Mauritius travel guide: 20 reasons to visit Mauritius

1. CRUISE THE COASTLINE

How better to see the endless lagoons that make up so much the island's coastline, than to take a sunset cruise aboard a 45-foot luxury catamaran, with a glass of bubbles in your hand? The cruise options around Mauritius are endless but one of the more popular two-hour East Coast tours departs from Pointe Jerome, near Blue Bay, and takes you around the Ile aux Aigrettes Island and towards the Ile de la Pase, where the famous naval battle took place. Expect plenty of drinks, snacks, live music, and a breathtaking sunset. See www.mauritiuscatamaran.com.

2. STAY MARADIVA VILLAS RESORT & SPA

Get a sense of the island's Indian heritage by checking into the luxe Maradiva Villas Resort & Spa. Not only does it have an award-winning holistic spa and a jaw-dropping kids club (complete with its own shallow wading pool), but each of the 65 opulent villas is kitted out with a private pool amid a large lush green garden, secluded open-air rain shower and an over-sized bath. Interconnecting suites and 24-hour butler service are available on request. See www.maradiva.com.

3. EAT CREOLE CUISINE

Part-restaurant, part-museum, Eureka La Maison Creole is renowned for its dry beef curry – a dish which should only ever be eaten on the atmospheric deck overlooking the estate's fragrant gardens – as well as its predominantly honeymooning clientele. Finished your dessert of vanilla ice-cream topped with grilled coconut? Head indoors to view the 1830s grand colonial home, which sits still largely untouched, with original furniture, and ponder what your life could have been had white goods not have been invented. See www.maison-eureka.restaurant.mu.

4. VISIT THE BOTANICAL GARDENS

The oldest botanical garden in the Southern Hemisphere it might be, but a garden is just a garden unless – like the impressively titled Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden (commonly known as Pamplemousses) – you fill it with deer, tortoises and more than 650 varieties of plants, including a breathtaking arrangement of giant water lilies in the lotus pond. Stroll hand-in-hand if you must, but be sure to book a third wheel by way of the guides loitering by the entrance – tours will be personalised based on your interests. See www.ssrbg.govmu.org.

5. SNORKEL BLUE BAY

On an island where idyllic snorkelling spots are a dime a dozen, some of its best underwater scenery can be viewed in this protected marine park, just a short paddle off the coast of Blue Bay public beach. While seasoned snorkellers wax lyrical about the ability to easily access schools of electric-coloured fish and coral by dipping in just behind the coastguard's office, it's worth going on at least one organised tour that takes in the lesser known islands in the southern part of the lagoon. See www.totofmaurice.com.

6. RELAX AT SPAS

Home to some of the largest (and most luxurious) spas in the Indian Ocean, it would be a crime to not give your body over to a pair of soothing hands at some point. Nira Spa at Shanti Maurice with its four distinct spa stations deserves its rep, but just as impressive is Outrigger Resort & Spa's Moroccan-themed fit-out, complete with treatment rooms connected with Koi carp-filled ponds. See www.shantimaurice.com.

7. SWIM ILE AUX CERFS

With its crowded white sand beaches and cafes selling overpriced beverages, the private island of Ile aux Cerfs may not fit everyone's ideal of what Mauritius should be, but there's a reason everyone else is there – there's simply no finer place in Mauritius to swim. The key? Book in a catamaran transfer, then rest your towel a little further north of the main section of the beach for an afternoon of uninterrupted bliss. See www.catamarancruisesmauritius.com.

8. EXPLORE TAMARIND FALLS

No one's ever going to accuse Mauritius of being too hectic, but should you need some respite from island life, head 28 kilometres south of capital Port Louis, to Tamarind Falls, a peaceful cluster of cascades buried within miles of dense vegetation aching to be explored. While hiking and swimming in her endless deep ponds remain popular pastimes, canyoning tours make the most of her tall jumps, various waterfalls and ziplines. See www.mauritiusattractions.com.

9. DRIVE THE EAST COAST

It's easy to make the mistake of limiting your Mauritian experience to the island's better known attractions, but to do so would be akin to robbing yourself. Hire a car in Port Louis and follow the coastline east where you can pop in at quaint towns such as Petite Julie and Queen Victoria, all in between swims at some of the island's most beautiful beaches. See www.avismauritius.com.

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10. VISIT BOIS CHERI TEA PLANTATION

Add the milk to your tea first or last? Stirring clockwise or counter-clockwise? Everything you've ever wanted to know about our favourite brew is revealed at this 250-hectare tea plantation where hour-long tours are taken through the busy factory and accompanying museum. Your best bet? Take a morning tour when the tea pickers are hard at work, then book in for a romantic lunch at the plantation's scenic terrace restaurant . See www.boischeri.restaurant.mu.

