With historic sites and geological marvels, there’s more to Mauritius than its picture perfect beaches.
When you think of Mauritius, visuals of turquoise blue waters and white sand beaches immediately pop up. But there is another side to this tiny island that often gets overlooked. For instance, did you know that Mauritius is known to produce a variety of flavoured rums using sugar cane juice? Or that it was the first place to witness the ‘Great Experiment’ of indentured labour system initiated by the British? If you are planning a visit to Mauritius, explore a different Mauritius instead of just the beaches.
Much like India, the history of Mauritius is also linked to the British. Back in 1834, the British government chose Mauritius to launch the Great Experiment of bringing in labourers on contract from other countries. The immigration depot through which these labourers entered Mauritius is known as Aapravasi Ghat. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the remnants of the building contain a museum that narrates the story of the role it played in Mauritian history. From depictions of the labourers’ working conditions to real-life stories of their migration, Aapravasi Ghat stands as the sole living testament to that experiment, which sadly saw great success in Mauritius leading other nations to adopt it during the 1840s.
The tour is free, but you cannot take photographs once inside.
Saint Aubin’s rum tasting tour
Mauritius is one of the few places in the world that produces agricultural rum, which is made using fresh sugar cane juice. Saint Aubin was the first producer of agricultural rum on the island. It today owns sugar cane and vanilla plantations, a tea estate and a rum distillery, where they offer a rum tasting tour. From sourcing the sugar cane stalks to the distillation and ageing of the rum, you can explore the unique rum-making process step by step with the help of an informative guide. The best part, of course, is the tasting. They have a delicious range of flavoured rums like vanilla, coconut and orange-coffee. While vanilla is certainly a great combination with rum, I highly recommend you try their spiced rum. You can also try their liqueurs in flavours of melon and strawberry. The rhumerie also houses a restaurant where you can sample local fare like the palm heart salad after the tour.
Charge: Rs 1,000
Casela World of Adventures
If you are an adventure seeker or one who likes to connect with nature and wildlife, then head to Casela World of Adventures. You can hang on to ziplines, ride a slow and steady Segway, rough it out on a quad bike, or if you’re up to it, you can even hang out with lions in their enclosures. The lions are unchained and roam freely so it’s important to follow the guide’s detailed instructions. If a safari is more your thing, you can ride into their African Reserve to shake hands with zebras and rub noses with ostriches. The park is a great place for those travelling with kids. There is a special petting farm where children can interact with farm animals like rabbits and ducks.
Charge: Rs 1,400 for adults and Rs 700 for children between 3 and 12 years. This gives you access to the kids playground, the Avalanche Mines, the walk-through aviary, the petting farm, the safari and big cats viewing.
Château de Labourdonnais
Built in 1859 in neoclassical Italian style using teakwood, Château de Labourdonnais is an architectural masterpiece. An ancestral home that belongs to Christian Wiehe and his family, the château is split into two levels with the living room and dining room on the ground floor and the bedroom on the first floor. An intriguing titbit about the architecture is that while the dining room is decorated in the Victorian style with furniture ordered from Great Britain, the bedroom and living room have been designed in French style. In 2006, the château underwent restoration work.
The grand colonial home sits at the centre of 1,400-acre estate. It is flanked by manicured gardens, orchards of guavas, passion fruits and mangoes, a tasting bar to try rums made at their own rhumerie and a boutique to purchase souvenirs. The boutique also includes jams, fruit jellies, fruit juices and sorbets made using natural fruit flavours from the orchards at Labourdonnais.
You can’t wear high heel shoes in the château, so best to pack in your flats.
Price: Rs 750 for adults and Rs 400 for children. The fee includes a guided tour of the château and a tasting of rum and fruit jellies at The Tasting Bar.
Seven-Coloured Earths at Chamarel
This is admittingly one of the more touristy spots in Mauritius. However, the seven-coloured earth is a rare natural phenomenon that deserves a visit. This geological formation is said to have occurred as a result of decomposed basalt gullies. This decomposition was aided by the island’s hot and humid climate. The tropical weather further affected the basalt by washing away soluble elements such as silicic acid leaving remains of iron and aluminium that contribute to the colours: red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple and yellow. It is said that if you mix the coloured sands together, they’ll eventually settle into separate layers. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to test that theory yourself as you can no longer touch the sand. Still, just the wondrous sight of this colourful sand is breathtaking. The dunes – spread over a small area of 7,500sqm – are now protected by a wooden fence with two viewing posts for tourists who want to capture it on film. What is most fascinating is that the colours haven’t eroded in spite of the torrential rainfall Mauritius receives.
Charge: Rs 400 for adults and Rs 200 for children.