Modern Mommy Jo-Ann Strauss shares her recent tropical escape with us...
Most people associate Mauritius with idyllic holiday resorts and understandably so.
The island is world famous for it’s beautiful beaches. Even the epic love story just brought to screen and adapted from JoJo Moyes’s “Me Before You” has the island as its postcard representation of an escape to paradise.
Mark Twain famously wrote that God first created Mauritius and then based paradise on it. Yes, the island and its resorts tick all the right boxes. However, you definitely are losing out on discovering an incredibly diverse island if you only stick to the resorts, which is what the majority of travellers to this gem in the Indian Ocean do.
We have been traveling to the island for a number of years now. In fact, part of my prize package as Miss South Africa in 2000 (yes, 16 years ago), was a trip for 2 to this incredible speck of loveliness in the Indian Ocean and I took my mom along as my partner as we celebrated my 21st birthday – just the two of us, on a week long resort holiday! (After all, birthdays are actually half yours and half your mom’s.)
More spacious and cost-effective alternatives
WATCH: 24 Questions with Jo-Ann Strauss
Subsequently, we’ve been there a few times on shoots, conferences, etc, but we’ve generally stuck to the resorts for some reason. Well, actually most South Africans love the one-stop shop feel of resorts and the convenience of them. However, lately, with the exchange rate and the general rise in costs, resorts have started taking an extreme toll on our budgets and we’ve started looking at more spacious and cost-effective alternatives.
We’ve also realised that there is so much to discover on the island and that the resorts are a great element, but should not be the only element of one’s travels to Mauritius. So, we’ve embraced the whole “gypsetting” concept and started renting apartments when going to the island, renting a car and doing some shopping at the colourful markets and learning how to cook local food. Mauritius is a wonderful melange of different cultures – much like it’s “neighbour”, SA.
Embraced the whole “gypsetting” concept
There are Indian, Chinese, Franco-Mauritian … various influences which make this little island an incredibly vibrant one, I was on the island recently for a conference, followed by some business meetings and decided to ask an incredible Mauritian nanny/chef called Sunita (+39 338 401 4919) to join us on our little trip.
She looked after my seven-month-old daughter for a few hours a day and also helped me shop ingredients and cook incredible Mauritian dishes. We rented fully serviced 2 bedroom apartments which came in at a fraction of the cost of resorts and allowed us to cook and have ample space for living. I rented a car from a great rental company Maki, which offered free GPS (trust me, you NEED GPS on this island) and also a free additional driver.
The driving on the island happens on the same side of the road as in South Africa. So, you’ll feel comfortable driving, but do note that besides the new highways (which cut travel times up and down the island substantially), this is an island with the accompanying island roads built for quick drainage during tropical rains, so beware of the fact that most roads don’t have “shoulders” for over-taking. if you do get stuck behind a sugar-cane harvester. Then, just CHILL ??
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SEE: Mauritius: A Foodie's Paradise!
Feel more like a local
We stayed in a number of different self-catering apartments across the island and really enjoyed the autonomy of meal-times when we wanted and feeling more “local”.I figured out where to find the best Dholl Phuri and how to make it. We also came just after Divali so there was ample local festive treats like Gateau Patate or sweet potato cakes which our lovely Sunita made to perfection. We visited places like the adventure park, Casela which is amazing with kids! We would pack our own little picnic baskets and head down to the local beaches and enjoy perfectly carved pineapples from local vendors. We went hiking in the Black Rover Gorges National Park (I still dream of climbing the imposing Le Morne on our next trip) and enjoyed fried rice while watching my husband kite-surf at one of the best spots for this in the world – Le Morne.
We absolutely fell in love with this gorgeous island, like so many who have visited and ventured beyond the pristine resorts. Yes, it’s a little scruffy at times, but that’s part of the allure. The beauty of the island extends beyond its incredible beaches. The warmth of the locals is incredibly welcoming. We have now started a little business venture which we’d like to use to show others the “other” side of Mauritius and look forward to this venture in 2017. We’ll be sure you’re the first to know as soon as we’re up and running.
What to read next on Traveller24:
- Quick Guide: Mauritius
- Through Mauritian eyes: Exploring the island as a loca
- 20 must-do events during your 2017 Mauritius escape