• Mauritius
    © iStockphoto.com / Extremetravel
  • Mauritius
    © iStockphoto.com / Ohrimalex
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    Travel to Mauritius, island paradise in the Indian Ocean

    By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile
    Mauritius was once a notorious pirate haunt, however today this small island nation is as close to a heaven on earth as possible. No wonder Mark Twain once famously remarked that "Mauritius was made first and then heaven; and heaven was copied after Mauritius." With its pristine white sand beaches, crystal clear water, rare tropical birds, mouth-watering cuisine, gorgeous mountains and unparalleled friendliness of the locals it is fair to say that Mr. Twain was not far off.

    Travel guide

    The beaches:

    To say that Mauritius have some of the most spectacular beaches in the world would be an understatement. The clear sapphire water, the warm white sand, the abundance of marine life that inhabits the coral reefs will make you forget all of your earthly troubles. With over 160km of beaches Mauritius has something on offer for everyone. For water sports enthusiasts, there is no place better than the Grand Baie, the buzzing shopping area as well as the abundance of bars and restaurants make this a perfect place for those in search of a beach buzzing with energy. If you are more interested in a quiet swim away from the hustle and bustle visit the Le Morne beach in the south-west of the island. Characterized but the quintessential Mauritian white sad and shallow clear water, Le Morne offers its visitors a slice of their own private paradise. No list of Mauritian beaches would be complete without mentioning Flic en Flac. Extremely popular with locals, Flic en Flac offers travellers the opportunity to not only see but also experience what the local joie de vivre really feels like.

    Discover the island's tropical heart:

    While it is a well-known fact that tearing yourself away from the splendour of a Mauritian beach is almost impossible, if you do manage to accomplish this monumental feat in order to explore the islands tropical centre you will not be disappointed. Take the Black River Gorges National Park for example, the island's largest national park it was set up to protect the island's last endemic forest. The park offers nearly 60km of winding hiking paths through a waterfall studded forest as well as dozens of picture perfect picnic spots, for those still under the relaxing influence of the beach. Black River Gorges National Park is also home to the largest number of the island's endangered species, so when walking its trails keep an eye out for pink pigeons or echo parakeets and even wild boar and deer. If you are looking for a less ?wild? experience be sure to visit the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden, also known as the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden. This particular botanical garden boasts the impressive title of being the oldest one in the southern hemisphere, having been opened in 1770. However be advised most of the flora at the garden is not endemic to the island.

    A cultural kaleidoscope:

    Mauritius is not only a paradise of natural beauty it is also a testament to human harmony. The island nation's population is composed of an impressive mix of ethnic groups, including people of Indian, Chinese, European and Creole descent. What makes Mauritian society so unforgettable is the harmony that rules over its people, because even if they descend from opposite side of a continent here they are all Mauritian. Such ethnic and religious diversity manifests itself in numerous religious festivals. If you are lucky enough to be in Mauritius in October of November you might catch Diwali, the Hindu festival of Lights, which for many locals is a celebration of joy and happiness. Or perhaps you will be lucky enough to catch Chinese New Year celebrations, however be aware that the date changes on a yearly basis, so check in advance. On September 9th Mauritians of all faiths celebrate Pere Lavale by traveling to the tomb of the Blessed Jacques Désiré Laval, a celebration not dissimilar form the Lourdes pilgrimage in France. During Holi, the Hindu festival of colour and love, the streets are filled with locals throwing coloured powder and water at one another as wells as wishing each other luck in the coming year.

    Explore the colonial past:

    Since it first appeared on maps in the 16 century Mauritius has been colonized by the Dutch, the French and the British until gaining its independence in 1968. While the island's colonial past more often than not is associated with the injustice and cruelty that defined colonial rule, all that is left of it today are beautiful plantations and mansions which are well worth the visit. One remnant of colonial rule which should be visited is Eureka, a French colonial mansion which was once owned by the island's most prominent sugar baron. Today the Creole mansion has become a museum which offers visitors a rare glimpse in to what colonial life was like. Once you are done exploring the mansion's perfectly preserved rooms, venture outside and take a stroll through the beautiful maintained garden, or go to Eureka restaurant for an authentic Mauritian lunch and an unforgettable assortment of teas. Another place with colonial roots worth visiting is the St. Aubin Sugar Estate. The beautiful tropical gardens, the vanilla plantation, the old sugar factory and a rum distillery will keep you busy for an entire afternoon.

    Rodrigues:

    Rodrigues is a small, autonomous outer island located about 350mi east of the mainland. Along with Mauritius and Reunion it forms the Mascarenes Islands. Rodrigues, which is sometimes referred to as "Mauritius 25 years ago", is its own little, forgot slice of paradise. Surrounded by coral reef and an unforgettable turquoise lagoon, the island at first glance might not seem dissimilar from its big sister Mauritius. However once you step ashore you will find yourself among picturesque fruit trees and numerous vegetable patches, and not the luxury hotels that you would expect to see on Mauritius. The island's population is just over 40,000 people, mostly of African or Creole descent. The island of Rodrigues seems to exist within its own temporal bubble, with life moving at a relaxingly slow pace. Rodrigues is the place to go to not only marvel at the natural beauty over indulge in unforgettable cuisine but also to forget all of your troubles, because on this little heavenly islands they simply could not exist.

