Fun-filled Feasts with Family in Mauritius

/ New Delhi
Fun-filled Feasts with Family in Mauritius

Located off the eastern coast of Africa, Mauritius offers the right balance of activities, suited for all age groups

Though known more as a luxury and romantic destination in India, Mauritius is an ideal destination for a family trip as well.
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As soon as vacations arrive, most discussions in families turn to where to go for the next vacation. For most Indian families, the obvious choices could range from Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the Gulf or Europe in the west as well as many south-east Asian destinations that have been on the radar for years. However, one of the newer destinations that is increasingly becoming popular with Indian families is the tiny island of Mauritius, deep in the southern Indian Ocean.

Located off the eastern coast of Africa, not too far from Mozambique and the French territory of Reunion Island, Mauritius offers the right balance of activities, suited for all age groups. With its turquoise blue lagoons and the emerald green island waters as well as pure white sand beaches, Mauritius is definitely a picturesque sight for the eyes.

Exploring nature

Nature has been specially generous towards Mauritius and has blessed it with a diverse landscape, comprising scenic, white sand beaches, azure blue waters of the Indian Ocean as well as wide variety of flora and fauna found in its forests inland.

Though Mauritian national mascot dodo is extinct, the country is home to numerous other endemic species including rare pink parrots, parakeet as well as butterflies. Off the coast, one can spot rich marine life, like sperm whales, dolphins and giant tortoises and colourful coral fish.

To spot these and even more varieties of animals as well as some of the rarest trees in the world, several parks and nature reserves deserve a visit with the whole family, especially the children as it can be a great learning experience for them. One of the best spots to visit is the Black River Gorges National Park, sought to be recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It is the home of 163 of the 311 endemic flora species and habitats for the remaining 28 endemic bird species found in Mauritius.

Ile aux Aigrette, a tiny coral island, just off the southern coast, near Mahebourg town, is a nature reserve and home to several endemic species of flora and fauna as well. There are several options for tour of the island, that last about 90 minutes along with a 10-minute crossing by boat each way.

Another site worth a visit by nature lovers is Le Morne in the southwest Mauritius, inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A densely wooded area, Le Morne Cultural Landscape, is a rugged mountain that juts into the Indian Ocean and was used as a shelter by runaway slaves in early years of the 19th century. Protected by the mountain’s isolated, wooded and almost inaccessible cliffs, the escaped slaves formed small settlements in the caves and on the summit of Le Morne.

Going island hopping

Though Mauritius itself is an island, there are several small islands, located just off the main island, and one can easily go island-hopping in the country, which make for some of the family-oriented activities

Though Mauritius itself is an island, there are several small islands, located just off the main island, and one can easily go island-hopping in the country

Though Mauritius itself is an island, there are several small islands, located just off the main island, and one can easily go island-hopping in the country, which make for some of the family-oriented activities. One can make day trips to these islands, crossing the high seas with a sailing boat or a speedboat.

The most popular islands include Gunner’s Quoin Island, Turtle’s Bay, Gabriel Island, Flat Island, Bernache Island and The Morne Brabant.

The Flat island, though takes the cherry. Referred to as Île Plate in French, Flat Island is located towards the north of Cap Malheureux, Mauritius’ northernmost tip. It is also strategically located with a lighthouse as a guide for incoming ships, atop a hill in this island.

The speedboat departs from Grand Baie onto the high seas towards the north, all the way to Flat Island. The 90-minute journey to Flat Island can definitely be the single most memorable experience in your life. The speed boat accommodates around 8-10 people and cruises through the water in a rhythmic motion, riding up and down the waves. While crossing, it is advisable to hold on to the boat railings and also be prepared to be drenched by sea water splashing as the boat cuts through the waves to make its way.

If you happen to wonder where to go for lunch in the middle of an island, worry not, as your own boat captain will cook up a hot barbeque, including a lot of vegetarian items, along with soft drinks.

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Water sports

Chamarel 7 coloured earth

Chamarel 7 coloured earth

Most of these island tours have a variety of options for water sports lovers, including snorkelling with colourful fishes, scuba diving and swimming.

Beyond the island tours, practically every part of Mauritius offers a wide variety of water sports and other activities for the children and adults alike. These include paddle boarding, surfing, snorkelling, swimming with dolphins, as well as windsurfing and kayaking. While most of the activities can be had in the resorts themselves, there are also private players who offer the entire gamut of activities.

Beyond the water sports, one can also go in for jeep rides, horse riding as well as adventure activities including trekking and ziplining in Mauritius.

A resort for each occasion

A trip to Mauritius isn’t complete without staying in one of its fancy beach resorts. Visitors, especially families are spoilt for choice of luxurious stay options in this gorgeous island nation. With every possible international hotel chain having set up shop here, one is never too far from an iconic resort offering an ocean view, complete with an indoor pool villa and even a private butler service.

