Grand Baie's prime attraction is the range of water-based activities on offer.

Catamarans & Cruises

Catamaran day trips are the most popular activity in the north – most cruises depart from Grand Baie. In general, we advise booking with a company that is licensed to set foot on one of the northern islands. Prices range from €40 per person up to €75, and this should include a full lunch, drinks and snorkelling apparel. Check out www.catamarancruisesmauritius.com for a rundown of possibilities and bookings.

Most operators also offer semisubmersible vessels for coral-viewing tours. Trips usually last just under two hours, with 30 minutes of snorkelling for those who wish to partake. Tickets are available from hotels and tour agents.

Swimming

The beach at Grand Baie is nothing special and the bay here is congested with boats, although the water can be a lovely shade of turquoise. You're better off heading for La Cuvette public beach beside the Veranda Hotel towards Pereybère; the beach can get crowded at weekends. If you continue north, you'll find a series of sandy beaches accessible by small passages between the seemingly continuous string of private villas.

Boat Trips to the Northern Islands

Worth a Trip: Coin de Mire, Île Plate & Îlot Gabriel

The distinctive Coin de Mire (Gunner's Quoin), 4km off the coast, was so named because it resembles the quoin (wedge) used to steady the aim of a cannon. The island is now a nature reserve and home to a number of rare species, such as the red-tailed tropic bird and Bojer's skink. None of the major catamarans stop here, as landing is often difficult. Despite the island's striking shape, there's not much to see here anyway – it's the kind of place that looks much better from far away.

Most operators take you to the lagoon between Île Plate and Îlot Gabriel, 7km further north, which offers good snorkelling. Barbecue lunches are served on a sandy patch of Îlot Gabriel.

Boats to the islands depart from Grand Baie. You can book online at www.catamarancruisesmauritius.com, through any local tour agent or directly with the cruise companies. Prices are Rs 1200 to Rs 1700 per person, including lunch. If you travel by speedboat, the price increases to around Rs 2300.