    Our Editorial team's advice

    The cultural diversity of the islands population means that whenever you decide to visit chances are you will catch some unforgettable celebration. Whether you get a chance to visit during Holi, Chinese New Year, Diwali or Ougadi each one will provide a unique and unforgettable experience. As is so often the case a celebration is nothing without the people that take part in it. But do not worry because the shocking kindness and openness of the locals would ensure that you have the time of your life.

    The beauty of Mauritius does not fade throughout the year. Regardless of when you decide to visit you will be in for a treat. If you wish to enjoy the Mauritian summer, the two best months to travel to the island are November and December. However you should be aware that this period is considered high-season, so not only will it be crowded but the prices would be higher. As of January there is a chance of cyclones hitting the island, however they are rare. May and June as well as September and August should be associated with a rather dry climate. During the Mauritian winter, in July and August, the west and north coasts are more pleasant than the wind battered East Coast. Be aware that In general, the northern coast is the one that has the highest rate of sunshine throughout the year so if it's an ideal tanning spot that you are looking for be sure to explore the north. Each of the four coasts of Mauritius has its own defining features. The North of the island has the largest number of hotels, while the South has managed to preserve its natural appearance. The East and West have stunning beaches, but be aware that there is a difference in climate between the two. Exposed to the winds of the Indian Ocean, east coast receives more rain than the west coast: the opposite of what we know in our climate. While Mauritius is best known for its beaches do not forget to explore the island's other attractions, including nature reserves, mountains, waterfalls, rum distilleries, colonial mansions as well as numerous religious temples.

    pros

    • +The exquisite hotels
    • +The warm and welcoming locals
    • +Abundance of things to do outside of the hotel
    • +The stunning scenery

    cons

    • -The disappearing natural coast
    • -Traffic jams in Porte-Louis as well as the northern part of the island

    Traditions

    When talking about Mauritian culture, just as when talking about its cuisine, it is important to remember that it is one culture we are speaking off, but rather an amalgamation of several cultures with thousands of years of history between them. The rich diversity of the country's culture is found everywhere. The country's religious worship is a beautiful example of tolerance and equality; here you can find churches next to mosques, Indian temples near Chinese pagodas. Muslim, Buddhist, Christian and various Indian religious festivals are celebrated enthusiastically throughout the year. Mauritian folklore is another testament to the diversity of the country's culture. Perhaps the best illustration of Mauritian folklore comes in the form of dance and music. Witness beautifully sophisticated traditional Indian dances, or the spectacular Chinese lion and dragon ones. Sega is perhaps the most famous representative of Mauritian folklore. It is not clear where the dance stems from, but many believe it dates back to the years of slavery. However today Sega has managed to shake loose the shackles of its heritage and become an intrinsic part of any Mauritian celebration. Don't worry even if you are not able to follow the dance moves you will spend your time blissfully hypnotized by the entrancing music. If you wish to learn the dance there are a number of schools located on the island, some hotels even offer its guest introductory courses.

    Food

    Mauritian cuisine perfectly reflects the island's diverse population and culture. Visitors to this tropical paradise will get to indulge in an unforgettable mix of Indian, Chinese, Creole and French cuisine. Traditional local dishes are based primarily on meat, seafood, vegetables, fruit and spices. Here is a short summary of the "must try's" of Mauritian cuisine. Vindaye is a local delicacy related to the Indian vindaloo - a ginger, saffron, garlic, mustard and chilli sauce - is prepared with fish, squid or octopus and is a deliciously original twist on its Indian cousin. Due to a larger number of Chinese descendants on Mauritius, the Chinese food on the islands is extraordinary. Whether it's fresh noodles or expertly made dim sum, not indulging would be impossible. If you venture to the island's markets, which is something you must do, do not hesitate to try the dishes offered by street vendors. Their tiny carts are filled to the brim with tasty treats. Apart from donuts and samosas, you can taste a dhal puri, a local delicacy of an India style flat bread stuffed with split peas and usually served with a curry. To cool down try a glass of refreshing alouda glace - a milk based drink made with agar agar jelly basil seeds and vanilla. If in the mood for something a bit stronger we advise you to get a bottle of Phoenix the famous local beer, which has been manufactured on the island since 1963. For something even stronger be sure to try the local rum, or even better visit one of the small distilleries located on the island.

    Ideal Weather Search

    Find weekly weather forecasts for Mauritius . Different criteria make it possible to predict with precision the best time of year to go to Mauritius . A comprehensive weather score, made up of temperature indicators, bad weather predictions, sunshine levels and wind speeds, will allow you to choose the activities best suited to the weather conditions and therefore make the most of your holiday in Mauritius .

    Souvenirs

    Mauritius is the duty-free island. At the beginning of 2005, the government decided to do away with taxes on luxury (brand name clothing, leatherwear, jewellery) and electrical goods. This measure aims at making Mauritius a shopping paradise like Dubai.

    The most typical souvenir to bring back from Mauritius is a model ship. Made to a scale of 1:75 from the blue prints of historical boats, these miniatures are true masterpieces scrupulously respecting every detail (canons, sails, ropes) of the original ships. In Curepipe and in the centre of Floreal, you can find traditional workshops, but the best address for more choice is Goodlands workshop in the north.

    Another typical purchase is spices, which you can buy at Port-Louis market, and vanilla tea, the plantations being located in the south, in Bois Cheri. Mauritian handicraft also comprises wickerwork (baskets, trays, hats) and embroidered material. Be careful when buying T-shirts, shirts and other pieces of clothing. They are more and more often imported from Asia. Independent tailors however, are still affordable and can make a tailored dress, skirt or suit within a few days.

    Shops are generally open from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm on weekdays.

    What to see

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