East of Madagascar and around 2,000km off the coast of Africa sits the tropical island nation of Mauritius. The Indian Ocean seems to be spoilt with paradise-like archipelagoes of smaller islands including the Seychelles, Maldives and of course their aforementioned much larger neighbour. Mauritius offers surprisingly affordable beach luxury and is easily combined with destinations in southern and eastern Africa, it is a particularly popular add-on to safaris from South Africa, Namibia or even land-locked Botswana.
Along with a beach experience typical of any of the stunning islands in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius has a rich and diverse history and for those with a thirst for exploration you will not be disappointed. Writer Mark Twain said “You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first and then heaven was copied after”. With the landscape dominated by the volcanic peaks that identify its once explosive birth, they now give the luxury beachfront hotels on this peaceful an impressive backdrop. Any time spent exploring the eponymous main island or the smaller islands of Rodrigues, Agaléga and St. Brandon and no doubt you will come to the same conclusion as Mark Twain.
You will find the highest density of hotels and resorts around the Grand Baie region in the north of Mauritius, however it's the east coast of the island that is held in the highest regard. Some of the most beautiful beaches are found on this side of the island with hotels to match. The west coast is often favoured by families due to its calmer seas, but our favourite has to be the somewhat quieter and wilder south coast. From here it is easier to explore the Black River Gorges National Park and glimpse colourful songbirds flitting across weaving hiking trails as you trek between stunning waterfalls, deep gores and forested valleys.
Keep a look out for pink pigeons, shrill parakeets - and if you're very lucky the endangered Mauritian kestrel. Mauritius is an up-and-coming destination for responsible travellers due to its conservation efforts and sustainable tourism initiatives across the biodiverse landscape. The islands have many species to protect, from dolphins, whales and sharks found in the thriving coastal waters to the last remaining species of tortoise. In the air many endemic birds can be found and two species of flying fox bats, these are all protected in an effort to save them from the same fate as Mauritius’s unfortunate icon of extinction; the dodo.
For those wanting a glimpse into the rich history and diverse culture of the area it is worth a visit to the capital city of Port Louis. The city has been under French, British, Dutch and Portuguese rule and has unique architecture and a melting pot of culture and religions to explore. Perhaps spend a morning shopping and eating in the capital, before relaxing on the golden beaches with a cocktail and endless ocean views in the afternoon.