If, when you think of Mauritius, you only dream beaches and imagine yourselves on the deckchair drinking your cocktail in the shade of a palm tree…it means one thing: you are underestimating the potential of this small island (besides the fact that you desperately need a vacation). The hinterland is full of naturalistic and cultural attractions that will make you discover the way in which historical factors have influenced the life of the population today and the foundations of its economy. If you are interested in getting in touch with these aspects, we recommend a minimum stay of 2 weeks, in this way you will have time to relax on the beach and you will have the opportunity to stop in each place, recovering any days lost due to bad weather (as in all tropical destinations, even in Mauritius it can happen to have frequent rainy periods even during the dry season). Discover with us what are the main attractions of the island, we will also leave you some ideas for what we have not been able to visit.
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Chamarel – Seven Colored Earth (250 MUR ~ 6 €/person)
Chamarel is a place full of attractions, you could easily spend the whole day here jumping from one place to another, but if your available time is short, undoubtedly opt for the Seven Colored Earth.
It is an enclosed hill where the earth takes on incredible reddish shades, made more brilliant by the contrast with the green of the surrounding vegetation, creating a beautiful glance.
The incidence of the sun’s rays and a clear rather than cloudy day can vary the show that will appear before your eyes…beware of the super filtered photos that you find on the web, they could disappoint your expectations. The route is all around the hill allowing you to admire the nuances of the terrain from different position.
Behind the hill you will find a fence with giant turtles, you can lean towards these animals to touch them but be careful not to touch them on the head, it is a point that annoys them particularly and they can even bite you (the guardian of the fence still carried the signs). The entrance ticket also includes access to the viewpoint on the Chamarel Waterfalls, which boast the highest jump in all of Mauritius (over 100 m), but can be combined with other excursions in the same area of the natural park. Leave the natural beauty behind, head to the Rhumerie de Chamarel, where you can visit the rum factory and end the tour with a tasting (included in the entrance ticket), the rum in fact, thanks to the great quantity of sugar cane plantations, it is one of the typical products of the island. For those who cannot bring home a bottle of rum, we recommend this site that makes shipments in Europe directly from Rhumerie. Finally, you can complete your day by visiting the Curious Corner of Chamarel, (click here for the website), a small contemporary art gallery where you can take bizarre photos with nice optical effects .
Bois Cheri Tea Factory (425 MUR ~ 10 €/person)
A smaller but equally important business for the island is the tea. The guided tour of the Tea Factory is interesting for several reasons.
The first is that you will have the opportunity to be accompanied through the factory departments and touch the production process of something that we are used to handling in the form of a ready-to-use sachet. You will be shown the machinery used during the production process and you will see some of them operating rather than others depending on the season. An interesting thing we learned was for example that different varieties of tea always come from the same leaf but with different drying times (this is the case with green and black tea). The best memory we carry with us from this experience are the smiles of the workers in the only department active at the time of our visit, that is the packaging: behind those shiny and elegant tea boxes there are people who select and place the sachets with meticulousness and dedication, while the machines seal the packages under their watchful eyes.
The second reason why the visit is worthwhile is the tea tasting on the terrace of the panoramic restaurant (it is included in the entrance ticket). It is located not far from the factory (about 800 m) and if you are lucky along the way you may come across a herd of deer .
The tasting includes one or more cups of tea at your discretion (you will have different flavors and qualities of tea available) accompanied by artisan biscuits. You will find several boxes of tea already on the table with many flavors to choose from: coconut, vanilla, caramel, moringa, bergamot, mint, cardamom, red fruits, exotic fruits, green tea, black tea and more…if you like it particularly you can buy tea directly at the factory reception, where there is a small shop for sale to the public. Ah, please do not be intimidated by the closed bar at the entrance, you must say that you are there for the visit.
L’Aventure du Sucre (425 MUR ~ 10 €/person)
It is a former sugar factory that was decommissioned in 1999 to be used as a museum. The machinery used was still visible and the whole process of producing sugar crystals starting from the sugar cane plant, of which Mauritius is rich, is illustrated in detail. The reason why we recommend visiting this establishment is precisely because Mauritius has focused its economy on the production and export of sugar for centuries, so you will come out with an overview of the country’s historical background. The establishment dates back to the end of the eighteenth century and collects numerous historical testimonies of the colonial period. At the end of the visit, various types of raw sugar will be tasted (included in the entrance ticket). For the visit consider about 2 hours. For more information visit the museum website.
Maison Eureka (300 MUR ~ 7 €/person)
A beautiful colonial home of the mid-nineteenth century, perfectly preserved, surrounded by a large garden, among whose porches you can taste the typical dishes of Creole cuisine.
The visit can be carried out independently or, if you wish, you can request a guide. The path unfolds between the various rooms, with both original and integrated furnishings, all perfectly preserved, which give an excellent idea of how the life of a wealthy colonial family could have been. Pay attention to the red room (painted in this way as a set for an Indian film and then left like this) and the chinese room (it seems that having objects from the far east at home was an indication of the prestige and power of the family). Behind the house, the visit continues in the gardens: follow the path through the vegetation that descends along the slope until you reach the beautiful waterfalls. Do not be despondent by the difference in height, the walk lasts a maximum of 10 minutes (preferably to do with sneakers at your feet, because the ground can become slippery).
Before leaving the site, it is impossible not to be tempted by the desire to sit at one of the tables facing the lawn to taste something typical. All around the house, in fact, there is a splendid patio equipped as a restaurant and the kitchens are positioned in the stone cottages that once served as servants .
