Many people consider a Mauritius experience to be purely about enjoying its white beaches, azure waters, ever-present palm trees and a myriad of water sport options from snorkeling and scuba diving to kite surfing and parasailing. But this island idyll has much more to offer that just beaches and fun in the sun…
Enjoy local cuisine
Mauritian cuisine is a melting pot of flavours. Many of the culinary traditions are inspired by its past – its French culture from when the island was a colony, former African slaves and Indian workers as well as Chinese migrants. The islands close proximity to the ocean ensure seafood features highly on the menu, as do common locally grown vegetables. Other common dishes include Chinese noodles and fried rice, as well as dholl puri, roti and various curries and sauces. Explore the markets, eat street food, frequent local eateries, and if possible, dine in the home of a local.
Visit the Port Louis Central Market
This bustling, lively market offers a variety of fresh produce for sale including fresh meat, poultry and seafood as well as fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices. The first level up of the rambling building houses an equally bustling craft market with artisanal crafts and colourful textiles – a great place to pick up souvenirs to take home. There are also great options for an on-the-go snack or icy drink.
Stroll through the Caudan Waterfront
A collection of old disused warehouses were renovated and incorporated into the Le Caudan Waterfront development, offering a great blend of old and new. Wind you way through history as stroll through this commercial and entertainment development on the edge of the harbour – the first of its kind in Mauritius.
History buffs will appreciate the Blue Penny Museum with its art, history and philately collections, art lovers will delight in the local talent on display on the pedestrian ‘Artists Corner’ promenade, and fans of artisanal craft will be spoiled for choice at the Craft Market, with its open bazaar feel… shop for wonderfully colourful beach sarongs, scarves, embroidered linen, spices, recycled and stained glass objects, semi-precious stones, wooden sculptures, basketwork, souvenirs as well as traditional handicrafts from the region. Looking for the best Instagram photo? Then head to the umbrella-covered promenade Leodan.
Delight in the Street Art
From the gnarled roots, old brick walls and art covered walls at the Caudan Waterfront to the colourful walls in Chinatown and Bourbon Street, Port Louis will delight with its vast, and growing, collection of street art. Much of the street art that adds colour to previously run-down buildings is by both local and international artists – some of it commissioned for the first Porlwi by Light festival in 2015. Check out Mauritian resident and travel blogger Steph’s great article about Port Louis Street Art.
Appreciate history at the Citadel Fort
The Citadel Fort, or La Citadelle as it is known as locally, is located on top of the hill Petite Montague at a height of 100 metres. It is also known as Fort Adelaide (named after the wife of William II, when the British held land in Port Louis) and was constructed in the 19th century to protect the British Army from the enemy.
Constructed using large rectangular blocks of basalt, the fort is an imposing sight with its rusting cannons and impressive 360 degrees views over Port Louis.
Visit the Kuanfu Tea Factory
Located in the industrial-port area of Port Louis, the Kuanfu Tea Factory offers an in-depth view into the manufacture of ripe black tea, produced following pure Chinese tradition. The tea making process is explained, from picking to withering, rolling and fermentation, a process that takes no less than 365 days! It is the fermentation that transforms the tea leaf into ripe black tea, the speciality of Kuanfu Tea.
The small tea museum has displays of tea paraphernalia and traces the history of this tea. Following this is the Chinese tea ceremony, a cordial Taoist-inspired ritual using a small teapot and tiny cups. The dry leaves are placed in the teapot and three infusions are prepared with very hot water: the first for one minute, the second for one to three minutes and the third for five minutes. All very traditional and with absolute precision – and a treat for the senses.
Stroll through the Mauritius National Botanical Gardens
Located in the Pamplemousse district, the National Botanic Garden, also known as Sir Seewoosagur Botanic Garden, and more commonly as the Pamplemousses Botanic Gardens. It was initially opened as a private garden by the French governor of Mauritius nearly 300 years ago, later to become the national botanical garden of Mauritius.
The expansive gardens are populated with more than 650 varieties of plants, including 85 varieties of palms, giant trees such as ebony and baobab, a large spice garden, medicinal plants, and the famous giant waterlilies.
Visit Ganga Talao (Grand Bassin)
The Ganga Talao, also known as Grand Bassin, is a crater lake situated deep in the mountainous area of Savanne. This sacred lake, considered to be the most sacred Hindu place in Mauritius, is compared in its significance is to that of the Ganges River in India – back in the 70s some holy water from the Ganges was brought to Mauritius and mixed with the lake water establishing a symbolic link. There are also several temples surrounding the lake.
Hike in the Black River Gorges National Park
Proclaimed in 1994, this 6,574-hectacre natural area includes forested areas and marshy heathland and offers the energetic hiker about 60km of trails to observe the indigenous forests and variety of wildlife, such as birds, monkeys, antelope, giant fruit bats. If you’re short of time, the Gorges viewpoint offers expansive views over the lush green rainforest and beautiful hills.
Marvel at the geology of Chamarel 7 Coloured Earth
As one of the top attractions is Mauritius, Chamarel 7 Coloured Earth doesn’t disappoint. This relatively small area of sand dunes comprises sand of seven distinct colours… approximately red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple, and yellow.
A walk along the demarcated path through the dunes offers a glimpse into millions of years of natural history, geology and evolution of the region.
Take some time to view the Chamarel Waterfall, the tallest single-drop waterfall in Mauritius at about 100m, that is surrounded by dense vegetation.
Take some time out at the Rhumerie de Chamarel Distillery
Visit Rhumerie de Chamarel, the highest altitude rum distillery in Mauritius. This idyllic high mountain setting, and fertile valley is where the sugar cane for their rum is cultivated – one of the rare distilleries still to do so. Enjoy, an informative tour with one of the experienced guides where you will go behind the scenes to learn about the rum making process followed by a delicious rum tasting session and a delicious lunch.
Images – Tessa Buhrmann