The most spontaneous trip thus far and my very first time in Africa. And as it goes, the more you travel, the more you want to see. So Africa prepare yourself, this was just the beginning.
Being a proper travel addict I am obsessed with travel pages and blogs so my facebook kept beeping with all different flight offers and error fares for a while. To put it nicely, even though I love winter and snow, I was fed up with the gray sky and winterish weather in Prague so one evening while drinking wine at home this epic error fare popped up. I messaged Františka, my travel buddy, called my boss to ask her permission and booked the flights in a blink of an eye. Only then I realized we had only about four days to go, three of which I was working. One friend of mine lent me a camera and a guide book, Františka researched we needed neither visa nor any particular vaccination (which made things much easier) and I was googling information about Mauritius and accommodation every free minute I had at work. Packing was just fun and super easy as we both had paid checked in luggage so we didn’t have to hold back (mainly with shampoos and liquids).
As the flights were an error fare we weren’t sure whether we were going or not until the very last moment. There was still a slight chance they would cancel our flights once they find out and that would really suck. Also the flight was from Warsaw so we needed to buy a connecting flight there plus we hadn’t gotten any e-ticket, only a time confirmation so it all was a bit stressful not knowing what they were going to tell us at the check-in in Warsaw. Ah well, it was a risk which eventually paid off. We flew to Warsaw in the evening, got outside the airport and spent the five hour transfer with a great company of a bottle of wine and super uncomfortable chairs in the departure hall.
Pretty damn tired, excited but horrified if we would get checked-in or spend the following 8 days in Poland instead of Mauritius, we went to the LOT airlines desk and…checked-in! What a relief! There was nothing else stopping us so we walked calmly towards our gate…nope, don’t trust me. Of course we were dicking around and racing on airport prams. : D Long story short. Remember my Vietnamese journey? Brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner emergency landing in Darwin? Well, the history repeated itself. After three hours heading south east, somewhere above Egypt, the plane (also Dreamliner) started turning around heading back to Warsaw (as announced only in Polish) due to some technical issue. Happy days! Three hours of constant fear expecting the worst, but hey we got a free sandwich. : D One thing I have to give to them is that unlike my Darwin experience they managed a new airplane for us real quick so we waited only about 3 hours in Warsaw before taking off again. The final delay was eventually ‘only’ about 10 hours.
Quick Tip: When your flight is delayed more than 3 hours on a journey that is longer than 3 500 km you automatically have the right to claim up to 600 euros compensation fee from the airlines. We handed our case to one agency that takes care of such things and if successful they will keep 25 per cent of the total but still we will have money for the next trip.
Flic en Flac.
After quite some research we finally decided to book the accommodation for the first four days in a small town on the west coast in Flic en Flac. Only after exploring most of the island we both agreed that there wasn’t any other place we would like to have as a base rather than Flic. That’s why we booked another accommodation for the rest of our holidays just behind couple corners from the first one. It is perfectly located on the west coast, where it is less windy and the sun shines till late afternoon. Also there aren’t any massive touristy resorts which I personally detest and the ones that are there are small houses surrounded by a wall at each end of the town so you can barely notice them.
The whole town has a very local feeling. Almost no tourists and not many people in general. The whole Mauritius has only a bit over one million people and tourists usually rather choose Maldives, Madagascar or Seychelles so it definitely wasn’t packed. That is probably what I enjoyed the most. On the northern end of Flic there are rural houses, police station, post office, pharmacy, Spar supermarket and one or two souvenirs shops in a shopping complex ‘wannabe’. Right next to Spar there is a bar I forgot its name, but man, they do a strong rum! Don’t be scared and walk a bit further up the town to see how the locals live. Also if you walk about 5 minutes east there is a very popular Kenzibar. There are music events on Wednesdays and on the weekends. They apparently also do great burgers.
The southern end of Flic offers probably a bit more touristy stuff, some restaurants and bars. There are two ‘hungry windows’ with alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks, cigarettes, little packed snacks and absolutely delicious roti with different types of filling. There is one bar called Oasis / Shotz, which is probably the place to be on the weekends (mainly on Saturdays also people from the cities come down to party). When we went there for a drink on Thursday it was super dead and on Friday night there were only about 20ish locals. I didn’t mind at all, opposite, just do not expect massive clubs filled with youngsters – if you seek that, go to Phuket. Bit further down there is my personal favourite Saxo Bar – karaoke the whole week and a bar on the weekends. It is much cheaper than Oasis and way cozier. They also have the local Green Island Rum which was a huge plus. Loved it and bought a bottle for myself to bring back home. In between Oasis and Saxo bars there are multiple restaurants from which we only went to one – The Beach Shack that was supposed to have the best seafood. To be quite frank it was nothing special beside the great service provided and yummy wine we treated ourselves with (wine is super expensive in Mauritius as it is all imported, a bottle in Spar is around 500-700 MUR). The fish was tasteless and vegies dull.
