On July 31, 2012Jennifer Wholey answered the question:If you find yourself on Mauritius, chances are you came for the beaches. Surrounded by the Indian Ocean’s alluring waters, it’s difficult to go wrong no matter which side of the island you’re on. Here, Forbes Travel Guide picks the best beaches in Mauritius:
1. Trou aux Biches. Meaning “does’ watering hole,” this beach is a favorite among the locals, who come flooding in for weekend picnics. Its clear waters are good for snorkeling and casuarina trees line the unblemished sand almost all the way to neighboring Mont Choisy in the north. A popular dive spot for beginners, nicknamed “the aquarium,” is also located here.
2. Tamarin. Any beach worth your time will have its share of gajacks or Indian snacks for sale. Grab some fried bites from vendors across the way from the retro Tamarin Hotel and watch the spinner dolphins cavort across the bay.
3. Blue Bay. Enjoying marine park status, this protected area has some of the island’s best underwater views. Snorkeling is prime, but the coral reefs can just as easily be explored on glass-bottomed boats departing from the beach. Lunch at a nearby table d’hote for a comforting meal and Creole hospitality.
4. Flic en Flac. Watersport rentals, music and snack-sellers make this a lively beach, and the shallow waters are a kid favorite. The most stunning (and consequently busy) dive spot in the island, Flic en Flac’s La Cathédrale is a veritable maze of passages and cave ledges, which feature a hundred foot drop-off.
5. Île aux Cerfs. Easily Mauritius’ hottest excursion, a trip out to the Isle of Stags is not to be missed. With almost three miles of heavenly beach, head away from the crowds to a spot of sand all your own. On Saturday nights from October to March Le Touessrok hotel, which owns the land, turns all of Île aux Cerfs into a DJ dance party.
On July 31, 2012Jennifer Wholey answered the question:Mauritius has several unique souvenirs to help you bring a little bit of the Indian Ocean back home.
As one of the largest sugar exporters in the world, Mauritian rum is quite a treat. Rhumerie du Chamarel, a working rum distillery and museum, has its own brand of premium rum, but save your rupees for a bottle or two of rhum arrangé, a unique blend of rum and spices. Popular flavors include coffee and vanilla beans, orange peel, cloves and other spicy add-ins.
For those who prefer tea to tipple, exotic sugars are the way to go. L’Aventure du Sucre has 15 different types of sugar to be sampled in their gift shop. The darker varieties are particularly intriguing, and will bring striking depth to your morning coffee.
The souvenir de mode, however, is anything emblazoned with a dodo. The now extinct bird once native to Mauritius graces everything from t-shirts and toys to housewares and jewelry. Try the craft market at Le Caudan Waterfront in Port Louis for a particularly large selection. While you’re there, pick up another one of Mauritius’ iconic, quirky exports, stunningly detailed ships in a bottle.
On July 31, 2012Jennifer Wholey answered the question:A blend of Indian, African and French ingredients and cooking styles, Creole cuisine is a true taste of Mauritius. Here are some of the best Mauritian food experiences:
1. Table d’hote. These “hosts’ tables” are found in chambre d’hotes, essentially bed and breakfasts and family-run guesthouses. These intimate affairs will have you breaking bread with locals who welcome you with genuine hospitality and often a small nip of rum. Rougaille saucisse, sausages in a tomato sauce, biryani rice pilafs and all kinds of curry are sure to please.
2. Ti punch. The local cocktail of choice, ti punch’s combination of rum, sugar and limejuice can be quite strong. Recipes vary slightly by locale, but those with raw sugar and a dash of vanilla are particularly pleasant. Alternatively, fangourin or flavored cane juice is delightfully thirst quenching, and not at all as much of a sugar-rush as it sounds.
3. Gajacks. Mauritian snacks encompass all the authenticity and sensory delights of Indian street food with fortunately none of the dysentery. Feel free to browse among snack sellers, most easily found camped out by the beach, along the side of road or off newsstands. Favorites include dhal puris (thin crepes served with a spicy vegetable filling), gâteux piments (fried balls of lentils and chilis), boulettes (meatballs) and samosas.
