When arriving in Mauritius from a grey and rather pale, deep freezer cold Europe your eyes are in for a colour shock, big time. Shades of green and blue, you didn’t even know existed, are dotted with colours from the rest of the pallet and this colourful patchwork just makes you want to dive into the magnificent island of Mauritius and soak up every bit of it.
When we travel, we do not necessarily go for “postcard perfect destinations” but after places where we can get a glimpse into everyday life as it really is and not the perfect polished version. We were a little nervous if Mauritius would turn out to be too polished and groomed. Where everything would be about 5-star hotels, high-end shops and posh restaurants. We were so pleased to find out that Mauritius is a vibrant, colourful and genuine society. A country that generously shares its treasures with its visitors. We totally get why Mark Twain thought heaven to be copied after Mauritius.
There are so many extremely wonderful places on the island and it can be difficult to decide where to stay. We went in February and it was partly the weather forecast that made the decision for us. .We stayed in Flic en Flac on the west-coast. According to Met-service, we could hope for less rain here as February is in the middle of the rainy season and they do get quite a lot of rain during the Mauritian summer months. We also went for Flic en Flac because we would find some of the best snorkeling here, and we sure did.
Exploring the island by car
Mauritius isn’t that big and in fact, you can stay anywhere. With a rental car, you can quite easily get from a to b. The road network is good, the roads are in a good shape and the Mauritians are careful drivers. Car rental should be done when in Mauritius and not via the internet from home. This will save you A LOT of money.
We loved road tripping in Mauritius. The car made it possible to explore remote secluded villages, pristine paradise-like beaches, beautiful waterfalls and untouched nature. And with the car, we could always escape the next thunderstorm.
An absolute insider tip, when road-tripping in the southern part of the island, is to visit the amazingly beautiful beach of St. Felix. You will have this white sand beach with crystal clear water almost to your self and the snorkeling is perfect. The beach is public with a few street food stalls and restrooms.
We went for 3 days and almost felt like on a deserted island. We found the best snorkeling in the eastern part of the beach. Facing the water, turn left from the parking lot and cross the small stream. Right there you will find the best snorkeling spot, but let’s keep it a secret 😉
The southern coastal road is an attraction itself. From the road, you have amazing views towards Le Morne in the west. It will take you through small picturesque fishing villages and give you an unobstructed view of the Indian Ocean to the south. To the north you now and the get a glimpse of the green immensely beautiful mountains and the endless rolling sugar cane fields. Along the road, you will pass through small vibrant villages with a lively local life, small stalls selling mouthwatering fruits and seafood as fresh as it gets? You will meet smiling welcoming islanders and women dressed in colourful beautiful saris. Now and then the road is lined with majestic tall slim coconut palm trees. We cant count how many times we just looked at each other and said WOW.
White sandy beaches and crystal clear water
No matter how surprised we were over Mauritius’s landscape and the local population, we were most fascinated by the beautiful beaches and the crystal clear warm seawater. And of course the immense variation of underwater life. Flic en Flac being our base we had the best opportunities to explore the marine life. The beach of Flic en Flac is said to be one of the best in Mauritius and is almost 7 km long. You will find some of the islands best dive sites here and in the emerald lagoon, there is excellent snorkeling.
However the quality of sand, the clarity of the water and the number of corals and different fish vary quite a lot. We found the absolutely best stretch of beach with the best snorkeling to be the part between the police station in the north to the public beach where you get the first glimpse of Le Morne in the south. Here the visibility is great, the water is calm, the sand is smooth and the underwater life is diverse and stunningly beautiful. The best time for snorkeling is at high tide. Do remember to wear some kind of swim shoes, sandals or boots. There are a lot of corals, sea urchins and poisonous rock fish. Don’t touch the corals and underwater rocks some of the poisonous fish are experts in camouflaging themselves.
When tired of swimming and snorkeling and you’re overcome by starvation there are a lot of very good food stalls at the beach where you get delicious street food at a very low cost. You will also find a handful of nice restaurants in town serving great food whether you are in for Thai, Indian, European or local Creole dishes. We do recommend Leslie’s for local Creole dishes. Sunset Garden is set in a beautiful green tropical garden and has a great live band on Saturdays and the best Thai food you get in the small outdoor restaurant, Sawadee.
However the absolute best meal we didn’t get in Flic en Flac but in Beau Vallon where we stayed at Le Jardin de Beau Vallon. This fantastic little gem of a guest house gets our warmest recommendations. They offer 5 small wooden cottages in a tropical garden and at night you can dine at their stylish restaurant set in an old colonial style wooden house while listening to very good live music. And they serve food to die for. Try their lamb-rack with rosemary and honey followed by a coconut mousse or a vanilla infused creme brûlée. This will catapult brain and body directly into a state of total happiness.
