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12 Ultimate Things to Do in Mauritius
By Wibke Carter
Relax on Sun-Kissed Beaches
If there is one image that springs to mind when thinking of Mauritius it has to be that of sun-kissed white beaches and palm trees swaying in the wind. With over 100 miles of beaches, you don’t have to go far to find a fabulous place to relax, snorkel, or windsurf. Trou aux Biches is one of the most popular with shallow, calm waters, and a reef close to shore. Île aux Cerfs is great for water sports and Blue Bay offers the best underwater scenery.
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Go Diving for Stingrays, Sea Turtles, and Friends
Mauritius is one of the best places in Africa to scuba dive as a coral reef protects the turquoise waters of the island’s lagoons. The underwater world of caves, shipwrecks, and a variety of marine life from stingrays to sea turtles can be seen in year-round warm waters and with excellent visibility. There are around 100 dive sites, and although the more challenging ones are outside the reef, none of them are more than a 20-minute boat ride from the shore. And if you can’t dive, don’t worry. There’s so much marine life that you only need to walk a few feet into the water and you’ll see plenty of colorful fish.
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Climb Le Morne Brabant
If hiking is your thing, then a climb up Le Morne Brabant, a huge monolith that sits at the end of a peninsula with the same name, will reward you with fantastic vistas of the emerald ocean and surrounding lagoon. One of only two UNESCO World Heritage sites on the island, the towering mountain provided shelter for freed slaves in the 19th and 20th century. It’s not possible to reach the top without proper mountain gear but the minor summit is accessible via an easy and well-worn trail. Bring plenty of water and avoid the hottest temperatures over lunchtime.
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Discover the Capital
In Port Louis (“Por Loowee”), a potpourri of countries and cultures collide, and it’s a buzzing contrast to the island’s resorts and private. Besides shopping at the Caudan Waterfront complex, you can see an ancient dodo skeleton at The National History Museum, stroll through various ethnic quarters and their markets, walk past beautifully preserved colonial houses, or hike up Signal Mountain for a view of the city at sunset. From March to December, the Champ de Mars, the oldest racecourse in the Southern Hemisphere, is the best place to mingle with the locals during lively horse races on the weekends.
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Hang out in Grand Baie
Once called De Bogt Zonder Eyndt (Bay Without End) by the Dutch, Grand Baie was a quiet fishermen’s village only 20 years ago. Today, it’s Mauritius’ hot spot for entertainment day and night. There are plenty of excursions, water sports, deep sea fishing, attractions, and of course, beaches. Children will love the Mauritius Aquarium which has a special touch pool for direct contact with some of the species, while adults can shop ’til they drop or party the night away at the island’s best bars and night-clubs.
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Take a Walk in Black River Gorges National Park
Mauritius’ biggest national park is a canopy of thick forest covering rolling hills and animals like wild boar, macaque monkeys and deer can sometimes be seen. Soaring the skies are endangered birds like the Mauritius kestrel and the pink pigeon. You can reach the highest point of the island after hiking two hours on a forest track from Petrin Information Centre. Stop to visit The Seven Colored Earths, colored mineral-rich sand dunes, which are best viewed at sunrise to appreciate the red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple, and yellow nuances.
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Soak up Smells and Colors
The Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanic Garden, often shorted to SSR Garden, is considered one of the world’s best botanical gardens. Planting of the now more than 650 varieties goes back to 1767 when Frenchman Pierre Poivre introduced vegetables, fruits, spices, and flowers from all over the world. The SSR Garden is hugely popular and especially famous for its long pond of Giant Water Lilies whose leaves can reach up to 10 feet in diameter. You’ll also have the chance to see Baobabs, dozens of medicinal plants, and 85 varieties of palm trees amongst them the talipot which only flowers only once in its lifetime (and then it dies!).
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Get up Close with Rare Stamps
Named after one of its most prized possessions, the world famous Mauritian one-penny stamp from 1847, the Blue Penny Museum in Port Louis is so much more than just a dusty old stamp collection. The capital’s best museum gives visitors an insight into the history of the island’s exploration, colonial past, and cultural diversity. The two precious stamps, the red twopenny stamp being the other, were brought back to Mauritius in 1993 after almost 150 years abroad, and with a two million dollar price tag. To preserve their colors, the stamps are only lit for 10 minutes each day and copies are on display most of the time.
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Lose Yourself in an Illusion
If you ever grow tired of relaxing on the beaches of Mauritius, then head inland for some interactive fun at the Curious Corner of Chamarel. Dreamt up by two British expats when sitting together drinking local rum (or so the story goes) this gallery of illusions and art has been drawing young and old for years. There’s a 200-mirror maze, a laser room, puzzles to solve, and optical illusions. It’s a great place for selfies and fun holiday pics (think wrestling an octopus, or “shrinking” your spouse to a manageable size) so stay curious!
Have a Tea at Bois Cheri
Mauritius’ oldest tea plantation dates back to 1892 and gave its name to the island’s most famous tea brand, Bois Cheri. Aside from the sweeping views over the riverine plains, the 250-acre tea factory and museum represent an important part of Mauritian history. The one-hour tours through the tea processing facilities end with a tasting session of flavored teas, green teas, or herbal teas. If you’re especially interested in the hot drink, travel on “La Route du Thé” of which Bois Cheri is the second stop.
Saint Aubin Loisirs
Marvel at Giant Hindu Gods
Located in a secluded mountain area lies Ganga Talao, the most sacred Hindu place in Mauritius. Surrounding the deep crater lake are the main temple dedicated to Lord Shiva; other temples worshipping gods like Lord Hanuman, Goddess Ganga, and Lord Ganesh; and smaller shrines and colorful statues. At the entrance to the sacred site, you’ll be welcomed by giant statues of Lord Shiva and Lord Durga. At 108 feet high, Mangal Mahadev is the worldwide third tallest statue of Shiva, and thousands make a pilgrimage here annually to see it and pray at Ganga Talao.
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Go Back in Time
Mauritius’ rich colonial past is best discovered at Eureka mansion house. Built in the 1830s and once owned by the island’s richest sugar baron, the perfectly preserved Creole building is a veritable time machine, complete with wrap-around balcony and turreted rooftop windows. Walk through some (or all) of the 109 doors and enjoy the cool interior air circulation, then stroll from the beautiful garden to the nearby nature reserve with waterfalls and swimming hole while enjoying views of Mount Ory.