Visit Mauritius as the locals would do it. Ocean, trekking, waterfalls, and more!
One of the best periods of the year would be January, for the sole reason of plane ticket prices, around 700€/person from either Paris, Geneva, or Frankfurt..
It’s Summer in the Southern hemisphere. Enjoy the late season for mangos, longans, sweet watermelons, while the high season for pineapples and papayas is still going on. Also, the tourist presence is at its lowest in high attendance sites.
The ocean water can reach 29°C!
Be aware, though, it also means it’s rainy season, along with potential cyclones. Nothing too dangerous there, although it might mess with your flight schedule.
The language is first and foremost Mauritian Creole or Morisyen, based on French. The education system allows for the vast majority of Mauritian to talk either French or English (or both) fairly well.
The expensive part in Mauritius will be accommodations. We have contacts there, 14€/night, in a comfortable guesthouse. There are also no restrictions when it comes to camping on beaches equipped with toilets and showers (Flic en Flac, Mont-Choisy).
1€ is around 38,4 Rs. It is beneficial to bring €uros/Dollars or Pounds and find a trading office where you can haggle; for example the "Change Express" in Quatre-Bornes (facing Intermart) and in Port-Louis.
You can purchase a SIM card at Mauritius Télécom Orange - you will also need your passport, for 100Rs with 86Rs of credit on it (2GB data, 4G, call time and texts are purchasable via the text messages).
The Mauritius duty-free is available in 800 shops across the island.
Most of the transportation can be done by bus (beaches in particular. That’s right, don’t try to hide your sunglasses and flip-flops, I know where you’re heading!): the tickets are cheap, services and schedule are convenient. The more remote areas are only accessible (or approachable) by car.
You can rent one for 700Rs/day if you book beforehand at local car rentals. You can say Tatup sent you there, ask for Mr Serge.
The most famous ones are:
Grand Bay- North - Striving economy, very crowded area.
Mont Choisy -North West- Protected public beach.
Blue Bay -South East- Small with loads of activities
Flic en Flac -East- Vast coarse sand beach
Pereybère -North- More remote, nice winds for kite surfing
No need to be afraid of sharks here. The lagoon protects the whole island’s coasts with a natural barrier reef.
There are beaches all around (or well nearly) the island. Lots of them are quite empty. A good way to experience them is to just take your car or your bike and get going on the seaside roads!
1. Snorkeling in Blue Bayy
Blue Bay is the place to snorkel. For 300Rs/person, a guide will take you to explore one of the most amazing coral reed of Mascareignes.
The guides have a great knowledge of fauna and flora and dive in deeper detail (and humor) about them on glass bottom boats. I have to say, the fauna is amazing.
2. A historical biscuit factory
After leaving Blue-Bay/Mahébourg, and crossing the Cavendish Bridge, you may want to stop in Ville Noire. Founded in 1870 by a French Breton pilgrim, you can find a biscuit factory specialized in dry cassava cakes and pancakes.
The handmade baking on bagasse ("the dry pulpy residue left after the extraction of juice from sugarcane." There, saved you a google search) fire is a tradition dating back nearly 145 years. The perfect place worthy of a Tatup article!
Opened from Monday till Friday, 9:30 till 15:00 (or 9:30 am till 3 pm if you prefer), closed during national holidays. Visit and tasting cost around 175 Rs. Biscuiterie H.Rault/ La Ville Noire/ Mahébourg. Tel +230 631 9559.
It’s an exotic adventure, a sneak-peak into the past of a typical Mauritius factory that helped build the country it is today. Nowadays proud of its Cybercity and of the most modern service sector in Africa, it is indeed a nice tribute.
3. Rochester Waterfalls
This landmark is several millennia old. Mainly visited by the locals, it lies between Souillac and Saint-Aubin. You will find it after following the (very!) scarce directions, through a sugar cane field. It’s a 10 meters high waterfall atop of parallelepipedal (getting fancy, are we?) rocks.
A merchant is selling pineapples and coconut water you can sip directly from the fresh fruit with a straw. 40 to 60Rs/ Pineapple, 40 to 50Rs/Coconut.
The starting point is located in St Pierre. Traveling by car, coming from Moka, 150m after the roundabout of the old sugar refinery of Mont Desert Alma, follow the direction of "Le Pouce/Nouvelle découverte". Take the first on left, keep straight ahead for 150m, after crossing a bridge, take the first to the left.
Around a kilometer after, the road does a 90° to the left. Stay alert, the road to Le Pouce start about 15 meters before the curve to the right. It’s a trail going through sugarcane fields, with only one sign at the very beginning telling you are on the right track.
