Where Is Mauritius Island?
Isla Mauritia is a delightfully exotic African island oozing charm and culture. Only 30 miles in length and 25 miles wide it is encircled by vibrant beaches with resorts, tailored to suit all budgets, overlooking the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. Many of these are clustered on the coastline north of this island nation’s capital city of Port Louis, itself worth a visit for its character and vibrancy. But what else does Mauritius have to offer the intrepid traveller?
What To Do in Mauritius?
A Taste of Colonial Plantation Life
Situated a short drive south of Port Louis, Domaines le Pailles is a fascinating historic recreation of a grand sugar plantation from the old French colonial days of the 18th century. Visitors can see an ox-driven sugar mill in action, producing sugar in the traditional tropical style, as well as the Queen Rum distillery, founded in 1758 and still in operation today. Arriving visitors are charmingly transported by vintage horse carriage from the estate entrance to its grandiose centerpiece, an expansive single storied manor, passing fragrant spice gardens along the way.
The grounds also feature a number of what are called ‘artisanal huts’ – featuring other traditional Mauritian produce being put to use. Aloe vera fibre is woven into island handicrafts, coffee beans are grilled and granulated on an ancient stove and exotic spices from the estate’s garden are cooked up into delicious local snacks.
But the real taste sensations are back at the manor. The cultural breakdown of Mauritius is mostly Indian, followed by Creole with a smattering of Chinese and European. The cooking of all cultures these cultures is represented in the a la carte menus of the various restaurants operating in separate rooms of the manor.
Domaines le Pailles is a good primer on what the world was like for the European slave owner of early Mauritius. The glamor of plantation life is played up a bit and the issue of slavery somewhat swept under the table, but otherwise this well-presented tourist attraction offers a diverting day out from resort life.
Walking the Ocean Floor
Now this is a bizarre tourist activity – and one available at few other destinations. The underwater sea walk of Mauritius is held in the shallow and idyllic Grand Baie on the north west of the African island. Tourists are transported by boat to a calm section of the bay, theirmvessel is anchored and a large metallic step ladder lowered to the floor of the Indian Ocean. One by one, members of the tour group are affixed with old-fashioned metal diving helmets, hooked up to an oxygen supply on board. They descend the ladder and guided by a qualified diver wander the bay in single file.
This submarine stroll is an entrancing if somewhat claustrophobic experience. The heavy helmets lose some of their weight beneath the surface but progress is still slow and clumsy. Nevertheless, the sea walk is a lot of fun and of course the best way to see first hand the some of the colorful marine life of the Indian Ocean, such as the clown fish, the slender flute-like trumpet fish and the amazingly cube-shaped box fish.
Aboard the Isla Mauritia
What are the others things to do in mauritius? Of course to really experience the Indian Ocean,the traveler needs to get out on the sea, and there is no more atmospheric a way of doing this than aboard the Isla Mauritia, a restored pine timber Balearic Island schooner built in Spain in 1852 to ship trading goods between Europe and the African coast. Discovered sunken at the bottom of a bay decades ago, the Isla Mauritia was re-floated and meticulously restored using original materials. According to logs she has sailed over a million nautical miles in her century and a half of service. Today she is the last surviving sailing ship in her class.
Setting sail from Grand Baie, a day on the ocean aboard the Isla Mauritia is an exhilarating experience, evoking the salty sense of adventure of bygone days. The observant passenger is recommended to keep an eye out for sailfish, spectacular denizens of the deep known to break the surface and swim dolphin-like alongside the schooner.
• Domaines les Pailles is 10 minutes drive outside of St. Louis. It is open most days.
• Underwater Sea Walk operates in Grand Baie. Bookings can be made at most resorts.
• Isla Mauritia sails out of Grand Baie most days depending on sea conditions.
You may also read about the other Southern African destinations.