With its year-round perfect temperatures, stunning beaches and fascinating blend of Creole, Indian, Muslim, Chinese and European cultures, it is no surprise that Mauritius has long been a popular tourist destination. Hey, this multicultural sun-kissed isle even sounds a little like Singapore, doesn’t it?
Located off the southwest coast of Africa, this dot in the Indian Ocean was inhabited only by dodos and other animals until the 17th century, when the Dutch arrived and began to colonize it (wiping out the dodos at the same time). Today it’s a country of around 1.2 million people and with its combination of beaches and dramatic mountainous peaks it’s packed with outdoor pursuits galore, plus some pretty phenomenal local cuisine.
The northern part of the island is where most of the tourist action is, in particular the famed pristine beaches, where you can take your pick of secluded spots, or opt for active places suitable for water sports. The beaches are not quite as “rustic” as you might think, and many are home to shops, restaurants, bars and other vendors. To really get away from it all, you’ll need to make a day trip to one of around 100 outlying islands. Île au Bénitier, for instance, offers excellent snorkeling and a fantastic seafood BBQ lunch. To get really up close with nature you can charter a speedboat to take you out to where you can swim alongside wild dolphins in the open sea.
If you fancy a day on land, have a go at quad riding at the safari parks, where you’ll get up close with deer, zebras and antelopes. Be sure to take a day trip to the phenomenal colored earths of Chamarel, where at the end of a dusty track lined with sugarcane crops, you’ll find an area of volcanic sand, whose different colors play tricks on your eyes. While you’re there, trek up to the Chamarel waterfall, which drops 100 feet to the pool below.
Food is an integral part of experiencing Mauritius, and the mishmash of cuisine cultures makes for a fascinating feast at every meal. Street food enthusiasts should try the dholl pourri, a wheat pancake packed with yellow split peas in a curry tomato sauce. Other must-tries are the faratas (Indian pancakes)—yup, it’s the local version of our roti prata—gateaux piments (chilly bites) and samousas. These can be found all over the place, but the best are on Rose Hill, in the capital city of Port Louis. For Mauritian Creole food, most of the “domaines” are similarly excellent in quality—so take your pick. Another wonderful alternative is to venture higher up into the mountains for food with an inspiring view.
As a place well geared up for honeymooning couples, you can be sure that there are a number of excellent resorts to stay at. With its stunning colonial architecture and spacious grounds, try Sugar Beach Resort (www.sugarbeachresort.com). But if it’s beaches you’re after, go for the Belle Mare Plage Hotel (www.bellemareplagehotel.com), which is located on one of the best stretches of beach on the island. With its own lagoon, it’s also perfect for gentle snorkeling.