torstai 20. elokuuta 2009

Ile Maurice

It is the time of the year when most of us have returned to work and the days are getting shorter and darker. It is still sunny outside, but some of us are already thinking about the long cold winter ahead. My friends and family have recently been asking me questions about the exotic island of Mauritius, so I gathered a little something I could share.
Mauritius is a small volcanic island in the Indian Ocean, some 2000 km southeast of the African coast. It is culturally a diverse mix of Africa and Asia with some Western influences from its Colonial past. The population consists of Hindus, Creolo, Chinese, Muslims and Europeans, which is why the Mauritanian food, traditions and athmosphere feels so uniquely exotic.

Many tour operators offer package holidays to the destination, but a more seasoned traveller can easily tailor more cost effective holiday to meet their needs. I visited Mauritius in early June 2007. Travelling off-season and making my own flight and accommodation bookings saved me a good deal of money. Mauritius is a all-year-round holiday resort in with coastal region temperatures around
25° C to 33° C during summer months (November-April). In May-June the temperatures were rising up to 28° C and during my two week holiday there were only few short lived showers in the higher plateau region.
Prior to my visit I preceived Mauritius to be a bit of a honeymooner destination with luxury hotels, white sandy beaches and nothing much else. Although Mauritius offers an ideal location for newly weds and lovers alike, it offers so much more.

Getting Around - Mauritius is a relative small island (45 km wide and 65 km long) which can be easily explored by car. You can either rent a car or hire a taxi, either way little bit of price checking and bargaining can save you few pennies. There is also quite comprehensive bus service on the island if you are not in the hurry. The buses are extremely cheap, around 20 cents (€0.20) bought me a trip between Grand Baie and Port Louis.
Markets and Shopping - Whether it is beautiful freshwater pearls, Indian cashmere pashminas or hand embroidered textiles, be sure to check out the markets. I would recommend the Port Louis Central market, Curepipe market and for best value a market in Goodlands where the locals do their shopping. Bustling capital of Port Louis and Grand Baie also offer a large variety of jewellers and more westernised shopping.

Natural Wonders - Mauritius is packed full of beautiful nature spots. Chamarel coloured earth was one of the most spectacular sites I visited, where the pulverised volcanic rocks were settled into colourful spectrum of separate layers. If you grave for activity from your holiday you can visit the amazing Tamarin Falls. It is a series of seven waterwalls in the Black River Gorges National Park. This trip is a quite a hike, so trainers or hiking shoes are highly recommended. There are guides who can take your down the waterfalls or you can go it alone. Just remember to reserve some energy for the hike up! Pamplemousses botanical garden is also worth a visit to see the famous giant water lilys (actually native for Amazon, but impressive still) or just to walk under the cool shade of the lush vegetation.
Beaches and the Sea - With over 300 km of coastline there is plenty to choose from. Like many beach resorts today some of the beaches are private to hotel guests only, but there are some beautiful spots all around the island. Ile Aux Cerfs is a paradise island easily accessible by boat from Trou d'Eau Douce which is situated on the east coast. White beautiful beaches, water sports, golf and local cuisine. Go early in the morning, you will want to spend the entire day here. Take a trip on catamaran to see the dolphins, go fishing or visit the wondeful Ile Aux Gabriel. This island north of Mauritius is spectacular place for snorking. with pristine clear waters. Catamaran trips including food, drink and snorking equipment are a great way to spend a day.

Restaurants and Nightlife - If you still have some energy left after a day in the sun head out to Grand Baie or Port Louis for a meal and drinks. You may grap a quick, inexpensive bite from one of the Indian street vendors or spoil your tastebud with a Creole seafood dishes at Le Capitaine (Royal Road, Grand Baie). Enjoy live music and drinks at Banana Bar or Zanzibar in Grand Baie or chill out with a fruity coctail with one the many chilled out lounge bars. Blissful!

Tips - Most hotels offer all-inclusive meal deals, do your homework and book a hotel with breakfast only. There are so many great restaurants out there to try. Be cautious if renting a car or a scooter. Make sure you carefully check the vehicle for damage before signing the papers. You might end up paying for someone else's misfortunes or get ripped off. Ask locals where they eat or buy their goods.

Regrets - My only regret was that I did not arrange a stop over in the near-by Reunion island and visit the active Piton de la Fournaise volcano.

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