If lying on a beach all day sipping coconut water while working on your tan does not sound like your ideal holiday, why else would you visit the tropical island of Mauritius? Aside from all the well-known clichés about its shiny white beaches, vast coral reefs and endless sunshine, there are plenty more things to do in Mauritius than just swimming and snorkeling.
Measuring approximately 29 miles (47 kilometers) wide and 40 miles (61 kilometers) long it packs a wide array of views, cultures, flavors and experiences. Step outside your resort to see its nightlife and saturated streets. Hire a car, scooter or mountain bike and drive around the whole island watching the scenery change as you travel from north to south and back again. You will experience a range of cultures, discover a variety of landscapes and learn much more about the real Mauritius. We highlight some of the lesser known things Mauritius has to offer, other than the beach.
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Wine, dine and dance
Grand Bay (Grand Baie) in the north of Mauritius is the party center of the island and one of the busiest. The streets are packed with a variety of restaurants covering all flavors of the world. Genuine Italian bistros, Mauritian seafood curry specialists and Asian fusion lounges are plenty. The best of these are Le Capitaine, for tasty lunches of paninis and fresh lime juice; Fusion, a combination of Mauritius and Asian cuisine; Le Tandoor, a top quality Indian restaurant Here is also where you will find countless night clubs and bars all which throb with locals and tourists on the weekends. It is hard to distinguish between them as they all offer similar prices and atmosphere and you will dance till the sun comes up. Two worth recommending based on their vibe and location are the Banana Beach Club and Red Cat Sealovers Lounge.
The best way to feel the true Mauritian cuisine and food culture is to eat from the countless road side stalls. You will find an array of food from fried noodles and vegetables, fish soups, samosas (deep fried curry pies) and rotis (savory curry-filled pancakes) to sweet pineapple or mango on a stick.
In the Western towns of Black River Bay, Tamarin Bay and Flic en Flac you will find Bali-inspired cocktail bars, a South African sports pub and traditional Creole restaurants that have local entertainment such as reggae bands and traditional Sega dancing. Sega dancing is a traditional Mauritian dance that combines reggae style music and drum beats with colorful dress and originated in the 1800s. The best of these are Gio’s Marmite Creole, Bali Kopy and Ze Melting Potes. Flic en Flac has a vibrant nightlife with side by side nightclubs pulsing with dance music till dawn.
Explore the history and hidden culture
Mauritius has a colorful and interesting history. In the capital, Port Louis, you can visit the Natural History Museum, which is the oldest museum on the island. Here you will learn all about the fauna, marine life, insects and meteorology of the country. This also includes special galleries on the famous giant tortoises and the extinct Dodo.
If museums seem a little slow for an island holiday, you can take a trip down to the south of the island and learn about the rich trade history of the country in products like sugar and tea. Visit the Bois Cheri tea plantation in the small village of Bois Cheri and sample a range of flavored and herbal tea while taking in a panoramic view of the south of the island. While there, head to the town of Mahébourg and stop at the Rault Biscuit Factory where they still make their biscuits by hand and you can take a few to go with your Bois Cheri tea.
While exploring the Mauritius culture in the south you should not exclude a stop in Chamarel at the Rum Factory (Rhumerie de Chamarel) to taste the special fruit rums that Mauritius is renowned for. Here you can gather tips on creating your own when you return home with a bottle of the famous Green Island Rum. If you are a photographer, a tour at the salt works near Tamarin Bay are great for some interesting portraits as well as providing insight into this small but important trade in Mauritius.
Shop till you drop
In the northern and western areas of the island clothing boutiques and brand name shops are everywhere. However if you are looking for a true Mauritian experience it’s the markets and local bargain stores that will have you traveling home with a bulging suitcase. In Grand Bay there are handfuls of discount stores that have quality clothes at very low prices.
In Port Louis there is a loud and vibrant fresh produce market. The astonishing array of locally grown fruit and vegetables is impressive and it will be hard to leave without sampling what’s available. There is a textile section upstairs and the hand embroidered table cloths are unique and striking. Further south from Port Louis and slightly inland is the famous clothing and food market in the town of Quatre Bornes. The maze of sellers blend into one another as the blur of sarongs, saris (traditional Indian dresses), hats and clothes can become overwhelming. The market is packed with locals and tourists and the best advice is to take a backpack for your purchases for a hands-free shopping experience.
Outdoors and nature
If you prefer to escape the crowds, a trip to Mauritius is not complete without seeing the Pampelmousses or Sir Seewoosagur Botanical Gardens just north of Port Louis. A relaxing walk through the gardens takes you past over 80 species of palm, giant water lilies and 100-year-old tortoises. For elaborate mountain vistas, waterfalls and lush indigenous forests you can head south and spend a day hiking through the Black River Gorges National Park. If hiking sounds like too much effort visit the Chamarel Falls and unusual seven colored earths. This unique feature is a relatively small area of sand dunes that is combined of seven different colored sands formed by the decomposition of volcanic rock.
If you are a golfing fanatic and like to spend your time outdoors you will appreciate the excellent five-star courses dotted along the east coast of Mauritius. Here the warm weather and light sea breezes make for excellent golfing weather. The top five courses here are: Anahita, Le Touessrok, The Legend and Le Saint Geran.
To explore a little beyond Mauritius head to the town of Pereybere, which is alongside Grand Bay, and book a trip on a catamaran to visit the North Islands. If you are lucky you will get to enjoy dolphin sightings and rare sea birds. This generally includes a traditional barbecue complete with rum soaked grilled bananas prepared by the crew. For more thrills, a popular activity in the Black River Gorges National Park is canyoning and ziplining. Canyoning involves hiking with gear and specialized guides and abseiling down waterfalls and jumping into deep pools. Ziplining is a little less energetic but just as exciting as you fly past steep cliffs and tall trees.
Regardless of what region you visit, Mauritius offers every visitor a lot more than just beaches. There is a startling amount of culture, history and top quality food. Regardless of the long list of activities your resort has on offer, we suggest you step out into the town and meet the real Mauritius.
– Colleen Blaine