4. Seafood. It should come as no surprise that the seafood on this Indian Ocean island is supreme. Cooking exotic seafood, like bourgeois or St. Brandon Berry fish, Creole style in a tomato sauce leaves the fish at its moistest. Fruits de mer, or shellfish, are also incredibly popular in vindaye or vindaloo sauces, with turmeric and mustard seed.
5. Local game. Many locations in Mauritius take their names from the deer that used to run wild on the island (Trou aux Biches, Île aux Cerfs), but now most of the island’s venison is farmed. Game meats with a reputation for toughness find new life in slow-cooked curries, often augmented by coconut cream. Keep an eye out for wild boar. Even rarer and likely off-menu is carri sauve souris, or fruit bat curry.
On July 31, 2012Jennifer Wholey answered the question:While many tourists tend to stay tethered to their hotels, those looking for a night on the town will best find it in Grand Baie, the undisputed nightlife capital of Mauritius.
For those in a dancing mood, Royal Road near the center of town is lined with clubs. Les Enfants Terribles, near Pointe Aux Cannoniers, has an open-air patio, a dance floor inside and a VIP lounge that stays hopping until 3:00 a.m. Even later-night owls can head to Buddha Bar for house music spinning on three floors, and a younger crowd partying until 5:00 am. Rival club Stardancer also boasts three dance floors, and plays techno, tropical and some ‘80s throwbacks. Zanzibar is smaller and more laid back, playing hip-hop and R&B just across the way.
If you’d rather have a relaxing drink, the Banana Café is a favorite spot to chat and catch jazz and rock in the semi-open bar. Other favorites include the Beach House, often crammed with South African expats looking to catch a glimpse of the sunset (and the famous rugby player who owns the bar), and La Rhumerie, which has an entire wall full of flavored rhum arrangés.
On July 31, 2012Jennifer Wholey answered the question:Although impossible to see in one day, if you are crunched for time to see the top sights in Mauritius, your best bet according to our Forbes Travel Guide editors is to hire a taxi. You can rent a car yourself, but the combination of left-hand driving, congested roads, confusing signage and erratic motorists make the experience maddening at best. A cab is preferable.
Taxi drivers charge by the destination and not by length of time engaged, so make sure to confirm your rate before you set off. If you’re staying out past sunset, the charge will be slightly higher. You should expect to pay $50-$80 to hire a taxi for the entire day. Be prepared for your driver to emphatically hawk boat trips, restaurants and other activities. Politely decline and be firm about your intended destinations or you may find yourself roped into a rip-off.
Departing Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport, head west along the coast toward the striking vista of Le Morne peninsula. Its eponymous rock formation, Le Morne Brabant was so named after a group of slaves were said to have flung themselves off the cliff-face and to their deaths, not knowing that slavery had been abolished since their flight.
Continue on toward Black River Gorges National Park. If you’re lucky, you may be able to spot macaque monkeys, or even a rare Mauritian pink pigeon in the foliage. Call ahead to book a ranger from the visitor’s center for a guided hike on foot, or snag a map from the Petrin Information Center to tackle a portion of the 37 miles of trail on your own.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, hop back on board to view the Chamarel Coloured Earths, a curious collection of varied sand formations from previous volcanic activity. For lunch, insist on Creole classics while enjoying the stunning view at Varangue sur Morne (reservations recommended). A former hunting lodge, the restaurant has sweeping views over the national park. Try the hearts of palm “millionaire’s” salad and the braised wild boar.
Depending on your mood, reward yourself with a lazy afternoon at the beach at Flic en Flac or press on to Port Louis for souvenir shopping at Le Caudan Waterfront and a glance at the world’s most complete dodo skeleton. End your evening in Grand Baie with a taste of the superb local seafood at Le Capitaine, fresh lobster on your plate while you watch the sunset over the bay.