A bus ride to Port Louis
Another fun way to get around in Mauritius is by using the local buses. They are often packed, they don’t set any speed records and they stop every 2 minutes but its a great way to get a glimpse into daily life and meet locals. There is no countrywide bus service but a lot of regional ones. You will have to change at one of the main hubs. Bus service is frequent and a very cheap way getting around the island. Use the bus because of the fun of it and not as your general transportation. And do notice the amazing names on the buses. Rarely have we met such inventiveness. How about taking a ride on The Parrot Princess, The Chicago Express, Speedy Gonzales or even Jack Sparrow.
While on the route you will have so much fun looking for street names. How about living on Kung Fu Lane, Dignity Street or how about Hitchcock Avenue? If you are planning to visit the capital, Port Louis, take the local bus. The traffic in the city is quite hectic and you are likely to get stuck in traffic jam. We do not think Port Louis has a lot to offer its visitors but if you find time in your program then you should definitely visit the city’s central market.
The central market is the largest in Mauritius and you will be greeted by a bustling trading life. This is where the local population makes their daily purchases of fruit, vegetables and meat. In the big halls, there is a cacophony of different sounds and the negotiations on the right price for a kilo of mangoes or chicken feet are fun to follow.
When you are done walking around the large market halls, spend some time in the streets adjacent to the market. Here you will find an exciting street life with small stalls, lots of quirky shops selling all kinds of goods, colourful local merchants, housewives on shopping sprees and business people looking for lunch. The sound level creates an absolutely wonderful soundtrack for the lively spectacle you meet in the small streets and alleys. This is local life at its best.
Rhumerie de Chamarel
Besides the option of car rental and public bus, it’s also quite common to rent a car with a driver when visiting Mauritius. It makes good sense at least when you are planning to visit some of the islands rum distilleries. And there are for sure a few worth visiting. Our top pick has to be the Rhumerie de Chamarel situated close to the small hillside village of Chamarel. This small village is known throughout Mauritius for its very excellent eating scene. You can choose between a lot of small family run restaurant and they will treat you well. We recommend lunch at La Citronelle where you have to try their very delicious palm-heart salad.
The rhumerie itself is only a few kilometres out of town and is situated among the amazingly beautiful hillside sugarcane plantations. The rhumerie opened in 2008 and is showcasing their special ecofriendly rum making process. When the entrance fee is paid you get a tour of the factory, stories about rum making and finally a fairly extensive rum tasting.
If you after the mandatory tasting still haven’t had enough of cane juice its possible to join your guide at the bar and for a small fee try Chamarels more exclusive bottles before visiting the store. But be aware, the rum is very overpriced here. Do buy your rum at the local supermarket instead. They usually have a nice selection of locally produced rum.
When in the Chamarel area you also have to drop by the Chamarel Waterfall. Its the tallest fall in Mauritius and has a single drop of more than 95 meters and is incredibly beautiful. When going back to the coast be sure to take the scenic route from where you get jaw-dropping views of Le Morne, the south coast with the fantastic coral reef and Ile aux Benitiers just off the coast. In addition to the comfort of renting a car with a driver you also get the possibility to pick the drivers brain and get a lot of insider information. And its cheap, a whole day will only set you back 60 Euros.
There are a lot of possibilities in Mauritius when it comes to boat-tripping, catamaran sailing, deepwater fishing and island hopping. The only thing you have to steer clear of is dolphin watching. Who wouldn’t want to see flocks of playful dolphins and maybe even swim with them. BUT – it stresses the animals and if this continues, there will soon not be dolphins left in the waters surrounding Mauritius. Sometimes its possible to get a glimpse of these magnificent animals from the beach. This is the experience you should hope for 🐬
Ile aux Cerfs
After spending some days on the road the longing after white sandy beaches and crystal clear warm seawater slowly began to crawl under our skin. We went east and took a speedboat to Ile aux Cerfs. Here we found a postcard-perfect tropical island. In February when Mauritius is on its way out of peak season you only have to walk 5-10 minutes and you will have the dreamlike paradisiacal beach almost to your self. Lying under the coconut palm trees, looking at the pristine almost blinding white sand and tap-clear water you truly get a sense of paradise. After hours of total enjoyment, the day ended with a barbecue directly on the beach. Not a single cell in our bodies wanted to leave this Nirvana.
It is possible to book your trip to Ile aux Cerfs online, DON’T !! You will save a lot of money doing your bookings at one of the many tour-operators found throughout the island. We used Fragawills in Flic en Flac and it only set us back 38 euros pr. person.
Mauritius is an absolutely amazing experience. We hope we have inspired you to visit someday.
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