Mark Twain once said: “Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied from Mauritius.”
It was easy to see what he was talking about when I stepped off the catamaran and onto the warm sand, its soft, smooth grain filling the gaps between my toes. Handed an ice-cold glass of lemongrass juice and a cool towel, I wiped the sweat from my brow in a bid to combat the searing heat. In that moment – soaking up my surroundings and the reality of where I was – it hit me: I was in paradise, just like Twain had described.
It really is a paradise
I’d arrived in Mauritius 24 hours earlier, tired and languid after a 12-hour flight via Paris. But my lethargy lifted as soon as I left the airport and was struck by the intense tropical heat, lush mountainous landscape and warm smiles of the locals.
As I settled into the hour-long transfer from the airport to my hotel in Pointe Aux Piments, I marvelled at the hustle and bustle of Port Louis, with its towering banks and swarms of people. Soon we were cruising through the hills past the jagged Le Morne Brabant Mountain and up to the north of this volcanic island nation.
Before I’d embarked on my first trip to Mauritius, people had regaled me with tales of the shimmering white silica, verdant forests and crystal-clear waters. To be honest, I was unsure, and arrived fully prepared for slippery seaweed to creep up and ruin my relaxing dips. However, as we drew closer to The Ravenala Attitude, my home for the next few days, the postcard-perfect Indian Ocean opened out before us. It was unlike any sea I had ever seen; I got goosebumps just looking at it.
The food is heavenly
I’d heard that this was a French culinary heaven, but how good could it really be? Pretty delicious, as it happens. We were taken on a scrumptious adventure, which unfolded over four tempting courses. Flavour-packed prawns were followed by pumpkin soup and foie gras, before we were invited to the chef’s table to choose from plentiful cuts of succulent meat. A light and fresh strawberry cheesecake provided the perfect end to a decadent culinary experience.
The following day I woke up still happily full from the previous night’s indulgence – until I clapped eyes on the breakfast buffet. The enticing scents of steaming coffee and sizzling omelettes drew me in, and I deliberated over endless cereal choices, colourful fruit platters and freshly-baked bread.
Fully fuelled for the day ahead, it was back on the bus bound for nearby Zilwa Attitude. As we passed countless sugar cane fields, locals meandered in groups, making their way to the markets in Grand Baie. It was lychee season and the tropical red fruit was piled high on tables by Mauritians hoping to profit from the sweet delicacy.
Getting in the water is a must
After arriving at the hotel, we boarded a catamaran to Gran Zil, a private island available to guests staying here. Slicing through the calm turquoise waters, the scenery was breathtaking – hilly coastal plains gave way to golden, ocean-sculpted sands. Once the boat’s engine cut out, the only sound I could hear was the gentle ripple of the waves. The scents of barbecued chicken and lobster wafted through the air as we waded into the warm Indian Ocean, before silence fell over the island. It is true that photographs really don’t do Mauritius justice – the clearness of the water, the enchanting beaches and the basaltic rock peaks have to be seen to be believed.
We were soon joined by a musician who began playing his guitar softly at the shoreline; the perfect accompaniment to an awe-inspiring moment.
A blissful few hours spent swimming, sunbathing, and drinking fresh coconut water were interrupted by the return of the catamaran, ready to take us back to the mainland so we could show off our skills in a sea kayaking race. With my lack of co-ordination and shocking upper-arm strength, I had resigned myself to a slow but dignified last place finish. Paddling over the calm ocean, it is easy to feel as if you are the only one there – the water is blissfully peaceful, reflecting the vibrant shades of yellow and orange emanating from the setting sun.
Mauritian sunsets are unbeatable
Soon we were making our way to one of the best spots on the island to enjoy the sunset – on the beach at Recif Attitude. The golden hours in Mauritius are truly something else. Sipping chilled sparkling wine, I sank into a beachside divan and gazing in awe as the burning crimson ball slipped beneath the horizon, illuminating the sea in technicolour.
After a final picnic the following day on Ile Aux Cerfs, a private island off the east coast, and one more dip in the shallow luminous waters, it was time to leave. It had only been three days and I’d barely scratched the surface, but I felt as if I’d forged a strong bond with Mauritius and its people. As I admired the beauty of the island once more on the way back to the airport, my driver asked me if I would be returning. I didn’t have to think twice about my answer.