The tropical island of Mauritius, once a haunt for pirates, is now best known for luxury hotels on white sand beaches with volcanic mountain backdrops. It is an island for exploring, with Indian temples, colonial houses, botanical gardens, and opportunities to spot rare birds among soaring ebony trees, walk with lions or swim with dolphins. Mauritians, a fusion of French, Indian, Creole and Chinese peoples, are renowned for their hospitality and visitors to the islands generally rave about the service.
Luxury here is surprisingly affordable – Mauritius has some of the best value deals in the region. Reassuring remnants of the British colonial era remain in the Gymkhana Club, tea plantations and driving on the left, but gateaux piments and dhal puri stalls at markets, hip-wiggling sega performances and the ubiquitous dodo icon, add a touch of the exotic.
Plentiful water-sports, world class spas, top-flight golf courses and gourmet cuisine make it hard to leave the hotel, but Mauritius has plenty to see and do – from French colonial houses and imaginative animal parks to nature walks, quad biking, zip-lining and horse riding.
The tourism hub is in the north around Grand Baie, which has the greatest concentration of hotels, beaches and entertainment. The east coast is most renowned, with some of the most celebrated hotels and stretches of arguably the most beautiful white sand beaches, while the flat, calm beaches of the west coast are favored by families. The “green” south is the island’s wilder, but perhaps more interesting side. There are clutches of hotels in the southeast and more to be found squeezed onto calm stretches near pounding surf and clifftop walks in the southwest.
It was writer Mark Twain who said: “You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first and then heaven was copied after Mauritius.” With that recommendation, it’s no wonder 100,000 British visitors go each year.
Just 20 degrees south of the equator, Mauritius promotes itself as a year-round destination, although most people associate it with winter sun. The island’s peak season extends from October to April, which is hot, humid and rainy, with a slight risk of cyclones January to March. The island’s winter, from May to September, is warm and dry, with fewer mosquitoes and rates that drop by 30-50 per cent.