Six uninhabited islands lie off the northern coast of Mauritius, four of which can be visited. Two or three are typically visited on a day-long catamaran cruise, stopping for snorkelling and a BBQ or picnic lunch, or alternatively by speedboat or pirogue.

The nearest and most distinctive island is the wedge-shaped Coin de Mire (Gunners Quoin), just 4km offshore. Named after the “quoin” or wedge used under a cannon, it’s a nature reserve home to the graceful white-tailed pailles-en-queue. Catamaran excursions typically cruise past for the view, but a pirogue or speed boat can take you to the north shore for a 1hr 30min return walk along a spectacular path through rugged bushland. A 1hr 30min sail north of Cap Malheureux, Îlot Gabriel (Gabriel Island) is the most popular northern island playground. A tiny, flat, sand cay with vegetation, its crystal-clear water and pristine coral garden are ideal for snorkelling while unspoiled white-sand beaches and the rich birdlife can be appreciated from a well-marked 45min trail around the island. Neighbouring Île Plate (Flat Island) is the largest of the northern islands with spectacular beaches. Its nineteenth-century working lighthouse can be reached on a 1hr 30min return walk or you can blow the budget at Governor’s House restaurant, run by 20°Sud hotel.

To the northeast, the mangrove-fringed Île d’Ambre (Amber Island) can be reached on exclusive kayak or trekking excursions. Named after the ambergris once found there, it is where Le Saint Géran was shipwrecked in 1744, giving birth to the legend of Paul and Virginie.

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