Need to escape to a quiet place?
Longing for a total change of scene?
Feeling the urge to reconnect with nature?
Looking for a different travelling experience, a unique and authentic holiday experience?
Mauritius can offer more than the familiar seaside, sun-filled getaway.
With the growing trends of green tourism and eco-conscious living, the demand for alternative holiday accommodation has been on the rise lately. In many parts of the island, new addresses offering a comfortable and yet, authentic and nature-centred experience, have sprouted.
Nestled in the middle of a luxuriant vegetation, in the uplands of the island, the views from Chamarel’s lodges, for instance, are simply breath-taking. Depending on the location, there is a diversity of landscapes to gape at: the South-west coast and the blue shades of its lagoon; the intense green of the central forests; the “wild” South, as it often is called, with its raging sea, steep cliffs and long stretches of pristine beaches; the East of the island with its private reserves and spectacular mountain ranges. Friends, shutterbugs and artists, take out your cameras and paintbrushes and get ready to be blown away! Depending on the time of the day and the variation of the sunlight, the scenery changes colour. One can be lucky enough to capture a stunning moonset view! Some will taste the pleasure of penning their thoughts in a quiet spot, where only the sounds of nature can be heard: the cradling songs of birds, the gentle pattering of the rain on roofs, the wind rustling through the leaves… The perfect background to find or recapture inspiration.
Mother Nature is at the centre stage of it all. Boasting the finest building materials, a lot of wood, thatched roofs, waxed concrete floors and large open verandas, holiday cottages are meant to be cosy and full of charm. The road to these idyllic hideaways is winding. Their unsophisticated charm sets the tone for the rest of your holidays. The emphasis is put on the surrounding nature. Sports addicts can race or simply hike through indigenous forests and contemplate the island’s rich wildlife, while the most daring will get their thrills off mountain climbing.
Travelling deeper into the inland, you will come across quaint villages. As you walk or ride across them, you may take a break under the tin-roofed porch of an old shop and indulge in some street food. There, you may start a conversation with a local and he will tell you a bit of local history. You will never believe how outgoing and warm-hearted our villagers can be: always ready for a chat, always ready to help.
Do not miss out on any occasion to share a meal with a Mauritian family! It is the ideal way to taste local specialties and home-style cuisine in an informal atmosphere. Char-grilled aubergine and kidney beans stew will be served alongside a traditional curry and eaten with faratas, dholl-puris or white rice. A shot of homemade spice-flavoured rum served in aperitif will definitely whet your appetite. Sharing the intimacy of a native family and learning to prepare food with local spices – “caripoulé” leaves, four-spice blend, mint leaves – is simply priceless! Hopefully, you will get to choose and pick up vegetables from the family garden and have them cooked in front of your eyes. You will feast on exotic vegetables such as pipengaille (luffa), calebasse (calabash), brèdes songes (taro leaves), and fruits like jujube, tamarind, cherry guava, jambolan…
During the conversations, you will catch a glimpse of the Mauritian culture and its diversity, understand the complexity of our history, what we have kept of our French and English colonial past, before the Independence in 1968. The senior member of the family will share her secret herbal recipes to heal minor ailments: lemongrass infusion to soothe stomach burns or aloe vera poultices to magic away bruises.
As you stroll along the streets, you will notice small stalls in front of some houses, where fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden are on display. You may come across some culinary treats, which the vendors will proudly offer you to taste: candied fruit, homemade cakes… Eating Chinese dumplings on the sidewalk, for instance, is part of the local folklore. Look for craft skills and activities that are disappearing: here, a tinsmith; there, a coalman; and there a cobbler, sitting in the middle of a stack of shoes. And there is also a lady weaving dry Pandanus leaves into colourful baskets. You may realise that most articles on sale are artfully handcrafted using an eclectic range of recycled objects.
Along the ride, you will surely discover places and landmarks of our island’s fascinating history: street names as well as village and town names can be of English, French and, in some rare cases, Dutch resonance. Memorial stones of the island’s first settlers, cannons, century-old bridges, wash houses where army officers used to wash their uniforms, and splendid colonial mansions bear witness to a sometimes glorious, sometimes troubled past.
If you have a strong interest in music, let yourself be introduced to the local music and try out some of our typical instruments, such as the ravanne and the maravanne… Lose yourself to the sound and rhythm of sega music. Locals will be pleased to teach you how to sway your hips like a real sega dancer! Take part in the village festivities, like the local “fancy fair”, for a true immersion into the local life and cultural scene. Such events provide local talents with a unique opportunity to reveal themselves. In Mahebourg, the traditional boat regatta will certainly attract a crowd of sailing enthusiasts.
Simply put, Mauritius is an explosion of colours, flavours, scents and sounds. A peaceful haven. A world of sensations. An island with a rich history and a friendly population. The promise of a unique and mind-blowing journey, which will remain in your memory for a long… very long time!