Submitted by Cathie Johnson on December 12, 2015
Like a tiny floating diamond, this volcanic island located in the Indian Ocean is a breathtaking gem of unique landscapes and wondrous water adventures. Nestled off the east coast of Madagascar, Mauritius is often sought out for its shockingly blue waters and its tranquility of nature. With steep volcanic mountains holding endless flora and fauna and the ocean offering idyllic snorkeling, adventure seekers will find themselves desperate to try and explore every inch of this small diamond in the sea.
A popular tourist destination, English is widely spoken on the island and will help as you strike out on your own and venture off the beaten path. Don’t be afraid to ask for dining suggestions or hiking recommendations from the warm and welcoming locals. Whether you find yourself in the vibrant capital city of Port Louis or birdwatching in the verdant national park of Black River Gorges, there is always something more to do on this deceptively small island.
Kick back on the white sand beaches, enjoy a fresh glass of sugarcane juice, created from the sugarcan fields that thrive on the island, and hope nobody else discovers the beauty tucked away in the Indian Ocean.
WHEN TO TRAVEL – WEATHER
The weather on Mauritius is exactly as one might dream on a tropical getaway island – with warm teamperatures year-round. During the warmer months, between December and April, you will find yourself experiencing quite a bit of humidity. The cooler months fall between May and November when Mauritius has a “winter,” though temperatures are still quite pleasant. The warmer months tend to be the most popular time of visitors to Mauritius, with a surge in tourists occurring around Christmas and New Year.
When planning a trip to Mauritius be sure to check on any upcoming French school holidays as this will also affect the number of tourists the island sees.
It’s important to be aware of the cyclones that can come through Mauritius, particularly in the early months of the year between January and March.
As you pack for a trip to Mauritius be sure to pack for a variety of outdoor excursions. Whether you are planning to snorkel, hike, or test your bravery with a number of water sports, be sure to fill your suitcase with items you may need.
MAURITIUS CUISINE AND DRINKS
The island of Mauritius is a virtual melting pot, with cultural influences stretching from China to India and France – this is reflecting in the literal melting opts of the island as well. One of the best ways to get a taste for the historical influences of Mauritius is by literally tasting the variety of food offered on the island. This cultural diversity, combined with the incredibly healthy soil of the land, creates decadent and delicious treats for outside visitors.
One of the best ways to experience the local delicacies is through the many street vendors you will find around Mauritius. If staying in Port Louis you will find yourself with a variety of choices as you walk through the vast boulevards of the city. From curry dishes, to fresh fruit, to fresh sugar can juice, you’ll need to stay on the island for a very long time to taste everything at least one time.
One of the more popular dishes that most visitors have to try as least once is dholl puris, which is a fried bread that has been stretched thin and then filled with yellow peas, bean curry and some form of sauce such as a chutney. The treat is clearly echoing Indian recipes that were brought over from the Indian immigrants and can be found throughout the country.
While the beverage is more often associated with the Caribbean, Mauritius gives Jamaica a run (or should we say rum) for its money in the Rum-producing department. Distilleries dot the island, creating whit rums and premium rums from the lush sugarcane fields nearby. Take some time to taste the variety of rums offered on the island and kick back in the white sand as you feel yourself relaxing.
With sugarcane and tea fields growing happily on the island’s fertile soil you will need to ensure you slow down every once in a while and enjoy a cup of fresh, local tea.
POPULAR SITES OF MAURITIUS
Black River Gorges National Park: This vast, expansive national park is a haven for the diverse wildlife living on the island. Monkeys, deer, birds, and even bats are known to inhabit this mecca of life and any visitor to Mauritius needs to trek south and explore the wonders it has to offer. From waterfalls to endless species of flowers, this park is almost otherworldly in its degree of abundant beauty.
Port Louis: The capital city of Mauritius is the largest city on the island and is a thumbprint of all the various cultures who have influenced the island. From Europe to India to China, this city has a little bit of everything in way of design, food and language.
Eureka: Built in the 1830s as a colonial mansion, this estate gives visitors a glimpse into the rich island history of plantation life. As a Creole estate, you can see distinct French influences throughout that have been shaped by the tropical surroundings. You will feel you have stepped back in time while visiting Eureka, and you can complete your visit by trekking to the nearby Ravin waterfall.
Grand Bassin: If you are looking for an experience that immerses you in the culture and spiritual world of Mauritius, then trek to Grand Bassin. As one of the larger religious places within Mauritius you will find yourself face to face with idols of the Hindu God Ganesha and Shiva.
L’Aventure du Sucre: As the main export from Mauritius, sugar can hardly been escaped when visiting the island. Whether it’s sweetening your morning tea or creating a decadent caramelized accent for the pineapple treat after dinner, sugar is everywhere. One of the best ways to catch a glimpse into the history of sugar plantations on Mauritius is by visiting the museum dedicated to sugar. This beautifully maintained museum is located near the Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens and welcome visitor to taste a variety of different sugars.
PRACTICAL INFO FOR MAURITIUS
A tourist visa is required when visiting Mauritius. You will be issued a tourist visa at the point of entry into the county with proof of onward/return ticket, local accommodations and sufficient funds. There are some restrictions on whether or not one can visit Mauritius based off countries they have visited previously. For example, as of September 2014, according to the US Department of State, no travelers who have visited Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and several other countries can enter Mauritius. If planning to visit Mauritius after visiting other African countries be sure to check with any specific travel restrictions that may be in place.
Banks and Currency
The Mauritian Rupee (MUR) is the currency used on Mauritius. The Rupee comes in bank notes of Rs25, Rs50, Rs100, Rs200, Rs500, Rs1000, and Rs2000. The use of the Mauritius Rupee came to be in the 1800s when there was a huge influx of Indian immigrants to the island and rupees were being used far and wide.
When first entering the country be sure to exchange cash at the airport upon arrival. While you may be able to use credit cards at the larger hotels, it’s important not to rely on the credit card. ATMs can be found in the city of Port Louis and can be used to withdraw money. However, when venturing outside Port Louis to more remote parts of the island be sure to bring enough cash with you to suffice for what is planned. ATMs and credit cards cannot be relied upon when outside the major city.
If visiting Mauritius from a country that suffers from yellow fever you will be required to receive a yellow fever vaccination. Proof of the vaccination, in the form of a certificate, is required upon entry.
Though many visitors will hop over to Mauritius from Madagascar, there are also direct flights offered from major international airports such as London.
Stay aware of your surroundings at all times as foreign visitors have been known to be targeted for petty theft, assault, and harassment. Women in particular should not walk along after nightfall, especially in public beach areas. Should a demonstration or conflict arise in a public area be sure to move to a safe and secure location until further notice.