GUEST ARTICLE: After a short 4-hour flight from Johannesburg we found ourselves on the very beautiful island of Mauritius. The island is situated off the southeast coast of Africa and is home to an unbelievable 1.3 million people. Fortunately the island doesn’t feel crowded unless you venture into the cities.
The first people to set foot on Mauritius were the Portuguese in 1505. There are a few different cultures that make up Mauritius today, people mainly from India, Africa. Asia and France. Luckily for us English is one of the spoken languages but the main language is French. Mauritian Creole is also pretty common along with a few other ancestral languages.
The famous Dodo bird originated on this little island. It was a peculiar bird that weighed a massive 50kgs and appeared to be too tempting a treat for the Portuguese and was unfortunately hunted to extinction in 1681.
Our hotel pickup Sarif from Pingouinvillas was waiting for us as we exited the airport. The temperature was just right being the first month of their winter season. The first thing we noticed was how beautifully green everything was. Vibrant fields of lush sugar cane blanketed the area and sharp mountain peaks dotted the terrain.
Our hotel was in a small town called Blue Bay located not too far from the airport. It was nice and basic and we were given a large two-bedroom suite, which I think would be perfect for families! Blue Bay wasn’t our main destination on this trip but because the resort we were going to be staying at was located some distance away (and after having arrived so late) we thought we’d pick somewhere nice and close for the first night. That way we could truly appreciate the drive and the resort the following day.
We did manage to get in a little stroll of Blue Bay and we really liked what we saw. The tranquil waters of the bay danced with the day’s dwindling light and local kids happily frolicked in the somewhat chilly waters soaking up every last minute of daylight. We found a little rustic place for dinner (actually I think it was ‘the only’ place). On the menu was a delicious assortment of local curries with seafood. After dinner it was time to call it a night as we anxiously awaited our road trip the next morning.
Bright and early and on the dot Sarif who also rents out cars dropped off our car. It was pretty basic but that’s all you need on the island (one that’s good on gas is a bonus too!) Taxis cost a bomb in Mauritius so make sure you get a hotel transfer or, better still, rent some wheels of your own to do some exploring.
The day was brilliant and made us even more eager to get out on the road to our new residence for the next four days – The Sands Resort. It was located on the western side of the island and judging by a map it looked like we were going to have to navigate our way through a network of small towns to get there, luckily for us we had a car navigator. Unfortunately it was in dire need of an update. A number of new highways had been built and even though they were great to drive on the signage wasn’t always the best.
So, needless to say, we did end up getting lost but a good lost because we happened upon some beautiful areas and saw some more lovely landscapes. Port Louis is the main city in Mauritius and to be honest the streets didn’t look that appealing (and unless you’re on the actual highway be prepared to drive at a snail’s pace). Driving in Mauritius was excruciatingly slow at times and horrendous if you were unlucky enough to get caught behind one of the many dirty exhaust belching local buses, so not nice!
What should have been an hour’s drive ended up taking a few before we finally found ourselves heading in the right direction. As we neared the west coast beautiful majestic green mountains were towering over more sugarcane fields. The little town of Flic en Flac where our hotel was located was nice and quaint, situated alongside the Indian Ocean. The Sands Resort was the last of many resorts that ran along the beachside road. We were so happy to have finally made it!
The resort was nothing short of stunning and looked just as good, if not better than the pics on its website. As soon as we walked through the reception we were gaping (literally) at one of the best views we’ve ever seen. A giant volcano was the focal point. It was covered in dark emerald green foliage and made a striking image against the brilliant blue sky and deep azure ocean waters.
We had a lovely room but we didn’t wait too long in there before heading out to the resort’s infinity pool that was situated perfectly with a magnificent view of the volcano. Whoever built this hotel definitely knew what they were doing. We spent most of our days by the pool just gazing at the amazing sight before us.
