Like most Australian’s, you have probably ticked Bali and Thailand off the travel list. Mauritius mightn’t be next on that list (or even on it at all yet), but you are going to want to add it right away…
So, why Mauritius?
Bali is a rite of passage for people hailing from Perth. If you haven’t yet been there by the time you have hit your mid-twenties, there is an awkward sense of shame that you carry along with the ‘I have never been to Bali’ title – a title I held up until I turned 24.
While heading to Bali is a West Australian holidayer’s rite of passage, I wouldn’t say it is the world’s most idyllic location. Don’t sue me for saying that. Also, don’t get me wrong. For the $200.00 return price tag, it is a fantastic overseas destination to escape to.
Having done Bali a few times now, I personally feel that there are plenty of other island paradises that I prefer/would like to see before making a return to the Indonesian isle (not ruling that out though!).
If you have done Bali and are looking for your next sun dress worthy destination, let me plant the Mauritius seed in your mind. Mauritius, Mauritius, Mauritius. There are a million and one reasons why you should consider visiting Mauritius, but for time and length’s sake, here are just a few…
The beaches are out of this world
I know it sounds cliché, but the beaches are legitimately the stuff of postcards and Windows 99 screensavers. The need for fancy photoshopping skills is negated in Mauritius – the water really is that turquoise, and the beaches really are that beautiful.
Most of the island is protected by a reef, so calm, brilliantly blue bays are stock standard. Ridiculous right? Imagine this being just your normal, everyday beach! There are only a handful of spots along the entire coastline of Mauritius that aren’t of the ilk – the cliffy south, and Tamarin, where there is a break in the reef and you can watch the mad sets roll in.
Both times we have been to Mauritius, we stayed on the east coast. You can be guaranteed you will find a stunning beach at almost any point along that stretch of coast. I am not even going to bother with recommendations of beaches because there are just too many to choose from. Throw your bikini on, pull up anywhere and just jump in!
If you are in to kite surfing, then you can head to the beaches further south between Flic En Flac and Le Morne. They are as calm as can be (read: great for families and people who aren’t so confident with surf), but great for kite-surfing when the wind picks up.
Alternatively, kite surfers can head on over to the west coast.
There are so many tasty things to sink your teeth into
Mauritius is a melting pot of Indian, African, Chinese and French culture. The local Mauritian creole cuisine is just as broad in flavour as it is its influences. Some typical Creole foods are curry (uniquely Mauritian curries without any coconut milk), vindaye (pickled and preserved fish and octopus), and achard (pickled vegetables).
Just like any island that is home to luxury resorts, there are definitely some options for more western style food and fine dining. But like in most destinations you travel to, the local delicacies are really what you want to get stuck in to.
Octopus is a staple protein in Mauritius. You will find it grilled and in salads, but most importantly you will find it in curry. You haven’t
lived had octopus until you have had an octopus curry. It was my favourite dish growing up and it is still one of my favourite dishes to this day. Tender, juicy octopus tentacles brazed in a fragrant curry sauce – yum!
Other foods you have to try
Make sure you seek out some gateau piment (chilli cakes) too. Think falafel, but with a touch of chilli. Speaking of chilli – the Mauritians love to put it on their fruit with a little bit of salt. I used to think it was so weird when I was a kid, but it is actually one of the most delicious ways to eat pineapple and apple.
One of my favourite (and super cheap) ‘grab and go’ eats in Mauritius is dhal puri. Dhal puri is just a chickpea flour flat bread filled with curry and chutney. As simple as it sounds, it is so darn delicious. If you prefer a more traditional flat bread, the farata is also top notch.
I suggest packing lots of stretchy dresses and elastic-waisted shorts if you do visit – there is a lot of food to get through!
It is rum country
The Caribbean is a big player in the rum industry, but if you like rum and want to try something different, make a beeline for Mauritius.
There are around 72,000 hectares of sugar cane farmed in Mauritius at present and it makes up 85% of the arable land. That is a lot of prime rum-making material right there.
In 2006, a ban that was placed on using cane for rum was lifted (refined sugar was much more profitable to Mauritius than rum) and it birthed a number of distilleries around the island. There are still a lot of bootleggers around – browsing the shelves of the little local stores will tell you that – but there are a lot of good rums coming out of the country too.
Rhumerie De Chamarel is one of the more well known distilleries on the island. They have quite a range of single distilled, double distilled, barrel aged and infused rums available for purchase. They also run tours of their factory which are super interesting for anyone who loves geeking out on booze.
My favourite Mauritian rum isn’t so well known. You can thank me for this little secret later. Secret: Pink Pigeon. It is unlike any other rum I have ever had!
It is a good mix of luxury and local
Mauritius is a resort island. Almost the whole coast line is dotted with sprawling luxury resorts; but unlike places like Seminyak, there is still a lot of local thrown in the mix.
You still get the authentic Mauritian experience, no matter where you are on the island. Even in the more affluent and developed towns in Mauritius, you still get a good dose of the real life.
You can step outside your grandiose office in Port Louis and find yourself a little street-food market to pick up some lunch from. There are fishermen shacks nestled in between the beachside resorts where you can watch them bring in their catch of the day. Pokey, $2.00-beer-selling general stores are a-plenty too.
There are a lot of resort towns and cities around the world that have been completely bastardised by tourism. Mauritius isn’t one of them. I still maintain that the higher cost of airfares and hotel/resort accommodation means they keep this tourism thing at bay.
There aren’t as many tourists
OK, so it does get busy in peak season, but not to the extent that it does in places like Thailand or Venice. Mauritius is still considered relatively illusive, especially to the Australian market. This is no Kuta!
Being off the coast of South Africa, a lot more South Africans head to Mauritius than Australians. That is rather refreshing to me. I love the idea of being somewhere a little bit different than the norm.
Again, the $800.00 – $1000.00 airfares probably have a lot to do with this. If you want cheaper airfares and basically the whole island to yourself (like we did when we went last), head over in the off season. We had beautiful weather in July/August, but barely another tourist in sight!