Mauritius: have wheels, will drive!

We’d been deterred from hiring a car in Mauritius by horror stories about unsafe roads, lack of signposting and a proliferation of incompetent drivers but fear not – this is no worse than the average overseas destination and better than most as they drive on the civilised left!

Hire a car

My recommendation is to hire from around 1-2pm, this makes sense for several reasons: 2 days car hire suddenly becomes 3 as you get a full afternoon and evening, a full morning and a full day, there were several places to visit close-by so the 2 half days made perfect sense.

Before you start – Sugar Experience

Our number one tip before going anywhere else at all is to visit L’Aventure du Sucre in the North West situated very close to Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens so it makes a great twin trip. You may not be inspired by an extinct sugar mill but this was one of our biggest surprises; the whole museum is incredibly well presented and interesting but more importantly it gave us an insight into the fascinating history of the island and it’s people through slavery and mass immigration. Being equipped with this knowledge enabled us to make much more sense of places, landscapes of course the Mauritian people.

Pamplemousses / Grand Baie

Pamplemousses Gardens is well worth the very cheap entrance fee and guide if you want one; one thing to consider however is the seasons, in September / October there isn’t much in the way of colour but the trees and other vegetation still make it a worthwhile trip. To us one of the most charming qualities of Mauritius is the scents, especially frangipane which gives the visit another dimension and although we enjoyed the island in their winter we did miss those intoxicating smells and colours of summer. Further north on the coast is Grand Baie, it is lively and has some good shops boutiques selling mainly clothes and bags, there are some good little bars and restaurants so plan on breaking here for lunch if you can. You will also find Arsenal in this area which is a small town dedicated to outlet stores, Triolet is a larger un-touristic place sprawling along the main road with every type of local store you can imagine, quick tour of the supermarket will demonstrate that goods and prices are very similar to home.

Chamarel Falls / Seven Coloured Earth

Detour 1 Tamarind Falls
We did head out to the traditional tourist attractions however in all cases the journey was just as interesting as the final destination and invariably we found more to see en route; if you see a sign for Tamarind Falls then take it and look out for ‘Jessie’ who will take you on a very interesting and informative trek.

Detour 2 Mangal Mahadev
Unexpectedly, although not lost, we found ourselves on a road which I can only describe as disconcertingly similar to the driveway approach to Alton Towers Theme Park once you leave the country lane, (apologies to anyone not familiar with this), then appearing in the distance, directly in the middle of the road, is one enormous 108ft tall sacred Hindu Statue called Mangal Mahadev, worth a stop and a look around for sure.

Seven Coloured Earth / Chamarel Falls / South and West

The countryside around the south both inland and on the coast varies noticeably from the north; it is hillier and appears more affluent, the roads are probably slightly better too. Traffic was light on the climb up to Chamarel with high trees lining much of the ascent – this made the view all the more dramatic when passing a clearing. Be careful not to miss the entrance to Chamarel Park as it’s easy to do; you pay a small fee and follow the path to the falls then further on to the Seven Coloured Earth. The waterfall is – well a waterfall, it’s pretty with lush vegetation all around but a few minutes here are all you’d need. Driving on you get to a small car park with a pathway down to the coloured earth; I’m not too sure what I was expecting or how expansive I thought it would be and I still can’t tell you now if I was underwhelmed or not, it is at a guess, the size of a football pitch but not oblong, and the colours are definitely different (this is caused by volcanic activity), it was however well worth a visit and I’m glad I took the drive this way for everything else I came across too.

So do be inspired to set out to discover Mauritius and I’m sure you’ll find your own unspoilt favourite, mine was the north east with its small villages, towns and markets and narrow lanes with curious dead-ends!

And finally if you really don’t want to drive then look at hiring a driver – we were quoted just over £30 on top of our hire charge per day.

Carole Booth is Commercial Director at Destinology.

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Comments (1)

  1. Saba says:

    Driving in Mauritius is definitely safer than other Asian countries like India and Pakistan. Mexico is even worse. I was in Mauritius for a year and the driving seemed to be decent except in the night though as people drive when they are drunk.

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