Many resorts are located in Balaclava, Grand Baie and Tamarin. A small town in northern part of Mauritius, Grand Baie attracts a lot of tourists for its restaurants, nightlife and pubs with some really budget friendly & luxury hotels.

Tamarin, on the other hand, lies on the midwestern coast of Mauritius. It consists of the beach side towns of Flic en Flac & Tamarin Bay. Close to two most popular beaches of Black River and Mont Choisy, one can go for a dolphin watch on the mid seas, surfing and enjoy some popular dishes in the multitude of restaurants here. Veranda by Tamarin is a lovely beach view property at very affordable prices.

Another noteworthy resort is Le Meridien Ile Maurice. Set in tropical gardens with multiple large pools and direct access to a private, white sandy beach, Le Meridien Ile Maurice is everything one can seek in a super luxurious stay. Those seeking ultimate luxury can go in for its specially designed Nirvana Premium prestige room with a private pool.

Le Royal Meridien Ile Maurice

Le Royal Meridien Ile Maurice

All the resorts serve delicious Indian, French and the local Creole cuisine. With a lot of colonial settlements, indentured labourers from India & Africa, Portuguese travellers and a small migration of French people, the Mauritian Creole cuisine takes a leaf of all these cuisines and integrates them well.

Those seeking “authentic” Mauritian dishes can go in for Rougaille. Prepared with tomato, onion, garlic and other vegetables as a side dish, Rougaille is mainly eaten along with rice or bread or roti. Another local favourite that has its roots in India is the Dhollpuri, similar to a paratha stuffed with a mixture of lentils.

The Little India

Mauritius has a very strong Indian connection. It is perhaps the only country besides India where practically all administrative and political positions are held by persons of Indian origin. Little wonder, since more than 70 pc of Mauritians trace their origins in India.

Almost 190 years ago, the first ship carrying about 36 Indian indentured workers, brought to work on sugar plantations in Mauritius docked near Port Louis, the capital. Since then thousands of other workers came from different parts of India and made Mauritius their home.

Along with the Indians, the island nation also had the European colonists as well as Africans. Even today, as you drive by, it is hard to miss out on the air of an eclectic mix of Indian, French and Creole cultures.

The blend has come through after almost two centuries of a unique melange that Mauritius evolved into and traces of this evolution and the unique cultural blend can be seen at Aapravasi Ghat, where the indentured workers landed. At the epoch, it was the immigration centre, today Aapravasi Ghat is a UNESCO World Heritage site, located along the Trou Fanfaron Bay.

The remains of this immigration depot built in 1800s, along with a large museum in the front depicting the lives of the workers, tell a fascinating tale on the lives of workers almost two centuries ago.

(Left) Sockalingam Meenatchi Ammem temple (Right)

The important temples in Mauritius are the Ganga Talao and the adjacent Mangal Mahadev temple and Sockalingam Meenatchi Ammem temple

It is not just the Aapravasi Ghat that bears a strong connect with India. Traces of the Indian connection are visible all over the island. This is because with nothing but spirituality to look out for, the Indian indentured workers set up a number of Hindu temples around the southern parts of Mauritius. Representing more than 48.5 pc of the total population, Hinduism is still the most followed religion.

Two of the important temples in Mauritius are the Ganga Talao and the adjacent Mangal Mahadev temple, while the other is Sockalingam Meenatchi Ammem temple.

The Grand Bassin, also referred to as Ganga Talao by the locals, is one of the most sacred temples in Mauritius. Located by a crater lake in the Savanne district, it features an array of shrines featuring various Hindu Gods and Goddess, with the main idol being Lord Shiva, the most popular God in Mauritius. Ganga Talao is also the focal point of the most important Hindu festivals in Mauritius, the Maha Shivaratri.

Just a few hundred meters from the Grand Bassin is the Mangal Mahadev statue and the Parvati Statue on the other side and both are about 33 m high. Incidentally this is the second largest Shiva statue in the world outside India.

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Though Mauritius has several markets catering to the tourists and which offer mainly handicrafts and local agricultural specialities, one of the bigger and organised shopping areas is the glitzy commercial development square of Le Caudon Waterfront. Situated barely a km form Aapravasi Ghat, Le Caudon is the place to hang out in Port Louis and boasts of casinos, upscale restaurants and food courts. Designed with a roof of colourful umbrellas, the waterfront area is lively with music, open air restaurants and numerous bars, besides the shops.

Crafted by local artisans, the world famous Mauritius wooden ship model is a must-buy to pick up from a store. With significant detailing, these handicraft ships is definitely a piece of work , that can adorn your house.

Getting to Mauritius

Air Mauritius, the national carrier of Mauritius, flies to 7 destinations in Europe, Mumbai, Africa & nearby Indian Ocean islands, with connectivity to 70 other destinations through other codeshare airlines. Air Austral, an airline based in Reunion Island also flies into Mauritius, with direct connectivity to Chennai, France, South Africa and Thailand.

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