On first arriving in Mauritius and leaving the airport a few things are instantly noticeable; the island is covered in a lush green blanket of sugarcane plantations with ancient volcanic mountains forming striking landmarks as they disappear into the clouds and audibly French is clearly the international language of choice.
Having thoroughly explored the island we can recommend the east side of the island for a more tranquil holiday. The more tourist friendly north and north-west of the island does have it’s merits and offers more affordable accommodation but this GT was looking for relaxation away from package holidays and closer to the best beaches.
There are several inclusive resorts ranging from the outstanding 5 Star option Le Touessrok to other luxurious but a little more affordable destinations such as Lux and La Maison d’Etè. I, however, chose to go down the self-catered route staying in a villa at the SO Beach complex. There are several things to consider on the island with self-catering, firstly you need to hire a car, this is an absolute must with most destinations a good distance apart so we recommend this is factored into your thinking.
Day trips from East coast Mauritius included visits to the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden, thoroughly fascinating, but only worthwhile with the guided tour to explain the tropical plants who charges a mere £2 per person.
With the main export of the island being sugar and rum a visit to one of the local factories makes an interesting afternoon and a good excuse for a drink, we can recommend the Rhumerie De Chamarel. We learnt that a favourite local cocktail called ‘Rum Punch’ is simply slices of lemon muddled with cane sugar and white rum and especially welcome on a hot day.
A very popular tourist destination is the Il Aux Cerfs (Deer Island). The island features stunning beaches, snorkelling, shallow water and a few restaurants. This all sounds great but do be warned it is very touristy and our advice would be to book an individual guide and boat trip to avoid predictable mass boat tours that cash in on tourism.
We found the locals to be very laid back and not particularly interested in tourists which really helped us to explore as we pleased. The only hassle we encountered was from an over eager local fisherman who brought fresh lobster to our door, it’s a hard life being on holiday!
We would suggest avoiding the capital Port St. Louis as this was a rather disappointing visit and the trade off of a day spent away from the coastline simply isn’t worth it.
We found the main influence on local cuisine to be primarily Indian food, fresh vegetables were in abundance at the local markets that felt very much felt like a little slice of India. There is also to a lesser extent a significant Creole influence, something of which we hope to explore more on a future visit.
A restaurant GT can thoroughly recommend is Chez Tino; a good honest local establishment with authentic food, a hot tin roof, spacious veranda and gaudy decorations including puffer fish lampshades.
I sampled the local specialities of a starter of Palm Heart Salad and a main dish of Octopus Curry. The Palm Heart Salad was light and the Palm Hearts which are taken from the heart of a young Palm Tree were the perfect combination of crunchy and refreshing. The Octopus Curry erred on chewy yet this Mauritian speciality was a delicious curry, medium-spiced with a tomato base.
When it came to libation we were really impressed with the local Phoenix Beer and in particular Green Island White Rum which featured delicious caramel notes from the sugar cane, keep an eye out for this, a real find.