A friendly population that always makes you feel welcome, white sandy tropical beaches where you could rest all day long, a rich cultural and religious heritage and little pockets of nature that are like nice surprises, the island of Mauritius is a stunning place where every tourist will find what he came for: beautiful luxury hotels, private villas, adventures, relaxation, novelty…
Mauritius is part of the Mascarene archipelago together with Réunion Island and Rodrigues. It is located at about 2000 kilometres off the south-eastern coast of Africa, at 900 kilometres of Madagascar and 250 kilometres off the Coast of Réunion Island. The republic of Mauritius is made up of the main island, Mauritius itself, Rodrigues Island, Saint-Brandon and Agalega. Mauritius is also in dispute with the United Kingdom for the sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago.
The surface area of the main island is of 1865Km2. Its length is of 65km while its width at its broadest points is of 45Km. It also has 330kiometres of coasts protected by a coral reef and dotted with white sandy beaches. At the centre of the island, there is a central plateau which culminates at about 600 metres above sea level. The highest point of the island, the Piton de la Petite Rivière-Noire culminates at a height of 828 metres above sea level. Most of the island is flat, especially in the North and East, and this facilitates the cultivation of sugar cane which has long been a major source of income for the island. The national anthem of the Republic of Mauritius is The Motherland.
The northern part of the island is the sunniest region of the island and the historical centre of Mauritian tourism. Everything a tourist needs can be found there: white sandy beaches, clear turquoise lagoons, scuba diving and water sports, etc. The area is also rich in culture and tradition: visits at the botanical garden or at the Sugar Museum in Pamplemousses or the Château Labourdonnais in Mapou will keep tourists entertained for hours. The town of Grand-Baie is a very animated commercial centre with lots of night clubs that will keep tourists entertained until early morning.
Far from the big towns and busy roads, the south is the least developed part of the island. A little coastal road goes through fishing villages and around the few hotels located in the middle of green landscapes. It is the ideal place to go for people who wish to spend really peaceful holidays and discover the more cultural and traditional side of Mauritius. In the south, tourists will be able to visit tea and sugarcane plantations and historic towns such as Souillac and Mahébourg. Notable natural parks of the area are La Vanille Réserve des Mascareignes and La Vallee des Couleurs.
The East coast of Mauritius is the setting for endless beaches, world-class golf courses, National Parks such as the Valley of Ferney and Bras d’Eau and wildlife sanctuaries at the Blue-Bay Marine park and Ile aux Aigrettes. Families will be delighted by a visit at the water park. It is a highly touristic area because of the number of hotels implanted there while also being very peaceful because of the lack of big towns along the coast.
The west is one of the most attractive touristic areas of the island of Mauritius. The region has changed considerably since the last 15 years with the number of touristic activities and infrastructures that have sprung up there. It’s the starting point of several deep sea fishing and whale and dolphin watching expeditions. The Morne peninsula is a well-known spot for kite and wind surfers. Nature lovers will enjoy hiking along the trails of the Black River Gorges National Park. Other places that are worthy of a visit are Chamarel and Casela Nature Parks.
Leisure activities in Mauritius
The island of Mauritius being an old British colony, its first golf course is more than a hundred years old. The first golf club, the Gumkhana, was started by the british royal navy and the first tournament took place in 1902. Nowadays, Mauritius is the quintessential golf destination, with about a dozen golf courses spread over the island. Most of these golf courses are the property of prestigious hotels and were designed by international golf champions. Some of the best-known golf courses are: Ile aux Cerfs golf course (18-hole), Legend Golf(18-hole), the Links (18-hole), Golf du Château (18-hole), Paradis and Dinarobin Golf Course (18-hole), Tamarina Golf Estate (18 hole), Trou aux Biches Golf Course (9 hole), Shandrani Golf Course (9-hole), St Geran (9-hole), and Belle Mare Plage Golf Course (18-hole).
Shopping in Mauritius is not only a commercial experience, but above all, the discovery of a new culture with exotic tastes and smells in the middle of busy but friendly multicultural crowds. From locally fabricated handicrafts to brand-name items, whether you’re looking for colourful T-shirts or elaborate ship models, you can find everything you’d ever wish for during your holidays in Mauritius in either the new commercial centres that have sprung up across the island or the traditional markets in the town centres.
