Bois-Cheri

Sega dancing, sunset cruises and stunning scenery – there’s more to Mauritius than meets the eye

Alexandra Wilby

Home to some of the best beaches in the world, with countless tropical reefs, world-class hotels and a climate that makes it ideal for all-year-round warm weather, Mauritius is best-known as a honeymoon destination, not to mention a celebrity and royal magnet. Prince Harry, Elizabeth Hurley and Millie Mackintosh are fans.

Rightly so - but there is so much more to this Indian Ocean island nation than sunbathing! Currently celebrating its 50th year of independence, with a range of celebrations including ceremonies, live music and performances planned throughout 2018, there’s never been a better time to discover the beating heart of this beautiful country – as HELLO! Online discovered when we jetted out to experience magical Mauritius for ourselves.

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Nowhere is Mauritius' rich heritage reflected more than through its food, which has Indian, Chinese, and European influences. And where better to try local delicacies than on a My Moris food tour of capital Port Louis, where you'll get to see how locals live and visit places that are totally off the beaten track while learning about the island's history? Sample food including Gato Zinzli, sweet Chinese-style sesame cakes that are best bought from a tiny store that doesn't have a name but is located in China Town, on Venpin street – ask for the bakery run by "Liline's family".

And don’t miss out on trying boulettes, which is creole for the Mauritian version of Dim Sum. (The best place to eat them is in a nameless restaurant located in a corridor on Royal Road, 20m after the China Town gateway). Make sure you swing by Trou Fanfaron market for roti, too. Learning about a country never tasted so good! Visit mymoris.mu/en/

Discover what goes into the making of your daily cuppa at beautiful Bois Cheri, the first tea plantation in Mauritius that dates back to 1892. Pack an umbrella - it can be rainy inland – but prepare for a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of a tea factory.

A guide will lead you through the factory and the tea plantation, regaling you with the history, stories and tales of the Bois Chéri – then sample their teas while taking in the spectacular panoramic view of the south of the island before stocking up on tea bags to take home. (HELLO! Online bought some coconut-flavoured ones!) saintaubin.mu/

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If you’re staying on the West Coast then charter a catamaran for a sunset cruise with spectacular views of Le Morne. The sunsets are renowned on this side of the island, with hues of burnt red, orange and pink blending in the skies above the ocean. Enjoy cocktails made with local rum and keep your eyes peeled for dolphins dancing alongside the boat. oceane.mu/

For a bit of history, glimpse the island’s colonial past at Maison Eureka, a unique Creole house built in 1830, originally owned by British and French aristocrats. It is reputed to be one of the largest houses on the island, with 109 doors and windows, and it’s filled with antiques. After lunch at the Eureka House restaurant make sure you explore the magnificent gardens, and take a stroll to the waterfalls of the Moka River. mauritiusattractions.com/eureka-house-maison-eureka-p-321

Or soak up the peaceful atmosphere and watch monkeys play at the Grand Bassin, or Ganga Talao, a lake that centres on Hindu pilgrimage that becomes a site of festivities in February and March when more than 400,000 celebrate Maha-Shivaratree. Grand Bassin sits in the isolated mountains of the Savanne district and is well worth a visit.

There are more luxury resorts than you can shake a stick at in Mauritius – and the 5* Maradiva Villas Resort & Spa, near to vibrant Flic-en-Flac, is where it’s at. We whiled away a lazy afternoon in a hammock on the white-sand beach, sipping a rum cocktail straight from a pineapple, and loved having our very own private plunge pool in our luxury villa.

The holistic spa here has won awards and the food is fabulous. We highly recommend dining under a tree on the beach, where Sega dancers will come and entertain you with the island’s traditional music and dance. It was a highlight of our trip. maradiva.com

Staying on the opposite side of the island? On the East coast the Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok Resort & Spa (shangri-la.com/mauritius/shangrila/) takes some beating. Glamorous beach chic is the order of the day at this celebrity favourite (Millie Mackintosh and Alexa Chung are fans), where every one of the 200 beautifully-refurbished rooms and suites offer spectacular views of the Indian Ocean lapping at the powder-white shores of the resort's private beaches.

Take a helicopter ride over lagoons, reefs and the majestic Lion Mountain nearby, or indulge your castaway fantasies with a cocktail (or three) on the resort's private island, Ilot Mangenie, with pristine beaches and a laid-back restaurant on the sand (make sure you try the truffle pizza). Don't forget to pay a visit to the three giant tortoises living in the gardens. One is more than 150 years old!

And how to get there? Start your Mauritian experience the moment you step on board the plane with Air Mauritius, who offer both Economy and Business class comfort and have been voted The Indian Ocean’s leading airline (World Travel Awards) for 10 years in a row. They are the only airline to fly direct non-stop from London Heathrow to Mauritius, or choose from UK regional departure airports and fly to Mauritius via Paris or Amsterdam in conjunction with their partners Air France and KLM.

Economy Class return fares with Air Mauritius start from just £790 per person including all taxes and charges but look out for special fares that the airline offer from time to time. Spoil yourself with Business class return fares from £2700 per person. airmauritius.com. Room rates at Maradiva Villas Resort & and Spa are from €600 in low season, and €800 in high season, on half board basis.

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