Sipping coconut juice on a paradise beach, looking around you at Mauritius' tropical beauty, you may wonder if you have gone to heaven. Yes, pure shores and peaceful seclusion are part of why we love it here, but we also love it because holidays in Mauritius are a tantalising potpourri of culture and traditions. Head for the beach at night to watch the colourful, hip-swaying swirl of sega dancers moving to the electrifying beat of drums at a beachside bonfire.
The soft sand and clear, calm waters of Blue Bay are perfect for swimming. Flic en Flac’s beach on the western coast is the longest beach of Mauritius. This natural beach is sprinkled with sea urchin, coral, and seashells and a beautiful turquoise blue lagoon offers calm swimming waters. The tiny island of IÎe Sancho is located between Bel Ombre and St. Felix on the south of Mauritius, offering a remote strip of sand and shallow seas. For surfing beaches head to Riviere des Gallet, where the strong current makes it a surf competition spot every November and December, or head north along the west coast to Tamrain.
The markets of Mauritius give a good representation of everyday Mauritian life. Haggling is practised vigorously, especially in Port Louis’ Central Market, the most visited market. The most traditional market is Mahebourg Market, which only opens on Mondays. Head to Flacq Market, the largest outdoor market in Mauritius, for a large selection of fruits, vegetables, and other food, or check out Quatre Bornes Market to choose from textiles and clothing.
The cosmopolitan core and capital city of Mauritius, Port Louise, is as much a mix of culture as the people who reside here. Chinese and Indian temples sit next to Buddhist temples and Christian churches. See the ancient dodo skeleton at the Natural History Museum or head to Le Caudan Waterfront to see a mix of the diverse architectures and cultures of Mauritius. For a seaside village turned cosmopolitan town with thrilling shopping, entertainment, and nightlife, head to Grand Baie. Here you will want to taste rum at L’Aventure du Sucre or visit the stunning Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site pays tribute to the indentured servants who arrived in Mauritius from India after the abolition of slavery. Most Mauritians can trace the arrival of their ancestors from this site, which saw more than half a million immigrants arrive between 1834 and the 1920s. Every November an official commemoration of the arrival of these indentured servants is held here.
Sculpted into the verdant green forests at the base of Bamboo Mountain, this sugar estate turned eco-tourism playground offers quad biking trips, horseback riding, and archery buggy rides. There are five treks, including a botanical one, where you can go mountain biking and hiking among the picturesque plantation. Look out for deer, wild boar, and monkeys as you explore the natural vegetation, valleys, streams, waterfalls, and mountains.
There are a number of carriers offering flights to Mauritius from the UK.
Direct Carriers: Air Mauritius and British Airways offer a direct service from the the UK.
Indirect Carriers: Emirates offers a daily service from 6 UK airports via Dubai. Air France offers flights via Paris.
Departure Taxes: There is no departure tax to be paid in Mauritius.
No special vaccines are required or recommended for travel to Mauritius. All travellers should be up to date on routine immunisations. Yellow fever is required if arriving from an infected country. Please contact your GP for details.
The weather in Mauritius is tropical throughout the year, although the prevailing south-eastern trade winds tend to make the eastern side of the island a bit cooler and windier. There are two seasons here: winter and summer. The warm, dry winter lasts from May to November, while the hot, wet, and humid summer lasts from November to May. Don't worry about packing a converter as Mauritius has the same power supply and sockets as the UK.
A wide-brimmed hat;
High factor sunscreen;
A torch (some villas do not have backup generators);
Camera (an underwater one if you plan on diving or snorkelling).
Hiking sandals or shoes;
Smart-casual clothes for evening (long trousers and shirts for men, dresses or long trousers for women);
Cool, lightweight clothing made of natural fabrics such as cotton or linen;
A sarong for women to use as a skirt or headscarf when visiting religious places;
Mauritius uses the Mauritian Rupee as its currency. There is a stable and reliable banking system and it is easy to exchange money here. You can exchange your money in the UK, but it is best to wait until you get to Mauritius, as the exchange rate is much better after you arrive.