On July 31, 2012Jennifer Wholey answered the question:The best shopping in Mauritius is found in its major cities and towns; each tends to have a main shopping center with its own charms, as well as a market frequented by locals where you can test your haggling skills. Here’s where our Forbes Travel Guide editors say you can find the best shopping in in Mauritius:
In the capital of Port Louis, Le Caudan Waterfront is the place to go. More than 170 shops stand by the harbor at this newly renovated shopping center, with outposts of familiar brands such as Diesel, O’Neil and Timberland in addition to upsale Mauritian labels. Be sure to check out MAST, a fascinating model ship manufacturer. Head to the Craft Market to find souvenirs, such as tea, essential oils and jewelry. Grand Baie’s shopping is less concentrated but more upscale.
For a less conventional experience, try your hand at haggling in the Central Market in Port Louis or the Monday market by the waterfront in Mahébourg, which is smaller and less tourist-driven. The bazaars are the place for authentic items and a local feel if you don’t mind the constant hawking. A huge bargain can be found if you do decide to give your French a workout; start by lowering the price by 30 percent.
On July 31, 2012Jennifer Wholey answered the question:You may think of Mauritius as a beach-centric getaway made for two, but many European, Indian and South African families make the trek to the island with kids in tow. Many hotels offer children’s programs to keep little ones entertained while you relax, and there are so many kid-friendly things to see and do, why not take them along? Here’s what our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend doing with the kids in Mauritius:
1. Go the way of the dodo. Kids might only know of the dodo as a funny, clumsy bird with a big body and tiny, useless wings. It turns out that the stories aren’t that far from the truth. Learn all about these awkward creatures in the Dodo Gallery of the Natural History Museum in Port Louis. Once thought to have disappeared when hungry sailors made one too many meals of them after long voyages, dodo habitats and eggs were more likely destroyed by invasive species of rats and monkeys. The most complete dodo skeleton in the world is on display here, nicknamed Fred. Poor Fred was thought to have accidentally fallen into a cave and broken all of his bones. So much for dispelling a myth!
2. Ride a giant tortoise. You’ll wish you were tot-sized in La Vanille Réserve des Mascareignes zoo and nature reserve. La Vanille is home to over 1,000 Aldabra tortoises and more than 2,000 Nile crocodiles, the result of two very successful breeding projects. Kids can clamber over the jungle playground, explore the insectarium, which has over 23,000 species of bugs, and take photos with a baby crocodile. For adults with a morbid sense of humor, you can also buy crocodile products in the form of handbags and belts in the gift shop and eat crocodile kebabs and curry in the in-house restaurant.
3. Fly through the trees in Chazal. The only zip line park in the Indian Ocean, children over 4 years of age are welcome to strap in and glide through the trees. Thirteen different lines cover almost a mile of canopy above the Rivière des Galets in Chamonix, for up to four hours of high-flying fun. A traditional Mauritian lunch awaits your family when you return to the ground.
4. Spot dolphins in Tamarin Bay. Spinner and bottlenose dolphins play in the bay off the west coast of Mauritius. Catamaran cruises leave regularly from Tamarin Beach and Le Morne, but make sure you choose a sustainable operator that does not harass or crowd the dolphins. A half-day trip may also include a barbecue lunch and snorkeling off Île aux Benitiers.
5. Get a sugar rush at Domaine Les Pailles. Once a colonial sugar estate, Domaine Les Pailles is now a family-friendly park and cultural center with myriad activities. Tour the estate by train or horse-drawn carriage and be sure to stop by the spice garden. See functioning rum and essential oil distilleries and a working replica of an ox-powered sugar mill. Keep the kids busy with guided horse rides while you dine at one of four restaurants. Try Clos St. Louis for Franco-Mauritian cuisine in a plantation house setting.
On July 31, 2012Jennifer Wholey answered the question:From mountainous rainforest and waterfall-studded gorges to luxury hotels situated on sandy coasts, Mauritius has much to offer any type of traveler, whether you’re seeking culture, history or only a tan. It’s tough to narrow down, but our Forbes Travel Guide editors give you their top things to see and do in Mauritius:
1. Explore Port Louis. There’s plenty to see in the capital of Mauritius. Stop by the Le Caudan Waterfront for a variety of shopping. Haggle yourself to a bargain on souvenirs in the Central Market or stop by the Blue Penny Museum for a dose of history. Walk along the palm-lined Place d’Armes to the French colonial-style Government House and pop by the National History Museum to see the most complete reconstruction of a dodo skeleton in the world.