During the evenings a trickle of us walked up and down the soft sandy beach admiring the colors of the sunset and interesting cloud formations in the sky. Every night for dinner the resort’s chefs put on a delectable buffet done with genius creativity in both taste and sight.
One night during sunset they put on a cultural show on the beach. Beautifully dressed local girls enthusiastically twirled long colourful frilly skirts while singing in harmony to a little band of males strumming neat looking guitars, banging homemade drums and shaking cool looking rice shakers.
One day we ventured out to see some of the nearby tourist sights (having a car in Mauritius is a good idea – many guests of the resorts didn’t and they missed out). Our first stop was to the Black River Gorges National Park. It was a beautiful spot lush with forest and nice walking paths. Unfortunately we weren’t able to venture too far due to flooding. So we headed to our next stop which was the Chamarel Waterfall. It was a great waterfall with a height of about 100 meters. The view of it flowing down a massive cavern surrounded by a vibrant green forest was really picturesque.
Not far from there was a really special spot called The Coloured Earths. Years of decomposition of basalt into clay resulted in a ferralitic soil causing smooth undulating mounds of gorgeous deep reds, blues and purples. We’d never seen anything like it and as the sun and clouds moved the mounds seemed to change colour, it was brilliant! They also had some giant tortoises on site that were also pretty interesting to look at.
On the way back to the hotel we went via the coast through a nice little town called Le Morne that is well known for its excellent wind and kite surfing (and beautiful resorts). There is a massive lagoon that surrounds the area and it’s windy about 300 days of the year. A number of resorts frequent this tranquil area and it looked like a number of them were either getting rebuilt or refurbished at the time. Not far from our hotel, on the highway is a new shopping centre that was just recently built so that’s where we’d usually find lunch and snacks (they also have some nice shops if that’s what you’re interested in).
After our most excellent stay at the Sands Resort we ventured north to check out the other part of the island. We had read many discussion on the net regarding where to stay in Mauritius. Should I stay on the west coast?, the north coast? etc. We thought we’d check out both! So, after our stay at the Sands Resort on the beautiful west coast, we headed to the north coast to the Lux Hotel at Grand Gaube.
The Lux Grand Gaube was also pretty spectacular in its own right. Staff dressed in neat white cotton garb, wandered about the place and gave us a warm welcome upon arrival. The rooms were a bit dated but nicely done with a really relaxing atmosphere. The Lux didn’t have a volcano view but the beach was excellent and inviting with numerous comfy beach chairs situated about the place. Unfortunately it was a bit too chilly to take a proper dip in the ocean so that ended up being a real teaser during the hot days.
One day as we were heading to the beach we noticed a nice little black and white cat wandering about. Once it saw us it ran at us full tilt, tail straight in the air and with full-on meow. Hitler (who we named because of his little moustache) had come to say hello. We thought he might be a one-off stray that resided at the resort but we soon found that there was actually a small group of them along with some kittens. They were a nice little highlight to the place and they seemed to make friends with most of the hotel guests. Not surprisingly, with those cute faces, they certainly weren’t starving.
So, west coast or north coast? Well, since you’re likely to spend most of your time at your resort, it really doesn’t matter. Both the resorts we stayed at were amazing and we’d be more than happy to go back to either.
We found Mauritius to be a little like Fiji. The countryside is beautiful and the resorts are nothing short of spectacular but in the developed areas it can be quite ugly in places. We are not usually ones to stay at five star resorts but in Mauritius it is advisable, not because you have to, but because that’s how you get the most out of a holiday in Mauritius. The five star resorts have the best beaches, views and facilities. I can see why many people come to Mauritius for their honeymoon.
We had a most wonderful stay for our first time in Mauritius and staying at those two resorts was an amazing treat. Even though it was their winter season we found the temperature just right and not too sweltering like it can get during their summer months. The only downside was not being able to swim in the ocean (without getting cold). Other than that we absolutely loved it and would mark this one as a definite do over!
This travel diary has been written by Machalle Gower, a friend who enjoys taking roads less traveled!