The official name of the island is the Republic of Mauritius and it was named after the Dutch Prince Maurice Van Nassau. 2,000km off the southeast coast of the African continent, near Madagascar, the island of Mauritius is famed for its tropical climate, white sands, crystal waters and luxury hotels. The contrast of colours, cultures and tastes makes the island so charming that the scene is set for an unforgettable holiday.
The island’s white beaches are protected by coral reef which runs around the whole island, except for the southern coast that offers wilder strands and dramatic cliffs. From the northern plains, the land rises to a central plateau dotted by lakes and extinct volcanic craters. A few uninhabited islets are also scattered around the main island. There is something for everyone on the island, be it those who wish to relax and enjoy the wonderful landscapes, have a round of golf, or those who wish to have an adventure quad biking through sugar plantation fields or exploring the plethora of water-based activities including diving, surfing or Seakarting, a water sport activity exclusive to Mauritius.
The island’s coast is changeable and dramatic, with each area offering a new experience. Standing in the north, is the Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens. Spanning over an impressive 60 acres, The Botanical Gardens make the perfect spot for a picnic and a charming alternative to the beach. The garden boasts a variety of birdlife, including the Madagascar Fody.
Located in the south of Mauritius is Chamarel Seven Coloured Earth, considered both a magical sight and a geological curiosity. The striking landscape tucked within Chamarel’s forest has been formed by volcanic rocks that cooled at different temperatures, creating a spectacular array of patterns and colours on the hillsides. Now turned to sand, the hills shades of red, brown, grey and purple attract visitors all year round. Another must in the south of Mauritius is Grand Bassin, or Ganga Talao. The lake centres on Hindu pilgrimage and between the end of February and beginning of March, the lake becomes a site of festivities, when more than 400,000 celebrate Maha-Shivaratree. Grand Bassin sits in the isolated mountains of the Savanne district and is the perfect location to take a stroll, watch the monkeys play, or simply relax in the peaceful atmosphere.
On the east coast is Ile Aux Cerfs, a small island just off of Belle Mare, which is open to the public. You can get there via speedboat or catamaran and it is a great place for snorkelling. Still in the east you can find Domaine de L’etoile; the incredible 2,000 hectare forest reserve, is an awe-inspiring hinterland to be conquered by foot, bike or even quad bike. The reserve is a haven for those hoping to spot wildlife on their trip to Mauritius, with animals such as Javanese stags roaming in the forest and often spotted by visitors. The sightings of incredible flora and fauna are also a treat for a journey up the mountains.
At the tip of the westerly peninsular of Mauritius is the astonishing sight of Le Morne; the stand alone mountain which looks over an exceptionally beautiful lagoon. Inland is Black River Gorges, a national park and a magnificent area to spot the island’s native species. Formerly the prime hunting ground of Mauritius, the area has been a protected reserve since 1994 after an incredible 300 species of flowering plants, nine endemic species of bird and an overwhelming population of fruit bats which numbered over 4,000. For an upbeat alternative, head to Flic en Flac. The beach town is bustling with shops, restaurants and nightlife.
GETTING TO MAURITIUS
Austrian Airlines is commencing a direct flight service to Mauritius, adding the new destination to its winter 2015/16 flight schedule.
This new route began on October 29, 2015, flying nonstop from Vienna to Mauritius every Thursday and back to Vienna on Fridays. With a flight time of 10 hours and 40 minutes, the aircraft lands at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport on Mauritius.
Tickets for the flights can be booked at www.austrian.com or at a travel agency.