- Reef madness
- Coast life
- Creole and coconuts
When Mark Twain visited Mauritius in 1896, he came away saying that ‘God first made Mauritius, and from it He created Paradise’. He wasn't wrong.
For such a small country – at just 2,030sq km it would fit snugly within the M25 – Mauritius has a rich and varied history. Everyone from Dutch seafarers to Chinese merchants, not to mention Arab spice traders and British colonialists, seem to have made their home on the main island and its satellites, and, as a result, the country is a fascinating cultural hotchpotch. You’re just as likely to eat French haute cuisine as you are Indian curries, and Diwali and Eid are celebrated with the same gusto as Christmas. Did we mention that it’s beautiful, too? The island drips with the sort of greenery you’d expect of somewhere lying just north of the Tropic of Capricorn, and its white-sand beaches and azure waters, which swell over the coral reefs that completely encircle the island, have long attracted the newly wedded and heavy-walleted.
Dodos were famously only ever found on Mauritius – that is until Dutch colonists killed the last one in the 1680s, sending these large, flightless and, presumably, fairly stupid birds into posterity as potent symbols of man’s destructive influence on the natural world. See skeletons and other dodo paraphernalia at The Dodo Museum, near Government House, in Port Louis.
- There are plenty of taxis on the island – and ranks can be found in most of the major towns – but make sure you agree a fee with the driver before you get into the cab, as most Mauritian taxis don’t have a meter. If in doubt, ask your hotel to organise taxis for you.
- Tipping culture
- Tipping is entirely at your discretion, and very few Mauritians expect it. However, if you do decide do reward good service, then 10 per cent is perfectly acceptable.
- Recommended reads
- The Mauritius Command by Patrick O’Brian, the fourth in his acclaimed Master and Commander series, is a beautifully written account of being all at sea during the Napoleonic wars. Mutiny and The Rape of Sita by Mauritian author Lindsey Collen evoke life on the islands of the Indian Ocean.
- The island itself is a big, simmering gumbo of cultures, and the food you will find here reflects that. Chinese, Indian, French and Creole dishes all make their way onto menus and into the diets of local people, but it is a widespread use of fiery spices and fresh seafood that most typifies Mauritian dishes. Try local specialities such as roti with dholl puri (a pancake filled with curried beans, a spicy tomato sauce and lots of chilli) or fresh prawns slathered with sauce rouge.
- Mauritius rupee. £1 is approximately MUR63.
- Time zone
- GMT + 4 hours
- Dialling codes
- Country code for Mauritius: 230
- Do go/don't go
- The best time to visit Mauritius is between April and October, when the mercury doesn’t shoot up too high in the thermometer and the island is at its driest. Humidity levels are very high between January and March.