Those who have been to Mauritius will tell you that there are more than 101 reasons you should go to this paradise island. kHanya Litabe went and experienced it, and he lists only a ten per cent of the adventures on offer in Mauritius.
Mauritius is affectionately known as the Paradise Island because of its beautiful picturesque beaches. This is why I was totally ecstatic when I received a kind offer from Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA) to cover Pope Francis 9th September 2019 apostolic voyage to Mauritius. This was as a result of Radio Veritas, The Southern Cross and Spotlight Africa collaboration to take pilgrims to Mauritius to see the Pope, to have a spiritual revival and a holiday of sorts. The South African office of MTPA were very kind to us and for that we are truly grateful.
And so like a typical inland person, I went to Mauritius expecting to be on the beach everyday all day, save the Pope’s Mass. However, it turned out that Mauritius has far more to offer than the blue clear beaches and perfect weather.
When you go to Mauritius, these are the places you have to see:
Notre Dame Auxiliatrice de Cap Malhereux Chapel
It’s one of Mauritius’ most photographed sites and one of the most preferred Catholic chapels for weddings and wedding photos. It is famous for its red roof and the picturesque land that it sits on, which is said to be the point at which the British troops entered Mauritius in 1810 to attack the French.
This is where I attended Mass (well, half) on a Sunday morning with four other journalists. The acoustics in the church are amazingly good for such a small chapel.
Immediately behind the Church is a beautiful white sand beach, ideal for kids and adults alike.
Catholic Chapel and Shrine of Marie Reine de la Paix
This is where Pope Francis celebrated Mass on his visit to Mauritius. St John Paul II was the first Pope to celebrate Mass in this open space 30 years ago. It is set on top of a hill, but right below the Signal mountain overlooking the city of Port Louis. On its roof it spots a beautiful 3 metre high marble statue of its patron: Mary, Queen of Peace.
Be prepared to walk up 82 steps from the bottom of the hill to the actual chapel up at the top. Once you are there you will have a beautiful panoramic view of the city, but more importantly, you will have peace in your heart, from all the tranquility that surrounds this place, and you can ask Our Lady Queen of Peace for her intercessions on your intentions as well. During the Papal Mass an estimated 125 000 people from all sorts and kinds of backgrounds were in attendance at Pope Francis’ Mass.
According to the guides in Port Louis, the best way to see the city at night is from the shrine. By all accounts, the city is fairly safe, with petty theft as the most common crime in the city. So, keep your valuables close to you at all times.
Fr Jacques-Desire Laval was a Spiritan priest who served in Mauritius between 1841 and 1864. He is said to have converted 67 000 people in Mauritius and surrounding islands in these 23 years. He is known as Apostle of Mauritius. Many miracles are attributed to pilgrimages to his tomb, which is inside the shrine.
On 9th September, after celebrating Mass at Marie Reine de la Paix, Pope Francis made a stop for a silent prayer at the shrine.
Many young people stood outside for hours and waited for him, and afterwards the Pontiff shook their hands and gave them a blessing.
Located in the district of Pamplemousse not far from Port Louis, the botanical garden has more than 650 varieties of plants, mostly trees from various parts of the world. It also boasts dozens of medicinal plants.
In the middle of the garden you will find trees planted by various Presidents who have visited Mauritius – including Nelson Mandela, Joaquim Chisanno, Robert Mugabe, King Mswati II.
The sugar factory – L’Aventure du Sucre
First and foremost, you definitely have to try the food at L’Aventure du Sucre restaurant. It’s presented well, it’s tasty, with all the tastes blended very well and enjoyed in the beautiful tranquil gardens under the tropical trees.
The factory itself is what they call The Cathedral of sugar making in Mauritius. Besides giving you the history of sugar cane plantations and those who started working on these fields in Mauritius, it also provides valuable insight into the beginnings of the island itself, which was named after the Dutch stadhouder Maurice de Nassau.
