Mauritius’s tropical climate, ocean breezes and calm, reef-fringed lagoon make it the perfect destination for watersports enthusiasts, with windsurfing, snorkelling and diving on offer alongside world-class big-game fishing and kitesurfing. Over three percent of the island is covered in national parks or reserves – including Black River Gorges National Park, Île aux Aigrettes, La Vallée de Ferney and tiny Bras d’Eau – and there are a host of outdoor activities available, from hiking and cycling to canyoning and skydiving. The cooler, drier months from June to September, when fewer mosquitos are at large, are best for being outdoors. Over the past decade, the island has also become a top-flight golf destination, while numerous hotels and resorts have tennis facilities.
Mauritius’s dive sites are the best in the Indian Ocean, ranging from canyons to submerged wrecks teeming with tropical fish, eagle rays, turtles, sharks and moray eels. The best dive sites are found in the west and the islands off the north coast, while Rodrigues is just as inviting, with colourful coral and virgin sites to be found in the east. There are around fifty dive centres registered with Mauritius Scuba Diving Association (MSDA;454 0011,msda.mu), of which many are PADI and CMAS certified. Most are based in hotels and resorts with access for non-residents, and cater for novice to experienced divers, with good equipment and English-speaking instructors. December to May is the best time of the year for diving as waters are clear, calm and warm; June to July is best avoided. All decent-sized hotels arrange snorkelling trips, with masks, breathing tube and fins provided; the island’s top spot for snorkelling is Blue Bay Marine Park in the southeast. Most hotels and resorts offer glass-bottom boat trips, while independent operators run trips in Blue Bay Marine Park. More unusual underwater adventures include undersea walks and enclosed underwater scooters available from Grand Baie.
Kitesurfing is possible year-round – although seasoned kiters come from May to October, when winds are strongest – and this is one of the best and safest spots to learn. The world’s third best kitesurfing spot, “One Eye”, is on the Le Morne Peninsula, while the area around La Gaulette, Île aux Benitiers, Bel Ombre and Le Morne has become a mecca for kiters. Marouk, on the southeast coast, is the epicentre on Rodrigues. Local kiteboarding schools offer group and private lessons for beginners. Recommended operators in Mauritius certified by IKO (International Kiteboarding Organization) are Airswitch, Club Mistral Prestige and Kiteglobing. In Rodrigues, the kitesurfing king is Jérôme Branellec of Osmowings.
Surfing is popular from June to September at Tamarin on the west coast. Lessons, equipment rental and surf trips are offered by Tamarin Bay Surf School. Mauritius’s east coast, which gets the southeast trade winds remains a favourite with windsurfers; most luxury hotels have boathouses with windsurfing equipment and many offer instruction. Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is an emerging scene in Mauritius, with lessons and board rental at Tamarin. Mauritius also has great conditions for sailing, whether you want to sail yourself in the lagoon near a hotel, take a catamaran cruise or push the boat out with a private charter.
Many hotels offer kayaking from the beach, but the only formal sea-kayaking expedition is run by Yemaya Adventures to Île d’Ambre. River kayaking along Grande Rivière Sud Est is offered by Otentic and Nativ Lodge & Spa offer a kayak excursion along the River Chaux in Mahébourg.
The island’s latest craze, sea-karts are like a jet-ski, only safer and more comfortable, with a 110 horsepower engine. Escorted trips are offered by Fun Adventure from Grande Rivière Noire. You can also parasail at Grand Baie in the north and on Île aux Cerfs in the east.
Adventure courses include the army-style obstacle course at Parc Aventure in the highlands near Chamarel and the new Le Parcours Aventure course across the treetops of Île aux Cerfs; both are family-friendly. Sugar estates have also opened up vast tracts of land to ecotourism, with activities ranging from guided nature walks to quad biking, horseriding, mountain-biking, ziplines and archery. Some of the best eco-adventure operators include Frederica Nature Reserve on the south coast, Casela Nature & Leisure Park in the west and Domaine de l’Etoile in the east. The island’s biggest thrill is the five-minute tandem skydive from 10,000ft offered by Skydive Austral. The best canyoning spot open to tourists, meanwhile, is Tamarin Falls in the centre of the island.
Hiking and running
Mauritius offers hikes for every age and ability. The main hiking spot is Black River Gorges National Park, while other top hikes include the guided trek to Tamarin Falls, nature walks on Île aux Aigrettes, treks in La Vallée de Ferney and the hike on pristine ÎIle Plate. Nature lovers should hop over to Rodrigues, where the most famous walk passes spectacular wild coves in the east.
Mauritius’s 28 mountain peaks may be miniature, but most can be climbed. They range from easy, well-marked climbs such as La Pouce in the Moka Mountains to technical climbs such as Pieter Both and private trails like Le Morne in the southwest. Held in July, the annual mountain trail run, The Dodo Trail (5985 1584,dodo-trail.com), includes four trails from the 5km Dodo Fun Run to the 50km Xtreme Dodo Trail and raises money for the Mauritius Wildlife Fund. Trail Rodrigues (trailrodrigues.com) is the equivalent across the water, held every November.
A few stables offer horse rides, including Domaine L’Etoile and the small and rustic La Vieille Cheminée in the interior. Mauritius’s most exciting, and expensive, rides are on Le Morne Peninsula with Haras du Morne.
The MTPA has been promoting cycling on Mauritius since 2009, and its latest initiative is a network of signposted mountain-biking trails. The first trail in the south was open at the time of writing, and one in the north was in progress. Former cycling champion Patrick Haberland from Yemaya Adventures (5752 0046, yemayaadventures.com) offers cycling holidays and guided mountain-biking trips to Bras d’Eau National Park – and can also deliver mountain bikes and trailers to the airport. Independent operator Bigfoot Adventures offer quad biking along the cliffs of the south coast.
The world fishing record for blue marlin put Mauritius firmly on the deep-sea game fishing map. Trips are centred around Grande Rivière Noire on the west coast, where fish can be caught less than a kilometre from the beach. Fishing is year-round, although game varies by season; the blue marlin season from October to April is the most popular with international anglers. Rodrigues also has a fledgling game-fishing industry. A half-day charter on a modern, fully-equipped boat can be booked through specialists JP Henry Charters, Grande Rivière Noire (483 5060 or5729 0901, jph.mu) or Rod Fishing Club, Rodrigues (875 0616, rodfishingclub.com).
Mauritius has gained a deserved reputation as a golf destination, with some of the world’s best courses set against spectacular backdrops. The island has eight scenic eighteen-hole championship courses and three nine-hole courses to tee off from, most attached to hotels and resorts. Many hotels throw in unlimited green fees, making play-and-stay a great-value option, with golf academies on hand to help improve your swing. The majority accept bookings from non-residents, too.
Most of the medium-sized and larger hotels and resorts have tennis courts, while the Riverland Sports Club’s courts can be accessed independently with a temporary membership.
Top 5 dive sites
Cathedral, Flic en Flac
A cave seascape which drops off to around 30m, with reef fish including surgeonfish and angelfish.
Aquarium, Trou aux Biches
A good site for beginners to see a wide range of corals and tropical fish.
Whale Rock, Grand Baie
This drift-dive around submerged basalt rock offers canyons and caves to explore.
Water Lily, Trou aux Biches
Well-established wreck site, good for beginners, with picturesque water barges sunk in the 1980s.
La Passe St François, Rodrigues
The island’s most famous dive is this kilometre-long channel teeming with tropical fish, turtles and eagle rays.