If there's one time you can't fully believe what you see in the media and across social networks, it's the pictures and videos of posted of Mauritius.
Why? Well, because no camera can do justice to the colours and contours of this tiny piece of paradise in the Indian Ocean. While some social media posts are digitally enhanced to create greater appeal, we can safely say the #NoFilter description applies to this island, which exudes a mesmerising, natural charm.
And if you like what you see about Mauritius splashed across your timeline, then prepare to be blown away by its idyllic landscapes, breathtaking beaches and colourful cultures when you finally land on this tropical island.
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Located in the Southern Hemisphere, approximately 3 075 km from South Africa, the island covers an area of 2 040 km2. The distance from north to south is about 80km, while from west to east is approximately 60 kms.
Its closest neighbours are Reunion to the south-west and Rodrigues to the north-east. Mauritius also contains the islands of Cargados Carajos, Rodrigues and the Agalega Islands.
With a population of about 1.263 million people, the islanders warmly welcome tourists from across the globe. In fact, the island is so popular with South Africans - especially those seeking a romantic getaway - that in January 2018, South African Airways increased its seat capacity to Mauritius, which is the airline's most popular regional route!
Whether you want a romantic escape, a solo getaway or simply seek island vibes, then here's everything you need to know about planning a trip to - as the French say - Île Maurice:
Visa: South African nationals do not require a visa when visiting Mauritius (Yay!). However, passports should be valid for at least six months from date of departure from Mauritius.
Medical requirements: No special vaccines needed. But it is important to note that visitors who have passed through Yellow Fever infected areas will be required to provide proof of a Yellow Fever vaccination before entering Mauritius.
- Traveller24 tip ---> Be sure to have all necessary passport, entry and medical documents at hand at passport control at the airport. Before entering the country, your airline will give you a few forms to fill in on the plane - be sure to fill it in before you land and present it at passport control.
National carrier: Air Mauritius.
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Airport hub: Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport.
Flight routes: To catch a flight to Mauritius from South Africa, you can fly direct to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport from Johannesburg with Air Mauritius or South African Airways daily. Air Austral and Kenya Airways also service this route. Fly direct from Cape Town, Durban or JHB with Air Mauritius. Kulula.com, via British Airways, also runs flights twice a week from OR Tambo Airport that are slightly cheaper.
Currency: Mauritian Rupee - R1 = approximately 2.72 Rupees. While the Rand is stronger in Mauritius, the cost of living is equal to or greater than that of South Africa.
Expect to fork out about 320 Rupees (about R113) for a simple cocktail, 100 Rupees (about R35) for 1litre still water at the hotel, while a 330ml can of Coca-Cola at the hotel costs 60 Rupees (about R21).
- Traveller24 tip ---> Rather pack a few snacks to avoid falling victim to hefty hotel prices, and buy bottled water, cold drinks or snacks from local grocery stores and markets - you can also buy alcohol beverages at local stores at a cheaper price. Alternatively, check if it's cheaper with the hotel's bar to buy a bottle to share with friends, rather than individual drinks at a time and choose your cocktails wisely or you could leave the island with a big bill to pay.
Capital: Port Louis (northern Mauritius).
Time zones: Mauritius time is 2-0hours ahead of South African time (GMT +4).
Travel adapter: Type C and G.
Languages: French and English are the official languages, however Mauritian Creole (a French-based Creole) is the primary spoken language, followed by Bhojpuri (an Indo-Aryan language). Although English is only the mother tongue of less than 1% of the local population, it is widely spoken, with most Mauritians being bi-lingual.
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!
Okay seriously, with radiant turquoise water all around, finding the beach is easy - in fact you will be drawn to it in an almost mystical magnetism! So here are some other important phrases to note in Mauritian Creole:
- Hello - Bonzur
- Goodbye - Orewar
- Please - Si ouplé
- Thank you - Mersi
- Yes - Wi
- No - Non
- I don't understand - Mo pas compran
- Sorry - Sori
Public transport: Buses, private taxis, or hire a car, bicycle or scooter. In most cases, transport can be arranged with the hotel where you are staying, to drop and pick you up from your desired destinations.
