Mauritius, once a well-kept secret, was unbeknown to travelers who made a beeline for the Seychelles instead. However, it quickly appeared on the map of luxury destinations. Over the years, Mauritius has become a hot destination for families, honeymooners and solo travellers. Though Mauritius has retained its cachet, you do not have to break the bank to enjoy it. Have a peek into the island’s unique soul through our recommended free activities:
1. Revel in the plethora of sea activities
It comes as no surprise that Mauritius is one of the jewels of the Indian Ocean, renowned for its pristine beaches and crystalline waters.
Pump in a little adventure by attempting one of the water-based activities at your disposal. Explore the deserted islands or mysterious caves dotting the lagoon on a kayak; snorkel into the warm ocean, discovering the beautiful coral reef and marine life; lose yourself in the vastness of the sea on a pedal boat; for the daredevils, experience the thrill of water skiing or even kite surfing.
It gets better: most of these activities are complimentary at Veranda Resorts.
2. Absorb the Mauritian authenticity
Mauritius’ rich heritage is mirrored in its population of Indian, African, Chinese and European descent. While Thaipoosam Cavadee brings together Tamils with their tongues, cheeks and chests pierced with large spears, Père Laval Day reunites Catholics on a pilgrimage to visit the shrine of the “Apostle of the Black People,” where miracles are said to have occurred. Chinese dragons and lions roam the streets of Port-Louis in a burst of red – symbol of happiness – during the Spring Festival, and the annual Festival Kreol celebrates the Creole culture over ten days.
Tourists can participate, at no cost, in any one of these many religious festivals that occur year-round.
3. Get spiritual at Ganga Talao
Ganga Talao, also known as Grand Bassin, is a breathtaking lake situated in the crater of an extinct volcano, 1800 feet above sea level. It is nestled between secluded mountains, and boasts a beautifully crafted 108-foot tall statue of Lord Shiva. Macaque monkeys and endemic birds watch on as tourists meander around or meditate, sporting a red tika on their forehead.
Between February and March, the Maha Shivratree festival draws more than 400,000 devotees, who walk from their homes to the lake, sometimes taking up to a week to complete the journey.
Entrance to the site is free.
4. Explore the charming village of Grand Baie
Interact with locals by hopping onto the free shuttle to Grand Baie provided by Veranda Paul et Virginie and Veranda Pointe aux Biches. Here, fishermen are seen displaying their daily catches, like the vielle rouge or the babonne, which can be savored with Mauritian spices. (You can learn useful tips from the cooking classes available at all Veranda Resorts).
Stroll along the narrow streets leading to Grand Baie Bazaar, where local artisans exhibit their handmade jewelry and crafts. These days, Grand Baie, known as the Mauritian Riviera, is where many of the island’s hotels, cafés, restaurants and bars bustling with life are located. Night owls are in for a treat as parties last until the first rays of sunrise fill the sky.
While you are in the area, do not miss the Red Roof Chapel in Cap Malheureux, offering a stunning backdrop for a postcard-perfect holiday photo, or a mesmerizing sunset at Trou aux Biches. (A shuttle is available from Veranda Pointe aux Biches).
5. Feel the soul of Mauritius in Port Louis
Take a step back in time in the streets of Port-Louis, the island’s glorious capital. Filled with historical treasures and old colonial black stone buildings, the city is a must-see for culture lovers. As you wander the narrow cobbled streets, breathe in the salty air, the spices, the fried gato piment and the steamed boulettes, a delicious amalgamation of Mauritius’ rich diversity.
Visit Champ de Mars, the oldest racing course in the southern hemisphere, or the spectacular Aapravasi Ghat, which honors the thousands of Indian laborers who settled on the island after the abolition of slavery. Stroll down the Place d’Armes, lined with imposing trees extending to the French colonial Government House or climb a hundred stairs leading to Marie Reine de la Paix, a church overlooking the capital.
Forget about art museums: art is now present on the stonewalls of Port-Louis. Famed local and international street artists have left their mark with colorful frescoes and impressive artworks. Port-Louis is an exhilarating discovery that takes you through the history of Mauritius.
6. Hike the Black River Gorges
Mauritius is a real playground for adventure aficionados. The Black River Gorges provide over 120 kilometers of challenging trails in the popular western gorges, and 50 kilometers of trails in the eastern ones, criss-crossing amid the thick vegetation and waterfalls. Ideal for trekkers, bird-watchers or simple nature enthusiasts, the views are spectacular: a wide canyon curving dramatically between an expanse of rolling hills. The park extends over 6,700 hectares and harbors hundreds of species of endemic flowers and nine species of birds.
Adrenaline junkies can head over to Chamarel waterfall and cool off in the crystal-clear pools below.
Settle down around a bonfire on the dark volcanic sand of Tamarin bay, jamming to local séga and beats played by amateur musicians simply seeking to share a moment of bliss. Tamarin Hotel by Veranda Resorts encapsulates this heartfelt musical culture with a weekly reunion of local artists on the same stage.