A hypnotic blend of Indian, African and European influences, Mauritius might be synonymous with luxury beach breaks, but this destination will dazzle even the most discerning traveller, with its superb hiking, excellent mountain climbing and world-class diving.
The beaches are, indeed, noteworthy for praise. Encircling the island, they are exactly what the holiday brochures promise. But beyond its celebrated sands, native forests grow over the cooler central plateau, providing a home to rare plants and animals such as the Mauritius flying fox, which can be found nowhere else on Earth.
Back on the coast, a massive coral reef surrounds almost the entire island and has become a Mecca for divers thanks to its bountiful marine life. Hop out of the water and into local culture along the east coast, which is home to fine beaches and sleepy fishing communities. Villages such as Petite Julie and Queen Victoria demonstrate the mixed Anglo-French heritage of the country, and it is in these sleepy outposts that you can hear sega music played in its most traditional form.
The northern regions offer the best combination of beaches, cuisine and nightlife. Further west, the capital, Port Louis, is famed for the Caudan Waterfront – a complex of restaurants, shops and casinos, as well as the colonial-era central market.
Dolphin safaris, rum distilleries and sand dunes add to the west’s appeal, though for many visitors the star attraction here is Le Morne mountain, which was used as a hideout by runaway slaves. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this rugged outcrop has become synonymous with the struggle for freedom.
Friendly, welcoming and unremittingly beautiful, Mauritius offers not only fantastic weather and exquisite beaches but also a distinct cultural identity that is well worth exploring.