Climate: Brace yourself for the humidity - Durban has nothing on Mauritius! The climate is tropical, making it perfect for a holiday at any time of year. Expect a warm, dry winter from May to October – with average coastal temperatures of 24°C at midday, and hot, humid summer from November to April – with average coastal temperatures of 30°C at midday.
- Traveller24 tip ---> Pack light, comfortable casual clothing even if the weather forecast predicts a thunderstorm (more rain equals more humidity and greater discomfort). Be sure to pack the following: Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, flip flops, mosquito repellent and allergy tablets (expect to get bitten by all sorts of bugs), swimwear, zip-lock waterproof bag (for your belongings when you go on a boat ride).
When to go: May to December are full of perfect beach days. The highest rainfall occurs between January and May, with the possibility of stray cyclones between January and March. The occasional south-east winds make for a pleasant cool down on those hot and humid days, however these winds tend to border on unpleasant during the months of July and August.
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Also try Gateaux Piments (chilli cakes), Dhall Purri (a pancake stuffed with dhall and tomato sauce) or Vindaye (a mild curry). When it comes to beverages, you have try out bois cheri tea which is a Mauritian favourite (we recommend giving the vanilla flavour a try), as well as local rum and even litchi wine. Yes, wine made from litchi! The island is a producer of vanilla, so be sure to bring home some pods and paste for your pantry.
What to pack:
- Your passport, arrival and return tickets, adequate money.
- A camera, notebook/ tablet or smartphone, power-bank to stay charged on the go.
- Comfortable, lightweight, and casual clothes, and a few smart-casual items for those fancier dinners.
- Comfortable sandals, sneakers and strong shoes if you decide to go on hikes.
- A hat, sunscreen, sunglasses.
- Hand sanitiser, tissues, wet wipes, insect repellent, prescription medication.
- Binoculars for safaris/ sightseeing, waterproof bag to store personal belongings when on boat cruises/ water activities.
Tips while exploring:
- Learn the common phrases in the local language and about local culture, and respect cultural norms.
- Barter at the markets, but don't do this excessively.
- Exchange money at the airport rather than hotels.
- Avoid buses after 6 pm as many regions get deserted in the evenings and night.
- Don’t hike without a guide.
Mauritius has a unique history that has resulted in an amalgamation of cultures, languages, cuisine and way of life. Here are some places to visit to experience Mauritius to its fullest:
Port Louis: Check out nightlife hotspots in this harbour city and discover the island's rich history. Visit the Waterfront, embrace the hustle of the streets, check out China Town, and explore the many museums and well-preserved colonial manors.
Blue Bay: The crystalline blue waters make it one of the quintessential beaches to frolic in, with water sports and snorkelling opportunities too.
Chamarel: The quaint village of Chamarel is home to two natural wonders: the Chamarel falls and the coloured 'earths' which were created by cooling volcanic matter. Visitors say that 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!
Pointe d'Esny: Situated in the south-east of Mauritius, which holds a deep heritage and history, this area is covered with sugar cane fields, lush mountains and pristine beaches overlooking the horizon no matter which way you turn. The south-east is considered the “cradle of the nation” according to Compagnie de Beau Vallon - which has a number of projects underway to sustainably grow tourism in the region and show the world an authentic natural and cultural side of Mauritius that it has never seen before.
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Le Morne Peninsula: While it is currently known for its indulgent resorts and some of the best stretches of coastline in Southern Mauritius, its name comes from a tragic incident where escaped slaves jumped to their deaths at the site of soldiers. "The Mournful One" has a much happier atmosphere now and is a favourite with tourists seeking sun and surf.
Mahebourg: Delve deep into Mauritian culture in this small town. Visit local fresh produce markets, a decades-old biscuit factory that uses cassava roots to make biscuits, source the local tea, walk the narrow streets of this quaint old town while shopping or learn more about Mauritian history at manors and museums.
Black River Gorges National Park: Explore a world of volcanic lakes, thick forests and wild monkeys at 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.
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Rodrigues: One of the islands that form part of the Republic of Mauritius, Rodrigues boasts less crowds and more untouched beaches offering the best diving in the region.