Powdery white-sand beaches, colourful coral beds, lush green mountains are the draws of this island in the azure Indian Ocean. But so are the vibrant ethnic heritage, colonial history, intoxicating rum and hip-shaking Séga.
Eight hundred kilometres east of Madagascar, embedded in the shimmering aquamarine waters of the Indian Ocean, lies a pear-shaped tropical island fringed by soft sandy beaches and topped by rugged mountain peaks.
The "Pearl of the Ocean" is a dream getaway with luxurious resorts, exciting water sports, buzzing nightlife, championship golf courses and delectable cuisine - all basking in the glory of year-round sunshine.
But Mauritius is not all postcard gloss. Vibrant hues of a kaleidoscopic heritage beckon those who care to venture beyond. Think four centuries of colonial history and a cultural legacy with generous doses of Indian, African, Chinese and French heritage.
Tear yourself away from the resort idyll to explore the island's busy capital, Port Louis. The city is an oddly comforting medley of French architecture, mosques, Chinese pagodas, churches, temples and modern shopping complexes. Tick off the landmarks before you sink into the hustle-bustle of the bustling streets.
Let the sight and smells of street food like dal puris, chili cakes, and boulettes guide you along. Later, consider a trip to the 19th-century Citadelle or Fort Adelaide on the hilltop near the Champ de Mars to admire the city's panorama from high above. Champ de Mars also happens to be home to the oldest racecourse in the southern hemisphere. Front row views from the VIP suite promise an electrifying atmosphere and luxurious comfort. Dress up for the occasion and be seen with the high rollers.
Change the mood board. The island has abundant opportunities for nature lovers and active adventurers. Book a private session of horse riding at the mountain trails of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Le Morne Brabant.
Go dolphin spotting in Tamarin Bay, tail giant Aldabra tortoises in the La Vanille Nature Park and seek out Amazonian pond lilies in the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden. An invigorating hike in the Black River Gorges National Park reveals gurgling waterfalls and wide-angle vistas to thrill your senses. Continue the tryst with the raw outdoors at the Ebony Forest, where you can walk over the treetops and discover rare birds like the Mauritian Pink Pigeon and Flycatcher.
Finally, head to the Seven Coloured Earths of Chamarel to be wowed by sand dunes of seven natural colours and the highest waterfall in Mauritius, the Chamarel Waterfall.
History nerds can reserve an afternoon for the Tea Route in the southern part of the island. The tour gives you the chance to learn all about the beverage while visiting several colonial-era sites, including preserved plantation homes, crumbling sugar mills and old cane fields. The tea tastings are bound to tempt you into returning loaded with stocks of exotic flavoured teas and tea chutney.
Port Louis: Scrounge the standalone shops in the main bazaar of the capital city for simple souvenirs like Chinese herbs, exotic fish and local handicrafts. Then up your kitchen game with a basket full of aromatic Mauritius spices. Continue the shopping spree at the picturesque Caudan Waterfront, where many luxury boutiques and locally made crafts products will entice you.
Bagatelle Mall: One of the finest luxury shopping spots on the island and the largest mall is guaranteed to keep you busy for hours. Over 130 stores here include popular high-street brands for clothing, home decor, electronics and accessories. Dig into the shelves for all your favourite labels like Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Mango Hugo Boss and more.
Arsenal: Located in the Pamplemousses District, this shopping hub is known for good quality cashmere apparel. The village also offers other artisan products, home accessories and handicrafts. Make it a point to potter around the factory outlets of well-known brands for great deals.
Grand Baie: Hit up the two major shopping centres, Grand Baie La Croisette and Super U, for many local and global stores. Sunset Boulevard, a chic street shopping complex with rows of chalet lookalike stores and Grand Baie Bazaar, with dozens of artisanal shops, are other noteworthy pitstops.
Museums & the Arts
Blue Penny Museum: Let your love for philately guide you through this charming stamp museum located in Port-Louis, at the Caudan Waterfront. The museum is a treasure trove of vintage maps, documents, paintings, sculptures and engravings. Go on, follow the trail through Mauritian history.
Natural History Museum: Located near the gardens of the East India Company, this museum has some fascinating exhibits of local fauna, marine and bird species, models of sharks and a giant clamshell weighing 70 kilograms. Grab the chance to learn a lesson in extinction at the displays of the Dodo, the endemic flightless bird of Mauritius.
Mauritius Photography Museum: Head to this small private museum containing artefacts and documents on Mauritian photography and cinematography. You can trace the evolution of cameras and lenses, photography, projection equipment and printing equipment here.
The Chateau Labourdonnais: A remarkable museum is housed in this colonial house on a sugar estate in the Rivière du rampart district, where interactive kiosks reveal all about Mauritian life in the 19th-century. The sprawling park of the estate is home to fifty varieties of century-old mango trees.
