Self catering may cost more than all inclusive
We love wandering around markets and supermarkets for cultural reasons, so although we were on an all inclusive package, we spent some time in Port Louis gauging the cost of living.
I have to say that the cost of living in Mauritius was surprisingly expensive. With an island nation, you always have to factor in the cost of imported goods, but, even so, the cost of groceries was more expensive than we're used to in South Africa and - I would venture, under fear of correction - also more expensive than in France.
If you're planning to visit, and are considering a self catering option, then this is something that you'll need to bear in mind. The consistent feedback that I've had from friends and fellow VTers is that self catering in Mauritius seldom makes economic sense - especially for a short duration stay - although there may be other (perhaps dietary?) reasons why you might consider this option.
Beware of the wind on the cliffs at Gris Gris
Gris Gris (a name derived from the grey of the cliffs) is located on the extreme southern coast of Mauritius and is the only section of the coastline not protected by a fringing reef. The waves pound in onto the jagged rocks at the base of the cliff, and it's starkly picturesque and a welcome contrast to the placid beaches of the rest of the island, it's not without attendant risk.
Judging by the angle at which the vegetation around the viewpoint permanently stoops, it seems like it's lacking protection from the wind too. On the day we visited (which was pretty calm elsewhere), it was very blustery, and as there are no railings or other protection along much of the clifftop, it would be very easy to be blown from the clifftop onto the rocks below. The risk is compounded by the fact that they clifftops are covered with grass, which could become particularly slick after rain, so watch your footing, and make sure that you keep your children under particularly close supervision.
Allow time to deal with Port Louis's traffic jams
When you think of Mauritius, chances are that the image you conjur up is one of idyllic, unspoiled beaches - not traffic jams. Unfortunately both images are correct.
The capital, Port Louis suffers from appalling traffic congestion, which extends from about dawn until long after sunset. The reason for this is that the main highway passes through the heart of the city, and there are no viable alternatives for the tourist. As a result, it's not unusual to be stuck in traffic for 30 minutes as you crawl from one side to the other of what is a very small city.
This is relevant if you're staying in a resort in the north of the island, as you'll have to pass through Port Louis en route.
The only redeeming feature that I can offer by way of compensation is that as the highway passes parallel to the waterfront, at least you'll have pleasant views to keep you occupied as you inch along.
Pick ups for morning flights go at stupid o'clock
Most visitors to Mauritius are on a package tour, and are transferred to and from the airport in a shuttle bus that does a bit of a 'milk run' between the various hotels.
For those many families travelling back to South Africa via Johannesburg, be prepared that the pick up to connect with the 09:15 Air Mauritius flight departs at stupid o'clock, due at least in part to the need to avoid the worst of the abysmal Port Louis traffic. We were picked up from our hotel at 04:30, way before sunrise: a rude awakening to the fact that the holiday was well and truly over!
ATMs can be hard to find
When we travel, we have got used to drawing local currency from ATMs as we go - a welcome progression from the restrictive days of relying on travellers cheques and bureaux de change.
Mauritius came as a bit of a surprise, because we probably found it harder to find ATMs than we've done virtually anywhere else that we've travelled. Whilst there are certainly ATMs in the larger towns (Port Louis, Grande Baie, Curepipe), they were pretty few and far between in the smaller towns and villages.
This may well be because the local economy - particularly in the rural areas - is largely cash based and most tourists who visit Mauritius stay in resorts, where they are either on an all inclusive option or charge extras to their room and thus have little need for cash.
If you anticipate needing cash, my advice would be to draw money from one of the ATMS at the airport on arrival and make sure that you review whether you need extra cash when you're passing through a larger town, just in case you need to top up your kitty.
Your mum says that you must wear sensible shoes!
If you're reading this in disbelief, asking yourself why you'll need sensible shoes on an island whose major drawcard is its beaches, then look closer at the ferociously spiky sea urchins lurking under this rock for your answer.
We found similar urchins wherever we went, often lurking is very shallow water, just waiting to impale unsuspecting feet. We also read warnings about stonefish - not just spiky, but actually poisonous as well - which are creatures that you'd even less rather step on (although we didn't see any or meet anyone who had).
Also, the sand on certain beaches can be quite rough - we stayed at the wonderful Le Victoria at Pointe aux Pimientes, whose beach comprises quite coarse fragments of coral eroded from the offshore reef. Whilst it's good for exfoliation purposes (if hell on your nail varnish), it can be painful underfoot, and just one more reason to don sensible footwear.
So, what are your options? Well, there are a few, of which the most obvious are flipflops (that's 'thongs' to you Aussies and 'slops' to South Africans), although these only work well on the beach, and are not practical if you're walking in the shallows. If you're a keen snorkeller or diver, you may already have reef shoes, which are ideal.
And if you don't want to go to the expense of buying something new? Well, practical-but-oh-so-inelegant Crocs (or look alike rips off versions) works pretty well, although they're so light that they have an alarming tendency to float off your foot if you're wearing them whilst trying to snorkel.
Mauritian coral reefs are very degraded
One of Mauritius' great drawcards is the fringing coral reef that encircles the entire island (with the exception of a small gap in the extreme south around Gris Gris), providing calm and sheltered conditions on the shoreward side.
With all that coral around, you'd expect the snorkelling and diving to be excellent. What the tourist brochures won't tell you is that the coral in Mauritius is generally in poor condition - and often badly degraded - due to the combined impacts of human activity and climate change. This is apparently even the case in the Blue Bay Marine Reserve, along the south east coast of the island, which was only gazetted as a marine sanctuary in 1997, apparently too late to protect it from the worst of human impacts.
