I was so excited when May 16th rolled around. My flight MK852 was due to depart at 13:35 from Gate A24 at OR Tambo International Airport. Flying on the wonderful Air Mauritus A340-300 named Cardinal after the little red fody bird, native to Madagascar and introduced into the surrounding islands including Mauritius. I’ve always loved airlines that give their planes creative names!
It was smooth sailing at security and passport control before departing. We passed the time at duty-free and grabbed a coffee before boarding began at 12:30. We made it to the plane at 13:00 and settled into our seats 27 A and B. I highly recommend them as they are the last seats before the third section of the plane and you have nobody behind you which was great! They are however right by the restrooms and I know that bothers some people but for a four-hour flight it’s perfectly fine!
We landed at 19:15 local time at the newly updated and expanded Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport. Passport control was busy but it went quicker when they opened a few more desks. The staff were helpful and relatively friendly. I guess they’re trained to not be too chummy with passengers due to the whole “If I make you feel comfortable, you won’t admit you’re carrying contraband” scenario. The Mauritian people are in a whole extremely friendly and well-mannered people. Sometimes there is a bit of a language barrier with the locals but don’t take their struggle to communicate as rudeness. They’re genuinely just trying to make you understand. I only had trouble a few times with this and most of the people you meet will know English.
Upon leaving the baggage carousel with our luggage in tow, we made it through the arrivals area and were greeted by the very friendly tour company that Flight Centre had booked us through. Our very happy driver from Solis Indian Ocean made us welcome with bottled water and cold towels. We were soon en route to our resort on the Eastern side of the island in a little area called Poste Lafayette.
A good 75 minutes later we arrived at Centara Poste Lafayette Resort and Spa (The hotel is no longer part of the Centara Group). We were taken to the dining area while they checked us in and we enjoyed a wide range of options from the buffet. Once we were finished we returned to the reception area where everything had been organised while we had dinner and we were escorted across the road to the newer part of the resort where we were shown our beautiful and spacious second floor room. I hate but at the same time love arriving late at night to a new place because I really want to see what surrounds me except it’s too dark but I also like knowing that I’m going to wake up to something in the morning that I haven’t seen yet. Just me? Probably..
The Superior room was equipped with two very comfortable three-quarter beds, a sitting area, a lovely spacious shower, a balcony overlooking a picturesque landscape, aircon, wifi, mini bar, safe and a flat screen TV with the usual handful of movie, news and entertainment channels. Everything you’d need and more.
Waking up to a beautiful view from the balcony we headed down for breakfast which was a wonderful buffet filled with delicious choices for your cold and/or hot breakfast. We decided to go all-inclusive which includes selected drinks so I’d highly recommend trying the non-alcoholic Tutti Fruity with your breakfast. There is also fruit juices available at the buffet and tea/coffee is available from the waiters.
We decided to head up to Grand Baie (Grand Bay) for the day so we ordered a taxi which cost roughly 2500 Mauritian Rupees from the hotel to Grand Bay return. The taxi driver dropped us off near the public beach and told us to call him when we were ready to go home. We wandered along the Main Road enjoying the local way of life and trying to not get run over by taxi’s and scooters. We browsed around the shops in Sunset Boulevard and enjoyed a Croque Monsieur (Toasted ham and cheese sandwich) accompanied by a “Surfer” cocktail at Sunset Cafe which boasts a beautiful view of the marina.
Heading along the main road away from the beach in search of prices for a boat trip we stumbled upon the Super U shopping complex. What an absolute wonderland this place was. The Super U itself has everything you could ever want and then some! We stocked up on snacks and bought a few souvenirs then ventured onto the inside shops where I picked up a few more souvenirs. After we’d burned up all our lunch, we decided to treat ourselves to a Gelateria Love Biggaton, a rather inviting looking gelato shop we had passed on the way into Super U. I was blown away by the decadent selection of chocolates, ice creams and cakes all beautifully decorated to perfection. I could have eaten the whole shop but decided on a simple two scoop cup with bubblegum and banana flavoured gelato. A weird combination to some but it was a fantastic blend to my taste buds! A gorgeous flavour, texture and thickness overall. I wouldn’t miss this place out on my next trip to Mauritius.