There are numerous banks with foreign currency exchange counters available in the airport, as well as throughout the tourist areas of the island. There are also branches of Thomas Cook and Shibani Finance available in the towns of Grand Baie and Flic en Flac. You can withdraw Mauritian Rupees from cash machines in most towns. Credit cards are widely accepted throughout the island, although your home bank may charge a fee.
Mauritius does not have much of a tipping culture, although many people tip anyways. Contradictorily, most hotels and restaurants include a 10 percent tip. If you are happy with the service it is at your discretion to leave anything extra; typically a few loose coins. Most salaries are quite low in Mauritius, so tips are always appreciated. If your taxi driver was particularly helpful, an extra 100 to 200 Mauritian Rupees is acceptable.Be aware that VAT (15 percent) is included by some traders, but excluded by others. Be sure to check the bottom of your menu or ask so you don't have any unexpected surprises when it comes to the final bill.
May - October
Mauritius cuisine blends Creole, Chinese, French, and Indian flavours, sometimes all within the same meal. French dishes such as bouillon, tuna salad, daube, civet de liévre, and coq au vin show the prevalence of French cuisine that has stayed with Mauritius. These dishes have often been adapted to incorporate the exotic ingredients that are found on the island.The main meal you will find on your holiday in Mauritius is curry with rice and roti, a type of bread. Common ingredients in other dishes include tomatoes, onions, garlic, and chillies cooked with spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves.
Vindaye is a dish that takes fried fish or octopus and preserves it in a combination of chilli, mustard seeds, garlic, oil, and vinegar. This pickled dish has been popular since before refrigerators, as it keeps for a long time. It is great served hot over rice or bread or kept in the refrigerator and served cold the next day. It is made with onions and a good quality fish that doesn’t fall apart easily (swordfish, tuna, or barracuda, for example) and soaked in vinegar with mashed garlic, mustard, curcuma, ginger, onion, and coriander.
This popular Mauritian dish is made with garlic, ginger, tomatoes, chillies, thyme, red chilli powder, and onions and served with rice. You can easily add sausage, beef, chicken, fish, or prawns, or leave it without meat for vegetarians.
This is a classic Mauritian chicken dish infused with cloves, cinnamon, thyme, chillies, onion, garlic, and ginger. The dish is simmered so it becomes stew-like, then is garnished with a small handful of chopped coriander leaves.
Mauritian curries are unique in that they don’t contain coconut and they often include European herbs, such as thyme. Some curries contain meats not traditionally used, such as octopus or duck. The traditional Mauritian curry combines curry powder, curry leaves, onion, garlic, ginger, and cumin seeds, coriander stems, and thyme to make a unique flavour that virtually explodes in your mouth. Chopped potatoes are softened in the curry and simmered, then the dish is served with rice and a dollop of sour cream.
On holiday in Mauritius you will notice a plethora of readily available and tasty street food. Almost everything you order you will be asked if you want it with piment or not. Piment (a thick, green, homemade chilli sauce) is served on the side so you can taste it or discard it as you choose. Be careful to only order street food from vendors whose food is clean and fresh, as well as cooked right in front of you.
Gateaux piment translates literally as ‘chilli cake’, yet these delicious little snacks are actually quite mild. They are deep fried balls of mashed or ground lentil with chopped spring onion, fresh coriander, spices, and a little chilli. They end up tasting a bit like an onion bhaji with a lentil flavour. They are nice on their own as a snack between lunch and dinner or stuffed in a bread roll or wrapped in roti chaud with piment sauce.
These filling snacks are made of lentils, tomatoes, and chillies and spooned into a thin, powdery pancake that has a delightful corn flavour. You can request it be avec chilli (with chilli) or sans chilli (without chilli).
These flat bread-style pancakes are thinner than the ones used for dholl puri. Found at most street vendors, this flavourful street food often comes with meat, fish, or vegetable fillings and a spicy tomato sauce. Wrap the roti chaud around some gateaux piment for an authentic, Mauritian treat.