The best-known commercial centres are: Bagatelle in the centre of the Island, La Croisette in Grand Baie, The Caudan Waterfront in Port-Louis, Trianon Shopping Park and Cascavelle Commercial Centre.
From simple kayaks to SCUBA diving, a variety of water sports can be practiced at sea. Among those you will find:
- Dolphin watching – usually off the West coast
- Sea kayak – a regular activity in the lagoon near Ile aux Bénitiers and Ile d’Ambre
- Parasailing – very popular near the shores of Grand-Baie
- Submarine trips – exciting submarine trips by the BLUE SAFARI company going up to a depth of 35 metres
- Undersea walks – with Nemo Undersea Walk where you will be able to wear a diving helmet and walk under the sea up to a depth of 3 metres. This business is fully operated using solar power.
- SCUBA diving – several companies provide SCUBA diving excursions. There are also diving centres in several hotels around the island. It is also possible to obtain diving certifications at those diving centres.
- Mini-cruises – Several companies offer mini-cruises around the island either in luxury yachts or catamarans. They are ideal for a day of relaxation.
- Kite Surf – Kite surf is mostly practiced in the east and near Le Morne peninsula.
- Big game fishing – the fishing season for big game fishing is from November to April. The greatest specialists of the sports come from all over the world in the hope of breaking world records.
Mauritian spas are known all over the world for their quality. Most of them can be found in the biggest hotels of the island. Hotels like the Crystals Beach, the Prince Maurice Hotel, the Pearl Beach and others offer a variety of treatments, wraps and massages inspired by all the flavours of the world.
Eco – Tourism
Eco-tourism or green tourism is one of the most recent developments of tourism in Mauritius. Whether it is on horseback in the North or the South, on mountain bikes in Chamarel or along hiking trails in the Black River Gorges, Mauritius offers a variety of panoramas and botanical treasures that tourists are sure to enjoy. Several nature reserves and domains have been set up to offer touristic activities while helping to preserve the natural assets of Mauritius.
Some of the places that you should visit are:
- Le Morne, Baie du Cap, Souillac, Pointe aux Roche for their traditional and rural appeal.
- The Pamplemousses Botanical Garden, which was the first botanical garden that was established in the southern hemisphere.
- The Black River Gorges National Park, where you can observe rare endemic birds and walk along hiking trails.
- The Piton de la Rivière Noire, Le Pouce, Lion Mountain for those who are not afraid of heights.
- Chamarel and La Vallée des Couleurs for their coloured earths and surreal vistas.
- Domains and Nature reserves such as Domaine du chasseur, Domaine les Pailles, Casela Nature Reserve, Domaine de l’Ylang-ylang, Domaine de Yemen, La Vanille Réserve des Mascareignes and the Domaine de Lagrave, among others.
- The Natural History Museum of Port-Louis and the Gardens of the East India Company just in front.
- The Tea Road which recounts the history of the culture of tea in Mauritius.
- Château Labourdonnais and its gardens where tourists will not only find a variety of hundred-year-old mango trees, but also spice trees and exotic fruit trees planted alongside endemic plant species.
The cultural diversity of the Mauritian population has helped to create a potpourri of dishes which often combine simplicity with flavor. Mauritian gastronomy is a combination of African, European and Asian cuisines and it is not unusual to find a family of one community enjoying meals that would normally be associated with another’s. Mauritian food is also very spicy and it is inconceivable over there to start a meal without having chili or chili paste at hand.
The traditional music of Mauritius is called the Sega. It is a dance and musical style that was created by slaves to help them forget the hardships of slavery. The traditional instrument for playing Sega music is the ravanne, which is essentially a circular wooden frame on which goat skin has been stretched. Other instruments include the maravanne and triangle. Over time, more modern instruments have been added such as the guitar, keyboard, djembe and drums. Sega music has also been mixed with other musical styles, the best-known combination is a mix of reggae and Sega called seggae.
Some Sega performers and groups are: Serge Lebrasse, Ti-Frère, Cassiya, Alain Ramanisum, Laura Beg, Linzy Backbotte, Sandra Mayotte, etc…
Mauritians are also fond of other styles of music, especially oriental and bollywood music. Several concerts are organized every year to give local groups the opportunity to express themselves and demonstrate how vibrant the local musical culture is.
Some of the best-known Mauritian performers and groups which play other styles of music are: Blackmenbluz, Evolozik, Natty Jah, Blackkayo, Otentik Street Brothers, Crossbreed Supersoul, Gin Jean-Charles, Eric Triton and Yoan Catherine, among others.
