Ok guys, what springs to mind when you think of Mauritius? Perhaps it’s the white sandy beaches and turquoise waters? Or maybe you think of loved up honeymooners and luxury resorts? Well, you wouldn’t be wrong, but I felt compelled to write this blog post because there is so much more to Mauritius than the stereotypical scenes listed above. I recently took a 1 week trip out to Mauritius to visit my new social media client Royal Park. The aim of the trip was to experience “real Mauritius”, and with born and bred Mauritian colleagues on my side, I gained a really unique insight into this paradise island.
After experiencing so many extraordinary aspects of the island on my trip, it seems like flying all the way to Mauritius to simply lie on a beach would be somewhat of a crime (great news for those that like to get out and explore). If you’re thinking of going to Mauritius, here are my alternative highlights to the island that will make your trip truly unforgettable.
South Island Helicopter Ride
If you’re looking for something extra special to do on your trip to Mauritius, this has to be it. Imagine soaring over Mauritius’ rugged mountains, aqua marine coral barriers and lush emerald forests with a real rush of adrenaline pumping through your veins. Air Mauritius operates 30 minute helicopter rides from Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport (Mauritius’ only airport). If you’re a bit of an aviation geek, you’ll also love being escorted through the secret staff passages of the airport and driving along the runway to the heli pad. The whole experience is both breathtaking and exhilarating in equal measure.
Mauritius’ capital of Port Louis has long been overlooked by tourists, who predominantly come in search of beaches and not much else. However, this bustling commercial city is bursting with culture, heritage and charm and it’s the perfect place to learn about Mauritius’ rich cultural history. The narrow streets are split into different cultural quarters with street vendors selling everything from fabrics to spices. The best way to discover Port Louis is on a walking / cycling tour with My Moris.
My Moris is a small start up company that is breathing new life into the city and will take you to all the hidden corners that you wouldn’t find yourself. They offer a variety of different tours, but I went on their Old Trades and Artisans Tour and loved it. The tour lasted 3 hours and they took us to meet a fascinating selection of local artisans. I’d recommend visiting Port Louis on a day trip and for a hint of luxury go to Labourdonnais Hotel on the waterfront for breakfast or lunch.
Champs de Mars Racecourse
One thing to know about Mauritian culture is that horse racing is BIG. The famous Champs de Mars racecourse is located in Port Louis and dates back to 1812 (it’s actually the oldest race course in the Southern Hemisphere which is something Mauritians are very proud of). Framed by a rocky stretch of mountains, it’s the most picturesque race course I’ve ever seen.
Every Saturday is Race Day, and locals come in their droves to watch the horses. It’s amazing to see how passionate they are about the jockeys and horses. There is also now an increasing amount of savvy tourists and ex pats who also come along to the race days, and usually pay for box tickets. A day out at the Champs de Mars racecourse would add an authentic slice of Mauritius to any holiday.
Casela Nature Park
My visit to Casela Nature and Adventure Park was the absolute highlight of my week and I would urge everyone going to Mauritius to add this to their to do list! Before I go on, I want to state that I strongly dislike zoos in general, and wouldn’t choose to visit them anywhere in the world, but Casela is so much more than a zoo. The animals have a great quality of life and it feels more like a nature reserve than a zoo. Located in the south west of the island near Flic en Flac, Casela is an amazing day out for both families and adults.
General admission allows you to explore all 4 themed kingdoms and includes activities such as a toboggan run, bus safari, giraffe viewing, big cat viewing and more. But the magic stuff lies in the additional extras, such as zip lining across jungle ravines, breakfast with the giraffes, a quad safari and walking with lions*. I did all 4 of these experiences and they were all incredible. If you love animals, a visit to Casela is going to be a highlight of your holiday.
*Whilst these lions are bred in captivity, they are in no way drugged or sedated. The animals are still free to roam and have a great quality of life in the nature park. We had to sign a disclaimer before the walk to state we were aware the lions are wild and unpredictable. I did my research before taking part in this activity and wouldn’t endorse it if it wasn’t above board. It was an incredible and fascinating experience that I’ll never forget.
Hiking Le Morne
If you like a bit of a physical challenge, you’ll be glad to hear that the hiking, cycling and abseiling opportunities are endless in Mauritius. Thanks to its volcanic and mountainous terrain, you can take your pick from a variety of climbs and hikes. The biggest challenge of all is hiking Le Morne; Mauritius’ highest peak. I didn’t get time to do this hike on my trip but it was highly recommended to me by locals and would love try it if ever go back.
Grand Baie is a charming coastal town and port located in the north west of Mauritius. It’s bustling with shops and waterfront cafés and is well worth a little visit. Tucked behind the main road is a great little market selling local wares and souvenirs and if you visit around 5pm you’ll see the daily fish market on the waterfront. The selection of tropical fish is amazing and watching the locals make their selections is a great sight. Stop by Sunset Cafe (just off Sunset Boulevard) for an iced coffee or a sundowner and watch the fishing boats come in to port.
Blue Bay Marine Park
One of the best places for snorkelling on the island is the beautiful Blue Bay Marine Park. If there’s one place that will guarantee those picture perfect azure waters, it’s here. There are various tours and packages you can book to experience Blue Bay Marine Park, but make sure it’s on your radar.
During my week in Mauritius I was shown around by locals who know the island like the back of their hand. They took me to some amazing restaurants which included…
Le Pescatore, Trou aux Biches – an upmarket seafood restaurant located right on the waterfront in Mont Choisy. Get a table on the terrace and come early to watch the spectacular Mont Choisy sunset.
R Beach Club, Mont Choisy – a new cool and contemporary beach club concept on Mont Choisy Besch. R Beach Club is part of Royal Park but also welcomes day guests and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. *OPENING DECEMBER 2016*
The Beach House, Grand Baie – a super casual bar and restaurant on Grand Baie beach, serving the biggest and freshest Madageascan prawns. This place is ran by a friendly ex-Springbok South African guy who said he will give VIP treatment to anyone who visits and mentions The Travelista 🙂
What did you think of my alternative guide to Mauritius? Has it made you see the island in a new light, or inspired you to try something different on an upcoming trip? If you enjoyed this post, please leave me a comment in the box below and let me know 🙂
My time in Mauritius was not a press trip. It was a working trip to go and visit my new social media client, Royal Park Mauritius. Thank you to Royal Park Mauritius for hosting me during this trip, and for allowing me to experience #realmauritius.
For more information about planning a trip to Mauritius, visit Tourism Mauritius.