If you are looking for a remote tropical island surrounded by coral reefs away from the tourist crowds but offering first class amenities, natural attractions and a multicultural environment, then the small island nation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean may be just the destination.
About the size of Rhode Island, Mauritius lies off the southeastern coast of Africa (actually 1,250 miles away) and boasts 200 miles of coastline with inviting white sand beaches and a population that speaks English, French and Creole. With a diverse blend of cultures, religions and cuisines, the accommodation options are likewise expansive, ranging from bungalows to five-star resorts. As the English and French are your most likely beach neighbors -- with nonstop flights from both countries -- most prices listed on websites for hotels will be in Euro or Pounds Sterling. It is not a discount destination, but prices are quite reasonable considering the location, level of service and luxury.
The capital is Port Louis, but it is likely that you would want to be based at one of the beach resort towns -- which are located on each coastline of the island. Grand Bay (or Grand Baie), in the north near the capital was the first area to experience the tourist boom and remains the largest of the resort areas, with the most accommodation, shopping, nightclubs and dining alternatives. Mont Choisy in the north is where several five-star resorts are located plus a Club Med. Trou-aux-Biches is particularly peaceful with shallow water and close access to coral reefs and Rivière Noire on the west coast is the take-off point for deep-sea fishing trips. The cutely named Flic en Flac, south of Port Louis is a relatively new, up-and-coming beach resort area. It is also a scuba diving magnet with access to under-water caves and ship wrecks.
Mauritius is well known for its big game deep sea fishing, especially marlin, sharks, tuna and barracuda with the main angling season from November to May (the island hosts the Marlin World Cup -- www.marlinworldcup.com -- annually). Professional fishing charter companies like Sport Fisher (www.sportfisher.com) located in Grand Bay can arrange a half-day charter on a 34-foot boat for up to three anglers (six people in total) from $300 including beer, drinks and a free hotel pick-up service if you are staying in the north.
Many if not most of the hotels on the island offer accommodation on a half-board basis -- usually breakfast and dinner. The Veranda Resort group (www.veranda-resorts.com) operates five individual hotel properties on the island, ranging from three to five-stars. Their newest property, the three-star Veranda Pointe aux Biches is a rustic yet elegant thatched-roof style resort located on one of the most beautiful coastlines of the island -- the northwest beach between Pointe aux Piments and Trou Aux Biches. The central location is just a couple of minutes away from Grand Bay and less than 30 miles from the airport. Rates here start at $99 per person per night including accommodation, breakfast and dinner. One child under 13 is free and any subsequent children pay 50% of the adult rate.
For more budget conscious accommodation, try a bungalow, apartment or villa -- there are numerous companies that can arrange a rental (usually a one week minimum) including Mauritius Islander (www.mauritius-islander.com) which offers:
- Villa Camangue -- a four-bedroom property with private pool located at Mont Choisy, walking distance from the Mont Choisy and Trou Aux Biches beaches from $145 per day for up to four guests or $177 for up to eight guests.
- Bolard Complex -- a two-bedroom apartment in a complex of four apartments with a swimming pool in Mont Choisy with maid service from $150 per day.
- Bungalow Frasque -- a three-bedroom bungalow with pool access in Flic en Flac, priced at $145 per day including all taxes and daily maid service.
- Apartments Sabeer-- a three-bedroom apartment with large terrace overlooking the pool and gardens in Flic en Flac, priced at $128 per day including taxes.
Or for a bit more of a spurge, Holiday Villa Justus -- a four-bedroom five-star luxurious private villa located on the Black River mountain slope overlooking the Indian Ocean, minutes to Tamarin Bay Beach. The $600 per day price tag in March, May, June, September and October (or $755 during other months) includes airport transfers, two cars (Peugeot 106s; petrol not included), a speedboat (27-foot 350 HP outboard) for diving, swimming and water skiing, two maids, one driver, a boatman and a personal cook who will prepare your daily meals to order.
If you are looking for more to do than lounge on the beach, the village of Triolet (a 30-minute walk from Trou-aux-Biches beach) offers an opportunity to visit the biggest Hindu temple --Maheswarnath, built in the early 19th century in honor of Shiva, Krishna, Vishnu, Muruga, Brahma and Ganesha. Just walking around the island will allow you to encounter beautiful varieties of tropical flowers and a chance to try exotic fruits. There are mountains and waterfalls to explore, plus historic sugar plantations, wildlife reserves and national parks, especially inland and to the south of the island. Mango Beach Tours (www.mauritius-islander.com/mango_tours.htm) offers a Wild South tour that includes a visit to Grand Bassin -- the Hindu sacred lake and temple, the Black river gorges, Alexandra Falls, The Chamarel (waterfalls and stunning volcanic colored earth formations), the Casela Bird Park and lunch at the mountain-top Restaurant Le Domino with panoramic views. The tour is priced at $56 for up to four people in a private taxi. Their South West tour is priced at $66 and includes visiting a traditional Tea Factory, tea tastings, a nature reserve and crocodile park, the cliffs of Gris Gris and a scenic drive along the South West coastal road.
Although you can search for flights to Mauritius on various U.S. based travel websites, airfares seem disproportionately high (some well over $2,000 during low season) and better deals are available via Europe -- in particular London and Paris that service the Mauritius route. Airfares from London flying with Air Mauritius (www.airmauritius.com) and British Airways (www.ba.com) start from approximately $1,000 plus taxes and round-trip airfares from Paris on Air France (www.airfrance.com) and Air Mauritius start from approximately $1,300 including taxes.
For more tourism information about the island of Mauritius, visit www.mauritius.net/index.php.
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