The island nation of Mauritius (officially the Republic of Mauritius) is located in the Indian Ocean, off the southeast coast of Africa. Mauritius was a British colony, taken from France during the Napoleonic Wars in 1810, until gaining independence in 1968. While English is the only official language, French and Mauritian Creole are more commonly spoken. A wide variety of ethnicities (Indian, African, Chinese, and French to name a few) are found on the island as no indigenous peoples lived on Mauritius prior to European discovery. Thus the population of Port Louis is now largely made up of descendants of laborers from India and African slaves. Many Mauritians are of mixed ethnic descent as a result of the longstanding diversity of the island.
Though geographically considered a part of Africa, the island nation of Mauritius has close relations with a variety of regions. Its closest ties are with India and South Africa (its largest trading partner), however. Mauritius is one of the most affluent countries in Africa, and is considered to be an upper middle income economy relying on tourism, textiles, sugar, and financial services. New technologies have introduced new sectors, however, and foreign investment is increasing. Construction booms in the 1990s and 2000s have dramatically changed Port Louis’ skyline. Port Louis’ skyscrapers are the tallest buildings on the island, and are quite unusual for a small African island.
- Mauritius is becoming a top luxury tourism destination with a wide variety of natural and man-made attractions, a sub-tropical climate, attractive beaches, and an exciting multi-ethnic culture. Mauritius has one of the highest rates of returning tourists in the world and is home to many attractive and well-run hotels. In January 2012 the island won the World’s Best Beach award at the World Travel Awards. Clearly the island has a lot to offer.
A wide variety of recreational activities are available on the island, but make sure to use anti-mosquito protection at all times when outside. On land one can partake in golf, tennis, sky diving, hunting, mountain biking, horse riding, as well as a variety of other exciting activities. As the island is surrounded with coral reefs, water sports are popular in the area’s shallow and calm waters. Deep-sea fishing, surfing, windsurfing, water-skiing, yachting, and even submarine rides are fun options. The national sport of Mauritius is horseracing, though Mauritians compete in a variety of local sports such as swimming, sailing, basketball, martial arts, and weightlifting.
In addition to being a haven for beach lovers, Port Louis is a snacker’s paradise. Food stalls all over town offer fantastic mixed-cuisine morsels, but the Central Market and the various bus stations are particularly popular spots. As a result of Port Louis’ cosmopolitan culture, the city celebrates a colourful variety of festivals and holidays, including Christian, Catholic, Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu, and Muslim traditions.
- Getting around
- Port Louis is the busiest and most congested city in Mauritius, with only one major road leading in and out of the city. If you are planning on spending your time on the island within Port Louis, it is not advised that you hire a car as the traffic can be stressful. If you are planning on travelling outside the city, however, many of the larger car rental companies are available and offer affordable options.
The city of Port Louis is only around 8km in diameter, with many of the attractions and amenities in close proximity to one another. This means Port Louis could be quite walk-able. If you choose not to walk or want a wider travelling range, however, you have a few additional good options. The most common form of public transportation on Mauritius is the bus—there are no railways on the island. The buses are economical and are manned by a driver and a conductor who walk around collecting fares and issuing tickets. Simply board and tell the conductor where you want to go to find out the fare amount. Most conductors are very helpful for giving local directions.
Taxis are another great way to visit the island, but make sure not to patronise unlicensed taxis. Although they may offer cheaper rates, robbers have been known to use this trick to lure and attack tourists.
Mauritius is a volcanic island, considered fairly young by geological standards. For a unique experience, consider a day trip to the volcano Trou aux Cerfs to learn more about the island’s ancient past. A “dead” volcano which hasn’t been active in millions of years, Trou aux Cerfs is located in the centre of Mauritius in the middle of the city Curepipe. This area is most easily reached via car, and there is ample parking surrounding the crater where one can park to explore by foot.
The crater of Trou aux Cerfs is around 300 metres wide and 650 metres high, and is today covered with silt, water, and vegetation. One can view a great deal of the island from the top of the volcano—including Port Louis and some of the coastal resorts. One can even climb down into the crater to the water, but the trail can be slippery so use caution and good judgement. Also in the town of Curepipe one can visit a lovely botanical gardens and enjoy a delicious dinner at one of the town’s famous restaurants.
- Beyond Mauritius
- Mauritius is a volcanic island, considered fairly young by geological standards. For a unique experience, consider a day trip to the volcano Trou aux Cerfs to learn more about the island’s ancient past. A “dead” volcano which hasn’t been active in millions of years, Trou aux Cerfs is located in the centre of Mauritius in the middle of the city Curepipe. This area is most easily reached via car, and there is ample parking surrounding the crater where one can park to explore by foot.
- Local activities
- Deep Sea Fishing – Mauritius
Love fishing? Consider a deep sea fishing excursion off the West coast of Mauritius. Boats usually accommodate up to 5 people, and one can choose between half or full day trips (full day trips typically include both breakfast and lunch). Depending on the time of year, one can expect to find blue and black marlin, multiple types of sharks, yellow tuna, bonito, or barracuda.
SSR Botanical Gardens
More than just for eco tourists, the SSR Botanical Gardens of Mauritius is a 60-acre garden boasting 500 different species of plants (of which 80 are types of palms). Founded in 1770, this is the oldest botanical garden in the Southern Hemisphere. Along with the beautiful plant varieties, the SSR Botanical Gardens also are home to deer and tortoises known for delighting visiting children.
L’Aventure du Sucre
For a fun and educational history lesson, visit L’Aventure du Sucre—an interactive and ultramodern 5000sq metre exhibition on sugarcane. Situated at the heart of an ancient sugarmill, this exhibit also offers great souvenir shopping and tastings of special unrefined sugars and local rum. An authentic Mauritian cuisine restaurant is on site.
- Local cuisine and drinks
- The cuisine of Mauritius is a unique blend of Indian, African, Chinese and European influences. Make sure to sample some of the favourite local snacks: gateaux piments (chilli cakes), samosas (vegetable or meat puffs), octopus curry in bread, or rougaille (a variation on the French ragout). The street stalls with the longest lines are most often the tastiest, and local rum is the preferred alcoholic drink.
- Where you are docked
- An emerging hub for cruise ships, Port Louis Harbour is visited by over 25 cruise ships each year, carrying over 21,000 passengers. The newly opened Christian Decotter Cruise Terminal is the first in the Indian Ocean capable of accommodating the largest ships in the world. Security at the terminal is high, and access bridges allow passengers and vehicles to easily travel into town.
- Regional weather
- Mauritius experiences a micro-climate as do most tropical islands, it could well be raining where you are, yet just a mile away the sky is cloudless and calm. Summer extends from November to April, even the winter which appears from May to October is warm and tropical.