Hit the banana lounge for some deep-dish island relaxation. Mauritius is the most accessible island in the Indian Ocean - a tropical paradise akin to Maui or Martinique but more budget-traveller friendly.
Though nestled up alongside Africa, it's actually more influenced by its British and French ties and predominantly Indian workforce. Few who come here ever leave disappointed - the lively and warm people, the relaxed vibes and the music of everyday life are likely to leave an even greater impression on any visitor than even the most sumptuous palmfringed beaches, luxurious hotels and crystal-clear waters.
Mauritius experiences a hot, humid summer from December to April and a cooler, drier period from May to November. However, the climate varies considerably across the island. On the coast, temperatures range from 25°C to 33°C (77-91°F) in summer and 18°C to 24°C (64-75°F) in winter.
On the plateau, it will be somewhat cooler. The highlands are also the wettest part of the island - it rains here throughout the year and, even if it's not raining, there will often be low cloud.
Due to southeasterly winds, the east coast is slightly cooler and wetter than the west. These winds are strongest during July and August - it can be blustery on the east coast, though the breeze brings welcome relief in summer. The cyclone season lasts from December to March. Although direct hits are rare, cyclones out at sea can cause days of squally rain.
GETTING THERE AND AWAY
Apart from a handful of people who arrive by yacht or cruise ship, visitors to Mauritius fly into the country. Many flights originate in France, but there are also flights from several African, Asian and European capitals as well as from the US (via Europe) and Australia. You must have a return or onward ticket before arriving in Mauritius.
Cargo ships ply the Indian Ocean regularly, though few take passengers. You're marginally more likely to find passage on the private yachts that call in at Mauritius outside of cyclone season, berthing at Grand Baie or Port Louis. About the only guaranteed way to come or go by sea is to book a fare on the Mauritius Trochetia or the cheaper and slower Mauritius Pride which cruises several times a month between Mauritius and Réunion. Twice a month, the Mauritius Trochetia takes in Madagascar as well.
Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport is near Mahébourg in southeastern Mauritius, on the opposite side of the island from Port Louis. While there are no direct airport buses, express buses travel between the capital and Mahébourg several times a day, stopping at the airport. Allow yourself at least two hours from Port Louis. Air Mauritius flies to Rodrigues Island (about 90min) daily; the company also offers helicopter tours (15-20min) of Mauritius.
Mauritian buses are generally good - albeit a bit slow - and can take you to (or near) just about any place on the island. There are several different operators, none of which cover the entire island. Port Louis and Curepipe are the main hubs. Tickets are cheap and should be kept handy, as inspectors check them frequently. Mauritian roads range from smooth to potholed and pavement-free.
Driving is sketchy at best on Mauritius, with speed limits often ignored, headlights a rarity and weaving pedestrians all too common. If you think you're up to it, rent a car in one of the major towns or at the airport. Smallish motorbikes can be rented around Grand Baie. Drivers should have an international drivers' licence, and most rental agencies require drivers to be over 23. Driving is on the left. Bicycles and boats can be rented wherever tourists congregate.
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