Undoubtedly one of the world’s most beautiful islands, it’s impossible not to fall in love with Mauritius the minute you step onto its shores. You’ll agree with Mark Twain who supposedly said: “You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first and then heaven, and that heaven was copied after Mauritius.” This tropical jewel lies in the middle of the Indian Ocean, some 2,000km off the south-east coast of Africa. Perhaps its biggest claim to fame is that it was the only home of the famous extinct flightless bird, the dodo. The island is only 65km long and 45km wide, so you can travel to any part you fancy in less than a day. You’ll mostly hear French being spoken because of its colonial past but most people also speak English.

 

Beaches and sports

 You certainly won’t run out of idyllic white sandy beaches to lie on and warm blue lagoons to swim in. And as the island is surrounded by the world’s third largest coral reef, you’ll want to see its plentiful marine life by snorkelling and diving in the wonderful underwater world. You can also get closer to the colourful fishes by taking a submarine or walking on the seabed wearing a special oxygen helmet. Feeling more active? Then try water skiing, sailing, paragliding or windsurfing.

 

History and culture

 Thanks to its fascinating past, the island has a vibrant mix of cultures. It was first settled by the Dutch in the 17th century, who named it after their Prince Maurice. The French took over in 1715 and had more of a lasting impact than the British, who ruled from 1810 until its independence in 1968. Even though it’s close to Africa, Mauritius feels like a combination of France and India: 60% of the people are of Indian origin as their ancestors were brought here by the British. You’ll find ornate Hindu and Buddhist temples, Islamic mosques and Catholic churches.

 

Adventures with wildlife

 As inviting as the beaches are, it’s also worth heading inland to explore the lush green countryside, sugar cane fields and mountains, and the wild creatures who live here. Mauritius is home to giant tortoises, crocodiles, iguanas, deer, macaque monkeys, lemurs and giant fruit bats, and you can even ride a camel and stroke a tiger cub at Casela World of Adventures. Get a feel for the natural world by strolling through the Black River Gorges National Park to admire the dramatic Chamarel Falls, tumbling 90 metres over a cliff face. And while you’re in the area, you can end the day with rum tasting and delicious food at the Rhumerie de Chamarel. Or how about quad biking, karting or horse riding at Domaine de L’Étoile, where you can also view the island’s beauty from above on the world’s longest zip line circuit, a 3.5km course which takes about two hours to complete.