RARE GEMS

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Mau­ri­tius’s kalei­do­scopic mix of in­flu­ences makes for ex­pe­ri­ences you won’ t find any­where else. That, com­bined with un­usual to­pog­ra­phy and unique wildlife, means these is­lands are so much more than just an­other lux­ury re­treat

Geo­graph­ica l ly and cul­tura l ly, Maur itius is a rel­a­tively young countr y. Its con­stituent is­lands emerged from the ocean just eight mil­lion years ago, and, un­til the 16th cen­tur y, they re­mained com­pletely un­in­hab­ited. A ll that changed w ith the arr iva l of the Dutch, in 1598. Since then, Mau­ri­tius has wel­comed arr ivals from East A fr ica, China, France, In­dia and be­yond, and has grow n to be­come a model melt­ing pot na­tion. To­day, as you walk the streets of the capita l, Por t Louis, you’ l l pass Hindu tem­ples, French restau­rants, Catholic shr ines, Cre­ole street food and Chi­nese mar­ket stalls, of­ten w ithin a few blocks of each other. It’s this thr illing com­bi­na­tion of in­flu­ences, a long w ith the is­lands’ deser ved rep­u­ta­tion for lu xur y ho­tels, gourmet din­ing and tranquil beaches, that make Mau­ri­tius an is­land na­tion like nowhere else.

Eat up

The di­ver­sity of the Mau­ri­tian culi­nary scene is a di­rect re­flec­tion of the is­land ’s multi-eth­nic pop­u­la­tion. Ex­pect plenty of seafood, fresh fruit, rice and noo­dles, all brought to­gether in com­bi­na­tions of French, Chi­nese, In­dian, A fr ican and Cre­ole cook­ing. Mar­lin, mus­sels, prawns and lob­sters are in plen­ti­ful sup­ply, while the lo­cals par­tic­u­larly prize baby oc­to­pus; you’ ll see it served in del­i­cate sal­ads, in cur­ries with pa­paya, or in noo­dles with saf­fron, de­pend­ing on who’s do­ing the cook­ing. If you’re af­ter an au­then­tic Mau­ri­tian meal, look for a ta­ble d ’ hôte. These pri­vately hosted meals are of­ten given by the own­ers of guest­houses, but they may be or­gan­ised by a lo­cal in their home. You’ ll usu­ally dine on tra­di­tional dishes spread over a num­ber of cour­ses, and will be joined by the host and their fam­ily, plus any other trav­ellers who are pass­ing through. This is a pop­u­lar way to dine out in Mau­ri­tius and it’s usu­ally nec­es­sary to book a day in ad­vance.

One-of f land­scapes

Mau­ri­tius’ s young vol­canic land­scape is home to some rare ge­o­log­i­cal sights, such as Pi­eter Both Moun­tain, which has a boul­der bal­anced pre­car­i­ously at it speak, or the hulk­ing basalt out­crop on Le Morne Bra­bant penin­sula. At the same time, the na­tion’s com­pact size means you can see much of it on foot and still be back at your ho­tel by din­ner. The most pop­u­lar hik­ing trips run to iso­lated Ta­mar in Falls or through the lush greens of the Black Gorges Na­tional Park, or you could sum­mit the is­land ’s high­est moun­tain, Pi­ton de la Pe­tite Rivière Noire. To get off-grid, take a boat trip to Rod rigues ,400 miles east of Mau­ri­tius is­land. Life here moves at a slower place, thanks to its tiny pop­u­la­tion, quiet beaches and calm waters. Spend a few days en­joy­ing its tranquil at­mos­phere be­fore head­ing to the even smaller Île au x Co­cos – a tiny na­ture re­serve that’s only a few miles in width. Speak to a tour op­er­a­tor on Ro­drigues to get the per­mis­sion you need to visit.

Wild things

Mau­ri­tius has just one in­dige­nous land mam­mal, the fruit bat, but there are lots of wild boar, Java deer and macaque mon­keys, all of which were im­ported by Euro­peans. Yet it’s in the skies and tree­tops where Mau­ri­tius buzzes with life. Sev­eral rare species of bird, once driven to the brink of ex­tinc­tion, are thriv­ing thanks to care­ful con­ser­va­tion and breed­ing pro­grammes. Now, you can see Mau­ri­tian kestrels soar­ing on the ther­mals above Black River Gorges Na­tional Park, as well as pink pi­geons and echo para­keets, all of which num­bered fewer than 50 not long ago. Mau­ri­tius’s seas are filled with life, and there are ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­ni­ties for snorkelling and div­ing. Dol­phins are com­mon, as are sev­eral species of sharks, in­clud­ing grey reef and leop­ard sharks. Through July and Au­gust, hump­back whales pass by the western coast on their way to calve in warm equa­to­rial waters; you’ ll need to em­bark on a day-long ex­cur­sion to reach the open ocean they in­habit, but it’s worth the trip.

Start plan­ning your visit to­day at tourism-mau­ri­tius. mu

CLOCK­WISE FROM OP­PO­SITE A hump­back whale in an ac­ro­batic breach; one of the is­lands’ golden beaches; the Mau­ri­tian kestrel has re­cov­ered from near-ex­tinc­tion; Pi­eter Both Moun­tain has a dis­tinc­tive boul­der for­ma­tion at its peak; salade d’ourite, a Cre­ole-style oc­to­pus salad

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