By a stroke of catastrophic luck, the Island of Mauritius was formed by a volcanic occurrence. She lies surrounded by coral reefs, gorgeous white beaches and is covered in a bed of green sugarcanes lightly swaying to the rhythm of the tropical breeze. This island is first and foremost a little bit of paradise, still playing host to a magnitude of unique species.
But Mauritius is much more than an island paradise. It used to serve as a stop for the Arab and Portuguese seafarers heading to and from the East on their spice quests. The Dutch brought the sugarcane to make a precursor to Rum, called Arak. This was followed by French and then British occupations, each bringing a little bit of their culture and infrastructure with them. A large number of slaves and labourers were brought from the north and south of India and this was later supplemented with the arrival of Chinese labourers.
And with each of these cultures, came both linguistic and culinary influences that is now simply, Mauritian. It is, after all, the language that you speak and the food that you eat that gives you a national identity; is it not?
The cuisine is definitely worth experiencing. It is a fusion of Indian, Chinese, Dutch and French dishes and cooking techniques that is called Creole. This being an island in the Indian Ocean, brings with it a wonderful quality of fresh fish, which forces further fusion to occur, so much so that some say the fused dishes, albeit delicious, do not resemble the originals.
The Island’s diverse flora and fauna also bring ecological tourists to the island and there are numerous tours to go and explore the central plateau. Here you will find a diverse region of waterfalls, colourful rocks, streams, plants and animals, some of which are unique to Mauritius. From a cultural point of view, you will also be quite near the colonial Creole architecture that gives a glimpse into the island’s past.
But, forget all of this for a moment as you stare across the tropical blue waters, feeling the soft fine sand between your toes and sipping an ice cold cocktail or fruit juice. There is very little that relaxes one as instantly as an island’s isolation. You have the choice of many beaches, various spots for snorkelling, water sports and of course sunbathing.
Ile aux Cerfs is a good place for a daytrip, enjoying watersports, snorkelling and strolling the beach in low tide. For better Snorkelling you want to try Trou aux Biches and Blue Bay, the latter of which is a protected marine park. At the north of the island is the buzzing town of Grand Baie, which is ideal for the customer wanting to be able to have both resort luxury and the freedom of being in a town. Grand Baie is also great for water sports. If you have deeper pockets and want to stay on one of the most beautiful beaches in Mauritius, then Bel Mare and her 10 kilometre beach is the one for you.
Port Louis is the capital city and if you are in the mood for a day of culture, this is a good place to see the central market, French colonial architecture and just get off the beach for a few hours. From here you can also take a bus to Pampelmousses and the Pampelmousses Botanical Garden, which is the oldest botanical garden in the Southern Hemisphere. However, the main attraction is the pond of giant waterlilies.
One last mention should go to the Rum distilleries of the island. Although Mauritius is not instantly synonymous with Rum, as are the islands of Caribbean, they are however a large producer of Agricultural Rum. This is Rum distilled from fresh fermented cane juice, unlike standard Rum, which is produced from the left-over molasses during the process of refining sugar. They also make interesting infusions with vanilla and fruit and the industry as a whole is acclaimed for the quality of the Rum it produces.
When you plan your holiday to an island destination, you have to ask yourself this one question: What do you want from an Island?
Do you want a beach with an all-inclusive package or do you want to explore the natural world with all its sights, sounds and smells? Do you want to explore towns and villages and explore all she has to taste? Or is it the allure of somewhere new, somewhere warm and somewhere that is not home?
Mauritius ticks all of these boxes. Go pack your bags, it’s time to go!