The volcanic island of Mauritius, anchored off the south east coast of Africa amidst the cerulean waters of the Indian Ocean, packs a big punch when it comes to spectacular beaches, luxurious hotels and underwater adventure. All this on an island only 40 miles long and 30 miles wide.
Mark Twain hinted that heaven may have been modelled on Mauritius. With one hundred miles of powder-soft, dazzling, white sand beaches encircling this island paradise, it’s not hard to see why.
Protected from the open sea by the third largest coral reef in the world, the crystalline waters which roll onto its palm-fringed coastline are teeming with tropical marine life, including dolphins and turtles - an open invitation to indulge in diving and snorkelling that is simply world-class.
Beyond coral seascapes there are huge swathes of rainforest, mountains, waterfalls, inky lagoons and traditional creole villages to be explored.
Inland, you will find a stunning natural paradise of lush hills and valleys, home to endangered pink pigeons and brightly coloured parakeets. You will also find hiking trails weaving through the forested mountains of Chamarel and the Black River Gorges National Park, where there’s a chance to catch a glimpse of the Mauritian flying fox, the only remaining mammal endemic to the island.
Mauritius is home to some of the world’s rarest plants and animals, and features a diversity of flora and fauna rare in such a small island. Mauritius’ isolation makes it something of a unique biosphere proposition; it remains the only known habitat of the extinct dodo.
For such a tiny island, Mauritius also has an incredibly rich and diverse food culture, infused with creole, French, Chinese and Indian influences from its past. Its people are welcoming and have a laid back attitude to life that is refreshing in a world that is always in a hurry.
There are only two seasons: a warm, humid summer from November to April, and a cooler dry winter from June to September.
I've put together my top eight experiences in Mauritius...
Swimming with dolphins
If you are craving the ultimate experience during your holidays, I highly recommend a half-day boat trip with Kiteglobing, where you swim with dolphins in crystal clear water. They can take you beyond the lagoon into the open sea where dolphins enjoy the freedom of the ocean.
They will then cruise along the southern coast, taking you to a beautiful coral reef where you can discover its magic while snorkeling.
The high quality boat will be booked for you exclusively and includes all the necessary equipment (snorkels, diving goggles, fins and life vests) as well as beverages and snacks.
Additionally, a skipper and an assistant will be there to support you concerning the service aboard and guarantee your safety. This is very reassuring when out at sea.
Upon request, they will provide someone to accompany you during the swims. Wetsuits are also available on demand.
Meeting point (departure and return): C Beach Club Bel Ombre
The Chamarel Rum Distillery
Situated in the southwest part of Mauritius, the Rhumerie de Chamarel is surrounded by vast sugarcane plantations growing in harmony with coffee, pineapples and other tropical fruits nearby.
This distillery is a rarity in that it still cultivates its own grown sugarcane; and here lies the first secret of its quality.
The harvest is done by hand, without ever burning the crops, and extends between July to December. The freshly harvested sugarcane will be transferred within four hours to the distillery to preserve its freshness and aromas. The first pressed sugarcane juice will be filtered, then taken to 25HL stainless steel vats to initiate the alcoholic fermentation.
There are various means of distillation to be discovered by the visitor. These processes are very uncommon for rum preparation, and makes it a unique product for you to sample.
Rum tasting is to be recommended so you can decide which one to take home with you.
Chamarel 7 Coloured Earth Geopark
The undulating strips of multi-coloured sand that spontaneously settle in different layers are one of the most photographed and visited sights on the island.
Red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple and yellow.
An almost surreal, lunar-like spectacle of rainbow-hued sand dunes unfolds before your eyes. It is a most unusual spectacle that is set in the middle of lush green vegetation.
A short distance from the 7 Coloured Earth is the tallest single-drop waterfall in Mauritius. At about 100m high, the Chamarel Waterfall is a striking piece of nature standing amid dense vegetation and is ranked among the most sought-after sightseeing spots in Mauritius!.
Fed by the waters of three distinct streams pouring into Saint Denis River, it has a powerful rush with a peak flow rate in excess of 40,000 m³ per minute.
It can be visited by driving to the view point or approaching it by tracking along the river at its base.
Grand Bassin is a crater lake situated in a secluded mountain area in the district of Savanne, deep in the heart of Mauritius.
The approach road is dominated by two huge statues that loom over all visitors. The sacred lake, also called Ganga Talao, represents the mighty Ganges river of India and is surrounded by colourful Hindu temples and gods.
It is a beautiful lake in the middle of a high plateau and has become a religious pilgrimage site for the Hindus of Mauritius.
Around the edge of the lake are several temples and small offering tables made of stone where pilgrims will say prayers and leave gifts on a banana leaf to the lord Shiva.
The lake is reputed to be 50-60 feet deep and its source is from springs that rise into the crater of the lake. The lake was formed after the once active volcano died out many, many years ago.
The surrounding area is covered in lush green foliage but there are also monkeys that can on occasion become quite vicious if goaded.
When visiting the temples people should remove their shoes before entering the temple. They should ring the bell above the doorway once and enter. When they are exiting they should do so backwards. Although entrance to the temples is free, there are donation boxes set around the temples for people to make donations.
Maconde Viewpoint, Baie Du Cap
Maconde Viewpoint is located on the south coast of Mauritius between Le Morne and Baie Du Cap and is easily reached by the steps built into the rock face. The area is known for its rugged coastlines and natural beauty.
Maconde Viewpoint is on a curved section of the coastal road and you can enjoy wonderful views of the Indian Ocean.
Some believe that the name 'Maconde' originates from the time of slavery, where runaway slaves from the Makonde tribe of Mozambique came to seek refuge; others believe that is was named after the governor Jean Baptiste Henri Conde, who built an outlook on the cliff.
Gris Gris Beach & Viewpoint
Far away from the idyllic setting of calm seas and the tranquil scenery, is Gris Gris Beach, at the southernmost point of Mauritius. It is a few kilometres southeast of the village of Souillac - a historical village that dates back to the French colonial period.
Gris Gris is well known for its sea cliffs and offers visitors a magnificent view from the top - definitely a sight worth seeing. Coral reefs do not surround this part of the island, which allows large waves to crash directly onto the cliffs in a spectacular fashion.
The white sandy beach is very inviting but the waves and currents are extremely strong, so it is not advised to swim, but rather to have a stroll, admiring the view.
Further down the road from the Gris Gris Viewpoint is La Roche Qui Pleure (Weeping Rock). This is also another fantastic viewpoint where if you look at the rock from the right angle, it will appear as a face with tears constantly streaming down, as the waves continually crash.
Sea plane – discover Mauritius from the air
Island Wings gives you the choice of taking off from the land or sea, making your experience an adventure of a lifetime
Take off from their sea base in the turquoise lagoon in front of Lux* Grand Gaube, and experience the breathtaking coastline featuring the lagoons, corals, flora and fauna.
The owners and operators are Bruno and Gaetan, both very experienced pilots who will ensure you have a great trip in the two-seater planes they pilot.