Life | Sunshine And Starlight

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Sunshine And Starlight
Published: Volume 21, Issue 11, November, 2013

Mauritius, off the east coast of Africa, offers a vibrant nightlife, adventure sports, lazy days at the beach, as well as nature reserves and a walk with lions!

Sun-kissed beaches, starry nights, a vibrant nightlife, the calmest time... Mauritius offers a variety of contrasts to every visitor. The North is the princely nightlife hub whereas the South presents a dramatic landscape of jagged cliffs and rough waters. The East is every tourist’s dream while the West is where one heads to indulge in water sports and taste the finest rum. Mauritius leaves one spoilt for choice and, at the end of an eventful retreat, asking for more. Mark Twain has been quoted as saying, ‘You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first, and then heaven, and that heaven was copied after Mauritius.’ This African paradise is often described as peaceful and tranquil, which is really contrary to how it was formed in the first place – underwater volcanic eruptions brought about its making.

The island was discovered by the Arabs, visited by the Portuguese and colonised by the Dutch from whose prince it gets its name. A part of the Francophonie and the Commonwealth, Mauritius has changed hands from the Dutch to the French and then the British. After the British abolished slavery, indentured labourers were brought here. This island is a melting pot of cultures as it is home to Indians, Arabs, Chinese and of course, its locals. It can be quite hilarious to catch a hint of Bhojpuri and Hindi in the daily ramblings of a particularly ribald country, where the main language spoken is Creole.

Of all things synonymous with a country, who knew that Mauritius’ claim to fame would be not its beaches, reefs or a perpetual air of luxury, but the Dodo. This land-borne bird is wholly responsible for putting the Republic of Mauritius on the map! The country has the distinction of discovering the bird – and destining it to extinction.

After landing at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport, the first spot to visit is Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius. The familiar traffic and hustle-bustle of a busy and constantly mobile life greet you; understandably, as Port Louis is the business and administration capital. After office hours, (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) is the best time to be here, at Le Caudan Waterfront. This is a particularly enticing tourist attraction with a strong ‘something for everybody’ element to it. Cinema hall – check. Restaurants – check. Casinos – check. Shopper’s paradise full of boutiques – check. It is a family’s day full of activities looked after. Also, the Champ des Mars Racecourse, the oldest in the Southern Hemisphere, is a great place to visit. This is also an opportunity to get a whiff of the culture as horse-racing is the national sport. To journey back in time, the Domaines Les Pailles is a must-visit. It houses the old-fashioned sugar estates of Mauritius. But, the highlight of Port Louis has to be the Sega Show. This dance is the ancient dance of the slaves and is ingrained in the local culture. Inspired by rum, Sega is an intoxicating flurry of beat and improvisational movement.

Journeying to the north, the landscape changes to one of gradual development and industrialisation. Grand Baie is the place to be. It is a fact that the Mauritius economy thrives solely due to its tourism – Grand Baie validates this multifold. Any sort of activity that one wants to do – you name it, you got it. Whether it is visiting the Red Roof Chapel at Malheureux in the day or an evening at a fancy club the same night – you can do it all. The north is the perfect destination to discover a wealth of tropical fruit trees, colourful and exotic-scented flowers and to sample some freshly-made jams and fruit juices at The Labourdonnais Orchards. For the slightly more adventurous, head to Gunner’s Point to scuba dive in a bid to spot parrotfish (there are also other locations for more advanced divers). If just spotting isn’t good enough (and if you don’t want to waste precious time taking scuba diving lessons), the Solar Undersea Walk seals the deal.

Moving on to the east, the place that has, arguably, Mauritius’ best beaches, one is jolted out of the hurried, activity-prone ambience and into a slow-paced, serene one. The canvas of the east is painted with mountains, ocean waters, quaint villages with poetic names and an air that resonates with Life. The highlight of this proverbial jewel in Mauritius’ crown is the Belle Mare Beach. A few days of lazing on the beach and enjoying siestas amongst casuarina groves, and it’s time to make a trip to the Waterpark and Leisure Village. There’s also Flacq, where one can find the largest open-air market in Mauritius.

The south is where it almost seems as if the country has worn itself out of its image of peaceful harmony and bared its landscape to harsh cliffs and untamed waters. The area is riddled with a strong theme of history and foreboding. One can visit the Dutch ruins, the Île aux Aigrettes – Nature Reserve where one can find the remnants of the flora and fauna that once flourished here and La Vanille Reserve Mascareignes – Rivière Des Anguilles, home to over 2000 crocodiles. It is a pleasant change.

The inland region is the most traditional part of Mauritius. The Mauritian fixation with tea can be experienced as you follow the tea route that begins at Curepipe and then to the Bois Chéri tea factory and museum. Another astonishing sight to see is Euréka at Moka, an old residence with 109 doors. Curepipe is also a good place to shop for vibrantly-hued holiday wear.

The west is Mauritius’ prime attraction for sports, adventure and other activities. Not to be missed – the Chamarel Coloured Earths. Each pore of sand slowly released from the hand presents a different colour from the seven colours of the earth. It is a breath-taking sight indeed. Also to be tried – kite-surfing. This thrilling sport is an amalgamation of paragliding, surfing and gymnastics all rolled into one. The Catamaran Cruise is another delight – a favourite with kids, teens and adults alike, it combines an evening of dolphin-watching with a breeze through the sublime sights of the west. However, what steals the show is the Casela Nature Park. Walking with lions, zipping across water bodies and hill peaks, a visit to the adorable pet farm, a photo safari and a whole lot of time spent in the wilderness. A day spent here is exhausting but fully worth the fatigue.

It is said that Mauritius has one of the highest rates of returning tourism visitors in the world and every visit can show you a different aspect of this exciting island.

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