Why am I talking about Flic’s southern and northern part? Because the town is devided in half by quite a big cemetery (probably Christian as Hindus don’t bury people in the ground). It is really random plus it complicates a bit the navigation as you cannot cross it and only can walk around one way or the other. Towards the end of our stay we called it ‘the Dead Zone‘ as there was no wifi we could connect to. : D Along the beach there is a beautiful blue, crystal clear ocean with its waves breaking in a distance on the reef that surrounds the whole island creating perfect lagoons for swimming and snorkelling. The water is also incredibly warm considering it is an ocean. Walking along the coast on the main road you will see multiple food trucks parked in between trees offering local cuisine, fresh fruit and all kinds of street food. Cheap and tasty lunch or just a snack when chilling around.
Tip: Even though we haven’t found the place dangerous by any mean (except maybe it is a bit annoying that everyone is whistling at you, but at the end they just want a brief chit chat) it is advised not to go on the beach after the sunset. It is maybe because the main road and the beach are divided by a line of trees and it can get shady at night. There were some cases of rape and other so do not push it and stay in the alight areas.
Accommodation and tours.
As said above we wanted to spend only four days in Flic en Flac, then move to some other town but eventually we decided to stay as it is very conveniently located for trips all around the island. The first half of our holidays we stayed at Lariad BnB located behind the cemetery in a residential area. It was a bit hard to find at first…and second, and third time. Geez, I was struggling to find it every time. : D The place was perfect. Its names origins from a type of Maroccan housing where is a swimming pool in an inner court yard. In Lariad, there were two swimming pools: outside and inside one and even though I’m not much of a lying around type of person, I really enjoyed chilling by the pool in the evening just listening to the buzz of insects and watching little geckos climbing trees above our heads. In the price of the accommodation was included breakfast (very much appreciated) and in each floor there was a small kitchenette so you can cook yourselfs at night.
The thing I liked the most about Lariad though, was the day trips they were offering. As we didn’t want to rent a car or bother by getting to one place the whole day, we booked two tours right there. Don’t get me wrong. I hate those touristy ‘drag and drop’ day tours, but these ones were for maximum of 12 people but mostly for fewer. The following day after our arrival we went on first one we liked: The great Southern circle. It was for up to four people but we ended up being just the two of us with a private driver named Avinesh. As It is always, half of your trip is made by people you meet along the way and Avinesh ended up being a huge part of our Mauritian experience. He was around 28 years old dude, hinduist, born and raised in Mauritius who arrived in an Anonymous t-shirt and a half open fly. : D His English was quite a challenge to understand but we simply loved him to be our guide. Not only he laughed with us, he told us stories, he listened, he understood what we liked, he drove perfectly safe, he was fun and very informative.
Insight: The official languages in Mauritius are French and English but everyone speaks mainly French if not Creole. Creole is a language evolved in a particular area. In Mauritius it is a combination of French and African languages.
Eventually we ended up with him on another day-trip the following day when we were supposed to go snorkelling to Ile aux Cerfs (a small island) but they forgot about us which was fault of the agency not Lariad. Our receptionist Kendy was super helpful and called Avinesh again to take us on a trip exactly to our liking. We kept his number even after we moved to another place and spent even the last day of our holidays tripin’ with him. The first two trips that took him the whole day of driving us around, telling us heaps about his culture and religion and waiting for us cost us 2500 MUR per person! The entrances to attractions weren’t included but it was small amounts. If you are travelling Mauritius and don’t want to rent a car and hustle around in buses with multiple swaps, this is a great and cheap way of exploring the island in a quite comfort.
If Lariad had had some empty rooms we would have stayed but it was fully booked and at the end we didn’t mind moving a bit closer to the beach. The second accommodation was called Chez Pepe – a simple apartment house right on the main road in between Oasis and Saxo. It had bigger rooms with a small private kitchen corner and a sofa. It didn’t have any reception but a restaurant downstairs that we haven’t tried as we were told it wasn’t any good. Plus we really enjoyed home made dinners from local produce bought easy and cheap in Spar.
When it comes to accommodation in general in Mauritius, there is heaps of options. There is the obvious choice of all inclusive resorts which most tourists seek. Then there are much more affordable apartment houses, hotels and even many AirBnbs. Although we read about some cases when those private accommodations got robbed and stuff and that it’s recommended to choose government registered types of accommodations with security systems. All in all, our accommodation cost us for 7 nights around 5500 MUR per person.
