Mauritius: sun, surf & lazy days

Mauritius, Ile de Maurice… the mere name conjures up images of never-ending white beaches and sapphire blue waters. Annelie Coleman visited the island earlier this year – and found it was everything she expected, and more!

Mauritius is situated in the Indian Ocean and forms part of the Mascarene archipelago with Reunion and Rodriquez. The island paradise of sand and sea is a mere four-hour flight from Johannesburg.
Photo: Annelie Coleman

All the glossy pictures in the booklets and brochures in the world could never do justice to the real beauty of Mauritius. The beaches really are white, and they are dotted with palm trees swinging lazily in the breeze stretch as far as the eye can see. The azure ocean is calm and inviting.

Even in winter, when Farmer’s Weekly visited, the temperature is mild to comfortably warm during the day, and the evenings are pleasantly cool. The best times to visit are from April to June and between September and December. The 2 040km² island is prone to cyclones and heavy rains during high summer. It goes without saying that those who love nature and the sea will love Mauritius.

The various hotels and holiday resorts offer a wide variety of watersports, from windsurfing and parasailing to water-skiing, diving and swimming with dolphins. Big game fishing is very popular between November and April, when anglers from around the world flock to the island in pursuit of marlin, bonito and barracuda. The highlights of the fishing season are the Blue Marlin Cup and the South Indian Ocean Billfish Competition.

Although it will always be a top beach-resort destination, the island’s tourist authorities have been working hard to broaden the appeal of Mauritius, and it has already become a favoured venue for marathons and triathlons. The annual 32km-long Ferney Trail, held in and around an indigenous forest, is fast gaining popularity among runners.

Follow Farmer’s Weekly’s board Mauritus on Pinterest.

Then there’s the 35km and 80km Royal Raid, run through Yemen Nature Reserve and the Black River National Park on the west coast of the island. The undulating course, at an altitude of about 700m, attracts more than 22 000 runners a year.
Also popular are the republic’s dozen golfing greens. When the British introduced golf to the island in 1844, Mauritius was only the third country where golf was played in the world, after England and India. The Gymkhana Golf Club in Vacoas, meanwhile, was the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere.

A Rich history
Mauritius was settled by the Portuguese in 1505, although the island was known to Arab navigators long before then.
The Dutch arrived in 1598 and named the island after Prince Maurice of Nassau. Next came the French. Then, in 1810, the British captured the Isle de France, as it was known at the time.

Mauritius attained independence from the UK in 1968. Today, this island nation 2 000km off the coast of Africa is home to some 1,2 million people. With its rich history, it’s not surprising that Mauritius has a number of museums and historical sites dotted all over the island.

Wide variety of Museums

Mauritius started out as a volcano in the Indian Ocean. This fact, combined with its age, isolation and its unique terrain, means that the island has remarkably diverse flora and fauna. The Natural History Museum in the capital, Port Louis, highlights this biodiversity and boasts a replica of the extinct dodo, which was once endemic to the island, and an impressive collection of marine species.

Then there’s the Postal, Glass and Camajora museums, the latter of which traces the evolution of boating from 6 000BC. Two of the rarest postage stamps in the world, including the Blue Penny, issued by British in September 1847, are displayed at the famous Blue Penny Museum in Port Louis.  Because of their fragility, the stamps are illuminated for only 10 minutes every hour.

Serious about tea and rum
Visiting the Tea Museum and the 100-year-old tee trees at the Bois Cheri factory can feel like a pilgrimage for tea-lovers.
In fact, tea is one of the island’s favourite beverages. The first tea trees were brought to Mauritius from China in the 18th century, although commercial cultivation took off only a hundred years later. A variety of Mauritian teas are available nowadays – black or green tea, vanilla, ginger, lemon and even coconut tea. Rum is another drink Mauritius is famous for.

Multi-faceted cuisine
Traditional Mauritian cuisine reflects the island’s varied cultures. It is colourful, diverse and exciting, taking in Indian, Chinese, Arabian and European influences. In fact, a number of cooking styles are often presented on one table. The curries are legendary and eating with the locals is a highly enjoyable culinary adventure. The local speciality Dhal puri is almost worth a trip to the island on its own. It’s a sort of pancake made with wheat flour and stuffed with split peas and a curry sauce.

Read: Amazing Mauritius

Interestingly, all the beef and lamb served in Mauritius is imported from South Africa. It therefore goes without saying that the red meat served on the island is of top quality!  The Central Market in Port Louis is a must-see. Fruit and vegetable vendors from all over the island congregate here with their wares – mounds of local vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices – and the senses are overwhelmed by the heady aromas, vibrant colours and passionate sellers.

Annelie Coleman was a guest of Thompson Holidays.