“Which country did you like best?”
When you're lucky enough to have spent a year traveling around the world, this is the question you’re inevitably and frequently asked.
We’ve always found it difficult to answer. How do you directly compare a lazy Mediterranean summer with an icy Patagonian adventure? Or the noisy, colourful, tasty chaos of a Southeast Asian night market with a mojito-drenched sunset spent bobbing around the Caribbean?
Three years later, despite the impossibility of comparing spectacular apples with unforgettable and delicious oranges, we keep answering “probably Mauritius”.
Pointe d’Esny, Blue Bay and Mahebourg
Right nextdoor to the airport, it's easy to skip the sleepy southeastern corner of the island and head north to the calmer resort beaches, or west to the kitesurfing mecca around Le Morne.
But we’d found what appeared to be the most idyllic Airbnb of all time (with zero reviews and a couple of blurry photos). And Blue Bay was supposed to have good snorkelling. And we had a month up our sleeves, why not try it out?
The gamble paid off.
Update: if that photo had been taken in August 2020 you'd see a big ship wrecked right in the middle of the photo leaking oil into the lagoon. Please donate to Eco-Sud's cleanup fund.
Palmar and Belle Mare
Next stop was Belle Mare, always near the top of Best Beaches in Mauritius (and hence the world) lists.
There were more upscale resorts along the beach than further south, but Belle Mare — like everywhere in Mauritius — was still much more relaxed and full of local life than most other "best" beaches we’ve been to.
From a our pieds dans l'eau ("feet in the water") Airbnb, tucked behind a vegetable farm in Palmar, we spent our days wandering up to a public beach nestled between a couple of resorts, where we swam, read and snacked on fresh pineapples under the casuarina trees, before falling on whatever feast Mettoo and his wife were serving up from their food truck that day.
One day we jumped on a catamaran for trip out to explore the beaches on Ile aux Cerfs, stopping for some snorkelling and parasailing along the way.
On one of our last nights, our Mauritian nextdoor neighbour Bruno invited us out for a sail in his little old boat. Barrelling across the silent, shallow lagoon under the moonlight while he told us about life in this corner of the island was a hell of an introduction to sailing.
Troux-aux-Biches and Grand Baie
From Palmar we roadtripped up and around the north coast of the island past Anse La Raie, Cap Malheureux and bustling Grand Baie, watching kitesurfers dodge an old shipwreck, exploring Hindu temples on the beach and sampling more Mauritian food truck fare — a delicious combination of Indian, African, French and Chinese cuisines that is exactly as tasty as it sounds.
Our base for the week was a little apartment at the end of the famous Troux-aux-Biches beach. The 2km stretch of white sand is dominated by an enormous golf resort, whose comfy daybeds we discovered were only technically off-limits to casual, budget-constrained interlopers.
By late afternoon the crowds tended to disappear back into the resort, so we'd end up having Troux-aux-Biches all to ourselves for sunset, or we'd head just up the road to Mont Choisy public beach to share the view with locals picnicking under the trees.
Black River, Le Morne and the south coast
Our drive down to the island’s southwest corner took us through the capital Port Louis, where we stopped to see some dodo skeletons at the gloriously retro Natural History Museum.
Then it was on to the quiet fishing village of Black River and our little B&B attached to the side of a family's house near the old Martello tower on La Preneuse beach.
Yes, that's an old colonial cannon just sitting in the backyard.
We spent our final week exploring the wilder south coast beaches — including one of our favourites at Riambel, whose strong sideways current made a natural lazy river at the water's edge, perfect for floating along the entire length of the beach — and the area around Le Morne Brabant, the famous monolith that towers half a kilometre above a kitesurfer-filled lagoon.
And of course we stuffed ourselves on more fresh fruit from roadside stalls & delicious noodles and curries from the ever-present beachside food trucks.
We spent an afternoon riding Sea Karts — a cheekily inventive and very fun loophole around the nationwide ban on jetskis — out to Crystal Rock and around the lagoon north of Le Morne.
Back in Black River, our last few Mauritian sunsets were spent kayaking out to the reef at the edge of the lagoon, strolling up the beach past the anchored boats to a bar for a cocktail, or just enjoying the view with a friendly old neighbour telling us how the island has changed over his lifetime.
So yeah, Mauritius was probably our favourite. We'll be back.