Curepipe is an inland town at the highest inhabited point of Mauritius. That causes that it rains here pretty much all the time. Don’t quite understand why the hell would you live here when just down the hill is blue sky. Ah well. The name was taken from the period when sailors came her to clean (cure) their pipes (pipe). As it was our first proper look at the surroundings and infrastructure, we noticed a local phenomenon of leaving houses empty or unfinished (i.e. without a facade or a roof). As we learned later it is because when you announce that you are planning on building a three storey house and end up building only a two storey one, ore without a roof or whatever, you don’t get to pay tax. Also many people start building a property, eventually realize it is too pricy or whatever and leave it empty. Almost all the houses around the whole island are moldy from the humidity and rain. There isn’t much to do about it, so eventually you just leave it and move someplace else.
Trou aux Cerfs.
This place lays just next to Curepipe. Leaving your car at a small parking you have to walk for about 500 m to a viewpoint which is supposed to provide a 360 degrees look over the whole Mauritius…if it didn’t rain. It is actually on the top of an inactive volcano. Mauritius same as Reunion is a volcanic island which is obvious the most while looking at the monumental and pointy mountains all around. These mountains are magnificent and very unusual for an European eye. They also cause that the clouds get stuck inland and drain themselves from rain here while the coast line weather stays clear.
Grand Bassin / Ganga Talao.
Grand Bassin or Ganga Talao is the most sacred place for Hinduists in Mauritius. It is believed that Shiva dropped a tear of Ganga river here and created this lake. Just before we arrived, there was a big celebration of Maha Shivratri – the Hinduist festival to celebrate the god Shiva. In Mauritius, Hindus from all over the island walk here for even couple of days, carrying heavy flowers, decorations and sacrifices to meet at this sacred place and do prayers together. It is a real shame we missed on this one but still the place has its charm. There are multiple temples around it, statues of different gods, jumping monkeys looking for leftovers in rubish bins and eating from palms of tourists. All of this is accompanied by the smell of many sticks lit in temples and the sound of bells calling for prayer.
Tip: It is always a good idea to carry a scarf to put over womans head when entering temples. It is not that strictly required but still it shows respect.
In the lake there were random objects, statues, coins, pictures, pieces of clothes etc. as a reminder of Maha Shivratri and its sacrifices people throw in the lake. All Hindus collect a bottle of this sacred water to bring back home to their private temples and praying altans. It is also strictly prohibited to enter the lake so don’t do it because Hinduist ‘pass-on’ Karma will chase even those trying to help anyone who falls in. Sneaky Karma!
On the main parking is a massive statue of Shiva next to which they are currently building a brand new statue of goddess Durga. Further in there is another parking with another temple hiding many bells and praying stones and next to it is another one with cows inside! Hindus therefore don’t eat beef as it is sacred and some don’t eat pork as it is believed to be filthy.
Insight: The majority of Mauritians are Hinduists as 70 per cent of inhabitants came from India. I found amazing the peace in which Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Buddhists live here. You can see all around the island Hindu temples, mosques, christian churches and even some pagodas. As we learned later on from Kendy (our receptionist from Lariad) it is not as unicorny, rainbow vomiting as it seems. The higher work positions are corrupted and occupied only by the Hindu community. Her mom for example was the very first non Hindu lawyer in the whole Mauritius.
Bois Cheri tea plantation is just a few minute drive from Ganga Talao. There is the main building with a museum that actually has nothing special to offer and the factory. You can also buy tickets here for tea tasting, as we did. For the degustation you have to drive a bit further to a restaurant and a tea house that is situated in between tea fields. The views are really nice but the tea tasting itself was rather disappointing as we only got one kettle of hot water and couple boxes with tea bags. Next to the tea house, there is a quite luxurious restaurant where you can get a lunch if you fancy some dining experience.
Seven Coloured Earth and Chamarel Fall.
Seven coloured earth is a bit of ground where the volcanic activity and lava from previous period caused multiple coloured sandy ground. It is in a private area as well as the fall so you have to pay around 250 MUR entrance fee and then walk only at the designated paths and view points with heaps of tourists. It is nice to see but no reason to regret on missing it.
Tamarind falls are on the other hand something amazing for people who like walks in the nature with almost noone (if noone) anywhere near. It is a bit hard to find. The best way to get there is to get one of local guys in the village Henrietta and pay them to take you to the falls. It should take about three hours to get there and back but make sure to wear proper shoes as it is quite a hike on a slippery path. The guides always tell you quite a high price but do not hesitate and bargain. Yet still they won’t probably go under 500 MUR per person. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to do this hike even though I would have loved to take a swim in one of the lagoons under the falls.
Every holidays include tasting of local spirits and this in particular was a great experience! In the region of Chamarel up in the hills there is quite a small rum distillery which produces local rum. You pay incredible 250 MUR for an excursion and rum tasting! Very lovely ladies explain you all about the work process which is all done by hand! I loved the sustainable approach as they use every bit of sugar cane to its fullest potential and the leftovers sell for roofs of the houses. At the end you get to taste all the rums they produce including flavoured liquors and for an extra 60 MUR you get to taste even their VS, VSOP and XO editions. Absolutely loved it and we both bought a VS bottle to take home for 1300 MUR each.
