At first glance, Mauritius looks like a close relative of the Caribbean Islands. This island, 1,200 miles from the east coast of Africa, is hemmed by 330 kilometres of immaculate white beaches. The west coast, around Flic en Flac, is characterised by calm sheltered stretches, which would look at home in Aruba. The east coast near Trou d’Eau Douce and Belle Mare, meanwhile, is defined by wavier bays, which give themselves over to watersports like surfing. But don’t let first impressions fool you. This lozenge of land has a DNA that’s unlike anywhere else on earth.
Rainforests and reefs
Mauritius has a trove of natural history. The 800-metre-high mountains and forests in the interior are home to some of the world’s rarest animals. The island is also ring-fenced by one of the largest unbroken barrier reefs in the world, so the scuba diving opportunities are on a par with the Maldives.
In the 600 years since Mauritius was first discovered, the island has been a cultural sponge. Its proximity to Madagascar has rubbed off on it in the form of creole cooking. Grand Baie, close to Grand Gaube in the north, is the culinary capital of the island. And the island’s time under French rule has added chateaus to its architectural assets, including the Chateaux de Labourdonnais, in northern Mauritius.
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Set on the sheltered east coast of Mauritius, Belle Mare is a small place with a big reputation. Its headline act is the white-sand beach – one of the loveliest on the island. But it’s got plenty more show-stopping turns. There’s a coral-protected lagoon, golf, watersports, a waterpark, and loads of restaurants peeping through the bank of trees by the shoreline. With a package this good, it’s easy to see why a bunch of high-end hotels are happy to call this place home
Anse La Raie
Anse La Raie is a teeny place, sandwiched between the fishing village of Cap Malheureux at the tip of the island, and the equally mini Calodyne, a couple of kilometres further south. It’s not really a town, more a clutch of top-end hotels that have gravitated towards the north coast’s shimmering lagoon. But what it lacks in street life, it makes up for in its rocky headlands and wild scenery, tamed only by pockets of ice-white beaches.
Grand Gaube is a tiny fishing village, slumbering close to Mauritius’ northernmost tip, and the last bastion before the coastline gets truly primeval. It throws up rocky headlands and cloak-and-dagger bays. Inland, cane fields meet with a great sea of open countryside. It’s a natural beauty, barely touched, save for a smattering of hotels cosying up to pockets of white sand. And it’s in no hurry to develop, either.
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