The sun, sand, and azure waters… Mauritius mesmerises!

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Océan Indien – Île Maurice – Flic en Flac – Cathédrale Indian Ocean – Mauritius – Flic en Flac – Cathedral

Five-and-a-half hours away from Mumbai, I fly over the vast Indian Ocean to reach this tiny island, a mere dot on the map. Colonised by the Dutch, French and British, and named after the 16th century Dutch Prince Maurice Van Nassau, the tropical island of Mauritius is indeed picturesque. The weather here is warm yet very pleasant. A little laid-back – most places close by 5 pm –Mauritius tends to captivate you. Let me list 10 of my favourite things about Mauritius which make visiting this beautiful place mandatory.
Nature’s Best

Mauritius nestled amidst the dancing ripples of the Indian Ocean stands tall with its many-hued craggy mountains and its strangely multi-hued earth, showcasing nature at its scenic best. There is immense greenery, exotic flowers, colourful rare birds, indigenous trees and wildlife here.
My first visit is to the North to the picturesque Grand Bay and its two beautiful beaches where I watch the frothy white surf leap playfully over each other as I stroll through the silvery white sands and collected tec-tec or small white sea shells. Les Vergers of Labourdonnais at Mapou with its wide variety of fragrant colourful rare flowers and tropical fruit trees is also a sight to behold. But of course, the gorgeous botanical garden better called Sir Seewoosagar Ramgoolam Botanical Garden is absolutely stunning. The entry is priced at 200 Mauritius Rupees for Non-Mauritians, and this vast land reserved for the gardens is beautiful – you must check it out especially the exotic Victoria Amazonica lilies, fawns, turtles and indigenous trees.

Old Yet New

If you are a fan of the old world of yore, Mauritius’s majestic chalet houses will fascinate you. I visited the magnificent Chateau de Labourdonnais and get a taste of how the rich in Mauritius lived in the 19th century. Inspired by Italian neo-classical architecture, the chateau stretches out on two levels. The house is built mainly from teak wood and has a double colonnaded gallery. The layout of the house followed that of the private mansions of the nineteenth century, with a central hallway leading on one side to the dining room and on the other, to the main lounge. The bedrooms are situated upstairs. The Chateau is encompassed by a vast green manicured garden and looked totally awesome. The endemic plants, flora and fauna, and sugarcane plantations around too will absolutely captivate you.
Yet this Isle is contrastingly uber modern too which is seen in its amazing polished roads, topnotch shopping malls including the very popular Bagatelle Mall, top-of-the-line brands (FabIndia, Anita Dongre, and Ritu Kumar seem to be hot faves), and stylish jet setters.

Religious Rendezvous I visit Ganga Talao or Grand Bassin, a crater lake situated in a secluded mountain area in the district of Savanne. This place is said to be the holiest place for Hindus in Mauritius. It also has Mangal Mahadev which is the tallest Shiv statue in Mauritius measuring 108 feet – the tallest statue in Mauritius. The Durga Mata Murti too stands magnificently at 108 feet and does indeed make an awesome picture. The Sagar Shiv Mandir too stands there and is visited by hundreds of devout Hindus all through the year.

Chamarel Charms

Mauritius is not complete if one didn’t visit The Chamarel Waterfalls’, I am told! The Chamarel Waterfalls, a magnificent 272 feet waterfall looks amazingly breathtaking. Close by, the charming Chameral village with its seven-coloured earth is also a must-visit. The strange-hued earth is because of the volcanic activities that happened here many years ago. This place also houses a wonderful souvenir shop where you can shop till you drop. I buy a dodo bird souvenir – after all, I am in Mauritius, and the dodo though extinct is the National bird.

A Site To Remember
A drive away from Chamarel is the famous UNESCO site Le Morne Mountain which serves as a harsh reminder of the time when slavery was rampant in Mauritius. That’s where slaves set up hidden camps in caves etc, away from their prosecutors.

Port Louis Beckons

Traveling through fun tends to get a little tiring. But I am put up at the extremely charming Le Suffren Hotel and Marina at Port Louis – a captivating hotel next to the Caudron waterfront with its own water taxi that ferried hotel guests to and fro the Waterfront, and that for me is a stress-buster. Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius is buzzing with activities. It houses wonderful hotels, the Caudon waterfront where you can spot boats and ships docked rather neatly, quant little buzzing hubs where you can spot the Indian, Chinese and Creole culture at its ethnic best. There are shopping malls and extremely colorful street shops where the rule of the day is to haggle as much as you can. Port Louis has an amazing vibe which is actually pretty infectious.

Medley of Cultures

Surrounded by the sparkling turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, Mauritius is a potpourri of French, Indian, Chinese, and Creole cultures. No wonder, the mix of ethnicities has integrated magically into its culture, food, and way of life. Though the language spoken here is predominately French and Creole, English and a smattering of Chinese, Hindi, Tamil, and Bhojpuri are spoken too. The people are warm and friendly.

Melting Pot
At Port Louis’ waterfront, street food is thriving. From dholl puri, exotic fruits, palm heart salads, curries perhaps reminiscent of Indian cuisine, the popular Creole rougaille (tomato stew), coconut cakes to even biryani – everything is super tasty. At the hotel, of course, the food is more sophisticated and is reminiscent of French culture. The Mauritius angle of course is the addition of chilies to every dish including a pot of fruits. However, their cuisine is not chili hot instead it does have a sweet touch.

Rum ‘n’ Song
For people who are rum drinkers, there are rum factories galore. In fact, you must pick up a bottle of rum in Mauritius from The Rhumerie de Chamarel which is close by. You can visit it and see how rum is distilled… and guess what, they also have tasting sessions for you to sip on the fiery golden liquid.

Let the adventure begin…

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