Stunning beaches, diverse culture and rich cuisine – much is made of this nation’s sedate attractions. And for good reason – they are worth a trip in their own right. But this mountainous island, which bursts dramatically from the Indian Ocean, is also fecund with some exciting activities. Here are some to enjoy.
Climbing Le Morne Brabant: the ultimate high
Standing on the sublime beaches of Le Morne Peninsula in Mauritius’ far southwest, looking out over the peaceful azure waters to waves crashing on the reef beyond, you’ll be hard pressed to imagine anything more beautiful. Yet, after a couple of hours’ of hiking up the hulking mass of Le Morne Brabant mountain, which towers dramatically over the peninsula, you won’t have to imagine any longer – the views from its slopes are truly astounding.
The trail, which snakes up the back side of the massive monolith, starts with gentle paths through grasslands and indigenous forest before getting into some steep sections on rocky slopes – occasional ropes and advice from the guides help ease your progression up and down the latter. If you have limited mobility you can still take in some incredible views from the halfway point.
The first vistas available while climbing are actually behind you – turn around and you’ll get some amazing views north up the island’s west coast. Further on you start to catch glimpses of the gorgeous lagoon on the south side of the peninsula.
The high point of the hike is at 500m elevation, where you’ll look down over vast stretches of coastline, and see the kaleidoscopic collision of blue hues between the encircling reef and beaches.
Here, you’ll also find a large cross, which is dedicated to a group of escaped slaves who – according to legend – threw themselves to their death from the mountain in the early 19th century when fearing recapture. According to the story, the troop of soldiers coming up the mountain to reach them were simply there to tell them that slavery had been abolished and that freedom was theirs. The mountain thus got its name, which means Mournful One. Le Morne Brabant is deeply significant to island culture, and the history of it was the reason for it becoming a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2008.
Make it happen: Yanature is the only operator who has permission to bring visitors up the mountain. The three- to four-hour trips operate Monday to Saturday mornings on demand, departing at 6am between 1 November and 31 March and at 7am between 1 April and 31 October. Afternoon trips are possible year round on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Electric cycles: mountain biking with a boost
The hushed, hilly hamlet of Chamarel in southwest Mauritius has long been known on the island for its chilled vibe, superlative rum and exceptional food scene, but it’s now also becoming known for a novel new adventure: electric mountain biking.
A local company has imported a couple of dozen of the battery boosted bikes, and offer a rewarding tour in and around the area.
Far from giving you a free ride, however, the power system is designed to just give you a little help when you need it – some pedaling is still required! The idea is that the electric mountain bikes are a great leveler, allowing people of all fitness levels to cycle together. The fit can try to tackle the steep hills without calling on the battery, though be warned – thanks to the battery pack and motor, the bicycles weigh in at 23kg.
After some Mauritian coffee, the tour first takes the Chamarel Estate where you may spot Java deer – you will also visit the rum distillery. From there it's to one of the island's most beautiful sights, the Chamarel Waterfall, an incredible single-drop waterfall that plunges almost 100m into a beautiful ravine. Next is the Terres de Sept Couleurs (the Seven Coloured Earths), a unique rusting landscape of heaving hills surrounded by lush forests and a group of Aldabra tortoises. For lunch you'll cycle down to the coast to enjoy a meal in the fishing village of Baie du Cap. From there the route follows some sandy tracks through historical sites and past some of the stunning plantation houses from years gone by. Before finishing at Bel Ombre Sugar Estate, the tour takes in the 19th-century colonial mansion of Château Bel Ombre.
Make it happen: Electro-bike Discovery (electrobikemauritius.com) run the full day (approximately six hours) Chamarel tour most days, starting at 8.30am. Half-day tours are also available.
Seakarting: effortless aquatic adrenaline
In Grand Rivière Noire it’s now possible to rent a seakart to tour Mauritius’ mesmerising west coast from atop the Indian Ocean. What exactly is a seakart? Part jet-ski, part RIB (rigid-inflatable boat), it is a pint-sized two-person 100hp jet boat that quickly induces grins, giggles and bursts of laughter with each successive pull of the flappy paddle throttle on the steering wheel. When not blasting across the waves, look east to the staggering summit of Le Rampart, one of the island’s most dramatic peaks.
Make it happen: Fun Adventure (fun-adventure.mu) offer seakart tours ranging from one hour to a full day.
Helicopter tour: the big picture
If you’d like to reach the heights of Mauritius without strapping on your hiking boots, take to the skies on a short helicopter tour. Pilots cruise low over the fringes of the island’s reef, allowing you to look straight down through the clear waters to coral formations, before gaining altitude and soaring into the mountains. One of the most inspiring sights is coming face to face with the summit of Pieter Both Mountain – it’s topped by a massive balanced rock that resembles a human head.
Make it happen: Air Mauritius (airmauritius.com) operate reasonably priced scenic flights on demand. Depending on your budget you have a range of itineraries to choose from, which vary in length from 15 minutes to an hour.
Kite surfing: the perfect playground
Expert kite surfers the world over are well aware that the big surf and steady winds off the reef at Le Morne Peninsula make it one of the best spots on the planet to enjoy their sport. However, the sheltered shallow lagoon south of the peninsula is also arguably the best place for beginners to learn. And as experts abound, there is no shortage of top-notch instructors.
Make it happen: Yoaneye Kite Centre, Son of Kite and ION Club all offer lessons to kitesurfers of every level. The latter also rents equipment to those who already know the tricks of the trade.
Matt Phillips travelled to Mauritius with Tourism Mauritius (tourism-mauritius.mu). With thanks to Lux* Le Morne (luxresorts.com) and Angsana Balaclava (angsana.com). Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.