Role back eight million years and as you sail across the South Western region of the Indian Ocean, 855 kilometres east of Madagascar, there would have been nothing much apart from the sight of open water for as far as the eye can see. Today crossing this exact same location will provide you with the magnificent sight of the island of Mauritius. Sitting proud above the surrounding, contrasting but complimentary crystal clear turquoise waters, it is an island that has evolved and blossomed since its formation from what was a volcanic eruption.
So, when you think Mauritius what really does come to mind? Potentially a paradise island for romantic honeymooners and 5* Luxury resorts which lines it’s stunning white sand beaches? Yes, we cannot deny you are right about that, however there is so much more to the island than this stereotypical imprint. Unlike some of the other Indian Ocean Islands, it is not only about its beautiful beaches and turquoise waters but in fact does also have a fascinating history, a rich culture and thanks to its volcanic mountainous terrain, some impressive landscapes. This is only enhanced by the fact that this relatively small island does have two Unesco World Heritage sites.
Le Morne Brabant
When browsing through travel magazines, reading travel guides or just scrolling through Instagram, one of the most, if not the most, common sight or recommendation will be Le Morne Brabant … and for good reason.
At 556m tall the combination of its majestic natural beauty and significant history, Le Mourne is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located on the South-West tip of the Island, this isolated wonder today provides for what is the country’s toughest hiking challenge for visitors. The 7km trail is a tough test for those wanting to reach the highest accessible point as it winds itself up the mountain, progressively getting steeper to the point by which you are using all fours to scramble up the steep uneven rock face. Despite the struggles to reach the top, this beautiful trail is an extremely rewarding climb especially when presented with the final unprecedented panoramic views, which may only be rivalled by those from the helicopter rides (the lazy and expensive alternativeJ). Although having a guide is not mandatory, for the final third of the ascent it is highly recommended as the trail does get a little sketchy.
In addition to being able to provide the support and guidance throughout the climb, the local guides for this specific hike do also provide visitors with a very touching unique experience as they consider the journey to be somewhat of a pilgrimage due to the historical significance of this Iconic site. In our eyes it is a hike which epitomises the quote “It is not about the destination, it is about the journey”.
I guess the main question is, what happened there that was so significant? Well dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries when both the Dutch and French settled here, slavery was used by these nations in order to cultivate the land. As expected many of these slaves attempted to escape captivity in search of adequate safe hiding places. Due to its isolated nature with steep cliffs, an abundance of caves and its largely wooded surrounding, Le Morne Brabant was the target for those brave enough to make a run for it. Providing great vantage points and with an abundance of lookouts, it was the ideal refuge and shelter. Unfortunately, Le Morne Brbant is not only known as what was a refuge for slaves but also the place where a number ended their lives on the 1st February 1835 when they jumped from the top to avoid being recaptured.
Today Le Morne Barbant is a symbol of freedom in remembrance of the hundreds of slaves who faced extreme sacrifice and suffering in their fight for freedom. At the highest accessible point to visitors stands a large metallic cross honouring those who lost their lives. The location is truly fitting, not only because it provides that stark reminder as to where it took place, but also the magnificent vistas do inspire for reflection on the historical journey your guide has taken you on as you walked the very same paths as those slaves did many years ago.
Swimming with Dolphins
If you think the sights of the crystal clear turquoise waters are impressive as they glisten in light sea breeze and afternoon sun, it does not quite stop there as you drive below the water’s surface and admire the energetic wildlife. We could sit here and write pages of what to find in the surrounding waters, but one of the popular friendly residents are the Bottlenose and Spinner Dolphins who glide effortlessly along the reefs edge in the morning sunlight before they head into the deeper waters to feed. Being able to witness these majestic playful creatures in their natural habitat is pretty majestic but having the unique opportunity to do this whilst sharing their habitat and swimming not too far away is surely up there with the most memorable wildlife encounters.
Unfortunately, this was the one experience we left Mauritius wishing we could have done but like all trips, you can’t get round to doing everything. There are however an endless number of operators who offer this particular experience but may also be organised from the comforts of most hotels.
With an area of just over 2000 square kilometres and today home to a whopping 1.3million inhabitants, Mauritius does actually take pole position for the highest population density across Africa. The Island’s capital city is responsible for just under 15% of this number and is a peculiar amassment of different nationalities and cultures from across the globe. In all honesty, missing out on a visit to the capital should not cause too much disappointment as there is little to provide much excitement. The biggest draw for visitors is probably between the hustle and bustle of downtown where street vendors line the streets or the original, well preserved colonial buildings. With this being said, it is however the perfect opportunity to indulge in the true culture of Mauritius away from the superficial luxury of the global resorts.
Where to Stay?
With over 90 recognised hotels scattered across the island, one of the hardest choices, or at least for us, is WHERE TO STAY? I guess if you have an idea as to what you really want to see or do, this will help dictate where on the island you head, otherwise things might get a little indecisive.
When looking into visiting the island, there is the question as to how long will you be staying as if you give yourself enough time on the island, you may be able to divide your time at along differing regions and therefore giving you the opportunity to enjoy more than one of the impressive hotels.
