I returned from a short weekend getaway to Mauritius last month. When I said short, I meant only 5 days in Mauritius. I feel the urge of writing about Mauritius now before everything fades out. Mauritius is my first visit to African continent. It is malaria free. Since Airasia is now flying direct to Mahebourgh and after being convinced by fellow traveller, Dr Naim to buy the cheap flight of RM790 (USD180) return, I was off for 5 days getaway to Mauritius. That cheap to be airborne for 7 hours to reach that little paradise in the middle of Indian Ocean.
If you intend to fly with Airasia, you have a minimum of 5 days in Mauritius and I hope you can tweak my itinerary to suit yours. I am on my own driving the coastal road and exploring the depth of Mauritius.
Due to some hiccups, I booked the car few days before my departure with frantic moments to avail enough credit space on my credit card for an amount equivalent to MUR 15,000 (no debit card is accepted for the security deposit). It was my first solo road trip abroad. So, there are plenty to learn on this trip. I made my booking with Economy Car Rentals, which offers variety of car worldwide. Interestingly, some Malaysian brand cars were offered for rent. I took the cheapest option, an economy car Hyundai i10 or equivalent with a pickup and drop off point at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport.
All my nervousness faded when the car turned out to be a Perodua Viva. After paying MUR 5,000.00 (RM640.95) on top of the earlier deposit and joint inspection of the condition of the car ( Confession: I took picture of every part of the car with scratches), I began my 5 days in Mauritius journey.
The fuel was quite expensive in this part of the world as half tank for 1.3L car costs around MUR600 (RM77.00), The overall fuel used to make the 5 days in Mauritius trip was MUR1,600 (RM218.00). As for navigation, I used Google Maps’ saved map function.
3 minutes into the main motorway to Port Louis, I stopped at the petrol station to refuel and buy a sim card. I read review on the internet and looked for Orange’s sim card. The telco provider in Mauritius and trust it is one of the best. Since the petrol station did not have Orange, I settled for the second best, Emtel. Honestly, it was not that bad for 5 days in Mauritius. The sim card and a reload enough for 5 days costs me MUR449 (RM56.78). Enough for me to travel around depending on the Google Map and on road quick search on a specific spot.
The drive was smooth going with a slight traffic in big city as people rushed home for the weekend. The most chaotic district passed on the way to Trou Aux Biches was Port Louis. Since the Mauritians drive on the left side hand of the road, it was fairly easy to drive around. But the drivers in Mauritius can be likened to those in Malaysia – brutal! What I like most about them is the fact that they made efforts to wind down their window and wave their hands as a sign of appreciation.
I reached Trou Aux Biches at dusk after passing by hundreds of small roundabouts. I need to get used to country with more roundabouts than traffic lights! The coastal town just north of Port Louis and 30 minutes from Grand Baie.
First night accommodation – Elysee Hotel Residence. MUR1,890 (RM239.00) for a night.
Since I went to sleep early the night before, I started my second day as early as 6am driving the coastal route to Grand Baie. The road was still empty. Too empty that I could afford to stop for a picture of the flame tree or flamboyant tree lining the road of Mauritius in November and December.
I decided to stop at Grand Baie Public Beach to enjoy the view and to have breakfast if possible. Grand Baie has the narrow street island feel of Bali where the road leads to fashion and jewelry shops. Grand Baie also top spot for nightlife in the whole of the island. No wonder it was really quiet in the morning.
While sitting on the bench looking at the view, I noticed a growing crowd at the only stall operating at Grand Baie Public Beach. Street food for breakfast, why not? I ordered a dholl puri, the Mauritius street food star. Dholl Puri is a flatbread wrap made of wholemeal flour filled with varieties of sauces and beans. I also bought half dozen of gateaux piments, Mauritius chilli fritters which were very good. In fact, they were the best gateux piments I tasted in Mauritius.
Then, I continued driving to the Cap of Malheureux which is known as Cap of Misfortune for the rampant shipwreck incidents in the area. Apart from the many beautiful beaches, the highlight of the trip to Cap of Malheureux was a visit to the red roof Roman Catholic church located at the northern tip of Mauritius.
Then, it was a slow 30 minutes drive to Port Louis to beat the Saturday traffic madness. The level of madness was obviously nothing compared to the daily traffic madness of Kuala Lumpur. The attractions are concentrated around Caudan Waterfront which has plenty parking lots for anyone travelling with car. A character of its own, Caudan Waterfront houses museums, craft shops, souvenir shops, interesting bookstore, hotel, casino and heritage buildings. I recommend the Le Craft Market for souvenir shopping for you will be spoilt with choices for reasonable price. Iconic umbrella of Mauritius.
Iconic umbrella of Mauritius.
From the Le Craft Market, I walked to the Central Market, where the traditional wet market was. It was bustling with locals doing their weekly chores of buying fruits, vegetables and spices. I followed a group of tourists strolling along the maze of the general market.
I followed a group of tourists strolling along the maze of the general market. Due to my local feature, they called me out to buy their products on sale. After passing by many yellow saucar pans veg, I asked for its name. Pattypan squash! They were also other types of squash in the market.
Before leaving the market, I bought a kilo of the lychee for MUR75 (RM10.00), which was in season in the month of December. Just outside the general market, there were long queues for the dholl puri. I heard they are the best in town.
During the 5 days in Mauritius, I also covered their two UNESCO World Heritage sites, ie Aapravasi Ghat and Le Morne Cultural Landscape. To be honest, the site is not extravagant as other UNESCO sites, but Aapravasi Ghat has more to history than its physical look. It is the manifestation of what was to become a global economic system and one of the greatest migrations in history. It was where the modern indentured labour system began replacing the slave system. Aapravasi Ghat was the first British colony to serve a major reception centre for slaves and indentured servants for British plantation labour.
