Adrenaline and luxury go hand in hand on the rainbow island nation of Mauritius. In the few moments it takes to navigate the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport car park, our driver covers a potted history of his remarkable island home before tackling our numerous no doubt frequently-asked questions (including the national drink – Phoenix Beer: “So delicious, so Mauritius”). Fields of sugar cane (much of it harvested by hand), pineapples, tea (also hand-picked) and ginger make way for the busy streets of the French-influenced capital Port Louis as we head for our destination. Port Louis offers colourful local markets, exclusive shopping, hip nightlife and avant-garde dining; it’s a fascinating insight into the melting pot of Mauritian life. Benefiting from an exotic blend of Indian, African, Chinese and European heritages, Mauritius reflects a microcosm of world cultures. Indeed, there are few places in the world where you’ll find churches, pagodas, temples and mosques harmoniously coexisting within walking distance of each other. In little over an hour, having driven diagonally across the 1,865-square-kilometre island from the airport in the south-east to the north-west, we arrive at waterfront lux of The Westin Mauritius Turtle Bay Resort & Spa in time for cocktails at sunset.
We start the next day flying through forest canopies on zip lines across impossibly lush and 165-metre-deep canyons split by snaking rivers in the wildlife haven of Yemen Reserve with Casela World of Adventures, a leading operator in the booming eco-adventure tourism sector on the coveted tropical island paradise that also offer walking with lions and safari by Segway. We then head way off the beaten track with a 4WD tour, our four-wheel drive leapfroging up a steep incline on the Moka Range, where corrugations and potholes outnumber intact surface area in a lunar landscape. The resulting ride elicits peals of laughter and a Blair Witch Project-style home movie from the honeymooning Estonians riding in the back.
At the summit we’re rewarded with postcard panoramas of tangled jungle tumbling toward palm-fringed white sands and glassy turquoise lagoons, which are flanked by near 360-degree coral reefs. Drinking in paradise found before enjoying a traditional Mauritian lunch at the water’s edge in Telfair Garden on the south coast, we round out the day discovering the wave-carved Natural Bridge and snorkelling among extensive coral gardens and their neon-lit inhabitants.
I lower my heart rate with a glacial national drink, stretched out in preparation for sunset at Turtle Bay Resort, where traditional local architecture meets ocean-front opulence. Epitomising the uber-lux lifestyle synonymous with a Mauritian escape, the resort’s thatch-roofed tranquillity perfectly balances the day’s activities. Adventure and relaxation; it’s the best of both worlds on one island.
Images: Bamba Sourang, Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority & The Western Mauritius Turtle Bay Resort & Spa