Mark Twain, after his visit in 1896, quoted an islander as saying: “Mauritius was made first and then heaven; and heaven was copied after Mauritius”. Mauritius is known as a “Paradise Island”. Although at first I did not quite understand why, with time I have come to realise that Mauritius is indeed a paradise island.
Mauritius is a democratic state, located approximately 2000 kilometres to the south eastern coast of Africa and lies east of Madagascar on 20°5, 57.5E. It has an area of 1865km with 330 kilometres of coastline. Mauritius is 45km in width and 65km in length. Discovered in 1505 by the Portuguese, the island was occupied successively by the Dutch (1598-1712), the French (1715-1810) and the British (1810 to 1968). On 12 March 1968, Mauritius became independent. Republic Day was proclaimed on 12 March 1992.
The local cuisine has therefore inherited from a melting pot of immigrants to the island, mainly from Europe, East Africa and India. In Mauritius it is normal to eat some daal just like it would be normal to eat a croissant, a baguette, a pizza, some fried noodles, some briani and drink some tea, an ‘alouda’ or a cappuccino.
Eventhough the last colonisers of the island were the British, French language was still widely used. Settlers who decided to stay were allowed to keep both their language and religion. The ‘Code Napoleon’ forms part of the Mauritian law and French is still widely used, much more than the English language. For example, most newspapers are in French, the main news bulletin is in French, and the language is more widely spoken by the population than English.
The Mauritian population consists mainly of people of Indian descent who follow mostly Hinduism and Islam. According to the 2001 census by Statistics Mauritius, the major religion is Hinduism (48.5%), then Christianity (32.7%), followed by Islam (17.3 %) and Buddhist (0.4%).
The island is politically stable and people are free to practice their religion. There are numerous mosques, temples, churches and other praying places which can also at times be seen side by side or on the same street.
The local buses are quite reliable and it is the means of transport of many locals. A big percentage of the population also owns a car, adding to the heavy traffic jam mainly in the mornings and afternoons. The roads can be quite narrow in certain areas, plus at times a driver will have to try to drive his way through pedestrians, motorbikes, bicycles and some stray dogs!
I still find it very funny when I think of one of my colleagues in Australia who was surprised that Mauritius had roads and cars!!! Yes readers, Mauritius has both roads and cars. Recently, it has become more and more ‘normal’ to come across cars like Ferraris, Aston Martins, Range Rovers and a few other luxurious cars. And yes, Ive also seen a Lamborghini and a Maserati! For a small island, with only around 1.3 million people, and with no natural resources, this can be quite surprising.
Mauritius has depended on sugar exports for decades but has had to diversify its economy in the last years. Some areas of rising economic activity include agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and finance – particularly banking and business outsourcing. The island is well known for its beautiful beaches and exotic hotels, among which are some world-award winners.
With a beautiful blue sky almost whole year round, a flat income tax rate of 15%, comfortable temperatures whether it’s summer or winter, beautiful beaches, free schools, free hospitals, free transport for students and pensioners, among many other facilities, who wouldn’t want to live in Mauritius?
Places to visit or not to visit
La Croisette – Worth a visit
Quite modern architecture and layout. Lots of shops with local and international brands. Food court, restaurants and cafes with affordable prices. Regular events. Cinema halls. Clean with play areas for kids. Both lifts and escalators with an underground car park. Easy to use your baby stroller/pram.
Tang Way – Worth the detour
A ‘supermarket’ where you can get almost any product you want – both local and imported. It has its own bakery, pastry shop and you can also buy fresh chicken and fish. Definitely worth going to get a good idea of the local produce and the popular food items with Mauritians.
Zavata Circus – Not sure
Very loud so not advised for young kids. The seating facilities: not comfortable. The price of the ticket doesn’t match the service nor the show you get to watch. A let down.
Bagatelle Mall of Mauritius – Interesting Shopping and Eating Outlets
One of the must-visit shopping malls of the island. Very trendy at the moment with Mauritians. Lots to do in terms of shopping (130 shops) and a variety of eating outlets and other services like numerous cinema halls, cafes and restaurants.
Spurs (Bagatelle) – Not sure
I had some time before my daughter’s nap so I thought it would be a great idea to eat at Spurs as my daughter would be able to play in the kids corner and also eat something healthy after. However I wasn’t greeted when I went into the restaurant nor was I advised about the menu. I saw many waiters just standing doing nothing but none of them came to offer their help. After waiting for a while, I called 3 waiters; although each of them acknowledged my presence they didn’t come to take my order. After about 15 minutes wait. I decided to leave.
Jardin Balfour – Simple but nice kids play area
I know Jardin Balfour since I was little and my dad knows it since he was little. It’s been there for a while and even nicer now than it was before. It’s a popular spot with kids particular on Sunday afternoons. I love the giant tortoises, the soothing sound of the flow of the numerous water canals, the beautiful waterfalls, the green scenery, the different chirps of birds. My daughter had a blast chasing the pigeons!
Flic en Flac Beach – So… beautiful
One of the most popular beaches of the island. Great for swimming and beautiful beach. Lots of shops, restaurants, cafes along the Flic en Flac coast. You need to know at what time you are leaving the place and avoid peak time (weekend afternoons) as traffic jam is normal in this area.
Vona Corona Ice Cream Parlour – A must try
This brand of locally made ice cream forms part of the Mauritian culture. Just like Aussies would say, ‘let’s put some prawns on the barbie’, Mauritians would say, ‘let’s have a vona’. Although the local ice cream is an acquired taste, it is a definite must-try similar to the ‘gato piment’ sold on the side of the road.
Jumbo Supermarket – Who doesn’t know Jumbo?
Situated at Phoenix, in the centre of the Island, this supermarket is one of the stops of many locals. It sells ‘almost’ everything. It has recently got an uplift, with many more shops and a much bigger and more varied cuisine in its foodcourt. The ‘Briyani’ is very popular there but so are KFC and Mc Donalds!
Azuri Beach – A must visit
I love Azuri. It is not only a newly created village with residences for both locals and foreigners but it also has a man-made beach. It is found on the north east coast of the island and is the location for Radisson Blu hotel, a great public café, a butcher shop, a few restaurants among other facilities.
There are many more ‘things to do’ left on my list. Im hoping I can do most of them before I leave Mauritius in a few weeks.