With its motto as ‘For the future. from 1838’, this sugar mill and the factory has an interactive museum showing the history of the country. When you visit L’Aventure du Sucre you get a sense that sugar is very precious to the people of Mauritius as gold and oil are to many economies of the world, and is one of the main economy boosters of the country. Afterwards you have to visit their sweet store for the sweets that are not too sweet for your kids. 🙂
It’s an old chateau sitting on an old sugar cane plantation. For 150 years it was owned by the Wiehe family. Over time the chateau’s wood structure deteriorated and needed to be destroyed or renovated. In 2010 the refurbishment work on it was completed, to restore it to the original Victorian architecture. Now the house boasts some of the rare Victorian furniture pieces you will come across. The curator – Bernard Maurice – is always ready to take you on a tour of the chateau. He is totally passionate about the Chateau.
The chateau also boasts a garden and historic orchards. It has over fifty varieties of mango and other fruit trees. La Table du Chateau is the restaurant on the grounds of the Chateau where you will enjoy a scrumptious meal and friendly waiters. You have to end your visit with rum-tasting and take home some souvenir artworks and/or homemade rum.
Bois Cheri is the oldest tea plantation in Mauritius, and the largest producer of tea in the country. It’s situated in the famous Route du Thé (tea route) and sits on 250 hectares of fertile land. It boasts the famous Bubble Lodge, and Bois Cheri restaurant, where you will get to taste the various teas and treats that are on offer – bottomless.
My guide here was Azar, who has been working at Bois Cheri since 1976 and has an in-depth knowledge of the systems and ins-and-outs here. He will take you through the process of harvesting of the leaves to the making of the tea. And in case you are wondering, they do have Rooibos tea in Mauritius, imported from South Africa of course.
Along the route to tea-tasting and to the Bois Cheri Restaurant and to the famous Bubble Lodge, 1.7km away, you will get a snapshot opportunity with the deer of this plantattion.
Rhumerie de Chamarel (Chamarel Rum factory)
Sitting in the South West part of Mauritius in a village called Chamarel, this rum factory is a unique tourist attraction. It boasts an agricultural plantation and a distillery. There are guided tours, where you get to see the sugar cane arrive in the factory and you are taken through the whole manufacturing process. You will finish off your tour by having a taste of your choice of rum.
The L’Alchimiste is a unique set-up restaurant at the site, where you can have a meal. Whilst the hospitality of the staff at the restaurant is remarkable, you might also enjoy their hand as photographers.
Chamarel the village also boasts: Seven Coloured Earths, a small area of sand dunes comprising sand of seven distinct colours;
In Chamarel you also get to see The River du Cap waterfalls; and I am told that if you visit the local parish church of St Anne on the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, 15 August, you will be treated to “Curry number 2”, a local delicacy.
The hotels in Mauritius
During my stay in Mauritius, I was hosted by Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority at the Indigo group of hotels’ Labourdonnais Hotel and Le Suffren Hotel in Port Louis. These hotels provide the best service you can ever ask for in a hotel. Because they are situated by the Waterfront, and surrounded by the sound of boats moving in and out of the ‘harbour’, the accommodation gives you a sense of both city life and living by the sea side. The main features attractions you can walk to from the two hotels are Le Caudan Waterfont shopping mall which has a cinema, banking facilities, a casino, boat rides, etc.
You can also walk to the Aapravasi Ghat – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – which is a former immigration depot for indentured labour from India and bears a great history of Mauritius.
And finally, the beaches of Mauritius
Later, I moved to Casuarina Resort and Spa situated Troux Aux Biches. This part of the Indian Ocean is one of the most beautiful you have ever seen in the world, spotting white sand, blue clear water, and amazing sunsets. Whether it’s the Troux Aux Biches Beach or the Balaclava Beach, you will get to experience the blue water, the ambience around these waters and the best part of it is that the water is never cold. You are welcome to engage in the many activities available in this beach village, including snorkeling, and golf, among others.
To experience this hospitality, organise your holiday early and make sure you have enough time for these adventures and to rest in-between. Admittedly, fitting all these in, in a few days while trying to take it all in can be exhausting. For expert advice and bookings, get in touch with Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority here.