Away from the sparkling turquoise waters and white sandy beaches, Mauritius is a treasure trove of dense mountainous forests, sugar cane fields and trees full of wild monkeys. There’s so much to do on Mauritius, from experiencing delectable street food to checking out the Seven Coloured Earths phenomenon and snorkelling with dolphins just off the coast. It’s easy to pop your feet up and relax on your sun lounger for the duration of your holiday but you’ll really miss out on some of the most incredible sights and experiences Mauritius has to offer.

I recently returned from a trip which allowed me to really discover and get a taste of Mauritius away from its dazzling beaches. It opened my eyes to the diverse scenery and rich culture Mauritius quite rightly boasts, leaving me with lasting memories and a genuine passion for the island. The best advice I can offer anyone travelling to Mauritius, who really wants to explore and absorb its wonderful character, is to move around the island and discover the different faces of Mauritius while enjoying some brilliant jaunts.

Here’s some of my favourite moments from my each part of the island I visited on my trip which I hope will inspire you on your own trip to Mauritius!

N O R T H

While most towns and villages around Mauritius are charming and colourful, giving you an authentic feel, Grand Baie is a lively and modern village offering its visitors something a little different. Set on the north coast of Mauritius, Grand Baie is a delightful area where you can take a stroll down its beautiful Sunset Boulevard lined with palm trees and beach hut shops. Hopping on a bicycle, we toured the village to see many authentic streets as well as a Hindu temple, the Grand Baie Bazar, a local church and finished with stopping to sample some tantalising dishes from a street food vendor called Ti Kouloir. Built around the sweeping cove of fisherman boats and catamarans is an abundance of restaurants and bars, giving you the perfect opportunity to watch the sun melt away beneath the landscape. The nightclubs around Grand Baie are filled with locals and tourists alike, enjoying a fun island vibe and atmosphere. If you’re looking for a night out, I would definitely recommend Banana Beach Club for great drinks and fun music.

There’s no better way to explore the coastline of Mauritius than from a beautiful catamaran cruise for a day. Veranda Paul et Virginie’s catamaran, Deep into The Blue, spoilt us! We sat back and relaxed while we sailed along the north coast, taking in its stunning landscape while enjoying the fresh breeze. During the day, we stopped for a bit of snorkelling to see the magical marine flora and fauna beneath the surface and then sailed into the mangroves to soak in one of the lagoons. An unbelievable barbecue lunch of chicken, fish, beef and lobster was served while we moored just off Pointe Bernache, before hopping off to explore this beautiful public island for the rest of the afternoon (it’s small enough that you can walk around it in about 15 minutes). After returning to Veranda Paul et Virginie, the day ended perfectly with a smooth sundowner by the sea.

W E S T

I struggled so much to put this next experience into words. This was hands down one of the most unbelievable and unforgettable moments of my life – it was surreal! Waking up bright and early on the golden west coast of Mauritius, we stepped onto the beach ready to meet our new friends… a pod of spinner dolphins! Right there, in Tamarin Bay, lives this beautiful pod of dolphins in their natural habitat. They’re not fed or attracted to the area unnaturally and they’re free to move and go as they please. We met our tour guide (Fred) and boat captain (Bobbin), who gave us a quick introduction about the tour and dolphins, and we were off. Not far from the shoreline, we stopped and waited with our masks and flippers ready. Fred and Bobbin were brilliant, spotting which way the dolphins were heading and telling us when to hop in and look down. Virtually every time it was spot on (they were right beneath us!) and, once you’re able to keep up with the pod, you can follow them for ages. They kept gradually moving further towards the surface and popping up for air a few times before diving down deeper. I literally swam amongst them as well as next to, above and behind them – it was simply magical! They were completely unfazed by my presence and looked at me peacefully. I managed to dive down a few times to swim alongside them, even right next to a mother and her baby less than four feet away! I felt like crying because it was such a unique experience. Towards the end of our tour, a few of the dolphins jumped out of the water right in front of us, spinning! It was such a sight and we were right in the water with them while they were doing this. We finished our tour by venturing a little further south along the west coast and having a little snorkel over a reef. We saw an incredible variety of fish from angelfish to parrotfish and even a small snake eel. All in all, this is definitely an experience not to be missed!

While in Tamarin village, venture out to try some of the local street food. There’s an amazing variety, from Mauritian to Indian and Chinese. We tried rotis, samosas, banana cake, roasted eggs and fried noodles. Go to the village hungry and after your morning dolphin swim tour – after all that swimming to keep up with the pod – I was famished and the food around Tamarin village hit the spot! Once you’ve digested, have a wander to find its Salt Pans where salt is produced using traditional methods that haven’t changed in over 200 years. Sea water is pumped directly from the bay into large dark square stone ‘pans’ and basically left to evaporate. The salt is then collected mainly during the drier summer months. Finish the day with a well-deserved nap on the beach under the shade of the filao trees with the beautiful mountainous backdrop of Les Trois Mamelles.

S O U T H

From Heritage Awali, we ventured into the Heritage Nature Reserve only minutes away from the hotel’s entrance. Offering a wealth of nature, you can explore the reserve by 4×4 safari truck, individual quad bikes, or hiking. With historical, natural and cultural riches, there’s something for everyone to see spread over 3,200 acres! We took the immersive two-hour 4×4 safari tour though the Jurassic-like jungle, seeing fruit bats, native deer and monkeys, as well as being shown an array of indigenous trees and flora, before embarking on a small hike to an energetic waterfall. You have the option to go for a refreshing dip here, so take your comfy shoes and swimmers with you. On our way back towards the coastline, it was breathtaking to see the brilliant blue Indian Ocean waters adjacent to the dramatic landscape of the tropical forest we had just emerged from.

On our final day, we left Heritage Le Telfair and drove inland to discover the many wonders of Chamarel. Well known on the island for its quiet and rural atmosphere with calm breezes, Chamarel is a lovely elevated village with a fantastic range of natural marvels. It’s home to the famous Chamarel Waterfall and Seven Coloured Earths. First, we stopped at Chamarel Waterfall and visited two scenic viewpoints to watch the St. Denis river plunge 272ft in one single drop, creating the highest waterfall in Mauritius. The combination of the waterfall, exposed rock formation and lush tropical forest surrounding it can only be described as awestriking! After we had all finished taking our perfect shot, we went to see the Seven Coloured Earths, where we viewed the most photographed attraction in Mauritius, ripples of colourful sand dunes consisting of seven different distinct colours in a unique geological park. It was a wonderful thing to catch a glimpse of millions of years of natural geological change. The different colours are a result of molten rock cooling, leaving iron and aluminium oxides, which both offer different hues. They say the separation of coloured sand may be explained by the notion that aluminium and iron particles naturally repel from one another. After taking in this curious wonder for a little while, we then left Chamarel and visited the Black River Gorges National Park, the largest protected forest in Mauritius. It consists of superb untouched forest spreading over 17,000 acres of wondrous waterfalls, mountains and cavernous valleys. There’s also 30 miles of hiking trails for the budding hiker, offering a great way to really explore the unspoilt wilderness of the island. We viewed the expansive Black River Gorges National Park from over 2,500ft above sea level and the next time I return to Mauritius I’ll make sure I take my hiking boots!

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