Why go to Mauritius?
Mark Twain once said: “You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first and then heaven was copied after Mauritius.” This paradise on Earth is the kind of tropical island fantasies are made of: powdery icing-sugar white sandy beaches shaded by swaying palm trees, crystal-clear turquoise ocean, year-round sunshine, lush forests and volcanic mountain backdrops – and some of Africa’s best beach resorts. Lying off the coast of East Africa, Mauritius has something to offer just about everyone, from couples looking for romantic experiences, families in search of outdoors activities for kids, and adventure seekers who want to have an active, exciting holiday.
Mauritius has more than 300 kilometres of coastline, and much of it is covered in picture-perfect beaches. However, there’s far more to the island than just sun loungers and sand. Underwater adventures are a big draw, with snorkelling and scuba diving spots all over the island to explore two-centuries-old shipwrecks, beautiful caves and caverns, hundreds of coral species and more than 400 marine animals, including deep-sea fish, dolphins, turtles and humpback whales. Mauritius also offers more water sports than you can shake a water ski at – everything from water skiing and kite surfing to kayaking to offshore islets.
The island’s interior boasts beautiful landscapes and is packed with things to do, giving you plenty of reason to explore Mauritius beyond the beach. Think pretty hilltop villages, tea plantations, colonial houses, interesting museums, Hindu temples, artisanal rum distilleries, superb restaurants and botanical gardens for a start, and then there are the natural landscapes and wildlife: national parks and reserves where you hike through indigenous forest to spot rare birds, animal parks for kids of all ages and enough adventures to kick start your adrenaline, from horse riding and quad biking to canyoning down waterfalls.
The most popular part of the island is the northern coast around the town of Grand Baie, which is a tourist hub for hotels, resorts, restaurants, shops and bars. The west coast of the island, with its magnificent beaches, calm ocean and languid sunsets is most popular with families, while the east coast has some of the top luxury resorts and best beaches. The southern coastline is the least developed on the island, with a wild beauty that will appeal to nature lovers.
What makes Mauritius unique?
While Mauritius has some of Africa’s best beaches, the island has far more to offer beyond its beautiful stretches of sand, and the sheer diversity of experiences makes this island very special. In terms of ocean activities, your days will be filled with everything from stand-up paddle boarding and surfing to scuba diving and yachting. Meanwhile, the island’s lush interior provides endless opportunities for exploring the natural world: walk around a volcanic crater, go canyoning in dramatic gorges, abseil down waterfalls, hike in the hills of a national park to spot birds and in reserves of indigenous forest, feed giant tortoises and go horse riding through the trees. And though Mauritius isn’t known for its wildlife, the island has several species that have been saved from extinction, making a visit to one of its animal sanctuaries a fascinating and unique experience.
Unlike other East African island nations such as the Seychelles, Mauritius is a great value-for money destination. The island is also home to many budget-friendly lodging options, from self-catering apartments to small family-run guesthouses, while the luxury resorts offer some surprisingly affordable packages. And if you’re not on a budget, the best resorts on the island are truly world-class: think stylish and spacious villas, exclusive private beaches, manicured grounds, superb spas, award-winning golf courses and Michelin-quality food at a choice of multiple restaurants.
Out of all the Indian Ocean islands, Mauritius boasts the best gourmet cuisine: its food is a mixture of the island’s rich cultural influences, and the wide array of excellent restaurants spanning Mauritian and international fare will delight foodies. Resorts offer plenty of fine dining experiences, while excellent restaurants are tucked away in some of the most beautiful corners of the island, from hilltops to the gardens of old colonial mansions. A particular highlight are the tables d’hôtes – small family-run eateries – which are great for trying authentic Mauritian cuisine. Even the cheap eats in Mauritius are delicious: the street food sold in markets and on the side of the beach is something to write home about.
Mauritius is a unique mix of French, British, Indian, Chinese and Creole people and has a fascinating history spanning centuries. Throughout the year there are festivals celebrating the religions and cultural traditions of the island’s myriad inhabitants, while excellent museums and historical houses preserve stories from the past.