With its fabulously friendly inhabitants, fantastic food and stunning scenery, it’s little wonder that the island of Mauritius proves such a draw.
For holidaymakers seeking some solitude and a little R&R, the mile upon mile of white sandy beaches and array of quality resorts will easily satisfy such simple desires. But why be lazy? It may only be the size of West Yorkshire, but what Mauritius lacks in land mass it more than makes up for with its abundance of amazing attractions to suit even the most seen-it-all of sightseers.
Do yourself a favour, hire a car and go exploring. The first port of call should be the south-western village of Chamarel, where you’ll find a most striking of geological oddities, the terres de sept couleurs, or seven-coloured earths. Like something out of a sci-fi movie, these layered dunes have a unique spectral quality that plays tricks on the eyes.
Nearby you’ll discover another must-see – the majestic Chamarel Falls. If you don’t stop for a photo from the viewing point, you might as well pack up and go home.
If it’s sun-soaked selfies you’re after then head over to Île aux Cerfs, where you’ll find some of the best beaches and azure waters known to man. Hop on a speedboat from Trou d’eau Douce or G.R.S.E (give Bert Marie from Surjelle a shout for the best service, on +230 0576 1181), pack your cool box and avoid the hordes by venturing off to find your own private stretch of sand for the day.
Although tourism is Mauritius’ main trade nowadays, the “star and key of the Indian Ocean” is also steeped in history.
For an insight into its past take a trip to l’Aventure du Sucre, where the Mauritian story is retold, highlighting the island’s intrinsic links with sugar production.
As you head through the gates, the immaculately preserved colonial houses are a nod to the times when Britain and France successively governed here, more signs of which you’ll uncover in the capital, Port Louis.
The city is officially home to about 150,000 people. However, the hustle and bustle can make it feel as though the population is triple that. Awash with shopping, restaurants, bars and business, Port Louis has plenty going on for those pining for urban sprawls. If the crowds become too much, take the free “party boat” over to Le Suffren, a great place for waterside dining during the day and a lively watering hole by night.
And if it’s a cold jar of hops that you have a thirst for, the Flying Dodo is our favourite haunt of all. Plonked rather unceremoniously on the side of the Bagatelle shopping mall, it boasts myriad home-made offerings, all of which are remarkable in their own right, and some delectable dishes to boot.
Mauritius offers an almost endless amount of watersports and maritime excursions, but if you’re more of a landlubber, there’s one experience you shouldn’t pass up. Although more noted for its great restaurant, Les Lodges Andrea near Flic-en-Flac offers superb quad-biking routes with cliff-edge trails, cane-field burnouts and a stop-off at the serene Rochester Falls.
If such excitement has left you dusty and sweaty (we assure you it will), cool off in the waters at Flic-en-Flac itself, a haven for local families, then head for dinner at one of the multitude of eateries on the coastal road, The Beach Shack arguably being the best thanks to the freshness of its seafood. For a dining experience with a difference, shoot over to La Vanille reserve where you’ll encounter several generations of crocodile and then have a chance to chow down on a burger made out of one of them. If you’ve still not had your fill of fauna by then, Casela nature park should be another day out to add to your list.
A land of diversity – be it animal, mineral or vegetable – Mauritius has something for everyone.
Emirates flies direct to Mauritius from Dhs4,501. www.emirates.com.
Three to try
Hotels for all budgets
Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok Resort & Spa
Recently given a Dhs110 million makeover, this resort is just over the water from Île aux Cerfs. Each of the 200 rooms come with ocean views.
From Dhs1,800 per suite, per night. www.shangri-la.com.
Lux* Le Morne
With the majestic Le Morne mountain on one side and miles of sandy beach on the other, this five-star hotel set in a Unesco World Heritage Site is popular for its charm and unforgettable sunsets.
From Dhs817 per room, per night. www.luxresorts.com.
Preskil Beach Resort
With its delightful Creole architecture and unique status as the only Mauritian hotel based on its own peninsula, Preskil is a fine base on the island.
From Dhs535 per room, per night. www.southerncrosshotels.mu.