ALONG THE SOUTH EAST COAST
Tamarin is just a short drive from Flic en Flac and it is probably the best spot to surf. There is no reef so the waves are reasonable but still ok for all skill levels. Yannick (an awesome local dude) told us that you can just grab a board and walk there from Flic on the beach but still advised not to walk alone as there is one bit through the forest where some scams and more might happen.
Le Morne is the name of a table mountain on the very tip of the south east peninsula. Its name comes from the era when slaves ran away and hid in caves here to proof they ain’t gonna be in white mens hands. Eventually they ran and jumped down the mountain and killed themselves. Le Morne literally means Dreary. However, today the peninsula is the spot to be if you seek water sports heaven. The water is beautiful and the wind is very strong so you can try mainly kite-surfing which is very popular here.
Ma Conde view point.
The whole drive along the coast from Le Morne all the way to Surinam is just magnificent. You can stop at pretty much any place and have a swim. Unbelievable clear water with little bays and tiny boats. Ma Conde view point is just one of many good reasons to stop and enjoy the views. If lucky there will be local guys with a fruit stand offering absolutely amazing fruit salad, pineapples ready to eat, mangoes with chilli salt and tamarind juice or chocolate coconut.
Bel Ombre snack bus.
If you drive along the coast I definitely recommend stopping at this red Snack bus towards the end of the Bel Ombre village. It is an old bus parked by the main road with a small sign saying ‘snack bus’. You will find two lovely ladies sitting here with probably one or two meals on the daily offer waiting for passers by. We had some octopus curry, rice, kale (most likely), mashed potatoes, pumpkin soup (maybe?), archard (local salad made from tomatoes and coriander to clean up your pallate) and one more thing we were not able to identify. The food was absolutely delicious and all of it for only 150 MUR per person!
These falls are not well known even by locals. Avinesh had to call couple times some people to find out the exact way there but it was worth it. There is way to the upper bit and then there is a field path to the bottom. The falls itself aren’t that big at all but there was noone except two or three local dudes jumping down and climbing back up the falls. It would probably be easier to get there on choppers as it is a bit off-road so we took a while with our toyota. : D If you have any difficulties finding it just ask the locals or try to find small hand written signs. When you get there it isn’t difficult to walk around to the top and the water is deep enough to jump down.
La Vanille Crocodile Park.
Even though the name says Crocodile the best part for me were the tortoises! You can walk freely around them, pet them and watch them…ehm, making love. They also have a nursery here where you can see how tiny they are when born and how they grow. There is also a restaurant in La Vanille park, crocodiles, goats, monkeys, fruit bats, lizards, chickens… It was pretty small but still very nice and not crowded at all. Another animal park is Casela Bird park right next to Flic en Flac. We haven’t been there but it is much more expensive and probably much bigger. You can do zip line there as well as see giraffes, lions and more.
Even though recommended for great snorkelling we haven’t found it to be any special by any mean. The whole place was super packed with people and smells horribly. You have planes flying over your head every now and then and all in all, not worth it.
We took a public transport bus to the capital city from Flic en Flac which took only about an hour. The bus drive itself was a great and fun experience, it was easy, cheap (34 MUR) and just a little bumpy. In Port Louis itself I enjoyed the most their food market filled with spices vegetable and meat (do not recommend this part for vegetarians). You can buy plenty of fresh chillies and veg for real small amounts. At one end there is a small stand with the traditional Mauritian dumplings. They are filled with fish or chicken and can be easily prepared at home in a microwave. The way of eating it is in a broth with some spring onion, coriander and other flavouring. Really delicious.
In Port Louis there are also loads and loads of small fashion markets and shops pretty much everywhere around the central area. If you are a shopping lover you shouldn’t miss on the two shopping malls on the bank called the Caudan Waterfront where you can find all the brandy stuff. Another part worth visiting is China Town. Mauritius has a small community of Chinese living mainly in Port Louis. The area is signified by typical chinese gates and hides one Pagoda and couple Asian stores and restaurants.
Port Louis is a very busy town as any other capital. It is also much hotter here as you get pretty much no wind in between the buildings. It is strongly advised to look after your belongings cause of pick pocketing – but yet again, same as in any other capital. The city doesn’t offer any massive attractions of museums filled with art of the greatest but it is beautiful to just go with the flow and the buzz, smell all the different aromas, listen to the people mingling, songs playing from stores and just soak in the whole atmosphere.
Unfortunately we only had six nights all together and therefore not enough time to explore the North of the island nor any of the small islands that are perfect for snorkelling, diving and fishing. The weather wasn’t the greatest either as it was the beginning of cyclone season but hey, one more reason to come back!