Round-the-world: Mauritius top five

Mauritius has all sorts of charm by the bucketload. It’s got beaches, beautiful resorts, rough-and-tumble districts, colonial architecture, and a tropically lush physical environment. Following are five stand-out places and pastimes that showcase the island’s distinctive beauty.

1. Local grub. In addition to the fresh seafood on offer, there are hunting reserves on Mauritius that generate incredibly delicious venison and boar. Eat these things. Plenty of other food items have to be transported over huge distances and are not particularly fresh. Two restaurants in the south of the island (La Bougainville in Blue-Bay and Les Copains d’Abord in Mahébourg) are particularly good; the latter has a direct relationship with a hunting preserve and puts especially tasty and fresh things on its menu. Its hearty sausage stew, which admittedly has to be flown over 300 miles from Rodrigues Island, is outstanding.

2. Botanical Gardens. The Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens (above and below) are referred to by locals as Pamplemousses. They are a wonderfully peaceful place to relax, despite poor signposting. Guides can be arranged, though it’s perfectly pleasant to simply wander around in blissful semi-ignorance, enjoying the beautiful foliage. The gardens contain a monument to Sir Ramgoolam, the first president of Mauritius following independence, trees planted by visiting heads of state, and a gorgeous colonial mansion (see below.)

3. Le Jardin de Beau Vallon. Located near the airport, this hotel and restaurant occupies a colonial house dating to the 18th century. The restaurant is in the main building, with guest rooms in the house and in several detached cottages. The restaurant is very good, one of the best we sampled in Mauritius. The house, which has been restored beautifully, casts a romantic spell. If you’ve ever had fantasies about drinking rum on a porch on an Indian Ocean island while curtains billow behind you and the fan churns its way through the thick heat, then this is one place to quench them. And if you’ve never entertained such fantasies, an evening at Le Jardin de Beau Vallon might just conjure them up.

4. Beaches. At Chantemer, we were awfully lucky. The windswept beach at the guest house’s doorstep is beautiful. On weekends it fills up a bit with kiteboarders and picnickers, but never to the point of annoyance. There are other great beaches on Mauritius, but this one, to the west of Pointe D’Esny, is very possibly the island’s best.

5. Bois Cheri tea factory. The relatively steep admission here (350 rupees, over $12) ends with a tea tasting at the factory’s hilltop restaurant. The tour starts in a cavernous museum room full of displays devoted to the history of tea and the tea industry. A guided tour of the factory follows. It’s fascinating to watch the tea leaves arrive, go through the drying, slicing, and heating process, and then get packaged. The tour is fascinating. It’s also strangely comforting to be overwhelmed by the deep scent of tea leaves at various stages of transformation. Tours are always offered on Wednesday, and during heavier harvest times tours are provided on a daily basis.

Check out other posts in the Capricorn Route series here.