Tucked a ways off the coast of Madagascar lies the tiny, yet incredibly influential island of Mauritius. The island of the famed dodo bird, is nothing short of beautiful, with sunshine playing around the island every day. Flying in was unlike any arrival I’d ever witnessed. The turquoise blue water laps the mountainous emerald island and the color only intensifies the closer you get to it.
Color quickly became a reoccurring theme. Even after arriving, the colors seemed more vivid. The island has a large troop of retired Indian buses, each of which are splashed with designs you can’t help but notice.
1. FOR THE ISLAND CUISINE
The food on the island is a blend of Indian, Halal, European (mostly French) and British cuisine. Street food vendors can be found parked close to every beach. The food comes with their own form of color – colorful names. The mixture of languages Creole, Dutch, French, Hindi and English make for some very memorable portmanteaus.
2. FOR THE ISLAND ACTIVITIES
Catering to both water and mountain lovers, the island has something for any agenda. Dive into water sports like kite surfing, surfing, snorkeling, open water diving, swimming, wind surfing, paddle boarding, underwater walking, kayaking and boating, anything water-related can be easily found.
Mauritius is a small island, yet it’s roads wind around old sugar plantations, former estates, diverse cities, beaches, mountains and coastline.
The island’s areas are referred to by their cardinal direction. The North is where a lot of the relaxing resorts reside, the West has an active feel and is home to the best surfing destinations, most notably Tamarin. The East is more quiet with tucked away resorts lining the coast and gorgeous postcard-photoworthy islands like Ile Aux Cerfs. The South is a lesser visited spot, characterized by looming mountains and cliffs.
3. TO EXPLORE THE ISLAND
I rented a car and drove to explore each area and discover that the scenery changes rapidly. Not even a kilometer from the beach rest fields. Beyond the fields lie vast mountains which lead to, you guessed it, fields and ocean. Each area has a different feel and a different vibe making exploring the island a journey in and of itself.
My friends in Mauritius worked at a number of resorts, as a tour guide, so she had been to all the touristy destinations. However, she and her friend did not have a car so we pulled out a map (yes, an actual map, Mauritius seems sleepy at times, this is an example of that). On the map we looked up hiking trails and beaches that these tour guides had yet to visit.
4. THE MOUNTAINS
The famous peaks of Le Morne and Black River drew us in. The road leading up to Le Morne was unpaved and bumpy. The view was beautiful and you could see far into the distance, but the hike was strenuous. On the journey up we saw hordes of hikers coming back down, many of which did not make it to the summit. Curious, we pushed on. The reason for their return was apparent in the next hour. The final ascent is around 800m straight up. Ropes assist, but the climb up is demanding. The rocks are porous and any brush against them is not pleasant. The reward of the most incredible view in the Indian Ocean was worth it. From the summit, the entire island of Mauritius lies at your feet. Kite surfers dot the horizon and the colors are unreal.
5. THE OCEAN
Back on land, the lush underwater world is just a hop away. Coral reefs are in abundance, as they are sheltered by an encircling barrier reef. Dazzling neon colored fish greet you (and your snorkeling mask) as you enter their vibrant home. On the surface, surfers paddle and wiz about. Mauritius has captured the attention of world famous surfers for its small, laidback vibes and incredible hospitality. The island, has a humble element. It won’t ever stand out in flashy “top places to visit” lists, it’s far too chilled for that.
6. L’AVENTURE DU SUCRE AND BOTANICAL GARDENS
A stop by L’Aventure Du Sucre, a museum covering the sweet (and not so sweet) history of the famous sugar plantations of Mauritius. At one point in time, most of the sugar found in the cabinets in the United Kingdom had this tiny island’s name on them. Built in an former sugar factory, the museum guides visitors through the history and science behind sugar production. Visitors can also try nearly a dozen different styles of sugar during the tour.
The botanical gardens feature natural collections of the lush vegetation found throughout the island. When I visited, an incredibly rare palm tree was flowering, an event which only happens twice a century, so the last occurrence was around 1970. The guards were happy to walk me to the best viewing point, a nice example of how locals are very proud of the wonders and enchanting gifts offered by their island home. Notable destinations include the Postal Museum, the industrious city of Port Louis and a collection of historic homes.
7. THE SURFING
My main goal in Mauritius was to learn to surf, I had never, ever surfed before. I searched online and found a Facebook page for a young local Mauritian, named Bart, who clearly loved the sport. Bart loved surfing and was a very attentive teacher. His introduction and explanations were thorough yet concise. Fresh in the water I could feel the ocean’s vastness, I felt small, yet powerful. After the instruction on land, I paddled into the water. Stroke by stroke I got closer to the moment of truth. I got up on the board on my first attempt. I tipped into the crystal clear water with a biggest smile on my face and etched in my memory.
8. THE BEACHES
The beaches of Mauritius are full of locals and visitors who mix freely. With my tour guide friends I was surprised by the hospitality of locals, many of who invited us to join their weekend picnics. At first I was confused, why? My tour guide friends explained that it was a “pretty Mauritian” thing to do, engaging conversation and laughs followed. We talked about our varying experiences and swapped stories. Mauritians are proud of their language, peppered with the influence of a number of far away languages.
My time spent in this lush “dot-on-the-map” proved nothing short of wonderful and I can see why vacationers to this island come back every year. As a destination, the country welcomes everyone and it is easy to feel at home in Mauritius. Once you land in Mauritius your life outside feels as though the pause button has been pressed and you’re free to sit back, listen and take in all that surrounds you. Isn’t that what life is all about?
Have you ever been to Mauritius? We’d love to hear your advice and tips in the comment section below! Read Next > Tahiti And Bora Bora: The Most Amazing Islands In The Pacific Ocean