The visit of the interiors is relatively short, so if you have the opportunity to stay a few minutes to enjoy the tranquility of this place and the harmony of its gardens, do it! If you have time and you particularly liked this historic home, another similar building you could visit is the Chateau Labourdonnais (click here for the website).
Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens (200 MUR ~ 5 €/person)
The Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens represent one of the most visited attractions in Mauritius and are considered among the most beautiful in the world. You can visit them independently or rely on the experience of local guides (to be paid separately) who will be at your disposal immediately after entry.
The site is well maintained and cared for, the biodiversity of the flora is amazing, however there are few noteworthy elements that will attract your attention: the Talipot palm trees, with giant leaves (up to 5 meters in diameter), the secular Baobab tree from the trunk huge and finally the said main attraction of the garden, that is the tank with giant water lilies, whose floating leaves can reach 2 meters in diameter.
For the rest it will seem to walk in a common tropical garden and for those who love contact with nature it will prove to be a very pleasant and relaxing experience. Curious is its past, the garden in fact was born as a vegetable garden around the Mon Plaisir Chateau, the colonial-style palace that can still be visited today inside the park (but do not have too high expectations because the interiors have remained completely devoid of furniture, there is only the structure articulated on two floors, both accessible).
Not far away there is the funeral platform where the first Prime Minister of Mauritius Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam was cremated and on the 18th September 1988 the gardens were entitled to him ‘In beloved Memory of the Father of the Nation‘, as can be read on the memorial monument. On that occasion many important personalities from the world visited and decided to plant trees inside the garden as tribute. In addition to an extraordinary variety of flowers and plants, inside the garden you will find fences with deer (it is in fact a species very present on the island) and giant terrestrial turtles .
The visit to the garden can be done in about 1 hour and a half, the garden is in fact not as large as one would expect (looking at the map it looks much bigger than it actually is). For more info, to consult the catalog of visible species of flowers and the garden map, you can connect to the garden website.
Ile aux Aigrettes (800 MUR ~ 19 €/person)
A small uninhabited island used as a natural reserve, contains a unique wealth of species of flora and fauna…some of them now live only here, like the pink pigeon. The only way to visit the island is to rely on a guided tour accompanied by authorized personnel. In Pointe d’Esny there is a small cottage on the coastal road where you can book the excursion; the boat to the island starts from the pier opposite (which you can find on maps such as Pointe Jerome Embarkation Point). The small stretch of sea that separates it from the mainland takes on colors with enchanting and brilliant shades, navigation takes a few minutes, so prepare the camera.
On the island you will be guided through a path in the vegetation, we recommend comfortable clothes, sneakers and mosquito repellent which are also present during the dry season (since you stop frequently to listen to the guide it is easy for them to attack you!). You will be led to the discovery of endemic plants and endangered animals, here you will see giant turtles (Big Daddy is the largest in the island), the very rare and wonderful pink pigeon, the giant gecko and a graceful olive green nightingale with the eye surrounded by a circle of white feathers, as well as the other colorful birds visible all over Mauritius (such as the typical Red Head, with a bright red head).
Among the plants you will see numerous orchids, the ebony forest and other endemic species. The visit also includes entering a small laboratory in a greenhouse, where biologists treat and study local species; there are also cages in which some endangered specimens are kept in shelter (such as small turtles, still too small and vulnerable to be left alone on the island).
Some bronze sculptures appear among the vegetation to show you the extinct species, rebuilt at full size (such as the dodo and the long-necked turtle). The visit ends in the small museum and gift shop, where every purchase benefits this small nature reserve. The excursion lasts about 2 hours. For more information on the Ile aux Aigrettes and other similar excursions you can visit the dedicated website. Other interesting excursions can be the northern islands of Mauritius Gunner’s Quoin, Serpent Island, Round Island, but be careful because mooring is not allowed on these islands.
Ile aux Cerfs (1800 MUR ~ 42 €/person)
The excursion to the Ile aux Cerfs (Isle of the Deer) is the most controversial and discussed one, it is painted as an unmissable stop to do during a holiday in Mauritius, but its own success is damaging it. Naturally speaking, the island is an enchanting place, but it has been so exploited as to have become a mass tourism destination.
For this reason we have decided to dedicate a separate article to it, so now we want to give you just some general information. The excursions that can be done are of two types: by catamaran (a solution that allows you to take advantage of navigation too, sunbathing and admiring the sea that flows fast under you) or by speedboat (a more versatile solution because it shortens sailing times and takes you to see the waterfalls without having to tranship on a smaller boat). The catamaran excursions all start from Trou d’Eau Douce, on the east coast of Mauritius and have a cost that can vary from 1500 to 2000 MUR (they are inclusive of lunch, snorkeling and a stop at the waterfalls ) and are spread over the whole day.
Motorboat excursions have higher prices but are more flexible about the place of departure, for the rest they are equivalent to those by catamaran. We advise you to consider the possibility of making a catamaran excursion also to Flat Island and Gabriel Island (off the north coast of Mauritius), amazing too but uninhabited and less inflated than Ile aux Cerfs.
At the end of this article full of ideas, we hope we made you want to leave your resort and the beach for a few hours, to discover the beauties of Mauritius. Interfacing with a culture so different from ours is a precious opportunity, do not deprive yourself of it. If you are curious people, you will find that the attractions of the island are not limited to these ones; much more we will show and tell you in our next articles.
See you soon