Around the World

Make it Mauritius

Author and travel expert Debbie Newman shares her passion for Mauritius ....

What do you Photos courtesy of Shutterstocklove most about Mauritius?

There are many things I love about Mauritius (the people, food, beaches, and of course the climate) though what I most love is the chilled out, relaxed vibe that really appeals each time I visit this lovely Indian Ocean island.

It is a true escape from the every-day bustle of modern living, with friendly people, delicious food, and a laid back culture which invites you to take the pace down a notch or two.

In places, the scenery is staggering, from the mountainous south-west, to the flat sugar cane fields of the north and of course the endless beaches, where hotels are rarely higher than a coconut tree.

Which parts of Mauritius have you visited?

I have been lucky enough to have visited many towns, beaches, mountains and attractions over the years as it is easy to get around and to visit much of what this island has to offer.

I have stayed in the north (around Grand Gaube and the volcanic rocky outcrops on the coast), in the south west (on Le Morne Peninsula with its spectacular mountain backdrop, gorgeous slivers of white sand and quality hotels), and on the west coast (one of my personal favourites), where you will be smitten by stunning sunsets.

Visits have included the charming town of Grand Baie with its public beach, boutique shops and restaurants and Port Louis (the capital city) - busy, bustling and filled with the sights, smells and sounds of this cultural melting pot. The markets are also a must, where I love to see all that Mauritius has to offer in the way of local food and herbs.

What do you think sets Mauritius apart from other destinations?

For me it is the quirky mix of people, culture, food and architectural styles which sets Mauritius apart, as it has long been home to many influences from Europe, China, India and South Africa, all adding to the concoction which is Mauritius.

Music and dance also set it apart - in a nation where you will see Chinese dragon & lion offerings, those which are Indian in style, through to the traditional folkloric Sega dance, which is sensual and rythymic. (Definitely worth a try, as you watch the sun set over the stunning beach skirting the Indian Ocean).

Mauritius also has some interesting flora and fauna, such as the Talipot Palm which only flowers once every 70 years, and of course they have many birds endemic to Mauritius, such as the now extinct Dodo bird, the rare Mauritian Pink Pigeon, and the Mauritian Kestrel.

Photo courtesy of ShutterstockWhat do you love most about Mauritian Culture?

What I love most is the way all these different people, styles, nationalities, beliefs and traditions sit together and respect each other, making Mauritius what it is today. Built up over hundreds of years, with offerings from many different ways of life, all melding together as one. A true reflection of the nationalities who have made it their home - although it is still an independent Sovereign State within the Commonwealth, it still definitely has its own unique identity.

I love that it is relatively small as an island, just 40 miles long and 28 miles wide, with a "villagey" feel in parts, covering an area of 700 square miles with around 1.2 million people. Whilst English is still technically their official language (so I always feel quite at home in this Indian Ocean gem) French & Creole generally dominate in every-day life.

The people are friendly and helpful, with a laid back approach to life, so "go with the flow" as they say and slip into the Mauritian pace of life.

What are your "must see" places to visit in Mauritius?

When in Mauritius I love to visit the Pamplemouse Botanical Gardens, filled with an amazing array of unusual flowers, plants and herbs - such as the gigantic lily pads which resemble something from a science fiction movie.  I love to chat with the gardeners who are more than happy to impart their knowledge.

The seven coloured earths at Chamarel are another favourite place where this naturally occurring range of sand dunes exists, with seven different colours intermingling from blue, purple, yellow and green to brown, red and violet.

What do you consider to be some of the "hidden gems" of Mauritius?

For me it is all about the sea and what it has to offer below the surface - take a glass bottomed boat out to the reef which pretty much surrounds much of Mauritius and look in awe at the many beautiful, brightly coloured fish and turtles, drifting through the ocean below. As a competent swimmer, I like to snorkel from the boat, diving down to the reefs and marvelling at the mesmerising, quiet and gentle existence beneath the surface.

Photo courtesy of ShutterstockWhat are your favourite things to eat in Mauritius?

Fish is always a must for me as it is fresh, varied and delicious - for example, the local fish Capitaine. Plus you can even head out to sea for some deep sea fishing, if you are so inclined.

I also love the fresh fruit presented at breakfast from Paw Paw, Pomegranite and Pineapple to the Corossol (custard apple) and the Longon (or Dragon's eye as it is often known).

What do you think would most surprise the first-time visitor to Mauritius?

I think the variety and mix of styles and cultures which live in harmony side by side, would most surprise the first-time visitor to Mauritius. Each contributes in their own way and brings with them echoes of their own lands and traditions, so I guess go with an open mind and expect everything.

What is the best time of year to travel to Mauritius?

Although December & January are the middle of summer for Mauritius (which lies below the Equator in the southern hemisphere) it is also when they often experience the most rainfall.  So I love to travel in October/November, though you should expect tropical rain showers year round. Our summer is also a time when the rainfall is least, though temperatures drop to the early 20's.

What advice/tips would you give to anyone thinking of visiting Mauritius?

It is often said that "west is best" for weather in Mauritius where it can be windier and cooler on the east coast, often during their winter months (May to September).

Some of my favourite hotels are on the west and south-west areas of the island, like Trou aux Biches, Dinarobin and the Royal Palm. That said, Mauritius has some lovely resorts on the east coast as well, from the world renowned St Geran to small, boutique resorts like 20 Degrees Sud.

Photo courtesy of ShutterstockIf visiting the botanical gardens, opt for a gardener to show you around if you can find one (though they will want to be tipped at the end), as they will give you a greater insight into all the gardens have to offer, breaking off leaves for you to smell and taste.

Swim each day in the clear, welcoming sea and snorkel at every opportunity for an insight into the magical underwater world, off the shores of Mauritius, which is almost entirely surrounded by reef.

For the more adventurous, you might want to go deep sea fishing or scuba diving as well.  Water sports are many and varied - water skiing being my favourite, giving a sense of adventure and freedom as you skim across the warm waters of the southern Indian Ocean.  Most hotels offer a range of facilities - including windsurfing, kayaking and snorkelling.

And finally, relax and enjoy all that this lovely Indian Ocean gem has to offer.

Debbie Newman is a Travel Concierge at Travel Lab & Grand Adventure Travel

Email: debbie@travellab.co.uk

Webpage: www.travellab.co.uk

Debbie is also the Author and Photographer of the Lipstick City Guide to New York

Email: lipstickcityguides@hotmail.co.uk

Twitter: @lipstickcityny

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