You can park your car there, or follow the dusty trail before following the path with the steepest slope towards Le Pouce («The thumb» in French). You’ll be able to park at a crossroads.
Arriving with public transportation is beneficial for two reasons: First, it’s very cheap, and second, you can leave towards Port-Louis without having to abandon your car at «the foot of the thumb.»
Take the bus heading towards St-Pierre/Moka from bus stations you can find in Curepipe, Vacoas, Quatre Bornes, Port-Louis, or Rose Hill. Don’t be shy and ask at the bus station if you’re unsure.
An alternative is to drive your car to a bus hub like Bagatelle or Réduit, park there, and grab the Mokaor St Pierre bus.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this small atoll lies East of Mauritius. You’ll never find deers here, but a beautiful sandy paradise.
There are no accommodations, and it’s forbidden to spend the night. The last taxi boats leave around 16:00 (or 4 pm), so plan ahead, and leave early for the Poste De Flacq to grab a slower yet way cheaper boat: 800Rs/person for the crossing, at most.
If you fancy a seafood BBQ, try and haggle with the fishermen. For vegans, there are delicious takeaways along the seaside of Mauritius.
Accessible by bus. Bus stop: Hotel Coralia Mont Choisy.
J’ai obtenu mes brevets PADI auprès de John Li, pratiquant la plongée à Maurice I got my PADI certification from John Li, a veteran scuba diver in Mauritius for the past 30 years. He knows all the best spots to enjoy scuba diving (Caves, shipwrecks, by day or by night):
John Li Tet Woon,
Mont Choisy, hotel Coralia, ask for Paradise Diving.
Tel.: (230) 265 6070 . Fax: (230) 265 6749
If you choose another guide, you might want to favor the areas of Pereybère or Mont Choisy. The diving spots are numerous and easily accessible.
Plan half a day, or even a full day if you want to visit Grand Bay, with a stop at the Mont Choisy beach. After that, follow the seaside road toward Pereybère and Bain Boeuf, either by bus or by car.
Compter la grosse matinée ou la journée si on complète si on prévoit en plus une
Doable in half a day (preferably during the morning), it’s easier to reach the 3 sites with a car. The cultivation of tea started during the colonial implantation at Rivière des Anguilles, where the weather meets the perfect requirements for the plant, thanks to the altitude.
Tel: +(230) 626 1734
Domaine des Aubineaux: Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 16:00. Saturday, from 8:30 to 13:30.
Bois Chéri: Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 16:00 Saturday, from 8:30 to 13:30
Saint Aubin: Monday through Saturday from 8:30 to 16:00
Visit duration: 1 to 2 hours per stop
On the road to Flic-en-Flac lies Casela (Bus to Rivière Noire, the bus stop is called Casela). An amazing natural reserve of endemic species, such as immense protected turtles more than a century old! You will need around 3 hours to see the whole thing.
Without delving too much into the subject, because it’s extensively covered in guides, we still want to highlight the walk amongst lion and tiger cubs (We visited it during one of our previous stay in 2013). To put it bluntly, the aftertaste was bitter. The poor cubs are hardly free to run and play as they please, and are constantly scolded or even whipped to behave and act for the tourists. On top of that, they obviously do not belong in Mauritius, and thus are brought back from Africa.
Tel : +230 452 2828 (Monday – Friday 8:00 – 16:30, Saturday 8:00 – 12:00)
You could, of course, eat at the restaurant in Casela, but we’d rather enjoy a meal at "Ah-Youn", a 15 mins drive (by car, 25 by bus - Bus Flic-en-Flac, bus stop: Ah Yun) away, located on the seaside, next to Flic en Flac. It’s Sino-Mauritian cuisine, at very affordable rates.
To book a table, call +230 453 9099.
Treat yourself (you deserve it) to a drink at Domaine Anna, lost amongst the sugarcanes, on the road after Cascavelle, towards Flic en Flac. The food didn’t make an impression and is quite pricey. So why come here you ask? Well, the setting is a typical colonial house and its small garden and quite frankly beautiful.
Hop on the bus heading to Pamplemousse, from Port-Louis North station. The botanical garden of Pamplemousse (which means grapefruit) is a perfect setting for a walk amongst the trees, covering 25 hectares.
300 meters from the park lies the eco-museum of sugar. Installed at the heart of the old sugar refinery of Beau Plan (active until 1998, transformed in 2002). Interesting yet not great. I did want -and plan- to visit an actual refinery, but it’s proven harder to do nowadays.
