I had heard a lot about the buzzing beaches and boisterous water sports of Mauritius. I had also caught glimpses of its beautiful locales in many a Bollywood movie. Mauritius seemed magical. So, we decided to take off to this paradise island in the Indian Ocean. Since the packages offered by tour organisers were hectic, we headed off on our own. There are many hotels and restaurants around the beaches in Mauritius and we made our bookings online. The resorts have their own entrance to the beaches, much like giving you private access to the sea whenever you felt like it.
We booked ourselves into a hotel in Quatre Bornes [which means four boundary stones in French] as we thought it would be quieter than the capital city of Port Louis. Besides, the capital is just 15 minutes from here. We could also reach any of the beaches or places of interest easily and cover many spots in half a day. So it seemed a convenient base to explore the island nation. Our room offered us breathtaking views of the nearby hills. And the restaurants, shops, park and bus stop were at a walking distance. Having settled down, we went off to explore…
The island is dotted with beaches and every beach has its own charm. So, a visit to a few of them is a must to be able to pick up the pulse of Mauritius. Grand Baie is a public beach with a long stretch of silver sands. A line-up of coconut palms shades you from the sun. You can spend your day leisurely exploring wayside stalls that sell T-shirts and curios or just dive into the inviting vast ocean to surf and sail. Watching scores of beach lovers involved in the myriad activities makes your head spin.
It is a joy to walk on the cool sandy beaches of Flic en Flac and relax on the sand while the young and old wet their feet in the lashing waves. Looking at the foreign tourists lined up to soak in the beautiful sun, makes you want to join them. The horizon, the sea and the sands with visitors using props to relax and rejuvenate delight the photographer in you.
Blue Bay, as its name suggests has blue, green and bluish-green waters. You can catch white sail boats zooming past contrasting with the colours of the ocean or spot white floaters bobbing up and down. It is a scene worth freezing in time. Surfers and divers are a common scene at all beaches here. You can watch them from the beach or join in the fun but whatever you choose to do, don’t miss the ride on the glass bottom boat.
Sitting on the edge of the boat and peeping into the waters gives you glimpses of the fascinating sea world. The coral reefs, mushrooms and wide variety of fish pass below as your glass bottom boat glides over the water. The cool green surface with moss, algae and a variety of plants are among the many treasures of the ocean. It’s delightful to see the colourful fish gather to grab the bits of food the boat man throws and disperse suddenly. It is an experience unlike any.
Tamarin is the surfing centre of Mauritius. It is a small beach that offers beautiful views of the estuary. The Tamarin village is surrounded by salt pan ponds. It also has a beautiful waterfall that comes cascading down steps enhancing the beauty of the surrounding hills.
If you want to do nothing but walk around the sea and watch the fishing boats kiss the horizon, head to Mahebourg. Still retaining the local flavour, this town has a charming waterfront with a rustic laid out path that takes you straight to meet the horizon. Enthusiastic anglers and leisurely walkers- this beach is perfect for relaxing. No wonder, it is a favourite with the locals.
Compared to Mahebourg, the Le Caudan Waterfront in Port Louis is more modern in its layout. It is a place where you can enjoy your meal looking at the parked ships in the dockyard. You can also walk along the bridge observing the ships sailing into the sun. It has many restaurants, bars, shops and a museum. Walk out of the waterfront to view the stately statues of Sri Seewoosagar Ramgoolam and other leaders of Mauritius. Further down, the road leads to the Apravasi ghat, where the first immigrants alighted.
If you are in a mood to shop, take the subway to the Central market, where you can buy souvenirs, shell jewellery and clothes. Don’t hesitate to exhibit your bargaining skills here; it will get you good deals. To shop for clothes and accessories visit the flea markets in Port Louis and Quatre Bornes.
A visit to the Pamplemousses Botanical garden gives you a peek into the green side of Mauritius. With a wide variety of plants, trees and birds, this garden can boast of being one of the best in the tropics. Its Victoria Amazonica, the giant water lilies, are one of the main attractions and you can feast your eyes on them for hours. As you stroll through the narrow shaded pathways of the garden, you will get to see its picturesque pond, green lawns with picnic spots, tortoise corner, deer park, old sugar refining plant, and the memorial to the father of their nation. As you go along, don’t miss the rare birds perched on trees.
Spend some time driving down to the scenic Domaine les Pailles to visit the Vivekananda complex. In Marie Reine de la paix, the white statue of Marie with a hill as a backdrop makes for a fantastic postcard. From here you can also get a beautiful view of Port Louis. The tall bronze-coloured statue of Mahashiva in Grand Bassin is a fine work of art and can be viewed from miles down the road. In close proximity is Ganga Talao, the lake that houses the idols of Shiva and other gods.
The Black River Gorge National Park spread over 6574 hectares is a visual treat. However, one spot that no tourist misses is the ‘Seven-Coloured Earth’ in Chamarel. In the vicinity of the Chamarel falls, this is a rare natural phenomenon. The earth here is formed in layers and mounds, in shades of pink, brown and blue. From the different viewing points the coloured earth assumes different tinges due to sun’s rays. It’s awe-inspiring to observe so many shades on this earth that has weathered years of sun, wind and rain.
Although it’s a tiny country, Mauritius has much to offer to the discerning tourist. The devout, the nature lover, the seafarer and the aqua sports enthusiast are bound to find this paradise island exciting. You easily lose your daily pressures the moment you step into Mauritius. But be warned—you may never want to leave this place.
Where it is: Mauritius is an island south west of the Indian Ocean
Best known for: Beaches and water sports
How to reach: By flight from Delhi and Mumbai to Port Louis
Best time to visit: May to November
About the beach country
Mauritius is a small island of volcanic origin in the Indian Ocean. It is 2400km away from the south east coast of Africa. Surrounded by blue waters and coral reefs, the island abounds in coconut palms and sugarcane fields. It is home to over 900 species of plants and birds. Tourists flock to this island to soak in its sunshine and sport on its beaches and waters.
This was first published in the November 2010 issue of Complete Wellbeing.