Mauritius Travel Guide
BY KUDI MARADZIKA.
A rare gem of remarkable beauty.
The expansive blue ocean that I've been looking at for the past two hours suddenly breaks, interrupted by clouds that envelope the entire plane. All we see is the cloudy white of clouds. The plane finally breaks through the clouds and a a rainbow appears perfectly on cue. Below us is a massive mountain range covered with lush sub-tropical vegetation. It's like that scene in Jurassic Park when Jeff Goldblum and Sam Neil arrive on the island on the helicopter, greeted by incredible pre-historic mountain scapes and verdant vegetation. The only difference is there aren't any T-Rex's looking for appetisers.
We had arrived in Mauritius, a small country you can drive around in six hours. But small in this case doesn't mean simple, or lacking in nuance, texture or beauty. Quite the contrary. Mauritius' size suits it perfectly, as every inch of the island is filled with beauty. The first thing I noticed was how humid it was. Coming from rainy Joburg I had layers of clothes on and most layers had been peeled off within 20 minutes of landing.
The best way to get around Mauritius is to rent a car and drive. The roads are in great condition and road signs everywhere make for easy navigation. A word of caution for impatient drivers. It seems customary for cars to suddenly stop in the middle of the road with zero notice.
This means without indicating or hazard lights. Driving around can feel like Russian roulette at times. A Joburg driver is inclined to hoot and swear, but that's not the way here. You'll just look crazy.
Our destination was Le Touserrok Shangri-La, a resort in Flacq, but more specifically in Trou D'eau Douce, which roughly translates to 'place of fresh water'.
The drive is a 40 minute drive along the coast where bright blue coral surrounds the entire island, keeping the roughness of the sea at bay We checked in, dropped our bags off, picked up a map and immediately hit the road to one of the many hiking trails here. Black River National Park.
We travelled from the North East of the island, through lush sugar can fields, Hindu temples, pineapple fields and banana plantations to arrive in the South West of the island where the Black River Gorge National Park is. The above is a summary of the journey, in honesty we took so many wrong turns and got lost so many times.
This is a very popular tourist location near the famous Seven Colours in Chamarel. I wanted to hike the easy 2 km hike, but after four hours of driving a longer 5 km hike made more sense.
So we set off through a huge forest with giant trees with leaves the size of my arm. On your way to the peak of Black River we crossed a stream which we earmarked for a swim on our way back.
Because it had just rained the hike was incredibly gruelling as it had just rained. I also wasn't wearing the right shoes by a long shotl. But its a pleasant hike for people who have moderate levels of fitness and the view is beyond worth it as you can see right to the edge of the island towards Le Morne, also an incredible hike.
Mauritius haas some of the best beaches.The water is warm and there aren't any ocean predators in the water as parts of the island are surrounded by coral.
Beaches like Iles aux Cerfs for example are big enough to allow you to have your own private view without any interruption from anyone. It really does feel like an episode of Lost, minus the Dharma initiative and all the weirdness with the smoke monster.
We were lucky that some of the best beaches were on our side of the island. We weren't so lucky that it rained non stop for three days. So instead of going out we stayed in and ate...
Flacq is a very tourist centric area so there are a variety of restaurants to eat from. With a mixture of Creole, Indian and Chinese cultures, food in Mauritius is simple yet tasty and small shops sell coconuts and pineapples which are perfect as snacks in the heat.
Best places for food is a place called Cafe Des Beaux Arts which is managed by an eccentric and lovely French couple in an old sugar mill that has been converted into a gallery and restaurant.
The food here is great but does come with a hefty price tag. Many other restaurants sell beautifully cooked fresh fish from around the area at places like Chez Tino and Green Island Beach Restaurant, which are all very reasonably priced.
THE BIG CITY:
I had heard that Port Louis' market was a must-see. So we ventured off to the capital to see what the big deal was.
Whilst the market itself didn't impress, we stumbled on the city's China Town a few roads away from the market which juxtaposed to a beautiful mosque was incredible.
Culturally this was a delight and very unexpected. Also unexpected was the incredible street murals that are all over the capital.
Do pack light clothes, in summer as it gets unbearably hot. Do also pack a raincoat in case it rains. Do carry sturdy shoes to hike and walk in.
Do your research on accommodation by the beach. From resorts to backpackers, there are a lot of great places to stay, but you have to book early. The accommodation we got was booked through Agoda which offers great seasonal discounts on hotels depending on the season.
The key as always is to book early.
Since there isn't an off peak season for Mauritius flights can be pricey. Return flights are available from Air Mauritius from R 4500 to South African Airways from R 7 000 during season and R 4500 off season.. If you're travelling from outside Africa then you can fly with Emirates who have a daily flight to Mauritius.
MY TRAVEL ESSENTIALS:
I love that holidays give you the chance the switch up your beauty routine. I was trying out the new Dermalogica Skin Hydrating Masque which was super moisturising and made my skin supple and soft.
Kudu Cosmetics Hydration Serum was also fantastic. However the hero of them all is Chanel's Gabrielle scent which is light floral fragrance that worked perfectly for the humidity .
Seven days, lots of hikes, curries and beach sand later, the trip was over. As we took off my heart broke. I didn't want to leave but at least I had the chance to experience a little bit of magic.
Mauritius really is a rare gem of remarkable beauty. Goodbye beaches, palm trees and rainbows.
Until next time.