A lively group of 12 women travel to the iconic Indian Ocean island and return with some key travel info
You’d never say so, given the images, but we were a group of strangers going on vacation together for the first time. Some signed up for the trip in pairs; others joined the trip alone. It was also the first group trip I’d organised with my fledgling company Gophari Travel, and Mauritius was an obvious choice for it. The island had inspired all of my travel goals, so I was confident that everyone would love it too.
And they did. In fact, by the end of day one we were all firm friends, having enormous fun exploring Mauritius together and forming lasting connections.
Here is a list of the top five things we all agreed must be done while in Mauritius.
- GO BEACH HOPPING
There’s a reason Mauritius is known for its beaches. The water really is as blue as it looks online – in fact, it’s bluer. As in, every shade of blue. The warm Indian Ocean makes swimming an absolute pleasure, and the water is so gentle and clear, it feels as though you’re in a giant swimming pool … until a splash of salt hits your lips and reminds you that you’re not.
We dedicated a full day to beach hopping. We chilled in the ocean, ate ice cream, enjoyed the sun on our skin and admired the uniqueness of each beach. Afterwards, we headed back to the beach at our accommodation for the trip, Plage Bleue Beachfront Apartments. Some North Coast beaches to include in your hopping itinerary are Trou aux Biches, Mon Choisy, Perebeye and Grand Baie – it’s a mix of lively and popular spots, and quieter stretches lined with Casuarina trees.
TIP It’s super-hot and sunny in Mauritius, so you’ll need to protect yourself. Apply sunblock often – and plant an umbrella on the beach.
- HIKE LE MORNE
“A four-hour hike? That’s as long as it took me to fly here from South Africa. No ways!” This was Nodumo Mhlongo’s initial reaction to hiking in Mauritius. Some of the others were also unimpressed by the idea of hiking on holiday – but once we were done, they rated this activity highly. Situated 556m above sea level, Le Morne Brabant is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were up early to get to the base by 7am – our hiking guide Freddy’s advice was “the earlier the better” to avoid the scorching sun.
Even if you don’t make it to the peak, there are spectacular viewpoints along the way. A sign at the halfway mark warns that the climbing becomes dangerous beyond that point. Freddy put us at ease by pointing out where to step and helping us when the climb got tricky. Although I would not describe the climb as strenuous, you can expect to spend some time on all fours at certain stages.
When we reached the top, we broke out into song: Superwoman by Alicia Keys. It felt amazing to have conquered the climb together. The view of the ocean floor far below us resembled an underwater waterfall. We captured it as best we could – but it’s infinitely better to see it for yourself.
TIP Remember to take at least 1,5 litres of water with you for hydration – and take a jacket as it gets quite windy on the mountain.
- BARGAIN FOR GOODS AT PORT LOUIS MARKET
Spending a day in the capital city of Port Louis is a must – and its large market is a great place to find souvenirs and gifts to take home with you. Shopping there is also an opportunity to support the locals, and get a feel for what crafts and food they do best.
As you make your way through the busy market, you’ll be invited to have a look at every stall – so keep your bargaining skills ready! To give you an idea of prices, I bought a medium-sized woven bag for R150 and got a henna tattoo on my arm for R125. Almost all of us had henna tattoos by the end of the day – it felt like a way of keeping a piece of Mauritius with us.
Across the road is the waterfront where the famous multi-coloured umbrellas are displayed overhead. This is such an Instagrammable spot! One of our group, Makoma Toona, was especially looking forward to being under the umbrellas that she’d seen so often on social media.
TIP You’ll need cash to make purchases at the market.
- CRUISE ON A CATAMARAN
A full-day cruise on a catamaran on the east coast, with music playing and unlimited drinks being served, makes for a lavish vibe. We also enjoyed a braai lunch on board, including fish, rice, fresh bread and vegetables.
We danced to reggae Afro-beat songs and spent time lying on the net, all our worries forgotten. A stop at Île aux Cerfs Island for a quiet, relaxing break (included in the day trip) was the cherry on the cake.
TIP Take motion-sickness medication if you’re prone to feeling seasick.
- TRY WATER SPORTS
The water-based activities in Mauritius include parasailing, underwater walking, scuba diving and snorkelling. I recommend you try at least one. I’ll never forget the first time I snorkelled, during my first trip to Mauritius in 2014. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it is down there.
Nyaradzo Sanyika, the co-host for this Gophari Travel trip, describes underwater walking as “the most memorable activity in Mauritius. I got to see and feed the most colourful fish I’ve ever seen!” And since this was Lebo Modiba’s first time travelling outside of South Africa, the water activities were definitely her highlights. “I loved parasailing, snorkelling and the hike,” she says. “And I loved how well we all got along, even though we hardly knew each other.”
TIP If you can’t swim, don’t count yourself out – as for a life jacket to keep you afloat.
As predicted, everyone loved Mauritius – which is why the island will be one of the group destinations again in 2019. It’s a place I cannot help coming back to again and again … and again.
WHEN TO GO
The weather in Mauritius is warm throughout the year, although between January and March cyclones are likely to occur.
WHERE TO STAY
The vibey North Coast of the island allows easy access to points of interest, day and night, including shops, bars, restaurants and activities such as hiking and water sports.
Mauritius is a safe country, with low crime and violence rates. You really can relax on this island.
A cocktail or a fast-food meal goes for R125. Water sports cost about R500 per activity. A 10km cab ride will cost about R250; the bus will cost R15.
Mauritius is a small island. It takes about 90 minutes to get from the south to the north by bus – or you can use a cab service for convenience.
You can’t drive anywhere in Mauritius without seeing sugar-cane fields, so try fresh sugar-cane juice – or the locally made rum or beer if you want something stronger. The blend of Chinese, Indian and French cuisine means you can indulge in street food on every corner, with traditional Mauritian rotis and dal puri especially popular. And, of course, eating seafood by the ocean is always a good idea!
SAA flies daily to Mauritius from Johannesburg. Visit flysaa.com.
Farirai Sanyika – a chemical engineer who, after completing her degree in 2014, rewarded herself with a trip to Mauritius … and was promptly blown away by the island’s natural beauty. She created a travel blog to provide guidance on how to make your travel dreams a reality while working full time. This has now branched into a group travel company – Gophari Travel – that has Farirai organising group trips to African destinations. The packages include return flights, accommodation and activities – all you have to do is pitch up.