Located in the Indian Ocean, 1000 kilometres off of the coast of Madagascar, Mauritius is a tropical island paradise that enjoys an agreeable climate all the year round. The island is a mixture of mountains, valleys and hills, fertile plains and plateaus, interspersed with rivers, gorges and waterfalls, and surrounded by white sandy beaches and coral reefs. The landscape provides an excellent playground for outdoor activities that suit all ages, or for simply marvelling at the natural splendours of our world. The island, since its discovery in the 10th century, has been visited and colonised by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the British, with slaves and workers from Africa, India and China. Its past inhabitants have provided the country with a rich history and diverse culture, not to mention a fabulous mix of cuisines.
Exploring Mauritius with Kids
by Gillian Gibson
Mauritius has so much to offer and so much to explore across its 2000-square kilometres, and, on such a small island, everything is within easy reach. You can travel from one end of the island to the other in less than two hours.
We caught up with one Doha mum, Linda Drienovska, who gave us the low-down on her family’s recent adventures in Mauritius from the beaches of Grand Baie in the north of the island to the stunning seaside cliffs of Le Morne in the south and plenty in between.
Where did you stay?
We stayed at Mauricia Beachcomber Resort & Spa in Grand Baie for the first half of our trip. We wanted to relax by the beach and visit a few places in the area, such as Port Louis, the capital city.
We chose to stay at Hotel Riu Creole in Le Morne in the south of the island on the second half of our trip. We knew there were many activities to do and sights to see in that part of the island, which meant our three-year-old would be happily entertained too. Specifically, we wanted to visit Casela Park, which is perfect for children.
What activities did you do?
In Grand Baie we spent much of our time relaxing on the beach. However, Grand Baie is a great town to walk around as it has many little shops, places to eat and a good bazaar. We also took a glass-bottomed boat ride from Grand Baie along the coast, which is great for kids as the sea is teeming with fish.
From Grand Baie, we hired a taxi for the day and went to Port Louis, the capital city. It is more of a town than a city in size, but it has a really cosy atmosphere. It’s a great place for learning more about the history and culture of Mauritius, and there are plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants to visit to break the day up. Taking a taxi for the day was a bonus too as the taxi driver was more than happy to act as our guide, so we saw and learned much more about Mauritius than we would have travelling under our own steam.
In Le Morne we hired a car and from there we visited various attractions. We spent a day at Casela World of Adventure, which is a beautiful zoo with plenty of activities for kids. We also visited the Black River Gorges National Park, Chamarel village and the Chamarel waterfall. The waterfall is easy to see after only a short walk, which made it the perfect choice to visit with a small child. We also took a trip to the Seven Coloured Earths, which is a sandy rock formation of all different hues.
What were your favourite things about the trip?
Our favourite location was Le Morne. It had so many attractions, all of which were within easy reach of each other, which really helps when you’re travelling with a child. Everything we visited was set in the most beautiful mountainous landscape, with so many birds and animals, it was a delight just to be there.
Casela World of Adventure was our favourite place to visit. We spent a whole day there, it was a perfect place for kids. The safari zoo has so many iconic animals in it from the big cats to white rhinos, giant tortoises and giraffes. Safari jeeps take you round the zoo making it even more of an adventure. Our little boy loved feeding the giraffes, so much so that he didn’t want to leave. However, he enjoyed the petting farm and the kids’ playground just as much.
How did you get around the island?
We travelled around either in taxis or the rental car we hired. It was very easy to drive from place to place, nowhere is that far to drive to as the island is quite small. The longest journey we took was from Le Morne to the airport which took an hour and a half. In general the roads were quite quiet.
How did you organise your trip?
We pre-booked our accommodation, airport transfers, car rental and our entrance tickets for Casela Park. It saved us time when we got to Mauritius, and saved us money as we were given various online discounts. We used mauritiusattractions.com and couldn’t fault their service.
Numerous airlines fly to Mauritius from Doha. There are no direct flights. It is worth shopping around for a flight, not only to ensure you get the best deal for your family, but also to ensure the hours that you travel suit your family. Flights, with stopover included, can range in duration from 10 hours to over 30 hours.
Accommodation is plentiful in Mauritius and there is something to suit every size and type of family and every budget. Many accommodation options include kids’ clubs and kids’ playgrounds. You can even find a kids’ farm at Maritim Resort & Spa Mauritius in the north of the island.
Many hotels offer all-inclusive dining, but if you opt to eat out then you will be spoilt for choice. Seafood is the staple of Mauritian cooking, but there are so many cuisines represented in Mauritius, including Creole, French, Chinese and Indian. So, you can start your day with fried noodles, lunch on traditional Mauritian fish vindaye and gato pimas (dry curry and lentil fritters), and end the day with a biryani and pain au chocolat.
There are many choices of transportation around the island from taxis and buses to car, scooter or bicycle hire. Be sure to agree to your fare before embarking on any taxi journey.
The Sugar Museum (L’Adventure du Sucre)
Located in a former sugar cane factory, the museum showcases the history of sugar cane and sugar production on the island, and how it has influenced modern culture.
While the aquarium’s myriad of fish and sharks will be a treat for the whole family, kids will love the interactive pools where they can get up close and personal with some harmless Mauritian sea life.
- Mauritius was first discovered by Arab sailors. The island was the only known home of the now extinct dodo. The last of these flightless birds was eaten out of existence in 1681
- Pink pigeons, one of the world’s rarest birds, still exist in the Black River Gorges National Park rainforest
- Sega is the national dance of Mauritius– dancers move their entire bodies but their feet never leave the ground
- English and French are the official languages of Mauritius, but Mauritian Creole is the most widely spoken language
- Mauritius gained independence from the British, and a long line of colonialists, in 1968
Casela World of Adventure
Here you can check out safari animals, feed lorikeets and giraffes, walk through an aviary, and pet farm animals. Animal talks, zookeeper experiences, workshops for kids and a kids’ playground guarantee a full day of fun for everyone. The park also offers canyon swings, zip lines, dry tobogganing and a suspended bridge walk.
Note: Animal rights activists have questioned the safety and welfare of big cat experiences such as walking with lions. We recommend skipping this particular activity if you visit the zoo.
Ebony Forest Reserve
You can take guided walks, go hiking, walk across dizzying treetop canopies, take safari jeep rides, or while away an hour or two in the exhibition centre and museum, which will take you through the island’s eight million years of volcanic activity.
The Seven Coloured Earths
A geological formation created through volcanic activity. They have a surreal atmosphere with brightly coloured sand dunes flowing down a hill.
La Vanille Nature Park
A short drive away along the magnificent and slightly hair-raising coastal road, this nature park is a great destination for kids. The park offers an opportunity to see a host of wildlife, including encounters with giant tortoises and crocodile feeding shows. There is also a farm, an aquarium, an insectarium, a dodo museum, a fossil museum, pony rides, a playground and a restaurant.
Trou aux Cerfs
Hike up Curepipe and take a look at the dormant volcanic crater at Trou aux Cerfs, which offers excellent 360-degree views of the high plateau.