Tropical Mauritius is merely a speck in the vast Indian Ocean. But it what lacks in size it makes up for in breathtaking beaches and unique history. So don't be a Dodo when you visit! Here's a quick glance at the Republic of Mauritius.
Where: Mauritius is located in the Southern Hemisphere, approximately 3075 km from South Africa. The Island is surrounded by the Indian Ocean. Its closest neighbours are Reunion to the southwest and Rodrigues to the northeast.
Apart from Mauritius itself, the republic also contains the islands of Cargados Carajos, Rodrigues and the Agalega Islands.
Capital: Port Louis
Population: Estimated at 1,303,717.
Head of state: Sir Anerood Jugnauth is their President, with Navinchandra Ramgoolan as Prime Minister.
Area: 2040 km2
SEE: Tropical island stays to suit your South African budget
Languages: Mauritian Creole (a French based Creole) is the primary spoken language, followed by Bhojpuri and French. Although English is only the mother tongue of less than 1% of the local population, it is widely spoken.
Currency: Mauritian Rupee (Costs approximately R0.37 per Rupee)
Climate: The isle's climate is decidedly tropical. The warm, dry winter (May to November) and the hot and humid summer (November to May) makes it perfect for a year round holiday. The highest rainfall occurs between January and March and the occasional southeast trade winds make for a pleasant cool down.
Time zones: Mauritius uses Mauritian Time (Coordinated Universal Time +4).
When to go: May to December are full of perfect beach days and as we have seen the highest rainfall occurs from January to March due to cyclones out at sea. The pleasant trade winds also tend to border on unpleasant during the months of July and August. Unfortunately the high season is year round, with the high-high season peaking over Christmas and New Year.
Food to try: Gateaux Piments (Chilli Cakes), Purri (A pancake stuffed with dholl and tomato sauce) or Vindaye (a kind of pickled meat).
Useful phrases: Chances are if you're in Mauritius you are heading to the beach, so if you are lost just ask a local in Creole "exkize moi, pu al la plaze ?" (excuse me where is the beach?) and you will be on your way!
Official carrier: Air Mauritius
Getting there: To catch a flight to Mauritius from South Africa, you can fly direct to Port Louis' Plaisance International Airport from Johannesburg with Air Mauritius or South African Airways daily. Kulula.com, via British Airways, also runs flights twice a week that are slightly cheaper.
Visa: South African nationals do not require a visa when visiting Mauritius.
SEE: Mauritius: A Foodie's Paradise!
What sets Mauritius apart from other holiday paradises, is that when you are over miffing in the sun, there is a veritable treasure trove of nightlife hotspots and a rich history to explore. Start in the cosmopolitan capital of Port Louis where the rich tapestry of a harbour city, with its varied influences, is on full display. The experience starts fresh from the airport as the mountains of Le Pouce and Pieter Both welcome you to the city. But don't just visit the touristy Waterfront, or you will be missing out on the hustle of the streets, the cacophony of China Town, the many museums and well preserved colonial manors.
Blue Bay is what tourism promotors and holiday makers alike dream of. It is one of those places where it is simply hard to get a bad picture! The crystalline blue waters make it one of the quintessential beaches to frolic in. There are also plenty of water sports and snorkelling opportunities in the area. The water is warm, the sand is white and as a popular spot, there might just be something for your eye too.
SEE: Tee-off in the tropics: 3 golf courses and what you can expect
The quaint village of Chamarel is home to two natural wonders: the Chamarel falls and the coloured ‘earths'. The earths were created by cooling volcanic matter, but due to the different speeds at which they solidified they have made for intricate patterns and breathtaking colours. When you pick up a handful of the eroded colourful earth, something bizarre happens; the earth eventually joins its original colour and forms a series of layers in your hand! The breathtaking falls, speak for themselves.
Le Morne Peninsula
The Impressive Le Morne Brabant is today known for its indulgent resorts and some of the best stretches of coastline in Southern Mauritius. Yet, it takes its name from a sad incident where escaped slaved jumped to their deaths at the site of soldiers. They feared being recaptured. However, they were not told that slavery was abolished subsequent to their escape. Today "The Mournful One" has a much happier atmosphere and is a favourite with tourists seeking sun and surf.
Black River Gorges National Park
Escape the onslaught of the lazy crowds and explore a world of volcanic lakes, thick forests and wild monkeys! The Black River Gorges National Park is Mauritius' only official national park. It covers an impressive 3.5% of the total surface of the island and it is here where 300 species of flowering plants and nine species of indigenous birds make their luxuriant home. Although you can take a minibus around, the network of excellent hiking trails is a much better option to see the island's natural assets first hand.
As one of the islands that form part of the Republic of Mauritius, Rodrigues is a very unique part of the country. Here you will find less crowds and more untouched beaches. The mountainous isle might not offer sugar cane or other comforts that Mauritius has a plenty, but the fewer beaches are spectacular and easily offer the best diving in the region. It is a far better option for the eco-friendly traveller longing to do their own thing.
What to read next on Traveller24:
- 20 must-do events during your 2017 Mauritius escape
- Gypsetting: Mauritius from a different perspective...
- Through Mauritian eyes: Exploring the island as a local