of amazing tropical vacations to choose from, but in our experience, few are as unique and memorable as Mauritius, where the breath-taking beauty of the crystal blue water is only surpassed by the friendly welcoming people. Book your next beach vacation in Mauritius today with ENTERTAINER getaways on your ENTERTAINER app! You’ll get to enjoy your vacation with up to 60% off your hotel stay!

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Andrea Johnson