I kept my eyes glued out the window on the way back to the resort, enjoying the view of the passing sugar cane fields, beautiful weathered towns and glimpses of everyday Mauritian life. Upon arrival back at the resort we had a much deserved siesta and enjoyed a wonderful sunset from the balcony before making our way down to dinner at the resorts a la carte restaurant Phi. We were pleasantly surprised by the delicious cuisine. We enjoyed an Appetizer, Al Seconda (Main Meal) and Il Duche (Dessert). It’s definitely nice to experience a somewhat fancy sit down dinner one night instead of a buffet seven nights in a row.
It was a gorgeous sunny, humid day and we decided to appreciate the resort and its inviting umbrella and lounger clad beach nooks complimented by the swishing water drenching the shoreline. Unfortunately there were no waiters to take drink orders and you had to fight your way through the hot sand to get to the beach bar to get a drink so we ended up ordering a couple of drinks at a time just to save the hassle. We also indulged in a delicious margarita pizza from the beachfront restaurant, Aqua 180. There’s nothing better than gorging yourself on a crispy pizza reveling uninterrupted ocean views on the stunning island of Mauritius. Pure, blissful relaxation.
Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens (Commonly known as Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens) was on the agenda for the day so we hopped in a taxi and headed North West. The entrance fee costs Rs200 per person, you can also pay an extra Rs40 per person to have a guide take you around the gardens but we decided to just do our own thing (Although it is highly recommended). The botanical garden is most famous for its long pond of giant water lillies as well as its Aldabra giant tortoises. The gardens which cover 62,040 acres are the oldest in the Southern Hemisphere and were first started by Mahé de Labourdonnais in 1735 as a vegetable plot for his Mon Plaisir Château which still exists on the property, it now showcases a small photo exhibition. The gardens then started to take shape under the hand of French horticulturist Pierre Poivre in 1770. Many world leaders and royalty have planted trees in the gardens including South Africa’s own, Nelson Mandela who planted an Ebony tree, a critically endangered tree endemic to Mauritius in 1998.
There is lots of walking so I suggest comfortable shoes, sun spray and a bottle of water! There are vendors about if you want to purchase a drink or a snack.
From Pamplemousses we headed due North to the architectural red-roofed church of Cap Malhereux called Notre Dame Aurilliatrice Chapel built-in memory of local shipwrecks. It now brings beauty and peace to the village known as the “Cape of Bad Luck” after the French lost the island to the British who attacked from the North in 1810. This is definitely somewhere you shouldn’t miss on your trip either. You can light a candle inside the church and sit for a little while or you can enjoy the beautiful picturesque seascape that fills the background. You’ll catch a clear sight of Coin De Mire island also called Gunner’s Quoin which measures just 65 hectares in size and Flat Island directly to the North East which is apparently at risk of submerging.There are numerous catamaran trips that’ll take you up close to the islets and you can enjoy a swim or a snorkel in the lagoons encompassed by the mountains.
Another day spent absorbing the sun rays and salty sea air on the resorts beach. We enjoyed cocktails, pizza and endless panoramic views of the Indian Ocean. We had the odd villager wandering along the beach trying to sell us a sarong or a necklace but they usually leave you be if you say “no thanks”. There are also numerous activities available from the resort staff like snorkelling, kayaking and even a glass bottomed boat. I found the sand on Poste Lafayette’s beaches to be very gritty as the East coast has rougher waters and a rockier coastline than the West. The waves tend to bring in broken shells and coral which seems to make up the majority of the sand. Watch out for rather large stones hidden under the sand too! Your feet will thank you.
Waking up to another sunny day, we headed down to the car park to pick up the car we had rented the night before. The great thing about most resorts is they are able to book a car for you whenever and the company will drop it off at the resort car park for you. We worked out that it would be somewhat cheaper to a rent a car for the day than to actually book a full day taxi. This also meant that we had more freedom to just enjoy the sights and go where we pleased. Make sure you have an international drivers license with you.
