We chatted with Bernard Ramen, Director of Sales and Marketing at Shangri-La Le Touessrok Mauritius, who is incredibly proud to call this exotic island his home. We asked him to share his insider tips on what to see and do when you're in Mauritius. Over to Bernard…
"I consider myself as very lucky. I have a job that allows me to travel the world, dine in gourmet restaurants and, of course, stay in five-star hotels. But I still get giddy with excitement when I fly back to my homeland, particularly when I get that first glimpse of the island through the plane window. From this birds-eye perspective, you can see the island's beauty in its full glory; the immensity of the turquoise lagoons, jagged mountain peaks tumbling over rows of sugar cane fields and a blanket of emerald forest. It never fails to give me goosebumps.
"During your stay in Mauritius, you could easily be forgiven for not straying far from the resort. Many of our guests at Shangri-La Le Tousserok happily spend their time lounging around its four kilometres of sandy beach and private island Ilot Mangenie, teeing off at the famous Ile Aux Cerfs golf course and being wined and dined in our exceptional restaurants. But if you'd like to go beyond the hotel walls and experience the real Mauritius, here are my top five recommendations”.
Explore the forest route of Plaine Champagne
As the largest natural forest of Mauritius, Plaine Champagne is a sanctuary for rare flora and fauna with over 300 species of exotic plants and trees – some of which are more than 500 years old. Pack a picnic and head out on an exhilarating hike; you may spot unique bird species, such as the endangered pink pigeon or Mauritius kestrel. The best way to take in the highlights of the region is on a whistle-stop tour – hire a car and driver/guide for the day or rent your own vehicle (we drive on the left side just like in the UK, which makes for a less daunting experience at the wheel).
Other star attractions in this area are the postcard views of mighty Alexandra Falls and the striking rainbow-coloured sands of Seven Coloured Earth in Chamarel. It's well worth spending time at Grand Bassin, our sacred lake and the most famous Hindu pilgrimage site outside India. Marvel at the gigantic statues of Hindu Gods before wandering around the colourful waterside temples perfumed with incense – keep an eye out for the curious resident monkeys, who'll be watching in the hope you offer them a little treat.
Take in the hustle and bustle of Port Louis
The fast pace of the capital may feel startling after the serenity of your beach resort, and some might favour snoozing on a sunbed to getting lost in the chaotic city streets. Personally, I love Port Louis because it represents the melting pot of all the different cultures of Mauritius and it's where you'll find some of the most delicious (and best-priced) food on the island. You can enjoy a lavish lunch in a waterfront restaurant for around £30, but I prefer pulling up a chair at a street stall and tucking into steaming hot faratas (flat Indian bread) with curry or Chinese dumplings, which will only set you back a few pounds.
Port Louis is also great for shopping; pick up authentic products such as handmade weaved baskets, Mauritian artists' paintings, trinkets and souvenirs – the cuddly dodos are a big hit with kids. From May to November, visit Port Louis on a Saturday for an insight into Mauritian sporting culture at racing day at Champ de Mars, the oldest horse racing track in the southern hemisphere. This is one of our proudest landmarks and you're guaranteed a lively ambience and lots of fun if you have a few rupees to bet.
On the sheltered West Coast, the town of Flic en Flac has one of the longest and prettiest beaches on the island. It's best to go mid-week, as weekends are buzzing with locals and it can be tricky to find a good spot. What's not hard to find is a good lunch; the beachside food trucks sell street food at its best. One of my favourite dishes is Roti Aka; a homemade flatbread served with chicken curry, tamarind sauce and a kick of chilli sauce. After a morning by the sea, little nature-lovers will be in their element at the family-friendly Casela Nature Park, where you can wander among the wildlife. Or explore beautiful Tamarin Bay, best known for its surfer vibe and frequent sightings of a pod of wild dolphins.
A bit further south is the spectacular Le Morne Cultural Landscape, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its significant role in the island's slave history; now considered a symbol of freedom and peace. If you're up for the challenge, I highly recommend rising early to hike up the mountain. The route takes about three-four hours and can be strenuous at times, but keep going, and you'll be rewarded with mesmerising views at the top.
Visit vibrant Grand Baie
If you'd like to give back to the community, I suggest taking a trip into the coastal village of Grand Baie, where the characterful locals will welcome you into their family-owned shops and eateries. My go-to restaurants are Le Poivrier and The Beach House, both of which offer fantastic food from the daily catch-of-the-day to mouthwatering steaks. Grand Baie is also THE place for a lively night out, especially at the weekend when bars and clubs come alive with local revellers letting their hair down. Don't miss the live music at the Banana Beach Bar and if you're out past midnight, check out Bar et Vous or Insomnia to party Mauritian-style till the early hours.
Island hop on the east coast
The east coast has a treasure trove of picturesque islets perfect for island hopping and castaway vibes. The jewel in the crown is Ile Aux Cerfs, one of the larger islands that’s most known for its renowned golf course (Shangri-La Le Touessrok guests can take advantage of complimentary boat transfers, golf green fees and one round of golf per day) but is also popular with day-trippers who come to bask on the flour-white sands.
Take your pick from the little shacks along the beach and feast on freshly grilled fish and lobster washed down with an icy glass of local Phoenix beer or a stiff rum and coke. Another beautiful spot is Ile Aux Aigrettes, a small coral island where the crystal-clear waters set the scene for superb snorkelling. The island is a haven for rare wildlife; giant tortoises amble in the greenery and brightly coloured birds flit among the treetops. Sailing back, be sure to stop at Ilot Flamants, a natural sandbank in the middle of a turquoise lagoon where you can swim and sip cocktails as the sun goes down".
This feature was updated on 10th January 2023. The information within this feature is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of print. Feature by Heather Flanagan.