Grand Baie and Pamplemousses
Anyone who loves boutiques should pay a visit to Sunset Boulevard in Grand Baie. Those who are interested in picking up local souvenirs, meanwhile, should head to Comptoir des Mascareignes in Pamplemousses, where they will find an assortment of handicrafts, gift stands, local fashions, ship and plane models, paintings and jewellery. Pamplemousses is also the base for Maritime Models Co. Ltd – a locally renowned manufacturer of model ship and sailing-related souvenirs.
Grand Baie is the Mauritian centre for sailing activities. Visitors can join a yacht tour, a catamaran cruise or even charter a private launch here. Conditions for sailing are usually excellent and yachts can be chartered to cruise around Mauritius or to visit some of the northern offshore islands.
Perhaps a little less well-known than Le Morne or Belle Mare, there are still some wonderful spots for adventurous kite-surfers to practise their skills in the north of Mauritius – particularly around Cap Malheureux and Anse La Raie.
The north is arguably one of the best places to scuba dive in Mauritius. There are a range of exciting options available to both beginners and more advanced divers. Of these, some of the most popular are: Gunner’s Coin (26 metres in depth) where big parrotfish can be spotted during each dive; Whale Rock (26 to 38 metres in depth), where you might be lucky enough to witness a hammerhead shark; and Holt’s Rocks (16 to 25 metres in depth), which – as the name suggests – features huge underwater boulders.
Other Underwater Activities
One of the most spectacular ways to explore the ocean bed is to take a journey on the Blue Safari submarine or sub-scooter. Doing this allows non-scuba divers to safely enjoy a superb encounter with Mauritius’ vibrant marine life. It also gives them the chance to see various wrecks dating back to the 17th Century.
‘Le Nessee’, a semi-submersible boat, can also take you on a safe and comfortable discovery trip under the sea. It offers a rare and unforgettable experience, providing optimal viewing facilities for all age groups from its below-the-surface viewing room.
For those who want to experience the feeling of actually walking on the sea bed, meanwhile, ‘Captain Nemo’s Undersea Walk’ is a must. Underwater Walk Ltd. has developed a unique solar-powered diving system that sends a constant stream of fresh air to helmets worn by the undersea explorers. This allows non-scuba divers to get as close to sea-life as is physically possible, without the need to undertake expensive and time-consuming scuba qualifications.
The Northern Islets
This cluster of small islands off the north coast has become a favourite stop-off for sailboats and diving groups alike, but is perhaps best seen through a dedicated catamaran cruise, which can be booked from hotels desks or through local tour operators.
Taking part in one of these tours allows visitors to snorkel in the crystalline waters off Gunner’s Coin, which rises sharply above the water and harbours sea-birds’ nests in the cliffs. It also provides an opportunity for picnicking and swimming near the stunning Flat Island and Ilot Gabriel.
Further north still, one can see the striking shape of Round Island – a natural reserve area where access is restricted to protect the indigenous species of palms and reptiles that have been reintroduced there.
This island and its neighbour, Ile aux Serpents, are currently under intensive conservation management by the government and the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation. Permits are needed to visit both islands, although it is possible to obtain these locally.
Mauritius Aquarium, Pointe aux Biches
Perfect for families holidaying in the north of Mauritius – especially those with children who are still too young to snorkel – this fun but eco-conscious marine showcase can be found in Pointe aux Biches on the coast road to Grand Baie.
Housing over 200 species of Mauritian fish, invertebrates, coral and sponges – including a tank dedicated to giant predators – the aquarium also features a special children’s touch pool, giving them direct contact with some of the gentler species that live off the island’s coast.
Feeding time is at 11am daily, so recommend your clients head there early to ensure a prime viewing spot.
What to see ?