Set off Madagascar’s east coast, Mauritius is affectionately referred to as the Star of the Indian Ocean and has long been the number one choice for South Africans travelling abroad. Not just for its natural beauty, but also the easy access, affordability on the South African rand, and the fact that no visa is required. If you’re travelling to Mauritius on a budget? This is how easily it can be done.
Mauritius on a Budget
How to get there
There are daily flights between Johannesburg and Mauritius’ Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport and 2 or 3 times weekly flights from Cape Town and Durban. These direct flights work well with the 5 and 7-night resort packages. The exciting news is the addition of a flight between Mauritius and Tanzania if you’d like to combine the two.
The best time to travel
The best time to visit is between May and October when the weather is cool, dry and sunny. During summer, from November to April, the days are hot and humid and if you plan to spend most of your time on the beach, it will be still perfect. A good thing to keep in mind is that the east coast is windier than the west.
Getting around the island
A great convenience when visiting Mauritius is that it’s small enough to base yourself in one place and explore the island’s highlights from there either with a driver, a rental car or if you’re feeling brave, a motorbike or bicycle. There’s also an inexpensive and regular bus service. Scooter rental is a great way to make savings and can be rented from OLA Mauritius for between €15 and €20 a day (subject to confirmation). Bicycles are often available from your hotel or resort, otherwise, Yemaya Adventures do offer rentals.
Best value accommodation
Mauritius has a very established offering of accommodation, with luxury resorts, affordable hotels, guesthouses and even apartments available to rent. South Africans would do well to look out for package deals that include return flights, accommodation, transfers, dinner and breakfast, which cover most of what you need.
In peak season and over Christmas and New Year, you can expect to pay almost double the price for the same accommodation than during slower months. The hotel rates are at their lowest in June and July, when you can look out for very attractive deals. Best advice is to check and compare the prices before you book your place of accommodation.
To add to the offering, for the more independent traveller, Homestay has a varied choice of properties, this way you can experience how the locals live.
Tips for saving money when booking your accommodation
Check for special deals applicable to certain periods – sometimes between holidays, you can find a big discount on the official resort room price. Often the hotels offer cheaper prices when making the bookings well in advance. Don’t count on last-minute deals, as these are not common in Mauritius, especially not in the summer period and peak season.
Check for a student, senior citizen and group discounts and try to negotiate the price by contacting the hotel directly. Honeymoon accommodation packages at some hotels in Mauritius can be as much as 10-25% off the hotel room rates. The same applies to long stays, where a reduced rate almost always applies, especially between March and August.
A trick to bear in mind is room location. By taking a room without a sea view, or not as close to the main area, you are almost certain to be offered a discount. You can save on extras once thereby opting for a half board package, sometimes these can include the option of drinks. Remember, alcohol is very expensive in Mauritius.
You can, of course, buy a bottle of wine and snacks for in-between meals at local supermarkets, whether you are self-catering or not. Family-friendly packages are also available where children stay and eat for free. In most cases, non-motorised sports are included at resorts.
Things to do in Mauritius
Head to nature
A visit to the indigenous forest in the protected Black River Gorges National Park with its tall trees and dense ferns and over 50km of walking trails. There is a half-day hike and you can look out for the rare Pink Pigeon and Mauritius kestrel, both saved from extinction.
Something for liquor enthusiasts
Visit the Rhumerie de Chamarel, a beautiful estate in the south west of the island that has invested much into creating a world-class product and destination for the rum enthusiast. A tour and tasting of their range will leave you with a personal favourite.
Do some shopping
The capital, Port Louis, has a main market or bazaar on Farquhar Street and is a must visit. Here traders display their fresh produce for sale – excellent if you’re self-catering. Look out for the ‘Made in Mauritius’ stalls that support local enterprise.
Visit the famous botanical gardens
The Mauritius National Botanical Garden is one of the most visited attractions. Located in the district of Pamplemousse near Port Louis, it was opened as a private garden by the French governor of Mauritius nearly 300 years ago and stretches over endless acres of land.
Discover what Mauritius would have looked like 400 years ago
Ile aux Aigrettes, 800 metres off Mauritius’s south-east coast, is a renowned nature reserve and home to some of the world’s rarest birds. Not the dodo, sadly (they were wiped out in the 17th century), but well worth a visit, at least for its pristine white sand beaches.
Pay a visit to the oldest tea plantation
Visit Bois-Chéri, the oldest tea plantation spread on 350 acres of land, it’s also the biggest in Mauritius. Book yourself for a guided walk through the factory to learn about the production line and packing process before enjoying tasting the tea and meal at The Chalet with its 360-degree views across the valley.