11. VISIT GOLF COURSES

Tiger Woods you may not yet be, however with over a dozen golf courses strategically located on tops of cliffs and in the shadows of lush green mountains, where better to brush up on your swing? A couple of the best are considered to be the Ernie Els-designed 18-hole course at Four Seasons Anahita, and Bernhard Langer's Le Touessrok, which is set on its own island. Can't make up your mind? A golf pass which allows you to sample up to four courses will set you straight. See www.maritimresortandspa.mu

12. HIKE BLACK RIVER GORGES PARK

Take to the island's largest – and most say, best – national park and explore the wild expanse of dense forest filled with more than 300 species of native plants. With a land area of 67.54 square kilometres, the park features 60 kilometres of hiking trails of varying difficulty, as well as private recreation areas just perfect for those romantic picnics pour deux. See www.mauritiusattractions.com.

13. VISIT CASELA NATURE PARK

Fancy snuggling up with a lion or taking a long, romantic walk in the sunset together? At Casela Nature Park, you can do either, provided you sign the detailed waiver and attend the mandatory safety briefing, which is where you are basically given a stick for protection. Then it's your choice of either taking kitty for a stroll along the Rempart River with an animal handler by your side, or popping into puddy's enclosure for some one-on-one. Good luck. See www.caselapark.com.

14. SEE CHAMAREL SEVEN-COLOURED EARTH

Admittedly, asking Australians to travel long distances to see a dune of sand sounds a bit crazy – until you stop to think that one of our national treasures is essentially a big rock. Uluru it may not be, but there's something special about this small area of sand comprised of seven distinct colours, a result of the earth's conversion from basaltic lava to clay. It is at its prettiest at sunrise, so bring your takeaway coffees and bag an observation post early. See www.mauritiusattractions.com.

15. SHOP CENTRAL MARKET

Not interested in taking a home a suitcase full of embroidered dresses and trinkets? It doesn't matter, for spending a few hours browsing the mountains of spices, textiles and handicraft stalls of this bustling market (also known as Port Louis main market or bazaar) isn't so much about possession, but about immersing yourself in the theatre and colour of the heartbeat of the nation's capital. And that vivid sari you'll undoubtedly come away with? Consider it an admission fee.

16. WALK UNDERWATER

Strap on a helmut, sling on a weight belt and spend some time busting out your best Neil Armstrong moves on the ocean floor as you walk four metres under water among the wealth of coral and marine life that dominates Grand Baie​. The underwater walking tours include motorboat transfers, safety briefings and experienced guides who'll stay by your side, and while the adventure doesn't require any knowledge of swimming, the ability to laugh at yourself is essential. See www.solarunderseawalk.com.

17. EXPLORE VOLCANOES

Formed when a big shield volcano erupted over three occasions some ten million years ago, the island is still home to four major volcanoes – Trou aux Cerfs, Trou Kanaka, Grand Bassin and Bassin Blanc. Of these, Trou aux Cerfs, with a 350-metre wide crater offering a 360-degree view of the nearby town of Curepipe as well as the coastal plains, is the most impressive, but is also the only one still dormant, so take care while visiting the others. See www.mauritius-guide.net.

18. EAT STREET FOOD

Mauritius has a long and chequered history – discovered by the Portuguese, she was then colonised by both the Dutch and the French – and happily, it's a blessed union that's reflected in the street food that can be found in the waterfront kiosks of Le Caudan, Port Louis. The masala dosa in particular is not to be missed. See www.caudan.com.

19. WAGER: CASINOS

Sure, James Bond is never going to prop up the craps table around these parts, but with almost 20 casinos and counting, you can't say the man wouldn't have options. The private casinos (located mostly within major towns) tend to be casual, while the higher-end establishments are located within hotels such as Le Saint Geran and as such, require a formal dress code. See www.oneandonlyresorts.com.

20. VISIT GANGA TALAO

Located about 1800 feet above sea level, this crater lake (also commonly known as Grand Bassin) is considered the most sacred Hindi place on the island – largely due to the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva locals believe is filled with holy waters from the River Ganges. Although plenty of small shrines dedicated to various gods dot the shoreline, easily the most impressive is the 33-metre statue of Shiva which greets you at the entrance. See facebook.com/gangatalao

Dilvin Yasa travelled courtesy of The Mauritius Tourism Authority and Air Mauritius.

Traveller's top picks

* Cruise the coastline

* Maradiva

* Ile aux Cerfs

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