Sunday, July 14, 2013


Executive summary by darmansjah

 Chammarel waterfall, on teh edge of Black River Gorges

PORT LOUIS has survived plague epidemics, fires and tropical storms since its foundation in the 17th century. Today, the capital is divided between the sanitized waterfront and more colorful old town – head here to bargain hard at the Central Market, a feature of city life since Victorian times.

Black River Gorges National Park is best explored by its trails. Look out for the pink region – a bird unique to the island that was rescued from extinction in the 1990s. get advice on hiking routes from the information centre at Le Petrin (; closed Sun).

Claiming the island’s most beautiful beaches, Le Morne Peninsula is named after a basalt rock that has a special resonance. Folklore tells of escaped slaves hiding out on top of it. Unaware slavery had been abolished since their escape, they panicked on seeing some soldiers and jumped, believing they would be captured.

Rodrigues is a tiny mountainous island with a fraction of the inhabitants of its bigger cousin. Its beaches count among the best in the country, and development tends to be more sympathetic and small-scale than back on the mainland (flights from Mauritius US$270;

A preserved Creole mansion outside Moka, Maison Eureka is a beacon of tropical construction. The name is said to have been coined when the second owner won a bidding war to buy the place at auction (; admission USD11).

Mauritius had no native population until it was discovered by European colonizers in the 16th century (although the dodo was resident). Since then, Hindus, Africans, Chinese and Europeans have made their mark on the island’s culture and cuisine. Historic towns and tropical forests await beyond the coastal resorts.

Temperatures are high year round, but cyclones in January and February can bring rain. Hardly a week goes by without a festival – highlights include Hindu and Tamil fire-walking ceremonies of Teemeedee in December and January, and the Chinese New Year.

Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport is mainland Mauritius’s only airport. Air Mauritius ( flies there direct from both Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Island taxis are available from the airport (
If the adage that the best Chinese restaurants are busy with Chinese diners applies, First Restaurant is a winner. Full of local families feasting on Cantonese cooking, it has a good range of dim sum (00 230 212 0685; cnr of Royal & Corderie Sts; mains from US$4.50).

Le Capitaine is an unpretentious and popular harbor side restaurant. Try whole crab cooked in white wine or lobster ravioli with mushroom and cucumber quenelles. Evening reservation are essential (; royal rd; mains from US$9.50).

Les Copains d’Abord looks out to the site of the Royal Navy’s biggest defeat in the Napoleonic wars. Napoleon himself would be pleased to see this specialist seafood restaurant mixing Med and Mauritian influences (; Rue Shivananda; mains from US$11).

Set in attractive gardens, La Langouste Grisee (or ‘the tipsy lobster’) has an ambitious Franco-Mauritian menu including pan-fried scallops with cream of asparagus and white truffle foam. Steak with juniper berries also makes a surprising appearance for such a seafood-centric island (; Royal Rd; mains from US$14).

With chic décor and a terrace overlooking fishing boats bobbing in the waters off Trou aux Biches, Le Pescatore is often vaunted as one the best restaurants in northern Mauritius. Superior dishes include lobster in ginger and sake sauce (00 230 265 6337; Mont Choisy; mains from US$24).

Auberge de la Montagne in Rodrigues is a much-loved guesthouse where many rooms have balconies overlooking the countryside. The host is an author of a Rodriguan cookbook; accordingly, dinners are a crash course in Creole cooking. Try the octopus curry (; from Us$63).

A budget guesthouse big on charm, Chez Vaco is a real find and a welcome addition to Grand Baie’s accommodation scene. The small , delightful rooms have an air of cosy minimalism and there’s a garden decorated with local art. The hotel also offer a free speedboat transfer across the lagoon to Grand Baie from a beach nearby (; from US$110).

A family-run b&b, rooms at Les lataniers Blues are divided between the main house and villas scattered around verdant grounds. Evening meals (open to residents only) take in traditional Mauritian dishes, while the beautiful lagoon in front of the hotel is perfect for swimming (; from US$160).

As well as being a historic attraction, Maison Eureka has three cottages next to main mansion. These are individually decorated with mini-verandahs backing on to tidy gardens, and chances are you’ll be the only people staying there (; from US$220).

A Moroccan-style boutique hotel, La Palmeraie is a somewhat incongruous, Kasbah-like structure standing on a beach in eastern Mauritius. The colorful rooms come decorated with all manner of Arabesque arches, rugs and draped fabrics, and the Moorish theme extends to the hotel spa (; Belle Mare; from US$285).

Car hire is available at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport (from US$59 per day; and the island is served by a bus network – the national transport authority has companies and routes details (gov.muz; fares US$1.50).

Safe Bet – I recommend Mauritius Turf Club, in Port Louis. At 199 years old, it’s touted as the oldest horse-racing club in the Southern Hemisphere. The Mauritians are mad about horse racing and they were brilliant hosts – they showed us the ropes with the bookies and cheered with us in the stands. There was a great atmosphere. My friend and I had a Mauritian Phoenix Beer in a tiny race-side bar and we were the only ladies in there ( – Kate Laeur

Heavenly ChoiceLe Paradis is a large hotel in the southern part of the island near a great mountain called Le Morne, with accommodation in two-storey bungalows or in the main hotel. It’s very elegant and well decorated, and is a very good from the point of view of sea activities, with beautiful beaches, windsurfing, scuba diving and deep-sea fishing. It was recommended to us by Mauritian friends, and it’s a good family place as well (; from US$600 half-board).-Juliet Nicholson

Tooth and Claw – Forum users rate La Vanille in the wilder south of the island. This intriguing zoo is part nature reserve and part crocodile farm, and has a breeding programme for giant Aldabra tortoises (;  Riviere des Anguilles; US$6 Sat-Sun, US$9.50 Mon-Fri).

Find Out More- French writer Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s 18th-century novel Paul and Virginia is a tragic love story set on the island on the eve of the French Revolution.

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