Mauritius is all about beaches, right? Wrong. If you’re planning a holiday to the star and key of the Indian Ocean, you’re in for a treat. This place has way more up its sleeve than you might realise. Think nature-filled national parks, Instagram-worthy colonial architecture, and the largest tortoises in the world…
If you’re a first-timer to this tropical island, we’ve put together a go-to guide of the six things you must do while you’re there. It covers everything from where to spot endangered species, the best places to party, where to find the clearest waters and much more. Keep scrolling to find out which places you’ll get to tick off on your Mauritian escape.
1. Celebrate Holi Festival – 13th March 2017
Holi is an agricultural festival that marks the beginning of spring in Mauritius. It falls on 13th March this year, and usually lasts for two fun-filled days. So, what can you expect? The event is marked by huge bonfires on the beaches, as well as folk music and dancing. You might want to leave your best clothes at home for this party (it’s known as the festival of colours for a good reason). Locals and holidaymakers alike cover themselves in brightly-coloured powders to celebrate.
2. Hike the Black River Gorges National Park
Did you know that the Black River Gorges National Park is the largest protected area in Mauritius? It actually covers 2% of the island’s surface. This breathtaking park is famous for its wealth of jaw-dropping waterfalls, gigantic gorges, and dramatic mountains. It’s a melting pot for wildlife, too. The forests here are home to endangered birds, including the Mauritian kestrel, the echo parakeet and the pink pigeon. And if you’re lucky, you may also come across wild boars, macaque monkeys, and deer wandering through the bush, too. Nature lovers: welcome home.
3. Snorkel in bright-blue sea at Blue Bay
If there’s one thing you have to tick off when you visit Mauritius, it has to be snorkelling the sapphire-blue waters at Blue Bay. You’ll find this real-life paradise around an hours’ drive south of Belle Mare. This place has some of the best-looking beaches on the island, with many visitors calling it their favourite Mauritian attraction. Aside from bone-white swathes of sand, though, it’s the best place to spot tropical marine life. Below the surface, you’ll float alongside coral reefs, Nemo-like fish, and orange-tinted star fish, to name a few. Flippers and snorkels at the ready…
4. Wander the good-looking streets of Port Louis
Port Louis is the place to be if want to switch the beaches for a dose of culture. It’s the capital city of Mauritius, boasting a mixture of Indian, African, European, Chinese and Middle Eastern influences. Head to Central Market on Corderie Street, and you’ll get to wander past lively stalls selling colourful fruit and vegetables, Chinese herbal medicines and aphrodisiacs, to name a few. And when you’re done haggling and hawker-watching, check out the surrounding 18th-century colonial architecture. Snaps of these authentic buildings will give your Instagram followers serious holiday FOMO.
5. Party from dusk ‘til dawn in Grand Baie
Grand Baie is also known as ‘the bay without end’ thanks to its wealth of places to wine and dine. You’ll find it close to Grand Gaube in the north of the island. True to its name, it’s a hub for sampling Mauritius’ best cuisine, cocktail bars, cafés and clubbing venues. If you’re a party lover, you’ll have a long list of places to sample traditional rum punches and hit the dancefloors. The best places to boogie are Banana Beach Club, Big Willy’s, Lakaz Cascavelle and Lambic.
6. Take a day trip to Île aux Aigrettes
Fancy visiting another tropical island? The good news is you can. Île aux Aigrettes is a small but mighty national park, just 800 metres off the south east coast of Mauritius. This teeny island is famous for its sanctuary-like status, and used to home the now-extinct dodo. As you hike through the wilderness, highlights include spotting Aldabra giant tortoises, ebony-coloured trees, orchids, and the endangered pink pigeon. When you’ve finished trekking, your next stop will be Ile des Deux Cocos. There’s a marine park here, sheltering sea life in every colour you can think of. Top it all off with a barbecue lunch, and wash it all down with cold beer, wine or traditional rum punch.