Travelogue #13 - A day out in Mauritius

Imagine you are an Indian traveling abroad on vacation. You are an automotive enthusiast and, given a chance, you would take a car or hop on a motorcycle and explore the new country all by yourself. A lot of frequent travelers you have spoken to have convinced you that a road trip abroad is an absolute must-do. But, mere thoughts of complicated paperwork and hassles of getting an international driving permit had stopped you all along, ensuring that driving outside India remains an elusive dream. For folks like you, this travelogue would be refreshing. There are countries where you can show up, rent a car and drive out with just your Indian license. Mauritius, the beautiful island nation off the southeastern coast of African continent, is one of them. 

On a recent vacation to the country, with a full day to spare, we set out to explore the length and breadth of Mauritius, basking in the coastal sunshine, soaking in sudden tropical outbursts, gawking at the pristine waters, taking detours at will, ending up at places that we couldn’t have imagined on a package tour and clicking photographs that would last in our memories for a lifetime. Yes, all this and more in just a day! But then, Mauritius is an incredibly small country, 65 km long and 45 km wide with a land area of just over 1800 square meters.

Knowing that the entire day was ours, we planned a 8 AM start from our resort that was located in the north-eastern coast. The idea was to go north for as much as the roads would allow us, then head down south to the tip of the island before taking the freeway back to our resort. We decided to skip the more popular tourist sports that are anyway part of the package tours.

Bain Boeuf was the first destination we stumbled upon, a small, rocky beach that's almost the northern-most part of the island. Though the water here isn't deep enough for a swim, we loved the place for its calmness and the spectacular views of the Gunners Quoin island over the turquoise blue waters. With the beaches at Grand Baie, Pereybere and Mont Choisy nearby attracting all the crowds, Bain Boeuf is a must-visit if some private time is what you are looking for.

Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens, one of the most popular tourist spots in Mauritius that was surprisingly left out in our package tour, was the next stop. Located in Pamplemousses that's not far off from the capital city of Port Louis, the gardens are home to an incredible variety of plants, some indigenous and many painstakingly collected from other parts of the world. Not the ones keen on the botanical stuff, we found the giant water lilies and the many varieties of palm trees interesting.

A far cry from the crowded tourist spots in India, solitude was all that we wanted when we set out exploring Mauritius. La Nicolere, a reservoir in Pamlemousses district, offered just that. Located some distance off the highway connecting Pamplemousses and Central Flacq, La Nicolere hardly attracts tourists and is frequented only by locals. As if the splendid views offered by the lake, the reservoir and the mountain in the background weren't enough, the road that took us there with endless stretches of sugarcane fields on either sides was exciting too.

Palmar public beach, the next destination, was more of an impromptu stop, as we were looking for a place to grab a quick bite and this was right on the main road. Imagine filling your appetite, perched leisurely on a rock in a sleepy little beach overlooking the azure blue waters with not a soul around. That's precisely what we did.

Vieux Grand Port, which was once the Old Grand Port, is the oldest settlement in Mauritius, the place where the first inhabitants of the island landed in the fifteenth century. Unfortunately for us, the Frederik Hendrik Museum was closed and we were left to spend time in the coastal fort further south, guarded by cannons. They are still there, albeit used by us as photo ops.

Souillac, capital of Savanne district at the southernmost part of the mainland, offers some interesting tourist attractions. Gris Gris, a haunted beach as its history says, is anything but that. Teeming with tourists, Gris Gris is probably the only one that lives up to the 'beach' tag. Incredibly windy, accompanied by the thundering sound of waves crashing over the cliffs and the ocean hiding significant depths not far off the shore, this was more like the beaches that we see in India. A vintage railway station where the country's first and only railway was operational decades back and a historic police station that's still functional are the other places of interested in the vicinity.

With our plan to visit Le Morne Brabant, one of the two UNESCO World Heritage sites in Mauritius, cut short due to ongoing road work in the area, we joined M1, the most important freeway in the country that connects the SSR international airport to Port Louis. With all the other single lane roads restricting speeds at 60 km/h, the M1, with multiple lanes on either direction and a 110 km/h speed limit, was a breath of fresh air. Port Louis beckoned us in less than 30 minutes with the Aapravasi Ghat, the other UNESCO World Heritage site, being our next stop.

Basically an Immigration Depot of the colonial past through which thousands of indentured labourers from India and other countries passed through to work in the plantations of Mauritius, a British Empire back then, three stone buildings and fourteen steps that lead to the harbour are all that's left of this historically-important monument. With strong emotions floating around and darkness setting in, it was time to call it a day. 

It might have been an anti-climactic end, but this was a day well spent. Forget the popular but highly commercial package tours. The real attributes of Mauritius, the serene, calm and peaceful country that it is and it's warm, friendly and helpful people comes to the fore when explored on our own. The next time you think of Mauritius, you know what to do!

On the way back to the airport next day, we hopped into the capital city unmindful of the fact that it gets incredibly crowded in the mornings and evenings. Though Port Louis is trying hard to look modern and, at times, convincingly so, it's colonial past shines through in between. And that's what makes it cheerful.


Mauritius has a flourishing car-rental business and we chose Maki Car Rentals based on the positive online reviews. True to what was said, it was a hassle-free experience with them throughout. We would not think twice to suggest them for those interested in renting out a self-drive car in Mauritius.

Coming back to our ride, Mitsubishi Lancer it was! Despite having more than 100000 km on the odo, the car was pretty flawless and utterly reliable throughout our stint with it. Though the engine appeared to have lost steam especially at higher revs, the Lancer proved who was the boss in the narrow and twisty roads of Mauritius. The seating position was spot on, all the controls fell perfectly in place and the steering response was so precise that we went a bit overboard a couple of times. It was the tires at the end of their lives that grounded us back. Coming back home, we couldn't stop feeling jealous of those who are still in possession of their Lancers and Cedias. And, the lesser we talk about HM and the way they killed this brilliant car, the better.


* Destination: Exploring Mauritius
* Route driven: Grand Gaube - Bain Boeuf - Pamplemousses - Palmar - Souillac - Port Louis - Grand Gaube
* Total distance covered: 214 km
* Toll & Parking Charges: 25 Mauritian Rupees
* Number of days:

* Vehicle Make & Model: Mitsubishi Lancer 
* Odometer Start: 110382 km
* Odometer End: 110596 km
* Average trip fuel efficiency: App. 10 km/l

* Best time to visit: June - October
* What not to forget: Stick to the speed limits (60 km/h on most roads and 110 km/h on the freeway). This is no India!
* Fun Tip: How about renting out a Mini Cabriolet? Expensive, yes. But, wind-in-the-hair on a sunny day at the beach is sheer bliss, isn't it?
* Health Tip: Exercise caution when wetting your feet - the shallow waters dwarf the distance to the shore.


  1. Superb narration and fantastic snaps. I'm planning a trip to Mauritius and thinking of renting a self drive car there. This travelogue is very helpful. Do more travelogues like these.

    1. Thank you so much. We're glad to be of some help. Sure, we will try to put up more travelogues.