It’s not everyday that you are given the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to one of your dream destinations. This week I packed my suitcase, boyfriend and camera and went on a trip to Mauritius in partnership with Mauritius Tourism. I had been day dreaming about this trip for a good portion of this year. What would I wear? Would my body be beach ready? What would the island have in store for me?! If I’m 100% honest, all of the research that I did couldn’t have prepare me for the adventure that I had this past week.
Getting to Mauritius is a comfy 4 hour direct flight from Johannesburg on Air Mauritius, they have direct flights from Cape Town too, and you don’t need a visa to travel to Mauritius from South Africa! Score! I enjoyed one of my favourite chick flicks (27 Dresses) during the flight from my window seat while taking a peek every now and then to see if we had arrived; I could not contain my excitement!
We arrived in Mauritius at 7pm local time, they are 2 hours ahead of South African time, so we went straight to dinner at Mystic Lifestyle Hotel which was a stone throw away from our self-catering villa in Mont Choisy. We indulged in some burgers and local beer while we listened to the crashing of the waves before heading to bed to prepare for an early, full day ahead.
We got up bright and early to prepare for a full day of excursions that included, a tour of Mystik Hotel and a walk through the Port Louis Market to see the art exhibitions showing for Festival International Kreol. The rest of the day was dedicated to exploring more of Port Louis, a tour of Aapravasi Ghat and Pamplemousses Gardens and dinner at Grand Baie.
We weren’t allowed to take photos at Aapravasi Ghat, however, we did have an informative through the centre. We were taken through the heritage site and learnt more about the immigration depot where the British colony received the first group of Indian immigrants who were “contracted” for labour on the island. If you are big on history, this is definitely a place to visit.
The Pamplemousses Gardens
These botanical gardens are the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. If you’re an avid lover of fauna and flora, I would suggest getting an official tour of the premises which is about an hour-long; be sure to go with a comfortable pair of shoes because it does require a lot of walking! We opted to explore the lush grounds on our own and headed straight to the famous, giant, water lilies. They are HUGE, around the size of a satellite dish. The gardens are quite a sight to see with lots of exotic birds flying around which just add to the overall beauty.
Situated on the Northern side of the island is Grand Baie (pronounced ‘bay’). We arrived with an hour to walk around and explore, so Bash and I decided to take a stroll on the beach before finding a vibey bar on the beach front to enjoy a cocktail. The popular public beach is filled with local vendors selling fresh fruit, and lots of dogs taking naps in the sun. Sidenote: There are a LOT of stray dogs that roam around the island, but all are harmless and friendly, simply looking for a warm spot to relax, pretty much similar to us tourists. For dinner we went to Le Capitaine, which is also situated on the beachfront, a couple of minutes away from the strip of local bars. I am a very big seafood lover, so you can imagine how ecstatic I was to have seafood in almost all of my meals. I have never eaten seafood fresher! Their menu has a variety of mauritian meals and seafood options. I decided to order a seafood platter to share which had all of the shellfish you can imagine; king prawns the size of my face, lobster, clams, calamari, grilled fish, mussels and lots of crispy veggies smothered in garlic butter. I literally was not ready for the mountain of food placed in front of me, when I say this is the best seafood platter I have ever had in my life, I am not exaggerating. I followed up my meal with a chocolate cake with a soft centre and ice-cream. The restaurant is well located, perfect for a romantic meal if you manage to make it there in time for sunset.
Day 2 was action packed as we headed to Casela Park, the perfect place for group activities. Visiting this amusement park meant faces 3 of 1000 of my fears, heights, animals and speed. We started off at the bird sanctuary for Lorikeet feeding; I have an irrational fear of birds since last being terrorised by birds during lunch breaks at UCT ,any alumni can relate. Bash being the brave man that he is, went inside one of the bird cages for a personal interaction that meant having the colourful, feathered creatures sit on his head and shoulders while he fed them tiny pieces of fruit nectar. After Bash was done feeding his new friends, we went go-karting. it was my first time doing this and I have just started my driving lessons so it was fun being behind the wheel and letting Bash beat me because my fear of speed got the better of me.
