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The island nation of Mauritius offers visitors more than what they ask for. Little wonder, then, that it is one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the world, says Alvin Thomas.
There are very few places in the world that actually look like they do in the pictures that Google displays on its search pages.
For example, a quick search of ‘Chennai’, will give you thousands of images of historical temples, vast yellow-sand beaches, and striking flora and fauna. In truth, however, you will find yourself stuck in traffic, gasping for clean air, and sweating profusely as you question your travel choices.
This is also the case with numerous other locations around the world. The reality, then, is far from what you see online – except with Mauritius.
Arctic blue waters near the shore, crystal-clear lagoons and reefs, a serene environment of trees (mostly short coconut trees) on the glorious white-sand beaches; it’s got them all. And unlike many other destinations, there is no Photoshop-fakery going on.
Very few people – roughly 1.3 million – reside in Mauritius. Therefore, the number of buildings flanking the area is limited. This means, the government gives tourism the upper hand.
Situated just off the coast of Kenya and Tanzania, and close to Madagascar, Mauritius is also strategically placed – almost like a centre point for tourists travelling from either ends of the earth.
But, it’s not just tourism that makes Mauritius the prominent nation that it is, today. It was a colony of the Dutch empire from 1638 to 1710, before switching hands to the French in 1715. The British then took over the land for 158 years. The country then gained independence in 1968.
Oddly, most of the population of Mauritius is Indian (roughly 68 per cent), and the rest Creole, Chinese and White. Languages such as English, French, Mauritian Creole and Bhojpuri (an almost Texan-like dialect of Hindi) are widely spoken, in the country.
Fun fact: Mauritius was also home to the (now extinct) Dodo, which lived here for more than 300 years – of course, before humans came in and took over. Remains of the bird are preserved in museums and several environmentalists are studying the causes of its extinction, even today.
All of this means Mauritius is currently one of the hottest spots for holidaymakers.
My favourite place- I’m not overly fond of swimming so I often partake in activities on the beach; sleeping or simply reading. And the sands of the Grand-Baie beach are designed for people like me. The location is serene as you get plenty of shade from the surrounding trees and it is also home to numerous tourists, who, much like you, are also there to escape from the daily stresses of work and life. Apart from that, small shops selling hand-made jewellery and artefacts abound. Then there is the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden – otherwise known as the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden. Not only is it the oldest botanical garden in the southern hemisphere but it is also well-known for the giant water lilies that flank the pond.
Highlights- The climate is the boon and bane of this island. You either have warm and humid summers or cold and dry winters: both relatively perfect for vacationers. This means you can head out to the Grand Baie and explore the island’s centre sailing activities. There, visitors can join a yacht or catamaran cruise, charter a private launch, go deep-sea fishing or organise a snorkelling or dive tour. Another place one should visit is the Trou aux Cerfs – a dormant volcano. In the centre of the crater there is a small lake; you simply couldn’t make it up. It has to be seen to be believed.
Lowlights- The weather can be unpredictable. Mauritius is prone to tropical cyclones, so keep an eye out for any warnings on tropicalstormrisk.com. Don’t forget, tourists love this country, so you will always be among fellow travellers and vacationers. Avoid heading there if they annoy you.
Souvenirs- Markets sell everything from colourful hand-made baskets, jewellery, nautical ornaments and cool beach-style clothing. You can also buy a cheap bag of garden-fresh green chillies if you’re into spicing up your meals.
Getting there- Simple: hop on an Emirates flight, in Muscat, and take the connection flight to the only airport in Mauritius. The flight should take you roughly seven hours.
Where to stay- Because Mauritius accommodates so many tourists there are many hotels in and around the city. The Oberoi and the St. Regis Mauritius Resort are two that stand out. However, hotel rates are excruciatingly high. Book wisely.
1. Go hiking in the Black River Gorges National Park.
2. Visit the extinct Trou aux Cerfs volcano.
3. Spend time with your family at the Grand-Baie beach.
4. Visit the botanical gardens.
5. Explore the various handicrafts and jewellery in local shops.