The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius (just four hours’ flight from Jo’burg) is a dream holiday destination for many South Africans, but can be a nightmare for your bank account. Mauritius has picture-perfect palm-fringed beaches, pristine reefs and a mountainous interior with flourishing rainforests, all of which adds up to a truly gorgeous destination.
However, the costs of visiting Mauritius can also add up very quickly, with a typical week-long stay at a “western-style” resort hotel for a family of four easily working out to over R100 000. Fortunately, Mauritius is an island that Antonia knows well, and here she shares her tips for making the most of your island time while staying healthy, and within your budget.
Rather than booking a resort holiday, use online resources to find much more reasonably priced accommodation options in Mauritius. There are an increasing number of Airbnb properties there, and also specialist Mauritian holiday home websites offering cottages, villas and apartments for rent.
Of course you’ll want to be near the beach, but you should also think about whether you want a more happening, bustling neighbourhood (such as Grand Baie in the north - perfect for young people), or the amenities in the capital, Port Louis. Then there is the more chilled Tamarin area to the south-east.
You can save a small fortune by self-catering, and the markets of Port Louis are a great place to find organic local fruit and veggies. You’ll discover tropical wild foods, and produce grown without chemicals, on many of the stalls.Antonia managed to find two quality health food shops in Grand Baie: Health Solutions Organic Market and La Vie Claire. They stock a range of organic, natural foods as well as teas and superfoods, and are definitely worth checking out.
Grand Baie’s Super U supermarket stocks excellent (but rather expensive) bio products imported from France, including cheese, granolas and yoghurts, but it’s also an easy place to spend all your holiday money.
As with so many holiday destinations, the key to delicious, affordable meals and ingredients is to eat local. Buy fruit juices from vendors on the beach rather than shops, and enjoy the exotic flavours of Mauritian street food (think filled rotis and curries) which are remarkably cheap. You can also find intriguing noodle bowls, and plastic-free produce fresh stalls on the side of the road, although these can be expensive.
For an island where vegetation grows in profusion, greens are surprisingly hard to find. Antonia recommends taking your own moringa, barley grass and wheatgrass powders so that you can start each day with a revitalising homemade green shake.
If you’re gluten-sensitive but miss the taste of “real” bread, then you’re in for a treat on Mauritius. One legacy of French rule is the many excellent bakeries found on the island, and because the bread and baked goods are made using fermentation methods and imported flour, they are fresh, light and easily digestible. If you have an appetite for data during your Mauritian holiday, but don’t want to choke on inflated roaming fees on your phone bill when you return home, then a “tourist pack” and SIM card from local operator Emtel is the way to go. 1GB of data should easily last you a week, and these packs are readily available from cafés and convenience stores.
Bon voyage, and bon appétit!