Human activities that have directly damaged the coral as a result of poorly controlled fishing activities and irresponsible motorised water sports. Even in Blue Bay, there are persistent reports of slack reserve management which allows motor boats to continue to damage the reef.
We tourists should bear in mind that we are also complicit in the destruction of the mangrove stands that once rimmed much of the island. The inconvenient truth is that humble mangroves are incompatible with landscape architects' visions of how a Tropical Paradise should look, and vast swathes of mangroves have been cleared to create space for the identikit 'beach and swaying palm tree' model of resort design that would originally only have existed along limited portions of the coastline. This strategy has however backfired on the tourist industry because the mangroves act as a biological silt trap, filtering out the sediment that is washed out to sea by rivers and streams - once this natural control mechanism is removed, silt will engulf the nearshore reefs, choking the coral and encouraging the growth of invasive seagrass species.
So if you're coming to Mauritius expecting to see pristine coral gardens, then sadly you'll be disappointed. That being said, we did see a surprising variety and number of fish, even in the very shallow water adjacent to the beach, and once you get out into deeper water, things do improve markedly (in which case, you'll probably want to take a boat trip out to the fringing reef which will require that you are competent swimmer).
Avoid being savaged by the tortoises!
Many tourists will want to visit the La Vanille Reptile Park, which is apparently one of the island's most popular tourist attractions, and is particularly popular with families.
Here, it's possible to buy a handful of the tortoises' favourite leaves for a few rupees. However, bear in mind that the only part of a tortoise that seems able to move fast is its mouth ... once they decide to bite on something, those deceptively sharp, serrated jaws clamp down like a vice.
Having been bitten by one in Zanzibar years ago for slow delivery on the food front, I'd strongly advise keeping your fingers to yourself, and keeping kids under close supervision.
The submarine won't operate if the sea is rough
Mauritius resort holidays are all about the beach and the sea, and it is this 'picture postcard perfect' coastline that has provided the Mauritian tourism industry with such a competitive advantage.
If you'd like to explore the marine environment in greater depth (excuse the pun), then a trip on the Blue Safari submarine is an obvious choice.
However, just a word of warning about the conditions under which the submarine will not operate. Even paradise experiences bad weather from time to time, and rough sea conditions - which are most likely to prevail in the (southern hemisphere) winter and around cyclone season in January/February - will mean that the submarine won't operate.
This may seem counterintuitive, as the submarine dives to 30m, way below the wave zone. However, the hazardous element in this equation is the boat trip from the shore out beyond the fringing reef to Betty (the 'mother ship'), and the transfer of passengers from the speed boat onto Betty, and then onto the submarine. Also windy conditions tend to stir up the water column, resulting in reduced visibility, particularly at shallower depth, so you'll probably see less.
We booked our trip online (well worth doing, as you can save a significant amount on the hefty cost) and had to wait four days from the original date for which we booked for sea conditions to be suitable. Even then, I have to say that the transfers were quite rough, and I can see why they cancelled trips on the previous days.
And - for fear of stating the obvious - make sure that you wear sensible shoes with a non-slip sole: this is not the occasion to be teetering around in stilettoes! (Never did I think that sensible footwear might become one of the focal points of my Mauritius pages!)
We found Mauritius very expensive! Fair enough to say we stayed at an expensive hotel so drinks and extra meals added up to a lot but we got such a shock when we went to buy water at the airport on the way home. $18 for 3, 50ml bottles of water! We didn’t even try to buy any food!
We also took a trip to the Caudan Waterfront shopping area, which is a duty free shopping mall, but we still thought the prices for all the goods there were very high.Related to:
- Luxury Travel
Mauritius Summertimes: worst DMC
I have visted many countries. Mauritius is a beautiful country but the destination management company Summertimes is the worst that I have ever encountered. The staff were very unfriendly. One of them even slapped a child! I would strongly not recommend making use of the services of Summertimes. One's life may be in danger because of their disgusting staff.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Spa and Resort
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Mauritius has a lot of people crammed onto a relatively small island. As a result, it has a lot of traffic in its large towns and cities. We got stuck in a couple of traffic jams that took us 20 minutes to go a kilometer while driving through Quatre Bournes, one of the larger towns on the island. If you have to drive through a large town or city, budget extra time to account for traffic. We almost missed our flight due to traffic, and quickly learned our lesson.Related to:
- Road Trip
Navigation can be challenging
Mauritius generally has pretty decent roads. However, it does not have a lot of road signs, which makes driving around the island challenging at times. The other problem is that the maps given out by the rental car companies are not very good. We rented cars twice (from two different companies) and got mediocre maps both times. There were a number of roads that were missing from our maps, and we got lost a few times. Fortunately, we were always able to find a friendly local resident to give us directions to get us back on track. Spending a few rupees for a good map will be money well spent.Related to:
- Road Trip
Like Canuck says, the rain can be devastating. 4 people died in the floods last week when I was on holiday - the drains backed up, rivers burst banks and bridges got swept away. There seems to be very little back-up for ordinary mauritians when things lke this happen and it is a bit of a weid feeling to be 'in a tropical paradise' but seeing and knowing how little most folk have to survive on. The photo is a road - it might look a bit romantic but the road was totally swept away.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
- Hiking and Walking
There are no poisonous reptiles or dangerous animals on the island. However some creatures can inflict painful stings. Some individuals can be allergic to wasp stings. Contact chemist or doctor in case of several stings particularly on the head and on the face. There are few fishes namely sea urchins, stone fish, and lionfish, which are harmful, and its advisable to ensure their existence. Be careful not to step on them. Some swimmers wear shoesRelated to:
- Family Travel
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