Popular with honeymooners and luxury-seekers, the island of Mauritius, deep in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Madagascar, has been described as ‘the best African destination‘. It’s the sort of place that would tick any family’s boxes. Crystal blue seas, and powder-white sand? Check. Abundant flora and fauna, with diverse wild creatures? Check. Delicious cuisine? Check. A wide and interesting range of cultural activities? Check.
Villa-Finder.com, a booking platform with some delectable properties across Bali, Sri Lanka, Phuket, Koh Samui and Mauritius, asked us to take a closer look at the island. Here are my favourite highlights of the place, with some dream luxury villas to match.
A truly relaxing experience
Mauritius is an island whose tourist industry seems to work to one end: blissful relaxation. It’s a peaceful nation, with the Global Peace Index 2017 ranking it as the safest country in sub-Saharan Africa. So visitors can kick back and enjoy the island’s 160km of beaches, worry-free. With tours on glass-bottomed boats, deep-sea fishing cruises and day trips to smaller islands, there are plenty of relaxing ways to spend a day in and around the waves. Kite- and wind-surfing are also popular, as is snorkelling.
Trou aux Biches is widely touted as one of the best beaches in Mauritius. The pretty, white sand beach is shaded by casuarina trees. Its shallow waters, along with a sunken wreck and reef close to the shore makes it a great spot for snorkelling or diving. Villa Stylia is nearby, overlooking another bay, Trou d’Eau Douce. The place sleeps up to six. If guests tire of the beach they can enjoy the lush foliage of the villa’s tropical garden instead.
Mauritius was home to the dodo. Although that ill-fated bird is sadly no more, the island’s Black River Gorges National Park hides other endangered bird species, like the Mauritius kestrel, the echo parakeet and the pink pigeon. Visitors to the park, a protected reserve since 1994, regularly spot wild boar, macaque monkeys and deer wandering through its vast forests. Nature-lovers will find over 300 species of flowering plants there, as well as secret waterfalls and fruit bats.
Villa Solara, in Bel Ombre is close to Black River Gorges National Park. It’s a place that would work well for a family get-together, as it has seven bedrooms. A housekeeper, airport transfers and babysitting service come as standard.
Villa-Finder.com are aware of the effects tourism can have on the natural environment. For every villa booked, they plant a tree in Sumatra, Indonesia, which has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. You can read about their initiative here.
No language barriers
Mauritius is a country where many languages are spoken – English, French, Mauritian Creole, French-based Creole, Hindi, Urdu, and Mandarin. The island celebrates 50 years of independence this year. English, Dutch and French settlers are among the many to have lived there. Countries from many different parts of the world have influenced its culture and languages.
All this means that there is a rich selection of interesting places to visit on the island, from colonial mansions to Hindu temples and sugar factories. For families, Domaine Les Pailles, off the M2 Motorway between Port Louis and Moka, is a good place to spend a day. The Malatian history centre includes a reconstructed planter’s house and sugar mill from the 18th-century, a rum distillery, five restaurants and a riding centre.
All this diversity leads to incredible, varied cuisine. Mauritian food is a sumptous fusion of Creole, Chinese, European and Indian flavours. Think mouth-watering dholl puris. These fried thin pieces of bread are stuffed with ground yellow split peas, and served in a pair with bean curry, atchar and chutney. Or fish vindaye, made with mustard, aromatic garlic, ginger, turmeric, onion and fish caught fresh from the ocean.
Villa Stylia, along with many of Villa-finder.com’s 1000 properties, offers a chef service. For guests who want it, an in-house culinary expert can cook meals in the villa. If you have people in your family who eat a vegetarians, lactose- or gluten-free diet, the chef can tailor your menu to fit.
Easy to get to
Mauritius is surprisingly accessible, considering its remote, tranquil location. Twelve-hour direct flights go from the UK’s Gatwick, Heathrow and Manchester, via British Airways and Air Mauritius. There are also direct flights from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya, for people wanting to stop off after a safari trip.
Mahébourg airport is on the south east of the island. Stella Beach House is only 10km away – making this an incredibly easy transfer. From airport customs to sun, sand and sea in less than half an hour – what could be simpler?
Have you considered travelling to Mauritius?
This post is written in collaboration with Villa-Finder.com. All views are my own.
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