It might be possible if you plan ahead of leaving, by contacting the management branch of the refinery, but it’s not a given.
1. Grand Bassin
Leave as soon as 8:00 (am), and drive towards Grand Bassin, also called «Ganga Talao» a Hindu place of worship and the sacred lake..
En se laissant guider par les prêtres hindous, on peut prendre part aux rituels chatoyants et colorés.
Après cette escapade spirituelle, en revenant sur ses pas de 2km, on prend la direction de Chamounix pour s’arrêter à «Alexandra falls», chute de 32m de haut, à 700m d’altitude ayant plusieurs millions d’année. C’est le point de départ de plusieurs trekkings - que nous n’avons pour l’instant pas faits nous-même -.
2. Black River
Let yourself be guided by the Hindu priests, and partake in bright and colorful rituals.
After this spiritual getaway, backtracking for about 2km, take the Chamounix road to climb at an altitude of 700m and gaze at the 32m high -and very old (millions of years)- Alexandra Falls. It’s also the starting point of several trekking paths, but we still haven’t tried any of these...yet.
You may continue towards Plaine Champagne, and stop on the parking of "Black River Gorges" to admire the view. The landscape hasn’t changed for the past 20 years:
There, a truck sells organic sugar cane juice. If you bring your own recipient, take away is a possibility. The taste is peculiar, tasty and refreshing, but first and foremost a powerful natural burst of energy!
3. Chamarel region
If you keep going, you will end up at the Rum distillery of Chamarel,. a good addition to the topic of refreshment you started earlier in the day.
What’s so interesting about this distillery, is that it benefits from a fairly recent change of the law. Rum used to be exclusively produced by using sugar refinery residues, which is the most common ingredient across the world when it comes to rum. Whereas now, it is possible in Mauritius to use pure sugarcane juice!
Of course, the Chamarel rum benefits from a finely tuned agricultural process, double distillation, and is aged in french oak barrels. For the connoisseurs, labels such as VS, VSOP, and even XO are now available. You can find the exact same bottle at the airport’s duty-free shopping center.
Guided tour and tasting.
Call +230 483 4980 to get a schedule.
After the tasting, it would be wise to fill your stomach with something a bit more...consistent. Keep following the road, and stop at the restaurant "le Chamarel". A bit posh, yet affordable.
Tel: (230) 483 6421
Excellent cuisine and the best vantage point on the island in our opinion, the balcony will let you enjoy the view on the valley of Rivière Noire while eating. Awe inspiring, even during torrential rains!
*- Tip: It’s not on the menu, and only if you pre-order, but do try the "arrouille" (a local kind of Jerusalem artichoke) purée and manioc french fries. Rare and tasty dishes.
*- A recent change of the menu has left a lot of people disappointed, but it seems the complaints have been heard. Let’s hope it means local dishes and flavor will be back very soon (January 2017).
After the meal, you will finally reach the famous 7 colored earths, and visit the natural park famous for its waterfalls and rock formations in the middle of a tropical forest.
The way back through Rivière Noire and Tamarin is a good opportunity to stop on the beach at any time, and maybe visit the historical salt evaporation pond, still active to this day.
There are, as might imagine, hundreds more places I could mention, craftsmen, cute places, strolls, museums and much more.
Embrace the adventure, jump on a random bus, immerse yourself, and Mauritius will unveil its hidden beauty.
Mauritians, in general, are very efficient in the service sector. It’s always interesting when I come in an administration building with a complicated issue. Even if take hours, you can bet someone is working tirelessly to solve it.
The people are in general very forthcoming. The idea of politeness might differ when you go shopping, but we feel the human warmth when we haggle the prices, getting good laughs all while doing it.
The roads are excellent in about 90% of the island. Driving is done on the right side of the road, a British heritage. With the type B french driver’s license, you can rent a 15 seat minivan.
Drivers give the right-of-way easily, with a smile, and are always grateful. The courtesy is exemplary...maybe not as much during heavy traffic hours in Port Louis.
Directions and road signals are everywhere. Now add to that a good GPS coverage and accurate Google maps, and it gets really hard to get lost.
From fancy restaurant to street food you buy in small markets, the local gastronomy is very rich. It’s also veg’ heaven, as it’s very common even for a small restaurant to have a "classical" section in the menu, and a "Non-veg" one for meat and fish.
If you want delicious treats, the crowd of street food vendors got you covered!
The list goes on and on and would be way too big to fit here. Good luck tasting them all! !
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