Destination guide: Mauritius

Birds, beaches, fusion food and Creole music are just some of the reasons to visit this paradise island in the Indian Ocean

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Destination guide: Mauritius
Written By
Elin Morgan

Palm-fringed beaches, azure sea and a culture that draws on French, African, Indian and Chinese influences – the famous former home of the dodo is rich with nature. It was also a favourite destination of TV conservationist Gerald Durrell, who campaigned to save some of the island’s rarer species. Read on for our quick guide to exotic bird spotting and what else to do during a trip to this dreamy island...

Hit the beach
Fans of iconic Gerard Depardieu film Mon Pere ce Heros will remember that the idyllic beaches of Mauritius provided the setting for the iconic teen movie (although the Hollywood remake moved the action to the Seychelles). Mauritius offers acres of white sand stretched along 330km of coast and clear, blue water. An offshore reef (one of the largest in the world) surrounding most of the island creates calm lagoons in most places, making it a great place to try paddle boarding. Surfers should head for the south and southwest of the island, particularly Tamarin Bay, where the reef provides for bigger waves.


Visit Mauritius with Radio Times Travel, see here for more details


Get out to sea
Mauritius’ reefs mean it is rich with sea life. It's a popular spot for sport fishing, and many hotels are able to arrange trips. With species including barracuda and huge blue marlin up for grabs it can be an exhilarating experience. Robson Green visited Mauritius earlier this year for an Extreme Fishing Challenge – make sure like him you practise catch and release so fish stocks aren’t depleted. For those who prefer observing sealife in its natural habitat, Mauritius offers plenty for snorkelers and scuba divers. There are 23 registered dive centres, many of them around Grand Baie in the north of the island. Check the Mauritian Scuba Diving Association website for more information.

Discover Creole music
The island may be a great place to relax, but Mauritians also love a party. The annual Festival Internasional Kreol is a particular highlight, with local and international bands playing typically Mauritian Sega music, Jazz and Zouk through the night on an outdoor stage. This year’s headliners Zouk Machine (originally from Guadeloupe), played disco-inflected Caribbean rhythms and kept the crowd dancing long after dawn. The varied line-up also included home grown stars such as Alain Ramanisum, whose upbeat Sega tunes have found success in France. The festival is usually held at in late November or early December and is well worth a visit. Keep an eye on the website for dates for next year’s festival. 


Go Birdwatching
Although Mauritius’ most famous avian resident, the dodo, died out in the seventeenth century, Mauritius is still home to a wealth of endemic bird species including the Mauritius kestrel and the pink pigeon. If you’ve had enough of lounging on the beach, head for the Black River Gorges National Park in the South West of Mauritius for an afternoon’s hiking. All the island’s native bird species live within the park and there are 60 kilometres of trails for visitors to walk. 

Eat fusion food
Mauritian cuisine draws on Indian, French, African and Chinese influences to create fusion dishes with plenty of flavour.  In towns, street stalls offer plenty of cheap and tasty treats such as gateaux piments (balls of fried lentils with chilli) and dholl puri (delicious lentil pancakes stuffed with vegetables and spicy sauces). Mauritian Chinese Dim Sum is another top bite. Fish and seafood are the mainstays of many evening meals, with fish stews and curries popular – add a dash of green chilli chutney if you’re feeling brave.  Wash it all down with a shot of Rhum Arrangè (rum flavoured with fruit or spices) and you’ll feel ready to dance all night.

Visit the Capital
If you’re a fan of Bollywood movies, visit the Mauritian capital Port Louis. The Caudan complex on the city’s waterfront has been used as a location in movies featuring megastars Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan. Away from the glitzy waterfront, the city bustles with bazaars and alleys in which to roam. Signs of Mauritius’ colonial past are everywhere – overlooking the harbour is Fort Adelaide (also known as La Citadelle), built by the British in 1834 to keep French settlers at bay, and within the city there are a number of well-preserved buildings from the period when the French ruled the island; the beautiful Government House (1738) in particular is worth a visit.


Visit Mauritius with Radio Times Travel, see here for more details


Region

Southern Africa, Indian Ocean

Airport


A contender for longest airport name in the world, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport is the destination for international airlines.

TV and films shot here:
Mon Pere Ce Heros, Benares, Robson Green’s Extreme Fishing, Bollywood movies including Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Indian Ocean with Simon Reeve, Gerald Durrell’s The Stationary Ark.

Local food: Daube de Poisson (fish stew), fish curry or Chinese dishes such as Dim Sum. Snack on Dholl Puri (lentil pancake stuffed with vegetables and spicy sauces) and gateaux piments (Chilli cakes).

Stay: Zilwa Attitude (near Grand Baie) hosted Radio Times in its new peaceful four star resort with an infinity pool and white sand against crystal blue sea. Prices from £92 pppn. Hayes and Jarvis offers a week’s holiday with prices starting from £1,199 per person, including return flights. 

For full review see here.

Getting there: Air Mauritius and British Airways offer direct flights.

Getting around: Local buses are fairly reliable and cover most routes. Taxis are affordable for shorter distances.


Visit Mauritius with Radio Times Travel, see here for more details


 


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