Boulette is definitely more Chinese than Creole and is similar to dim sum served in a flavourful broth. The mouth-watering, steamed dumplings are filled with fish, pork, beef, or prawns and served in a chicken or fish stock made with ginger and spring onions. The overall flavour of the broth is sweet, yet slightly spicy.
As with most destinations, the cost of meals and drinks in Mauritius' hotels are more expensive than elsewhere. Despite this, holidays to Mauritius generally end up being relatively inexpensive. Lunch for two people costs anywhere from 500 to 1,000 Mauritian Rupees, although it is significantly less if you buy food from the street vendors (10 to 100 Mauritian Rupees). A 1.5 litre bottle of water from a grocery store costs around 14 Mauritian Rupees, while a coffee might cost about 40 Mauritian Rupees. A mid-range bottle of wine costs about 300 Mauritian Rupees, although this can go up at a fine dining establishment or at a hotel.
Mauritius's traditional Sega dress, worn by Sega dancers, is comprised of two parts. The upper part has a colourful, sleeveless blouse and the lower part has a long, swaying skirt printed with bright flowery motifs. The day-to-day style is a reflection of the amalgamation of cultures that have fused on the island, including jeans, T-shirts, and saris. Since a large percentage of people are Hindu or Muslim, modesty reigns supreme, although dress codes are more relaxed and more western among the younger population. As a rule of thumb, towns with many western tourists tend to have a more western-style dress code.
Beneath the beautiful beaches and stunning landscape of Mauritius, is a diverse range of cultures that have mingled and fused over hundreds of years of settlement. In Mauritius, east meets west, Europe meets India, and Africa meets China. This blending of cultures can be seen in every aspect of Mauritius: churches sit next to mosques, temples next to pagodas, and religious festivals from Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, and Muslim religions are celebrated regularly. Overall, however, the one thing that remains constant is the polite friendliness of the people. While a bit reserved and definitely conservative, if you catch someone's eye they will usually nod or smile a greeting. Hospitality is central to Mauritian culture and food and drink are always offered to guests - it is polite to accept. There are differences in etiquette between communities, although the type of hospitality you receive will depend on the religion and social customs of your host.
Some things to bear in mind include:
• When Mauritian children are introduced they greet with one kiss on each cheek, in the traditional French way.
• Adults should greet people with a handshake when meeting for the first time. Close friends greet with a double kiss (one on each cheek).
• Out of respect you should dress modestly and cover up appropriately when visiting temples, mosques, churches, and other religious places.
• Bring a sari with you to use as a skirt or headscarf when needed, particularly at religious sites.
• Save your beachwear for the beach.
• Remove your shoes at religious sites.
Due to its isolation, the island of Mauritius has a number of endemic species of wildlife that occur nowhere else in the world. Some species are threatened with extinction, while some have already become extinct, most famously the dodo bird, which became extinct in the 17th century. Deer and macaque monkeys are the largest mammals you will encounter outside of whale watching. Whales, dolphins, and sea turtles are seen in the warm waters surrounding Mauritius and numerous exotic and rare species of birds such as the echo parakeet, the Mauritius kestrel, and the pink pigeon live in the trees around the island.
Mauritius Safari and Bird Park
This animal sanctuary is situated next to the Rempart Mountain. The reserve’s bird park features 150 species of birds, including the rare pink pigeon. Pet deer, cockatoos, and wild boar at the petting farm then take the mini safari bus to the Yemen Natural Reserve Park and the African Savannah where you will see lions, cheetahs, and tigers. In the lion reserve you can walk alongside lions, pet them, and discover how lions interact.
Mauritius holidays are great for exploring the aquamarine, tropical waters and seeing the local marine life around the coral reef, wrecks, walls, and rock formations that surround Mauritius. Scuba diving opportunities are available throughout the tourist spots, including Flic en Flac on the west coast and Trou aux Biches in the north. There are more than 30 dive sites around Mauritius, all with visibility of up to 40 metres. The calm seas of the west coast provide the best scuba diving. Head for Whale Rock to see an abundance of marine life or check out the hard and soft corals at Lost Anchor.
Protected by coral reefs