Travel: Mauritius – Notes From Paradise

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Travel: Caroline Dierckx stepped off a plane in Mauritius but remained floating for the entire trip.

This pearl of an island, which boasts a total surface of 2,040km2, offers a true concentration of emotions, as much due to the landscapes and its luxuriant vegetation, as by its paradisiacal beaches. They speak French, English and Creole here. The average coastal temperature is 24° Celsius. The time difference is not big, add 4 hours more (GMT + 4). In shops, pay cash with the Mauritian Rupee.

Here it’s the beginning of summer, back home it is the end of September. The subtly warm air is very welcome. After a few hours flying, we are very happy to be welcomed at Heritage Le Telfair in Bel Ombre, a confidential and exclusive address. Its warm décor, in the image of typical large mansions of the Mauritian plantations, leaves us speechless. The setting is idyllic. The white sandy beach is an invitation to serenity and lounging. The suites are lovely and the bathroom is big enough to get lost in. For sure, I’m going to sleep well here. The restaurants and bars of the hotel are very welcoming and the gastronomy of the world is in front of our eyes. A tip: chill lunch at the C Beach Club!

Bel Ombre is a perfectly preserved region famous for its authenticity and lush nature: nature reserves, beautiful dense forests, basalt cliffs, protected coves, hidden waterfalls and, of course, traditional villages. For our first getaway, there’s an electric mountain E-bike tour waiting for us – it lasts for a little over an hour, and it’s a dynamic way to discover the surroundings of Bel Ombre. Stop to observe a beautiful beach, a point of view – we were glad to have the explanations of the guide.

In the south-west of the island, Black River Gorges National Park and Alexandra Falls offer a spectacle of rare beauty – this is a splendid mountainous region with forests that shelter a wide variety of plants and animals. It is a place of preservation, whose experts research more than 300 species of endemic plants and birds, which one finds only in Mauritius. A little further, a breath-taking view of Alexandra Falls opens up, with spectacular cascades crashing down.

Next to Black River Gorge and Morne Point, the Chamarel region presents one of the main natural curiosities of Mauritius: The Land of the Seven Colours, a natural clearing where the earth has seven colour variations that oscillate between red, brown, ochre and purple. This land was subject to erosion for several years where volcanic ash containing mineral oxides gave it these different hues. The icing on the cake of this unique place in the world is the enclosure of giant tortoises that we hear quietly feasting in the shade.

For coffee lovers, the region has been producing the stuff for over 30 years. The Chamarel coffee is the only coffee grown and roasted in Mauritius. This coffee is made from Arabica coffee beans, one of the most popular coffee varieties in the world. The fruit is harvested by hand between May and September.

Rum lovers are not left out. We take a detour to the rum Chamarel, which was not on the programme but everyone wants to taste some and also bring some back home! For a few Mauritian rupees, the visit is guided and the process of producing the island’s emblematic drink is no longer a secret. We end the visit with a tasting of several rums. After, of course, the visit to the store is ‘a must’ so that everyone can bring home their liquid memories! For lunch, stop at the restaurant which offers a gorgeous view of Varangue Sur Morne.

Each day follows another but they are all unique! We head towards another highly symbolic place: The Great Basin. As its name suggests, it is a pool of water that is considered sacred by the island’s Hindu Mauritian population. It is above all a place of pilgrimage. You can’t help but be impressed by the dimensions of the impressive ‘sacred statues’. Along the shoreline, several Hindu temples are open to pilgrims and visitors.