As curious travellers ourselves who do look to fit in as much as possible in order to really enjoy as much of our journeys as possible, we divided up our time on Mauritius into three. In our minds we also felt it would be an opportunity gone begging if we visited three hotels which offered competitive hospitality providing similar experiences with simply a slightly alternative room, pool and decor. With Mauritius known for its exceptional hotel experiences our aim was to find three completely different types of accommodation to get a feel for what it truly has to offer.
La Pirogue – Flic and Flac
As the only single storey grounded accommodation in Mauritius, La Pirogue will immediately grasp your attention when after that unique memorable Mauritian experience. Unlike many other resorts, La Pirogue does also not simply offer you a room, but rather your own private individual thatched bungalow which opens out onto the dense palm groves and extensive lush lawns which roll out straight onto the sugar white beach front.
Along with the many things there are do around the island, we appreciate that there are also many visitors who are not looking to venture too far from the confines of the resort . For those who are still looking to keep slightly active and keep away from the food and drink, even if it is only for an hour or so, La Pirogue does have an extensive offering for adventures in paradise, from water sports to calming sunrise yoga. With the waters surrounding the island rich in wildlife and vibrant in colour, there is also that opportunity to take the plunge and become a certified diver.
With three restaurants within the resort you are most certainly in for some incredible culinary experiences which are able to cater for even the fussiest of eaters. When in Mauritius though, you must eat like the Mauritians and that is exactly what their very own Coconut Café provides; freshly served unparalleled local delicacies as you enjoy the views of the fine sugar white sand beach lined with coconut trees and the glistening gentle azure blue waters lapping the shore line.
As can be expected when basking in the sun all day, a shady escape and a refreshing cold drink to quench that thirst is likely to be on your agenda on more than one occasion. With three very different bar choices it is likely you will find your little guilty pleasure to sip on your favourite signature cocktail, Mauritian beer, fine wine or even just a refreshing ice cold soft drink. The Le Morne beach bar is the Island life type of relaxed bar to stop off at between your time in the sea and the pools, however there is also the Van Der Stel wine bar which is able to satisfy even the most sophisticated of palettes.
If you still struggle to really find what you after, then there is another option which will almost certainly meet your requirements, and this is the world famous Buddah-Bar in their neighbouring sister resort of Sugar Beach.
This new addition to the resort adds to their excellence, providing “the perfect fusion between different flavours and a journey through musical and gastronomic experiences”. The new Buddha-Bar Beach concept combines the plantation style resort which pays tribute to the surrounding agriculture whilst at the same time encompassing the luxurious sanctuary of which is the signature DNA that all Buddah-Bars are built around. These features are then further enhanced as it is one of the few bars which actually sits on the beach giving you front row seats for a pretty impressive Indian Ocean sunset!
La Mariposa – Black River
Once a simple village inhabited by local fishermen, Black River is today a popular spot for stunning boutique hotels with none more so than La Mariposa! Fairly inconspicuous from the outside but this family owned hotel opens up into a stunning complex, housing 28 elegant rooms spread across the premises and only metres from their own secluded beach.
In contrast to the many larger global chains which dominate the island, La Mariposa offers a much more intimate stay and one that will also be remembered for those added personal touches. With a recent renovation in 2018, the fresh modern rooms reflect the vibe and colours from that of the refreshing Indian Ocean, and a great escape from the hot, humid weather during those summer months. Backed by the Black River Gorges National Park, their immaculate lush green gardens are a gentle continuation of this magnificent backdrop, offering that Mauritian sense of nature whilst sprawled out around the pool.
With their very own Korail Rouge Restaurant and in-house chef, La Mariposa does also offer their very own unique dining experience overlooking La Preneuse Conservational Lagoon. Whether it be for breakfast at sunrise or dinner at sunset, the stunning vistas of Le Morne in the distance do create an unrivalled setting.
Whether the name “La Mariposa” has a meaning or is a form of symbolic status we are not quite sure, however it is very fitting. Reborn from an old AirBnB, it is today a modern but stylish hotel which is graceful in its operation and elegant in its stature, with every detail near to perfection.
Oasis Villas, Evaco Holidays – Grand Baie
Nestled up in the well renowned region of Grand Baie, the Evaco Holiday’s Oasis Villas offer a very unique private getaway. Each with their own private garden and plunge pool, these stunning villas offer the chance for total relaxation and utter tranquillity.
These modern spacious villas which offer spatial fluidity throughout creates a sense of tranquillity and their ornate open plan living areas inspired with state of the art deco offers true elegance and an admirable luxury. Fully equipped and furnished with all your comforts and needs, it provides one with the opportunity to fully submerge yourself in your surroundings and detach from the outside world, even if it is only for a few days. With the option for grocery deliveries and your own in-house chef, you really do not have to leave.
For those who are looking to stretch your legs a little, the complementary shuttle service will be able to take you either across to the waterfront of Grand Baie or even their very own private beach club, La Plage. With a relaxed, laid back vibe this modern, whitewashed chic club offers a welcome alternative to the manicured gardens and pristine nature of the villa. Beach front sun loungers, a bar lounge and a fine restaurant does really compliment an afternoon enjoying the soft lustrous white sand and those warm Mauritian waters.
Note that our stays at these hotels were not paid partnerships and therefore the write ups are that from our own experience and not influenced in any way.