2. Go canyoning in Black River Gorges. Get your adrenaline pumping in a combined hiking and rappelling adventure down the 11 cascades of Tamarin Falls canyon. Beginners should look for Vertical World, which does half and full day tours. First timers will descend two waterfalls: 15 meters for practice, and then a 40 meter-long descent before zip lining into the pool at its base. Try a cliff jump into the water if you’re feeling particularly brave.
3. Take a catamaran cruise to Îlot Gabriel. There are several islets that may beckon you to their azure waters: from the tremendously popular Île aux Cerfs to the nature reserve of Île aux Aigrettes, it’s hard to go wrong. For less fuss, head to Îlot Gabriel, a one-and-a-half-hour hour sail north of Grand Baie. Whales and flying fish are often seen during the trip out. Then, laze on the impeccably white sands with a drink in hand, hike the circumference of the island, or snorkel in the calm, clear bay. You may even spot an easygoing reef shark in the shallows.
4. See a séga show. Modern séga music, mixed with Latin influences, can be found blasting from convenience store speakers and car stereos all over the island. But the dance itself is unique to Mauritius, originating when African slaves gathered at fires on the beach at the end of the day for a welcome respite from work. To the accompaniment of goats-hide drums known as ravannes, couples sway their bodies to and fro, their feet never leaving the ground. You may still see locals dancing on the beach, but your best bet is to catch a performance, such as the one at La Pirogue hotel, or at Chez Madnon in Pereybere.
5. Spend a day at the beach. Most everyone visits Mauritius for the picture-perfect beaches. On any coast of the island there are beaches worth visiting, from Mont Choisy in the north to the Belle Mare Plage in the east. Watersports abound at Flic en Flac, including standards like sea kayaking and snorkeling, while the more adventurous may wish to kite and windsurf at Le Morne beach. Or simply work on your tan. Kill two birds with one stone and bring a small flight of rhum arrangés with you to sip as you soak up the sun.
On July 5, 2012Jennifer Wholey answered the question:With new highways linking most major cities in Ireland, it’s now easier than ever to day trip from Dublin. Here are Forbes Travel Guide editors’ top picks for sightseeing spots less than an hour away:
1. Head to Howth. Hop on the DART heading north from the City Centre for an afternoon by the bay. At the West Pier, seals often bob just past the harbor wall. If you love seafood, you’ll have no shortage of options while you watch fisherman at work. Dublin Bay prawns, oysters and chowder are all on offer, but make sure to save room for Beshoff restaurant for a proper fish and chips. Take the circle route along the cliff that loops the peninsula for stunning sea views including all of Dublin Bay, the Wicklow Mountains in the distance and Ireland’s Eye (a short boat ride away). If you can tear yourself away from the coast, venture inland for a look at the 15th century ruins of Howth Castle.
2. Wander Wicklow. You’ll need to rent a car to most easily access scenic County Wicklow, known as the Garden of Ireland. A scenic drive through the Wicklow Gap will wind through dramatic valleys and boglands travelling west. You may spot livestock grazing on the scrubby brush; keep a weather eye open for precious Dutch paintings purportedly hidden amidst the peat by gangsters. End your journey in the picturesque town of Glendalough, where many would-be hikers depart for the 82-mile trek through the mountains that is the Wicklow Way. If you’d rather stay grounded, round towers, ruined churches and impressive stone crosses mark out the medieval monastery nestled in the cemetery.
3. Meander Meath. The Boyne Valley in County Meath is home to Newgrange, a remarkable megalithic passage tomb older than Stonehenge and the pyramids of Giza. On the winter solstice, lucky lottery winners can huddle inside to await the dawn, when the sun lines up with the roof box, illuminating the chamber within. Take the Mary Gibbons bus tour for a complete history lesson from the Stone Age through the Battle of the Boyne. Stops also include the Hill of Tara, the seat of the Irish High Kings of old, and panoramic views of 23 counties on a clear day.