Tropical paradises don’t come much more stunning than Mauritius.
It is easy to be overwhelmed by the possibilities of places to see, beaches to hit, restaurants to try, the tours to book in a new vacation spot. Especially when landing on a tropical far away island, like Mauritius, the urge to to do anything and try every experience is strong.
Unfortunately, time on a vacation is limited. Therefore, choosing wisely what are the things to do and those not to do is extremely important to not waste time and money, earned after months of work. I know the feeling. That’s why I’m making this list of things to do and to not do in Mauritius.
Things to do
Hit the beaches
Yes, obviously. But which ones? Mauritius has plenty of them, and some extremely different from the others. All of them are worth some time but we’re here to have a list of just the best ones, so here we go (in no specific order):
- Ile Aux Cerfs: the quintessential tropical beach, with palms, birds, fine sand and shallow, crystal clear waters. Take the motorboat to here and spend a few hours sunbathing in this idyllic corner of east Mauritius.
- Pereybere beach: smaller than the nearby Grand Bay, but prettier, quieter and with less boats. Ideal to have a swim. If you come in late afternoon you’ll enjoy an awesome sunset over the sea.
- Blue Bay: everybody will suggest you to go there and they will be all right. Blue waters, thus the name, a snorkeling fest, plenty of fishes, corals and algae make for a pleasurable experience. There are glass bottom boats available for rent, taking you to the other side of the bay or just exploring around. If you are lucky, dolphins can be spotted from ground even. What else could you ask of a beach? 🙂
Go trekking in Black River Gorges National Park
A lush tropical forest, with waterfalls, Indian temples, amazing views of the coast, the UNESCO World Landscape site of Le Morne a tea plantation, a rum distillery, the Seven Coloured Earth of Chamarel, turtles, rivers and an impressive biodiversity. Need I add more?
Seriously speaking, there’s enough to trek around the park for days. If you’re short on time, spend at least 1 full day to go through the main attractions, at the very least the Chamarel waterfall, the Seven Coloured Earth and Le Morne. These 3 places will give you a vast amount of pictures and experiences making it worth trekking for kilometers. With 2 days you can come back for the tea and rum tasting, the Ganga Talao temple and the Alexandra falls. I’ve hardly found a place in the world with so many different views and activities packed in a few square kilometers, outside big cities obviously.
Visit a Rum distillery, Tea farm or Sugar factory (or all of them)
Rum, tea and sugar are the best products Mauritius has to offer in terms of agriculture. There are a few distilleries, farms and factories that allow tourists in for a visit and, usually, a taste of the product. L’Aventure du Sucre is great for sugar tasting, buying and knowing all about its production.
For Rum lovers, the Rhumerie de Chamarel is the place to go. Being one of the oldest distillery in Mauritius, they offer guided tours to understand the process of fermentation, distillation and aging of rum.
If you’re more into tea, not very far from Chamarel there’s the Bois Cheri Tea Factory, which is part of a larger Route du Thé.
Each of these places is not just a way to taste and learn good products of the ground of Mauritius but offer a larger knowledge about Mauritius itself, its history, people and culture. Without them Mauritius would look to you as yet another beautiful tropical island, while instead being an original microcosm of cultures, flora and fauna.
Things not to do
Casela World of Adventures
I get this place can be great for families and children; you get to watch a lot of different wild animals, in an environment very similar to their original one (most of the animals are imported from the African mainland), and you can take a mini-safari to watch them roaming freely. Plus, plenty of games, a sort of rollercoaster and the chance to pet a handful of animals like goats, ducks and turtles. Probably then your children will love it.
The problem is that it is very expensive (770Rs for an adult is around GB£17), very big and not that different from a huge zoo. I went there hoping to be in close contact with wild animals but they are all in cages or you can watch them from a moving truck through a large area where they are kept in semi-freedom. For closer contact, especially with the big felines, there’s a supplement to be paid. It feels like a big exploitation of tourist money.
I would have still accepted spending for a once in a lifetime experience of being in close contact with tigers, lions and such, but the animals don’t look like they are actually “wild”, they are kept in fear of the sticks of the guardians that I can only imagine how often they were hit by and are absolutely tame, even timid. The contact is also very brief, just the time of a few pictures that are later sold to you at disproportionate prices. Everything is overpriced here.
Beside the costs, the park is massive, needing hours to be crossed from the entrance to the opposite end. 90% of your visit will feel like visiting a normal zoo, with cages after cages of animals. If it’d need a couple of hours it could be worth but half a day or more, sorry but no.
It is also worth noting the Tripadvisor’s reviews citing animal abuse. I did not witness any but from how the animals look, it wouldn’t surprise me if the abuses were real.
My advice is to go only after carefully thinking about the wellbeing of the animals and lowering the expectations.
Admittedly it can be great fun to take a boat and travel around Mauritius. Most boat tours also include free food, usually fish, and/or a barbecue on a small island. If it sounds like your perfect day, then absolutely go for it and book one.
Yet everything that can be visited on one of the small islands around Mauritius can be seen also on Mauritius itself. And but for taking pictures of the main island from the sea, there’s nothing that can’t be visited coming by road than you could by boat. Your money would be much better spent on a trip of the various beaches of Mauritius with a taxi or by yourself with a rented car (I suggest the latter). Prices are even slightly cheaper.
An exception would be dolphins or whale spotting: it is popular for travel agencies to offer such a trip with a boat but obviously they can’t guarantee you’re going to see any of those animals and, if they do, they’re either lying or using unwholesome practices like multiple boats scaring the dolphing in the direction of the tourists’ one or audio impulses to prod the whales in your direction. If you have a spare day, it can be fun trying to spot dolphins and whales but be sure to book a tour that is respectful of the animals.
If you can, avoid taxis, outside short trips. They will push you into having a full tour of the island and it will cost you more than renting+fuel for the same kilometers. Understandable but driving in Mauritius isn’t complicated and taxi drivers will attempt to drive you to places of their choice.
For more freedom, to save money and avoid arguing, leave taxis and rent a car instead.
The capital isn’t a fascinating city by any standard. Mostly modern, devoid of architecture worth watching, a few good restaurants in the middle of cheap joints and an unimpressive waterfront. The open market can be a new experience for some but there’s hardly something you won’t find somewhere else on the island. It’s mostly touristic, not at all typical.
Worth going could be instead the Citadel for the vast view over the city and the mountains surrounding it. Considering that traffic in Port Louis can be very bad, go on a late morning to the Citadel for pictures and perhaps take a stroll on the central Independence St. but otherwise avoid the rest of the capital.
Read more about Gianluca’s travels and escapades over at Papersounds.eu.
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