White sand beaches, palm trees and turquoise seas come to mind when one thinks of Mauritius. However, what someone unfamiliar with the island does not realise is quite how diverse and exciting the activity options are, both inland and around the coast.
New visitors to the island are often taken by surprise at the variety, partly because the island’s tourism marketing concentrates on selling Mauritius as just a drop-dead gorgeous beach destination.
What is overlooked is this ‘fly & flop’ island’s expansion into activities and adventure opportunities. Slowly but surely, the true worth of its coastal and inland landscapes is being recognised. Which, having first visited Mauritius in the early 1990s, continues to delight me. Each time I visit I discover not only a new adventure activity location but also a chance to experience a new sport or recreational pursuit.
Further to the traditional water sports such as snorkelling and diving, there is a range of deep-sea fishing, coastal kayaking and sailing options. You can learn to windsurf, kite-surf or sail on one or two hulls. Travelling by catamaran you can flip between Gabriel and Flat Islands in the north, lle aux Cerfs Island in the west as well as through the reef regions in the south.
Swimming with dolphins and whale-watching are arranged near Benitiers Island and Crystal Rock. The stunning coral reefs that surround Mauritius can be viewed when snorkelling or diving, by semi-submarine, underwater submarine or glass bottom boat. Equally you can embark on underwater sea walks with or without underwater scooter cruisers. And in case this isn’t enough, there are para-sailing, water-skiing, canoeing, speed boat and sea-hover trips available as well.
Inland activities include horse riding, kayaking, zip-wiring and a wide section of hiking options. Mountain biking, quad-biking, segway and safari wildlife park excursions are available every day of the week. In addition, the outstanding Jardin Botanique de Pamplemousses (National Botanical Gardens) can be combined with a visit to La Vallée des Couleurs Reserve.
I would also recommend a visit to the historic houses of Eureka and Saint Aubin, and the Chateau de Labourdonnais and Domaine des Aubineaux. Bois Chéri Tea Planation can also be fun.
There are more golf courses than you can shake a one iron at. Seen from a helicopter, the courses strangely blend in with the inland’s cane field plantations like jade stones on a brooch. Flying enthusiasts can also take a seaplane around the island. And if that doesn’t feel sufficiently close to nature, why not throw yourself out of an aeroplane, preferably attached to an experienced skydiving expert.
Indeed the pace of island life can suit all. Those content to chill on the beach by day can embrace an evening sunset catamaran cruise or horse gallop along the beach at sunset.
And if island fever sets in and you need to escape, there is always Rodrigues Island 370 miles away, with hugely different inland landscapes and coastlines.