Those who enjoy seeking out some culture along with their sunshine holiday should visit the town of Moka, seven miles (12km) south of Port Louis, which is not only Mauritius’ academic centre but also blessed with some beautiful scenery and impressive historic manor houses. Moka is the home of the University of Mauritius and the Mahatma Ghandi Institute, tasked with preserving the island’s Indian culture. There is an Indian folk museum to visit; and the Eureka House (now a museum) dating from 1830. Moka can be reached by bus or taxi from Port Louis or Curepipe.
In the southwest corner of the island a twisting road winds from the village of Case Noyal to an interesting geological attraction, the 'Seven Colored Earth'. This is an undulating mound of varied colored sand, swirled with patches of blue, green, red, purple and yellow earth, apparently caused by the weathering of volcanic rocks. There is also a scenic waterfall nearby set amid jungle vegetation.
Curepipe, sitting atop the high central plateaux of inland Mauritius 12 miles (20km) from Port Louis, owes its existence to a malaria epidemic in 1867, when thousands fled to the healthy, cooler high ground from Port Louis to escape the mosquitoes. The town is the centre of a spread-out suburban area, and offers some good shopping opportunities. Its main attraction for visitors, though, is an extinct volcano, Trou aux Cerfs, west of the town near the botanical gardens, with a massive wooded crater floor. A road leads to the rim of the volcano and there are spectacular views from the summit. Another natural attraction, just four miles (six km) south west of Curepipe, is the Black River Gorges National Park, home to the rare tambalacoque tree and a variety of exotic flora and fauna.
Ile Aux Cerfs
The small island of Ile aux Cerfs (Stag Island) off the east coast of Mauritius is a popular tourist haven, managed by the adjacent Touessrok Hotel, but open to the public. The island, featuring splendid tropical vegetation and encircled by magnificent beaches, can be reached by boat from the small fishing village of Trou d'eau Douce. The island is equipped with a bar, restaurant and shops, as well as water sports facilities from parasailing to windsurfing. The most recent, and somewhat controversial, development on the island is an 18-hole Bernhard Langer designed championship golf course which affords a sea view from each hole and often requires the novelty of hitting a tee-shot over a natural sea inlet onto the fairway.
This small seaside resort is sited along the rugged coast in the southern Savanne district. The appeal of Souillac lies in its scenery, as it is not a bathing spot. In striking contrast to the soft curves of the northern coastline, the high cliffs here drop abruptly to the sea to face the bracing winds of the Indian Ocean as it blows all year round. Among the features of the area is a public garden overlooking the sea, the popular Gris-Gris viewpoint, and the nearby Rochester Falls.
Royal Botanical Gardens of Pamplemouse
About seven miles (11km) northeast of Port Louis, and easily reached by regular buses, lies the island’s premier tourist attraction, the Pamplemousses gardens (now officially called the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens in honour of the late Prime Minister, but still colloquially referred to by their original name). The gardens are enclosed by beautiful wrought iron railings which are today in bad repair but when first manufactured in 1862 won a prize at an international exhibition at Crystal Palace in London. The gardens were first laid out in 1735 around a mansion house called Mon Plaisir as a vegetable garden to supply ships calling at Port Louis. Later the house was bought by horticulturalist Pierre Poivre, who introduced plant species from around the world interspersed with indigenous species. The garden is redolent with the perfume of fruit and spice trees, and the 24 hectares (60 acres) also sport a collection of stately palms, ebony, mahogany, latania and pandanus. A great attraction is a pond full of the Giant Amazon water lily
MUSIC & DANCE
The séga – the rhythm of the island
The Sega, a dance unique to Mauritius, best expresses the ‘joie de vivre’ of its people. Derived mostly from African music dating back from slavery days, the traditional séga is accompanied by traditional instruments, the ravane, a wooden hoop over which a length of goatskin has been stretched tight ; the maravane, which is a sort of wooden box filled with dried seeds which makes a grating sound when shaken; and the triangle, a triangular piece of metal which makes a tinkling sound when taped with an iron rod. The original instruments are fast disappearing, making way for the more contemporary instruments.
The dance, itself is the rhythmic swaying of the hips to the pulsating rhythm of the ravane. It starts with a gentle swaying accelerating an exhilarating crescendo
The beaches of Mauritius are close to perfect, with fine white sand and clear water running to heavenly shades of blue. Some of the island’s best beaches on the west coast are easily reached from Port Louis. Flic and Flacq is the longest beach in Mauritius and features a beautiful lagoon. Grand Baie, 12 miles (20km) to the north of the capital, is a major tourist centre, offering watersports, shops, nightlife and restaurants to complement its splendid beach and deep sheltered bay. Also on the north coast road is Perebere, one of the island’s favoured swimming spots. The Baie du Tamarin is at the mouth of the Tamarin River in a beautiful setting, and is popular for surfing with Indian Ocean rollers washing the beach all year. In the southwest is Le Morne Brabant, characterised by a basaltic outcrop and beaches shaded by casuarinas and coconut trees. Snorkellers enjoy Trou-aux-Biches with its shallow waters and coral reefs.