The last activity is one that I had not prepared myself for, 500m zip-linning! It sounded like a cool idea until we were told that we had to walk across the very shaky, narrow wooden bridge 350m Nepalese Bridge. The view of the mountain range and valleys waaaaay down below are incredible. Walking across the bridge is breathtaking but looking down and seeing how high up you are can also cause for your heart to stop. One of the friendly guides, Kennedy, was kind enough to walk in front of me, backwards, to keep me calm. He asked me questions about my career and experience of Mauritius so far until we got to the end. Had he not done that, I doubt I would have made it to the very end. Getting to the other side is only half of the mission completed, you still have to zip-line back to the other side! I waited of the whole group of about 20 people to zip across the 500m line until it was my turn. Again, Kennedy to the rescue! He was kind enough to zip with me basically hanging onto to him like a baby monkey screaming my lungs out. But wow what an exhilarating experience! Nothing beats the feeling of doing something that you genuinely thought was impossible. I was scared for my life but the adrenaline rush is unmatched! I’m glad I faced my fears and did it but this was one of those once off experiences that I would happily pass in the future.
We finished off our day at the Casela restaurant were I indulged in the most refreshing passion fruit rum cocktail and some crispy chicken wings and beef noodles. I totally deserved those cocktails after that fun-filled day.
Takamaka Boutique Winery
I am a huge wine fanatic so visiting this boutique winery was right up my alley. To my surprise, this cute establishment was a lychee winery! We took a tour of the premises and were fortunate enough to meet the couple behind the winery who spent 15 whole years developing this sweet liquor. We tasted 3 out the 5 ranges that was available and I immediately gravitated to the rosé, so much so that I purchased 3 bottles before leaving. Their rosé is perfect of the annual Summer sessions that I have with my cousins on my balcony over the December festive season. An easy drink to share with friends.
We spent the one and only gloomy day during our trip driving to Ganga Talao, a secluded mountain area that holds some of the most sacred Hindu temples and statues in Mauritius. On the shoreline of this crater lake you will find small shrines dedicated to Shiva and other Gods. This space is perfect to reflect, pray, receive blessings and also play with the friendly little monkeys that roam the grounds. Because it is such a scared area, I did feel a little invasive being there taking photos. The Grand Bassin is the second most important Hindu pilgrimage sites outside of India so it is very important to dress modestly and remember to take off your shoes before entering any of the temples so wear shoes that are easy to take off and put back on.
We were initially supposed to attend the Festival International Kreol conference, however, the whole conference is in Kreol so it would have been pretty much useless as neither of use understand the language so our last day was dedicated to basking in the sun! I was super excited for this as I hadn’t had the chance to pull out some of the gorgeous swimwear I had packed. The friendly crew members offered us a variety of beverages, Bash and I enjoyed a bottle of cold Phoenix (the local beer) and soaked up the sun.
If there is one thing that you 100% HAVE TO do while on the island, it’s to take the catamaran cruise to Île Aux Benitier, a small island Southwest of Mauritius. The afternoon promised dolphin spotting, snorkelling and a braai on-board, LAVISH! During sailing you literally watch the colour of the ocean turn from a dark blue to a crystal clear, turquoise colour as you approach Île Aux Benitier, on our way there we pasted the gorgeous crystal rock, a volcanic rock that is one of the main sights to see while in Mauritius.
We spent about 30 minutes at Île Aux Benitier, strolling on the beach walking past locals enjoying their picnics and vendors selling goods. What caught our eye though was a very energetic baby monkey doing gymnastics and diving in and out the clear water off of his owner’s boat that also had goods for travellers to purchase.
Festival International Kreol Concert
This year’s ‘Sware Konser’ took place simultaneously across four different venues across the island to award all locals an opportunity to attend and witness the local acts, we attended the concert in Mont Choisy. Being the avid concert goers that we are, we were shocked to see so many families out at night having a blast, enjoying the music and treats from the food trucks lined up behind the large crowds that had gathered on the evening. We called it a night just before midnight as we had an early flight to catch back home. Probably my saddest moment to date.
There is definitely more to Mauritius than the white beaches ad clear blue sea. This beautiful land is full of culture and a unique experience that any traveller would enjoy. There is an experience for everyone, young and old. My life really hasn’t been the same since returning home. All I can think about is the perfect Mauritian weather, friendly & humble locals and really REALLY great food and scenery. I am already planning my trip back with all of my friends and family.