“Mauritius was made first and then heaven; and heaven was copied after Mauritius.” Such were the words of Mark Twain, renowned 19th century travel blogger, after a visit to the sun-drenched isle in 1896. He might well have a point. Long gone are the riots of the late 1960s which saw the nation gain independence from Britain rule, this tiny (720 square mile) bit of bliss remains Low Season Traveller’s pick for affordable luxury.
Lying off the southeast coast of Africa, in a remote part of the Indian Ocean, Mauritius’ low winter season runs from May to September when temperatures are cooler and there may be a little rain. However, in reality daily highs rarely drop much below 20 degrees; days are generally very pleasant with much reduced humidity while avoiding the cyclones of the summer months. Hotels and restaurants see a significant drop in prices and there are far fewer tourists, making the Mauritian winter an ideal time to explore this fascinating island nation.
Colonised by the Dutch, French, and British and populated with Indian labourers and Chinese traders, each has left their mark on the fauna (it was the Dutch blamed for finishing off the endemic dodo) and, more happily, the local architecture, food and culture. This is particularly evident in the bustling capital Port Louis, with its wonderful microcosm of cultures. Visit busy Chinatown, see the rare stamps at the Blue Penny Museum and smell the blooms at Pamplemousses Botanical Garden, once the abode of the French governor. Visit the fascinating World Heritage Site of Aapravasi Ghat, which saw half a million indentured Indians head to the island’s sugar plantations in what UNESCO describes as one of the biggest migrations in history.
Who can resist the draw of azure waters off the island’s breathtakingly beautiful white sandy shores? Take your pick from parasailing, kayaking, water skiing, scuba diving or snorkelling. Some of the best diving is along the north and west coasts with shallow reefs, caverns, crevasses and 50 different species of coral. Favourite sites include St Jacques; and the wrecks of Hoi Siong 6 and Stella Maru. Stingrays, turtles, reef sharks, angler fish, parrot fish and moray eels are all commonly spotted. Deep water fishing is also a big thing with the waters holding several world record catches.
At One with Nature
The island’s volcanic interior is also stunning. We recommend a visit to Black River Gorges National Park in the southwest. It’s pretty sizeable; at 26 square miles it covers 2% of the entire island and is home to some diverse creatures including great gingery fruit bats, the island’s last endemic mammal, and the rare pink pigeon. Crystal clear streams, tumbling waterfalls and fabulous views make this a fab place to spend time. Follow the footsteps of runaway slaves at Le Morne Brabant. On the abolition of slavery in 1835 police were sent to the monolith to give good news to runaways. Fearing capture, they sadly leapt to their deaths. A monument to them is found at the base and since 2008, the rock has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.