We dropped our ABC car rental agent in Flacq and then we were on our way down South to visit Ganga Talao better known as Grand Bassin to most tourists. The weather took a turn for the worst when we arrived at the entrance to Grand Bassin and we waited out the rain inside our bright green Nissan Micra (called a Nissan March in Mauritius). It slowly subsided and we made our way down to the crater lake which was heavily engulfed in an eerie mist. We respectfully removed our shoes and made our way inside the holy place of worship, we witnessed a family engaging in puja as well as several others praying, burning incense and leaving offerings to the Gods. It felt like I was intruding in a sacred ceremony and decided to leave them in seclusion. I turned my attentions to the many tourists being blessed by the Hindu Priest (Archaka). The sense of calm and peace I felt after the Priest had blessed me was incredible. The overall atmosphere of the Temple was tranquil and even the most highly strung will feel an overwhelming sense of calm. Upon venturing back out into the fresh air, the rain began to fall again and we sought shelter at the edge of the Temple. Hoping the rain would once again subside, we watched as the Java monkey’s leaped from statue to shrine enjoying the offerings left by worshipers. It became clear that the rain wasn’t going to disperse so we jumped back into the car and headed for our next destination.
We took a quick detour to Black River Gorges National Park. We climbed the seemingly never ending wet stairs to the viewing point and were greeted by a beautiful green landscape, heavy grey clouds, a small flowing stream and a trickling waterfall. That was it. Beautiful but worth the stop? Probably not. Especially when its a damp overcast day. A sunny day may be more worth the visit especially if you are a keen hiker!
Onward to Chamarel Seven Coloured Earths through winding roads and stumbling across what we thought was the entrance to the earths but it was actually The Rhumerie De Chamarel. We decided to pop in and have a look around. The place was stunning, from the gardens to the architecture to the staff. Incredible. We were escorted down to the restaurant by a lovely young woman who was well spoken and knowledgeable. We decided to give the rum tour a miss but thought the restaurant L’alchimiste sounded like a great spot for lunch. An upmarket restaurant with a unique cuisine prepared from local products sourced from the estate itself. The food is absolutely amazing, infallibly fresh and cooked to perfection. Open Monday to Saturday from 9:30am – 5:30pm. I would call this borderline fine dining and would highly recommend stopping in on your way towards Chamarel.
The rain had cleared up by the time we left the rum brewery. It was still cloudy but it was dry and that’s all that mattered. We finally found the actual entrance to Chamarel Seven Coloured Earths and waited in a bit of a queue to get in as it’s very popular with the tourists. After reaching the ticket kiosk and paying the Rs175 entrance fee we made our way along the somewhat narrow, pothole ridden, dirt road to where the highest waterfall in Mauritius is situated. You pretty much have to tackle your way through the crowds if you want to get a glimpse of the falls. Umpteen families taking group photos and those who linger a bit longer than they should can get annoying so if you’re looking for something a bit less tourist infested then I suggest you give this place a miss. Once you manage to angle your way between the lost looking granny in the sari and the family who probably should’ve stopped at two kids, you are greeted by a breath-taking gorge filled with lush vegetation framing the rapid flow of water falling from the St.Denis River thus creating the Chamarel Waterfalls. You can climb a rather steep path to get another angle of the waterfall but you won’t miss much if you’re not up for the trek. I met a few people on the way down who looked like they clearly regretted their decision to climb up.
We continued onto the coloured earths which were a few kilometers up the road. The car park was filled with cars, tour buses and taxi’s but finding a space was relatively easy. A long paved walkway circles the sands showing you every angle of the geological formation. Unfortunately the overcast day hindered the true colours of the earths and it was hard to appreciate the unerring magic of the dunes. I’m still glad I visited them nonetheless.
Calling it a day just as the sun came out we took the coastal route through Baie Du Cap, St Martin, Bel Ombre, Riambel and Souillac following the A9 into Curepipe and heading North East towards Quartier Millitare to get back to our resort in Poste Lafayette. The maps in Mauritius are surprisingly easy to follow and there are always friendly folk willing to point you in the right direction if you get a bit lost.
A busy day exploring was ended off with a delicious dinner from the resorts buffet and traditional Sega dancing on the beach beautifully lit by a full moon.
We made the decision to keep our lime green Nissan Micra fondly dubbed “Kermit” for another day as we had so much fun driving around at our leisure the day before. Casela Nature and Leisure Park (now Casela Adventure Park) was on the agenda for the day. Following the map we ventured through Quatre Bornes CBD and I was amazed at the developments that were taking place. I was fascinated by the architecture of the Mauritius Commercial Bank building, it is purely magnificent.If you’re not an aesthete then it’s just a boring building but to those who appreciate the hard work and thought that goes into creating such feats then its something more.
