Mauritius has been typecast as a honeymooners’ destination, but why should lovers monopolise this Indian Ocean paradise island? What we’ve just found out is that it has everything you need for the perfect family holiday too.
Mauritius is a one-stop shop for outdoors-loving families. Your local aquarium may seem a tad dull after you’ve brought your kids here, where they will watch tropical fish lapping their toes when they paddle in the sea and work out ways of enticing crabs out of their beachside holes at sunset.
Many hotels offer daily glass-bottomed boat rides as part of their inclusive packages, which enable guests to go a bit further out to spot clownfish, parrotfish, lionfish and sea sponges amongst the coral reefs that ring the island. Some of the local boat operators will even allow very young children to don life jackets and have a go at snorkeling amongst the fish, with parental supervision.
If this is a success, go one step further and take them swimming and snorkelling with dolphins out in the open sea. Spinner and bottlenose dolphins swim in packs around the island, and early morning is the best time to spot them playing. JPH Charters offer daily dolphin swimming excursions year round, as well as fishing trips and day or overnight catamaran cruises to the outlying islands.
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Most of the hotels on the island offer a host of watersports activities included in their packages. Waterskiing, wind-surfing, kite-surfing, pedalos, catamarans, sailing, kayaking, stand-up paddle and snorkelling are likely amongst the activities on offer. Scuba diving lessons are also often available too, but are more likely to entail an extra cost.
Whilst the views from the island onto the almost-white sandy beaches and the turquoise waters beyond are soothingly beautiful, take some time to look behind you. Mauritius’s stunning natural inland landscapes include vast plains of sugarcanes, mountains, spectacular waterfalls and forests.
The Mauritians have worked out ways to get children’s jaws to drop at all this too. Kids of high school age will relish exploring the literal highs and lows of the picturesque Frédérica Nature Reserve in the south by quad bike, whilst younger ones will enjoy bumbling around in the back of a guide-driven 4×4. Teens will also thrill at taking one of the longest zip-lines in the Indian Ocean through the Casela Nature and Leisure Park , which you can also explore by Segway and quad.
The Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens, in Pamplemousses in the north of Mauritius, is generally put second only to Kew Gardens in London when rating the world’s best botanical gardens. The difference is that at Kew Gardens, you have to enter a vast greenhouse to view some of the world’s most fantastic plants. At Pamplemousses, you see them growing in their natural habitat, or as they would in their natural habitat.
If you see a man named Satish Bawol waiting amongst the guides at the front gate, follow his tour. He has a particular gift for getting children to relate to the amazing plants that surround them. He will point out with a giggle the tree that helps cure flatulence; show you the palm whose leaves can bend around you to form a heart-shaped frame for a great photo; and explain how the water lilies that emerge white amongst the vast Amazonica lily pads close red a day later.
Mauritius is in the Southern hemisphere, so its summer season runs from November through to April, when the weather is hot and humid and the temperature hits the 30s (high 80s to 90s Fahrenheit). February and March are when the rainfall it at its heaviest, but the tropical downpours rarely last long.
Winter season runs from May through to October, but the daytime temperature is still generally in the mid-20s (high 70s), so Mauritius really is a year-round holiday hot spot. If you do visit in ‘winter,’ however, make sure your hotel has a heated pool — whilst the day-time temperature is perfect for shorts and sundresses, it drops to sweater weather at night. Those unheated pools don’t retain the heat from the sun and will feel icy.
Editor’s Note: Photos by Anna Tobin except where noted.
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