As is the majority of visitors, I wanted to see the giant water lilies in the botanic garden. I did not expect to arrive at 62,000 acres estate. To explore the park, you need at least half day to stroll the garden and learn the name of the plants of the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanic Garden. Here, I learned that Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, whom the airport and the garden were named after, is the father of nation in Mauritius. Apart from the different colour of water lilies and the giant water lilies pad decorating the ponds, the garden houses plants which were planted by prominent leaders of the world during their visits in Mauritius. I also enjoyed the up-close session with the giant tortoises and deers which are one of the main attractions in Mauritius. Entrance fee: MUR200 (RM25.70)
Second night accommodation – The Coconut Comfy Studio, La Gaulette MUR2050 (RM260). The cheapest you can get in La Gaulette and Le Morne area. I love the studio room too! Super comfy and fast internet. The best bargain!
I stayed for 2 nights at La Gaulette, a fishing village in between Tamarin and Le Morne Cultural Landscape. It is also near to Chamarel and Black River Gorge National Park. I had to make a reverse drive back to Tamarin first thing in the morning because after Tamarin, there was no petrol station for refuel. I made a stop at the abandoned salt pans lining the Tamarin main road. The salt industry in Mauritius had a sad ending due to import of salts from abroad at cheaper price.
Then, I followed the sign to Black River Gorge National Park. If you were to ask me, I was pretty nervous to trek on my own. I followed some locals and we split way as they were heading to Chamarel via lesser known route.
I didn’t know where I was headed but beautiful birds motivated me to trek further until I reached the Plateau Remousse View Point.
Drenched in sweat and all, I went back to my luxury studio room and stayed indoor until it was not too hot. I began driving to Chamarel where I got lost on few turns. The google maps direction confused me. I reached Chamarel almost at 3pm. Among the attractions are Chamarel Waterfall and Coloured Earth of Chamarel. The volcanic activity of Mauritius produces the sand dunes comprising sand of seven distinct colours (approximately red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple and yellow). Also in the compound is the Aldabra giant tortoises.
Third night accommodation – The Coconut Comfy Studio, La Gaulette
I booked a tour with Yanature because the lack of information regarding the route and whether it is possible to do it on my own. With me was Kim from Bavaria and her mother. We took up the streneous hike with zest and had the best view of the cultural landscape. It is possible to hike on your own but I advise that you hike as early as 6am in the morning to avoid the crowd even on weekdays.
The view of the small village of La Gaullete where I stayed for two days.
On trek view
After the hike, I made a slow drive towards Mahebourg (pronounced as Ma-bo) with few stops at the public beaches. Truth be told, the route from Le Morne junction to Mahebourg is in my opinion, the most scenic route in Mauritius.
More about Le Morne Brabant HERE.
A stop in Baie Du Cap or Makonde is a must. Makonde is the southwest tip of Mauritius. It is worth to pull over and take a picture on the viewing point which is located in the middle of a switchback.
I waited for few hours at Le Morne Public Beach to watch the kite surfers in action, but to no avail. But, I saw them in Bel Ombre on the way to Mahebourg.
I reached Mahebough when everything was closing down. It seems like Mahébourg is another cowboy coastal town with apparent Muslim presence. According to the owner of ONS Guesthouse, where I stayed, everything in Mahébourg is halal because everything comes from a slaughter house. As I reached Mahébourg quite late in the evening on Monday, I missed the traditional market yang lined one the busiest streets in Mahébourg. Mahébourg is the least touristy of all west coast side of the island full of run-down buildings with friendly locals. The biggest regret was when I agree to dine at the expensive chinese food restaurant recommended by the owner of ONS Guesthouse. Poor taste. A fellow traveller and her husband shared with me that a chinese restaurant near the waterfront in Mahébourg charged them extra for the food they ordered.
Fourth night accommodation – ONS Motel & Guesthouse
On the last day of 5 days in Mauritius, I decided to embrace the slow travel and engage with the friendly locals of Mahébourg. I became aware of the apparent vacations you could choose in Mauritius, either in the high wall of the luxury resorts or to travel with some locals element. If you are after the latter, I trust Mahébourg is where you shall explore. I walked to the waterfront and found the heaven for street food in Mahebourg.
I bought a kilo of lychee and met new friend, Clara Tan who invited me to her house. She confided in me on her problems and eagerness to find true love. Also, she prepared home made garlic bread for lunch and packed a bag full of local food for me to take home.
Then, I spent the evening at the Blue Bay while waiting to drop off the car at the airport by 9.00pm. One thing I did not know was Blue Bay is at its best at noon, not later. I find it difficult to appreciate the beach and the crystal clear water. However, I felt at home as local man asked if I were interested to play rounder with them as I sat at one of the tables by the beach.
Not long after, an old woman joined me. She was Gertrude from Germany. She came to Mauritius for the past 10 years and stayed at Blue Bay. She loved the area very much. Interestingly, she is 87 years old solo traveller. As we got to know one another, she invited me to her apartment she was staying for 3 months. She introduced me to some of her friends in Blue Bay. What a lovely ending to be able to make friends with the locals.
If I had an extra day, I would love to visit Île aux Aigrettes nature reserve. The postcard pictures of beaches in Mauritius are taken either in Île aux Aigrettes or Île aux Cerf. Speaking of postcards, there is a post box at the airport’s check-in counters. Postcards were cheap and affordable! Send some memories home.
Pinners, if you are going to Mauritius, pin this post!