This tropic island off Africa’s southeast coast offers a curious mix of French and British influences as well as fine beaches, lagoons and reefs. At this leading biodiversity hotspot, visitors can enjoy croissants for breakfast, curry for dinner and visit dazzling Indian temples next to French colonial mansions.
Why You Should Go
What’s Cool: Stable multicultural society, plenty of sunshine, good telecommunications, pink pigeons, old Pamplemousses Gardens, excellent diving and snorkeling, ‘anti-stress’ island, hiking on Black River Peak trail, delicious food, plenty of casinos, Sugar Adventure Museum, fine rum.
What’s Not: Cyclones, little English spoken, spiky sea urchins, aggressive monkeys, pesky mosquitoes, slimy sea cucumbers, persistent beach vendors, no beef, stingy stonefish.
When to Go
Mauritius has a tropical maritime climate with not much seasonal variation in temperature, and the coast is generally pleasant and sunny year-round. Winter (May to October) is warm and dry. Summer (November to April) is hot and humid with lots of rain. Cooling sea breezes blow all year, particularly on the east coast, and the central inland plateau around Curepipe is fresher and rainy year-round. The cyclone season is between January and March.
Getting There & Away
Almost all visitors arrive at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport near Mahébourg, while there are a few domestic short hops on offer. The bus network is good, if sometimes slow, and will take you to most places on the island. A regular ferry sails to Rodrigues Island. Bus and taxi services are available in urban areas, while bicycles and motorbikes can also be hired.
Health & Safety
Crime levels in Mauritius are low, and you’re more likely to fall victim to a stinging mosquito or sea urchin than to any street urchins. Be sure to cover up and slap on mozzie lotion before dusk to avoid malaria, dengue fever and the nasty Chikungunya virus. It’s best to drink bottled water and plenty of it, as the heat and sun can quickly suck you dry.
Food & Hospitality
Cooking is French, Creole, Indian, Chinese or English and of high standard, but fruit, meat, vegetables and even fresh seafood are frequently flown in. Sample some chili cake washed down with cane rum or the excellent Phoenix beer. An abundance of hotels line the coast, while colonial villas can be rented in the interior. Lodging standards are among the best in the Indian Ocean.
One week is the minimum you need to enjoy some of the highlights.
One or two days to see the capital’s fine colonial architecture and interesting museums.
Two or three days in Black River Gorges National Park, searching for the rare tambalacoque or dodo tree, wild guavas and exotic birds.
A day or two in Blue Bay, Mauritius’ only marine park, to snorkel or take a glass bottom boat to see the fish and coral.
Extra time • A couple of days for the pilgrimage route to Grand Bassin, a natural crater lake and sacred Hindu site on Plaine Champagne. • A couple of days in Mahébourg, Mauritius’ most charming town, with fine bay views and a historic naval battle site. • A lifetime on any of the endless white beaches.
Port Louis: is the growing capital, with ethnic Muslims and Chinese as well as the swish Le Caudan Waterfront.
Casela Bird Park: is in the west. Ninety aviaries on 61 acres house over 140 bird varieties from five continents. Don’t miss the pink pigeon, one of the world’s rarest birds.
Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens: feature giant Victoria Regia water lilies and an amazing collection of palms of all shapes and sizes.
Flacq Market: in one of the island’s most important villages is a meeting point for inhabitants of the east and the country’s largest open-air market.
South coast: has some unusual rock formations such as a natural rock bridge at Pont Naturel, the blowhole at Le Souffleur and a rock that is shaped like a witch.
Dutch ruins: at Vieux Grand Port, the oldest settlement in Mauritius, tell an important part of Mauritian history.
Cultural sightseeing: is a must, with all the fine colonial landmarks, stunning scenery and intriguing multiethnic culture.
Water sports: at Grand Baie such as parasailing, an underwater walk, submarine and semi-submersible scooters.
Hiking: in the Black River Gorges National Park to see indigenous plants, birds and wildlife, and Mauritius’ highest mountain.
Spa treatments: put yourself in the capable hands of experts and be carried away by your senses.
Touring: the Moka Mountains by quad bike, horse or four-wheel drive at the Domaine Les Pailles nature park.
Festivals & Events
Mauritius is a unique mixture of diverse cultures and religions, and festivities are celebrated in a spirit of peace and harmony.
January: Cavadi features body piercing with needles and pins and the carrying of a wooden arch to repent.
February: Maha Shivaratree is when Hindu devotees make a pilgrimage from their homes all over the island to the sacred lake at Grand Bassin, carrying light wooden arches covered in flowers.
September: Father Laval sees Mauritians of all faiths go to ask for healing at the tomb of the Blessed Jaques Désiré Laval in Ste-Croix, Port Louis.
November: Divali is the Festival of Lights and is celebrated with small clay lamps that line walls, balconies and yards.