Domaine des Aubineaux in Forest-Side: Dating back to 1872, this historic home-cum-museum is located at the beginning of the Tea Road. Go to see the heritage collection of furniture, photos and paintings. The "Camphor tree garden" in the property, tea plantation and old stable turned into a distillery are well worth your time.
Diving: Indulge your adventurous side with top-notch snorkelling and scuba diving in the reef and wreck dives off the crystal clear waters of Mauritius. With the island virtually surrounded by coral, you will be spoilt for choice. There are over 100 sites to select from. The gentler North West coastline is the ideal choice for the best reefs, while the East coast is more dramatic and rough in comparison. Bull sharks, barracuda and grey and whitetip reef sharks are familiar sights.
Sailing: Live it up on a traditional yacht, a fully air-conditioned Lagoon 500 Catamaran or an old-fashioned motor yacht boat. Prepare to be pampered with decadent culinary offerings under the service of an impeccably trained crew. Unwind on the open deck, jump into a crystal clear lagoon, be mesmerised by the melting colours of a sunset or gawp at starry night skies because you only live once.
Golf: Tee off in style at Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita 18-holed golf course, where the elevated greens literally kiss the ocean. Alternatively, break your past records at the Legends Golf Club nestled in thick forest. But if you really want to challenge yourself, pick the 18-hole golf course at Ile Aux Cerfs, located on a private island just off the east coast.
Château Mon Désir: Dine in a colonial style mansion in Maritim Estate. French and Mauritius cooking techniques come together to whip up a gourmet à la carte menu of international specialities with the finest of wines. Order the beef wellington, carpaccio, lobster curry and a chateaubriand for the ultimate satiation. End with the melt-in-the-mouth crepe suzette. Live piano music will add romance to the gastronomic journey.
Eureka: Book a table at this Maison Créole to sample authentic island flavours from a diverse menu. Pick a traditional curry to familiarise yourself with the richness and depth of the local cuisine. The dry beef curry is served with pumpkin fricassee, peanuts rougaille, coconut chutney, rice, lentils and pickles.
Le Fangourin: Refined cuisine inspired by the traditional Mauritian kitchen, this venue nestled in the Beau Plan Estate promises stunning views from its veranda across the tropical countryside. Classic choices include the smoked marlin, Mauritian Sea-bream, and Lobster salad. Save space for drool-worthy desserts like Crème brûlée with fresh vanilla and Rodrigues lemon meringue pie.
Le Château de Bel Ombre: This restored colonial mansion is ideal for set among the hills and sugar fields of Domaine de Bel Ombre. Celebrate a special occasion with a candlelit dinner on the terrace. The à la carte fusion food has a variety of authentic island dishes. The wild boar braised with red wine sauce and taro root comes highly recommended.
Le Case du Pecheur: Think out-of-the-box in this rustic thatch and timber restaurant with wooden tables among the mangrove by the seaside. Deliciously fresh seafood includes locally farmed giant shrimps, lobster and crab. For an alternate choice, you can try wild venison.
Sway those hips and shake those legs in wild abandon to the frenetic rhythm of the Sega. A taste of Mauritian life awaits you when you join a group of dancers dressed in colourful skirts and typical costumes. Try to match their steps with the background of melodic lyrics and the tune of Maravanne, Ravanne and Djembe, whisking you into another world. The Sega folkloric dance is a time-honoured cultural heritage of the island and has been recognised as part of the UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
The island boasts a long rum-making tradition and six distilleries, each with its own character and production methods. Fans of spirits will have a field day sampling rum in different flavours like vanilla, coffee, tangerine, and coconut before making a choice. Recommended varieties are the double-distilled 'Coeur de Chauffe' by Chameral or Pink Pigeon's spiced rum.
Escape the obvious at the small volcanic island of Rodrigues. Just under 20 kilometres in length, this remote haven has a tiny laid-back town with an unhurried pace. Enjoy the striking landscapes of secret coves, wild creeks and basaltic rock cliffs. Then plan to explore the nature reserve of Ile aux Cocos, located 4 km to the west of Rodrigues, where corals are visible even from the water surface.
Surprise yourself at the Pont Naturel, a 2-metre long volcanic rock formation resembling a man-made bridge. Part of a cliff at Gris-Gris, this unusual spot has many holes, making whistling sounds as seawater passes, earning it the name "le souffle" (blower). Picnic at the wooded area nearby, the way the locals do.
Mauritius boasts excellent luxury resorts for honeymooners, families and those who just are looking for peace & relaxtion on this diverse Indian Ocean tropical paradise island. Yes - watersports are aplenty but there are also championship golf courses, superb restaurants and fabulous guestrooms, villas, suites and residences.
Read the BusinessClass.com guide to The Best Luxury Hotels In Mauritius.
It is convenient to hire a car if you prefer to move around the island on your own. One of the two main highways connects the airport to Grand Baie. Beware of congested towns and erratic drivers. The southern and eastern coasts have quieter, safer roads. Taxis are readily available.
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