After a very long flight we arrived into Mauritius, where procedures were very fast and efficient and we were in our prebooked taxi very quickly.
We were surprised at how green Mauritius is. The vegetation is very diverse and it seems that almost everything grows there from palms to pine forests.
The Maritim is a good hour from the airport in Balaclava in the north west of the island. Our room was upgraded and we very quickly experienced the excellent service and friendliness that was consistent throughout our stay.
Food is extremely good and not overly spicy, a truly international blend of flavours. There is plenty of fresh fish. Vegetarians are also well catered for with fresh fruit, beans, seeds, spices and vegetables in abundance.
We had prebooked a tour with White Sand Tours to Port Louis and Pamplemousses Gardens. We were expecting a coach or a minibus but a taxi turned up with a driver guide. This was brilliant value at around 30 each We learned from the guide that the population is mostly Indian, both Hindu and Muslims live happily side by side, also Tamils, Europeans and Chinese. Mauritius has been in the hands of the Dutch, Portuguese, French and British before coming independent. The influences are mostly French with the local Creole language being very close to French and the majority speak English with a French accent. The interesting ethnic mix gives Mauritius a unique character and you will see Hindu temples within yards of Catholic churches and modern shopping malls.
Our first stop was Miraj, the Indian duty free centre, which had the sort of things you would want to ship home rather than buy and carry. Our next stop was Caudan Waterfront which is modelled on Cape Town Waterfront and does look rather like pictures I have seen of it. This was much more for us, with a craft market and high quality clothing in the sales and much cheaper than we expected. There are a few cafes and bars at the waterfront with prices much lower than in London.
Our final stop was Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Gardens in Pamplemousses. The Gardens were named after the first President of Mauritius and his ashes are within the grounds. He is much revered on the island with the gardens, the airport and other places being named after him. The gardens have recently started a guided golf trolley service which costs 5 per person in addition to the entrance fee. This enhanced our experience and saved us a lot of walking. The gardens are famous for the unique giant lilies and 85 varieties of palm tree.
The other tour we had booked was the Scenic South with Casela Nature Park. Again it as a taxi and our driver guide was Michel. He took us first of all to Trou au Cerfs, a lake at the bottom of a volcanic crater surrounded by mountain peaks. We stopped at Ganga Talao, the sacred lake of Grand Bassin and the huge statue of Shiva, This is the only Shiva temple outside India . We stopped at the Black River Gorges and the spectacular Chamarel waterfalls. Our tour also included a beautifully presented 3 course lunch of local delicacies, local spicy christophine with bread, a starter of palm hearts au gratin, vegetable curry and banana mousse. After lunch was Casela National Park which was the only disappointment apart from the stunning view from the restaurant.
We took the taxi to Grand Baie which is about 20 minutes from the Maritim. It was much nicer than we were led to believe with a lovely beach, a scruffy traditional mainly Chinese end with a bazaar up the hill, and at the other end of the resort was a modern complex of designer shops and factory outlets and a couple of beachside cafes. This looks to be recently built so this would have improved the resort considerably over the last few years. There are a lot of watersports and excursions from Grand Baie. We liked the resort very much and would have quite happily spent more time there. There are many shopping bargains to be had eg Fred Perry polo shirt5s at a fraction of UK prices
Although Mauritius does have facilities for families of all ages, I do feel it is better suited to couples, wanting good food, low key, resort based entertainment, a high standard of accommodation and service. This does come at a price as Mauritius is not cheap, but definitely one of my top ten destinations and I hope that one day I will have the opportunity to return to this beautiful island.
If you are interested in knowing more about Mauritius or would like to book please contact me