Arriving at Casela mid afternoon to an unsurprisingly busy car park, we stood in a short queue to purchase tickets. We opted to book for the Safari Park Drive Thru package which now costs 1425MR for non-residents. A ranger takes you through the nature reserve, telling you facts and information along the way. We were handed bread rolls to feed the zebras and rather grumpy ostriches, yes, bread rolls. I seen a few hungry tourists concealing some in their backpacks too. We disembarked at the lion enclosures. Those who had paid to walk with the lions were taken into the enclosures while the rest of watched or browsed the curio shop. We passed a few groups on Segways, buggy’s and quad bikes on the way round the reserve which looked a lot better than sitting on a bumpy safari truck. I’d definitely recommend doing the Segway’s if you have the balance or the buggy’s, they looked like a ton of fun! You can even book for an extra hour and venture through Yemen Nature Reserve which borders Casela, where you could see wild boar, deer and exotic birds. Casela has developed immensely since I visited last year. They now have an awesome slide called Avalanche Mine, a 4D cinema, giraffe interaction and a petting zoo. I think the park overall has undergone some major developments after it first opened in 1979. I unfortunately didn’t get to explore the majority of the park as by the time our trip on the safari vehicle started and ended it was late afternoon and we needed to get “Kermit” back to the resort by 18:00. So make sure to get there early, there is a lot to see!
Arriving back at the resort we bid farewell to our rental car “Kermit” and headed for our last buffet of the trip. Reception informed us that our transfer would be picking us up at 05:15, we laughed, thinking it was a joke. It wasn’t.
Rudely awakened by my alarm at 04:00 and peeling myself from probably the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in. I dressed, finished packing, said goodbye to my home for the last seven days and trudged my suitcase down the two flights of stairs and crossed the road to reception. We met up with our fellow early risers, grabbed our breakfast boxes and hit the road at 05:15 sharp. Enjoying the passing villages in the early morning light and dodging stray dogs we made our way South West toward SSR International Airport. We were graced with a beautiful sunrise on the way and made it to the airport by 06:25. Thanking our Solis driver and hauling our luggage into the departure terminal, we checked in and made it through security relatively quickly. We now had about two hours to kill. Browsing duty-free, enjoying a much-needed coffee and passing the time playing Quizup. It was finally time to board, well at least we thought it was but we ended up being delayed for a good hour and only made it through the boarding gate at 09:30. Air Mauritius boarded people like there was no tomorrow when they finally had the go ahead. So good on them for managing to get us all boarded so quickly as we managed to depart at 09:45.Only thirty minutes after the scheduled departure time. I have never seen such a beautiful view out of a plane window upon ascent before. You are given an incredible aerial view of all Mauritius has to offer, the beaches dotted with resorts and their happy residents as well as the mountains towering above lush plantation fields, with gorgeous turquoise ocean dazzling beneath us it then broke and became the deep dark ocean before disappearing completely under a sheet of white clouds. A perfect farewell to an incredible holiday..
Overall if you have about ten days on the island, I’d recommend visiting the well-known attractions because most of them are definitely worth a visit even just to say you’ve been. Enjoy a few days at the beach or find some of the less popular attractions. Keep your eye on the Air Mauritius Blog as they always have fantastic posts about places that you might not know about! Unless you plan to spend a lot of the time at your resort’s beach then I don’t suggest going all-inclusive. Half board would’ve suited us just fine as we only ate lunch twice the entire week. If you’re closer to one of the built up areas then you don’t even need to worry about half board. You can always enjoy the restaurants in the surrounding areas and experience some true local culinary. Unfortunately Poste Lafayette was a bit out in the sticks so I’d definitely look at staying in Grand Bay next time, possibly even renting a self catering flat.
I fantasize about my next trip to Mauritius, whenever it may be. The nostalgia I feel when I see Air Mauritius landing at OR Tambo is insane! I can honestly say that this is one of my favourite places that I’ve ever visited. The people are friendly and well-mannered. They’ll even stop traffic to let you turn into a street when it’s clearly their right of way. Driving is great and the roads have been majorly developed. There’s no hostility between the locals and the tourists and they’re always willing to assist you. The Mauritians are overall just amazing people.
I’d definitely do a boat trip to one of the islets next time as well as find some cool places on the Western side of the island. I’d love to see some less well-known attractions and possibly do more adventure activities like zip-lining, hiking, snorkeling and maybe even skydiving. It’s all possible in Mauritius!
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