The island nation of Mauritius, around 1 000 kilometres east of Madagascar, has become one of the world’s most popular luxury tourist destinations, largely thanks to its tropical climate, picture postcard beaches and crystal clear sea waters. Most tourists would be surprised to discover that the country actually incorporates four separate Indian Ocean island complexes, including Mauritius, Rodrigues, the Agelega islands and the archipelago of Saint Brandon. There are more than 50 tiny uninhabited islands just off the coast too, many of which have been dedicated to the conservation of rare fauna and flora.
The islands emerged from gigantic underwater volcanic eruptions, and are fringed by the third largest coral reef in the world. The reef - along with the sparkling white beaches and aquamarine waters - are the main drawcards, allowing visitors to enjoy some wonderful snorkelling, diving and coconut cocktail relaxation. This blissful setting has seen a number of luxurious resorts spring up over recent years, most of which are well-designed and professionally run.
Tourism has been the main driver of the nation’s rise from a low income, agricultural-based economy, to one of the most prosperous countries in African. Historical Portuguese, Dutch and French influences are clearly visible in the urban areas, contrasted by modern infrastructure and vibey restaurants, spas and shopping complexes. Visitors can also expect to encounter a colourful melting pot of cultures, ranging from African to Hindu, French and Chinese.
On the north-west coast of Mauritius island, the bustling capital of Port Louis hosts a number of religious festivals and street markets where these various cultures can be experienced. The city is also home to the Caudan Waterfront, an exceptionally well-developed harbour with a vast array of shops, restaurants and leisure activities.
In the north, Grand Bay was one of the first places to be developed into a tourist hub, and continues to be popular for its seaside atmosphere and range of recreational activities. Smaller seaside resort towns and fishing villages can be found along the country’s magnificent coastline, along with some almost deserted islands that are ideal for those looking for tranquillity.
The main island has also become home to some of the most scenic golf courses in the world, making it a highly attractive, exotic destination for golfers.
Inland, verdant forests and sugar cane fields are traversed by rivers and streams, encircled by extinct volcanic mountains. One of the most notable attractions is Ganga Talao, a breath-taking natural lake nestled in the crater of an extinct volcano. Ancient ruins also dot the mountains and forests, giving a poignant reminder of the country’s past.
Although the activities of man have seen a number of endemic animal, plant and bird species wiped out, the government has recently upped its conservation activities, and a range of exceptionally rare fauna and flora can still be viewed in the protected pockets of wilderness.
Off the south-east coast, the island of Ile aux Aigrettes has become internationally recognised as a conservation haven, playing host to the extremely rare Pink Pigeon, Green Gecko and Aldabra giant tortoise, amongst other species.
Apart from exceptional diving and snorkelling, the islands are a paradise for deep-sea fishing.
The archipelago of St Brandon is a highly sought-after angling destination, with the sand flats and reefs offering the perfect opportunity to sight-fish for Giant Trevally, Bonefish and Permit.
A huge number of tour operators can be enlisted to create an itinerary that will suit the specific interests of travellers. In addition, almost every hotel on the islands offers extensive wedding and honeymoon packages, with every detail expertly arranged on behalf of guests.