Famed for its brilliant coastlines of peach-tinged sand and crystalline water, Mauritius is an island idyll par excellence. And with such a strong focus on beach-lazing and other relaxing pursuits, most globetrotters do not realise that the island is perfect for an active vacation. Holidaymakers generally gravitate towards the shimmering turquoise lagoon on the northern and eastern coasts, leaving the island’s wind-swept seascapes and deeper waters to those with a surfboard in tow.
Mauritius’ best surfing spots are tucked behind the craggy Morne Brabant along the quieter southwestern shores. Visible from much of the island, the iconic, 556m-high Morne Brabant is a stunning rock formation that tumbles into the sea, forming a beautiful peninsula that is shaped like a hammerhead shark. According to popular legend, a group of escaped slaves made their last stand at the top of the sky-scraping mound, choosing to jump from the cliffs rather than being recaptured by approaching soldiers. And thus the crag earned its name – 'le morne' meaning 'the mournful one' in French.
Under the shadows of Le Morne is Mauritius’ ultimate surfing spot, One Eye – so named because when a surfer finds the sweet spot in which to catch the perfect wave they will see a small hole, or 'eye', in Le Morne’s jagged rock face. The pros at Ion Club, a worldwide surfing organization based on the nearby Indian Resort, can point you in the direction of One Eye during a one-hour private lesson (2800 Mauritian rupees). For beginners, it is best to test your luck on the west side of the peninsula, at what has become known as the Kite Lagoon, due to the increasing popularity of kite-surfers. In fact, if you are looking to strap a harness on, there are two recommended operators in the area that can get you kitted: Son of Kite and the International Kiteboarding Organization-affiliated Yoaneye Kite Centre.
While most of the top-notch wave-catching goes down around Le Morne, the laidback surf town vibe lives just slightly further up the coast on the west-facing sands of Tamarin Beach in Black River. Locals love to wax nostalgic about Tamarin Beach, and in many ways this sandy cove still feels like a throwback to earlier times – especially since the centrally located (and favourite hangout) Tamarin Hotel looks as though it has not been renovated since the 1970s.
Tamarin Bay used to offer some of the best surfing on the planet, but changing climates and wind patterns have resulted in it becoming less popular spot for expert surfers. However the area – unmarred by high-walled resort compounds – remains a great place for newbies to get their sea legs. The best time to surf is between 8am and 9am, when weather is clear and the kiosks have yet to open their shutters. Swing by the Tamarin Hotel’s front desk to sign up for surfing lessons (600 Mauritian rupees per hour).
Where to stay
For an island cluttered with beachside resorts and all-inclusive hotels, it may come as a pleasant surprise to do-it-yourself surf buffs that decent digs can be found, seemingly miles away from the buffet brunches and acres of sand punctuated with the repeating beach chair-umbrella-beach chair combination.
Situated in the village of La Gaulette, halfway between Le Morne and Tamarin, tour operator Ropsen proffers a vast array of high-quality apartment options. Insist on a sea view and you will be treated to some of the most spectacular vistas on the island.
Enjoy a spot of Mauritian hospitality at Les Lataniers Bleus, a charming chambres d'hôte (bed and breakfast) up the road from Tamarin. The darling rooms are spread across three houses situated on an ample, beachside orchard. Every comfort has been considered; there is even a power socket hidden in a tree trunk so you can look up tide tables while sitting in the sand.
How to get there
Air Mauritius is the island’s national carrier, offering flights to a variety of international destinations including London, Perth, Paris and Mumbai. Several other airlines including British Airways, Emirates, South African Airways and Air Austral also operate direct flights.