Mauritius Hidden Gems

Thursday, 21 October 2021 08:48 AM

From sapphire seas to emerald forests and sunsets turning into diamond dust skies, the treasures of Mauritius are apparent to all who visit her shores. But, there are a few gems hidden in the rough or in more unusual settings that may also delight you should you take the time to uncover them.

IN THE NORTH

Northern beaches
There are a few more secluded and authentic gems amongst the famous beaches of the north, so if the crowds are swelling, pack your water shoes just in case and seek out more chill at the quiet public beaches of Anse la Raie, Calodyne, Butte á l'Herbe and Grand Gaube. You can combine this with a trip past Notre Dame Auxiliatrice, the church with the iconic vibrant red roof.

Domaine de Labourdonnais
This historic estate that was founded in 1774 lies nestled in the beautiful orchards around three kilometres north of Pamplemousses. The grounds include the perfectly-proportioned château, an orchard, vanilla plantations, a delicatessen and a train. Hop on the Labourdonnais Express and do a 45-minute tour of the gardens and orchards at 10:30 am and 2 pm from Monday to Friday.

IN THE WEST

Signal Mountain Road
Signal Mountain Road is a relatively steep tarred road that curves up the third highest mountain in Mauritius known as Le Pouce, meaning the thumb, for a great view of Port Louis’ city centre, waterfront and harbour. Local walkers and joggers feel their endorphins climb as they tackle the three-kilometre rise of 323 metres, sometimes stopping at the exercise stations along the way.


Take yourself down to Chinatown
Explore the busy and photogenic streets of Port Louis’ Chinatown, an area located between two “friendship gates” on Royal Street, within walking distance of the Central Market. Locals bustle along the busy streets against the colourful, textured backdrops of old buildings. When you’ve worked up a post-Instagram appetite, head to Canton Restaurant in Rue Emmanuel Anquetil for your Chinese fix.

Pointe aux Caves Lighthouse
This 30-metre high lighthouse on an Albion headland is one of the two remaining in operation on the island. This 1910 landmark overlooks rugged cliffs, rough seas, the town of Albion and the many-faceted cliffs of Pointe aux Caves. Views from the top stretch as far as Coin de Mire in the North and Le Morne in the South, and entrance can usually be negotiated with the attendant living on the property to see the original Fresnel lens.

Dodo Quest
Rain or shine you can always have some Mauritian fun at Dodo Quest in the village of Moka. Open daily from 10 am to 8:30 pm even on public holidays, this entertaining indoor experience for adults and youngsters offers unique escape rooms, some of which are inspired by Mauritius herself. So save the last dodo or explore Mauritius’ past as you try and break out, having a few good laughs in the process. There are also hide and seek action games in the dark, as well as laser labyrinth. Have fun!

Curious Corner of Chamarel
Just opposite the turnoff to Chamarel’s famous Seven Coloured Earths lies Curious Corner of Chamarel. This interactive gallery of illusions and art has an upside-down room, a laser room and plenty of other attractions that play tricks on your sense of perspective, and will result in some really fun photos. After some mind-bending eye-boggling, you can browse the Puzzles & Things Shop or relax in the garden at The Corner Café.

IN THE EAST

Siva Soopramaniar Kovil La Luicie Bel-Air Rivière Seche
Should you find yourself on the eastern side of the island in Bel-Air Rivière Seche, more often referred to simply as Bel Air, then you’re either the fresh prince or you may be asking directions to Siva Soopramaniar Kovil La Luicie Bel-Air Rivière Seche. This beautifully decorated Hindu temple is a peaceful cultural gem open daily from 7 am to12 pm, and on all afternoons except Sunday from 3:30 pm to 6 pm.

Le Café des Arts
For cuisine laced with a bit of culture, enjoy a meal at Le Café des Arts at Victoria 1840, an old refurbished sugar mill housing an art foundation in the eastern village of Trou d'Eau Douce. Diners can admire the bright modern artworks hung on the aged industrial brickwork while enjoying a menu that puts a modern spin on Creole flavours. Fondation Maniglier houses a collection of works by French painter Yvette Maniglier (1929-2007), who was the last pupil of Henri Matisse and who settled in Mauritius in 2004.

IN THE SOUTH

Le Souffleur
Adventurers can find the half-formed cliffside grotto known as Le Souffleur between Blue Bay and Souillac on the island’s wild south coast. Under the right conditions, waves crash against the cliff resulting in seawater whistling out of the cracks in a geyser-like fountain, like a whale expelling air from his blowhole. This phenomenon which can reach up to 20 metres high is accessed after a bumpy ride through the private Savannah sugar estate which is off the beaten track from the Total filling station in the village L’Escalier.

Pont Naturel
Another natural gem can be found about one kilometre to the east of Le Souffleur. Accessed on bumpy roads from Le Souffleur or from the village of Trois Boutiques, small hand-painted signs point the way to Pont Naturel, a natural bridge caused by the erosion of volcanic rocks by rough seas, which can be a dramatic sight depending on the weather. The brave cross the bridge, but beware it can be slippery!

Chez Rosy
For some local flavour on the south coast, Chez Rosy serves up lunches in Souillac that will give you a real taste of Mauritius. Call a day in advance if you’re cray-cray for lobster, because this speciality gets snapped up very quickly. Madam Rosy Goundel and her daughter Nadia curry favour and flavour with saffron-infused fish, octopus or chicken vindaye, and will sweeten the experience with delicious banana flambé.

International Slave Route Monument
If you visit the world-famous kitesurfing and sailing destination of Le Morne on the southwest tip of Mauritius, take some time to visit the International Slave Route Monument. The moving and thought-provoking site is set in a quiet garden enclosure at the foot of iconic Le Morne Brabant mountain, across from the public beach. A central sculpture is surrounded by other sculptures and engravings that symbolise origin and destination countries of slaves brought into or sent from Mauritius. These include Mozambique, Madagascar, India, China, Malaysia, Haïti, Réunion Island, France and Senegal. Poignantly, the monument is in clear view of the cliff face caves where runaway slaves were apparently known to hide, and the sheer mountain drop to what is known as the “Valley of Bones.”

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