Mauritius is a very small island off the coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. In my experience, not many people have heard of it but I was lucky enough to be born with Mauritian heritage and grow up with this culture. Leaving on Christmas day, my family and I set off on a long awaited (16 years in fact) 3 week trip. Here is some information from my experience in Mauritius which I hope you find useful.
Getting there from Australia:
After much research into flights in and out of Mauritius I have come to the conclusion that it is not easy or cheap to get to this country. Australia has flights with one stop (no stops if in Perth) with Air Mauritius and Emirates ranging between $1500-$2000 AUD depending on the season. We flew with AirAsia in December 2016 for approximately $900 AUD one way (including all the add ons) however I believe this flight has been stopped. With regards to getting to Mauritius from Europe, I do believe the quickest and cheapest flight is from London however I do not know enough to say for sure. Getting to Mauritius from the United States, don’t ask… well you can but don’t expect a speedy response.
After not having been to this country since I was a child I wanted to explore every corner. And with a country as small as Mauritius, I could! Hiring a car is your best option for transport in Mauritius. You can drive from North (Grand Baie) to South (Souillac) and East (Trou d’Eau Douce) to West (Flic en Flac) in about an hour and twenty minutes. Car hire is pretty cheap, we got a car for about $40 AUD a day and the beautiful couple at Joubarbe Residence, where we stayed in Moka, organised it for us. If your accommodation doesn’t offer this option, hiring a car from the airport is straightforward also. Driving in Mauritius was easy, the roads have improved a lot since I was there last and there are highways connecting all the major areas, normally coming through the centre and then out again. The roads are well marked and the driving is pretty good. You just have to get used to overtaking and using your horn as in a lot of developing or third world countries however other drivers will usually let you in. I would however suggest not driving in the capital, Port Louis. There is parking available close by at Caudan Waterfront Shopping Centre. The walk is very easy from here to get to the market and to see the main sites of the city.
There are very different ends of the scale when it comes to accommodation in Mauritius. It is known as a high-end, tropical island resort destination, but that doesn’t have to be the case. There are much cheaper options, which can give you access to all the beauty the island has to offer rather than being restricted to an all-inclusive where you never leave the resort. I do not believe “resort” Mauritius to be the “real” Mauritius. Of course I have it easy having family there to eat, drink, be shown around and party with so I cannot say that everyone should have this type of cultural experience as it is not readily available. However hiring a car and just exploring the coast, you can find hidden gems, with less crowds. I suggest using AirBnb and Booking.com to find budget accommodation. We spent just under $700 AUD per person on 19 nights accommodation. We were a group of 8 so the costs were split, but it was also more difficult to find places to cater for this number of people and we booked only a month or two before our trip. Additionally, having a car will make staying just that bit out of town completely fine for obvious reasons and you can really cut costs this way. I have a couple of recommendations for larger groups to stay in following posts.
Unfortunately I cannot divulge much information regarding where to eat in Mauritius. While I did eat A LOT in this country, most meals were spent at relatives houses and I therefore didn’t eat out much. If you are staying somewhere with a kitchen, I recommend eating some meals at home. There are many chain supermarkets (Winner’s, Monoprix, Spar, Super U) with more or less everything you would need, however prices are similar to Australian supermarket prices and not as cheap as you expect. For lunch, there are many street stalls in pretty much any location you are likely to be headed. I HIGHLY recommend getting dhal poori, a very thin pancake style roti stuffed with blended yellow split peas, seasoned with turmeric and cumin and your choice of chutney added. Like anywhere, people will tell you not to eat street food however if you just look for the stall with the longest line, you know this will be safe. This delicious snack cost only 12 Mauritian Rupees which is under 50c in AUD or about 30c in USD. 2 or 3 pairs (yes you get two for that price!) should fill you. Also you must get your fruit from the local markets. The mangos, bananas, papaya, pineapple, coconut etc… are just incredible. This island has fruit growing everywhere so keep an eye out!
English is the “official” language in Mauritius however that is not really the case. The most common language used is French/Mauritian Creole which is a French-based Creole language spoken in informal settings however most people understand and speak both French and English as well so communication is quite easy especially in typical tourist locations.
Suggested Itinerary for Mauritius
We spent 3 weeks on this magical island however if you’re strapped for time you could easily spend 2 weeks and still do it comfortably. Here is my recommended itinerary:
Moka (Centre) – 3 nights to visit the capital city of Port Louis, Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens, Grand Bassin where you hopefully see monkeys and Chamarel Seven Coloured Earths and Waterfall, all of which can be done in about 2 full days. Some of these places can also be visited from the East so you can combine the two and just add some additional nights. Although I highly recommend staying in the Moka district purely for the breeze you get in the centre of the island, you will understand once you get to the coast!
Flic en Flac (West) – 5 nights to go snorkelling, visit Tamarin to swim with dolphins and surf, hike the famous Le Morne and visit Black River Gorges National Park to go hiking and jump in waterfalls.
Grand Baie (North) – 3 nights to visit the surrounding beaches of Mont Choisy, Pereybere and Trou-aux-Biches, go island hopping on a catamaran and take part in various water sports.
Belle Mare or Trou d’Eau Douce (East) – 3 nights to visit more beaches (yes they are all different and just as beautiful as the next!) and Île Aux Cerfs. You should also take out a day or half day to visit one of the numerous resorts as they really are beautiful and of a high quality. And if you’re lucky you can see a traditional Mauritian sega dance performance, the outfits alone will amaze you!
This itinerary gives you most of the tourist sights and covers a lot of the island so that you never have to return…EVEEEERR! However if you try some of the local cuisine or are lucky enough to speak with the amazingly friendly local people, who all seem to know each other, you are sure to come back. Not to mention those beautiful freaking beaches, my god!
“Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied after Mauritius.” Mark Twain