Mauritius: an island paradise

Joanne Cowdery on 22 September 2022
To say I had a fantastic time in Mauritius would be an understatement. I was there for one week and there was so much to see and do that, at times, I was hard-pressed to find time to relax on the beach! The island is only 2,030 square kilometres but the north and south are two very different regions, so I stayed a few days in each to maximise the sightseeing opportunities.

Despite a 12-hour flight there’s only a 3- or 4-hour time difference relative to GMT, so there’s no jet lag. And another plus is that it’s very easy to get around Mauritius by car. We decided to organise a driver so we could sit back and relax, but car hire is easy to arrange and they drive on the lefthand side.

Our hotels were extremely comfortable and both had outdoor seating areas by shallow waterways, which were lovely for relaxing, reading or just passing the time. Make a note that the sunsets on Mauritius are out of this world and it’s a lovely way to spend the early part of each evening, watching the sunset with a drink in hand!

So what were the sightseeing highlights of my visit? The top of my list has to be the interactive and ultra-modern museum L’Adventure du Sucre, which is situated in the heart of an ancient sugar mill. It was a fascinating way to discover the history of Mauritius and its sugarcane industry, including tasting more than eleven, special unrefined sugars. I also enjoyed a tour around the beautiful Bois Chéri estate and tea factory, where I sampled lots of different teas (and homemade biscuits!).

Moving outdoors, the National Botanical Garden of Mauritius has a huge collection of plants and trees and there are some seriously impressive things to see – from medicinal plants and giant water lilies, to a palm tree collection and a spice garden. I also visited Grand Baie and Cap Malheureux, two beautiful seaside villages at the north of the island. Grand Baie is now renowned for its shopping and Cap Malheureux is famed for its beaches and the red-roofed church. It’s also worth driving to the top of the dormant volcano, Trou aux Cerfs, for a 360-degree view over the island.

For the adventurous visitor there’s lots to do on Mauritius. Most of the island’s hotels will arrange activities like deep-sea fishing, snorkelling, diving, or catamaran cruises for watching or swimming with dolphins. And if you want to watch wildlife, visit the 2,000-hectare Domaine de L’Etoile nature reserve, which also offers quad biking, horse riding, archery and ziplines. I’d also recommend a visit to the Chamarel 7 Coloured Earth Geopark. Located on the south-west side of the island it contains the Chamarel waterfall which is about 100m high, and a geological formation of sand dunes of seven distinct colours that’s amazing and unique.

It’s said that the best months to visit Mauritius are April to May, and September to November but it really depends on what you want to do when you’re there. It’s probably best to avoid the cyclone months from January to March, because even if there are no cyclones the rainfall tends to be high. I was there at the end of September and the weather was absolutely perfect for sightseeing and relaxing on this island paradise. I hope to return there one day.

My top tips

• If your hotel booking includes your meals and the hotel has a choice of restaurants, I’d recommend making reservations in advance of your arrival. Hotel restaurants can get very busy and pre-booking will save you time and disappointment.

• If your hotel offers a Mauritian-themed buffet one evening, do go. You should be able to sample all sorts of local street food and see other culinary dishes being cooked at the live food stations. These evenings can be quite an event.

• Don’t forget the sun cream! Mauritius is so close to the equator that even when it’s cloudy you can get burnt.