With more than 1.2 million inhabitants, Mauritius is the most populated of the Mascarene Islands. Despite its limited land resources and its high population density, the island has achieved economic success beyond expectations in recent years. Since its independence in 1968, the island has progressed rapidly, going from an economy essentially based on agriculture to a diversified economy that includes a finance sector, an information and communications technology sector, a very successful tourism sector, and a textile sector. Such was the progress of this little nation that it is now considered the easiest place to do business in Africa, the world leading honeymoon destination and the best governed country of Africa.
To reach its economic goals, Mauritius has invested massively in the renovation of its infrastructure and has developed the Integrated Resort Scheme and the Real Estate Scheme for foreign property investors. The free-port of Port-Louis is now a transport hub between Asia and Africa. Significant profits from the tourism sector have contributed to improve the local quality of life and have motivated the country to implement ecologically responsible strategies for its coastal development.
Local Crafts and Industry
The island of Mauritius is not only known for its touristic activity, sugar and tea exports but also for its vibrant local industry and the skill of its local craftsmen and artists. Quite a variety of export-quality products can be found locally and there are several local companies which export their products worldwide. Some of the products that are made in Mauritius include: luxury leather products, cut diamonds, ship models, luxury ready-to-wear clothes, lingerie, beach-wear, Kashmir clothes, aged rum, etc …
Some well-known Mauritian brands include:
- Leather products – Hémisphère Sud
- Diamonds and Jewelry – Adamas
- Ready to wear – Karl Kaiser (for men), Lida O’Reilly (for women)
- Kashmir – Inam Maille
- Cotton products – Maille Street, Equateur, Citadel, Blue Steel Clubbing Gear, Habit, Peace Angel
- Lingerie – Une Histoire d’Amour
- Textile products – Floréal
The language spoken by every Mauritian is the Creole. It originates mainly from the French and over time the mother tongue of the local slaves. After the abolition of slavery, indentured laborers coming from Asia had to learn the language while also keeping their own mother tongues. Nowadays oriental languages are taught in schools all over Mauritius, but not Creole. It must be said that Mauritius has a peculiar treatment of languages because although everybody speaks Creole, the main language used in the press and media is French and the language used for administrative purposes is English.
Some Mauritian Creole words and their English Translation
- Ki manier? – How do you do?
- Kot to pe aller? – Where are you going?
- Komié li couter? – How much does it cost?
- Kot passé pou alle Kirpip? – Which road should I take to go to Curepipe?
- Manz enn bout dipain – Eat some bread.
- Komié li fer? – How much is it?
- Mersi missié – Thanks sir.
- Mersi madame – Thanks madam.
- Li bien zoli – It’s very beautiful.
- Li bien bon – It tastes good (food) / it’s very good.
- Li pas assé – It’s not enough.
- Bien vilin – Very ugly.
- To zoli – you’re beautiful.
- Mo Kontan toi – I love you.
- Mo Kontan Li – I love him/her.
- Eskiz moi, eski ou koz anglais ? – Excuse me, do you speak English ?
- To bien ? – Are you doing well ?
- Tonn bien manzé? – Have you eaten well?
- Mo bien – I’m doing well.
- Anou allé – Let’s go.
- Ki laz to éna? – What’s your age?
- Ki to ladress? – What’s your address?
- Ki to niméro? – What’s your number?
- To abit loin? – Do you stay very far?
- Kot to resté? – Where do you live?
- Li loin – It’s far.
- Li ser – It’s expensive.
- Mo bien kontan – I’m very happy.
- Sa ki bon sa – That is so good.
- Nou al marsé – Let’s walk.
- Taler mo apel toi – I’ll call you later.
- Taler mo pou alé – I’ll go later.
- Ki to pou fer – What will you do?
- Ki to pé fer? – What are you doing?
- Apel li – Call him/her.
- Kot li? – Where is he/her?
- Kot pran bis? Where do I take the bus?
- Ki mo bizin fer? – What should I do?
Top: Chamarel Coloured Earth – Mauritius by iz4aks, on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/iz4aks/
Middle: Mauritius – Agosto 2010 by iz4aks, on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/iz4aks/
Video Clip: Yoan Catherine / KLAK productions http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb9_PXvpw02rFRilh_k0XGA