When to go…
To take full advantage of the beautiful beaches of these islands, the best time to go is between April and November. However, it is never too cold on the coast and visitors will usually be treated to warm weather.
What to see…
Mauritius with its tropical islands, exquisite beaches, mouth-watering meals and rich history and culture makes it a famous tourist destination.
Mauritius is famous for its biodiversity. Mountains, tropical forests and plants, over 90 miles of beaches and turquoise lagoons provide visitors with a variety of beautiful landscapes, all protected by the world’s third largest coral reef which almost surrounds the island.
Volcanic activity on the island has formed some beautiful natural structures, such as the spectacular rock formations sprayed by the cascading Rochester Falls. The small volcanic island of Rodrigues serves as a beautiful and relaxing refuge for travelers, with attractive flora including coconut palms, casuarina trees and pink-flowered bushes commonly known as spinsters. Blue, green, yellow and red stain the earth of Chamarel which is said to have been caused by the erosion of volcanic ash. Combined with the plant life and neighbouring waterfalls, Chamarel offers visitors breathtaking views. The crater of an extinct volcano forms Grand Bassin, one of the island’s two natural lakes and from the rim of the extinct crater, Trou aux Cerfs, one will be able to see Mauritius in all its splendour.
Another popular view is the one in Plaine Champagne, the highest part of the central plateau, from which one can view the Rivière Noire Mountains and the sea meeting the horizon. Also well known for its gorgeous view is the cliff top at the southern end of Souillac, a small seaside resort.
Gardens and National Parks protect some of the island’s exotic natural habitats, such as the indigenous forests and endemic plants in Black River Gorge. One can also find rare bird species here. The Yemen Reserve holds herds of deer, and other fauna and rustic kiosks provide amazing views of the ocean. The Pamplemousses Gardens have an abundance of indigenous and exotic plants and the Labourdonnais Orchards are home to a variety of tropical fruit trees and colourful flowers.
There are many various animals in Mauritius. Stags, deer, monkeys and exotic wildlife inhabit the magnificent parkland of Domaine des Grande Bois, made attractive with its eucalyptus, palm trees and wild orchids. Similar animals as well as endangered birds can be seen at Domaine du Chasseur, nestled in the Anse Jonchée hills, and the Casela Bird Park, home to 2 500 birds of more than 140 varieties. The main attraction is the Mauritian Pink Pigeon, one of the rarest birds in the world. Trees, streams and small waterfalls add to the remarkably peaceful atmosphere. More rare birds can be seen at Ile aux Aigrettes and the Rivière Noire Mountains, where there are many indigenous species.
Mauritius also offers a diverse marine life. The Aquarium supports 200 species of fish, invertebrates, and live coral sponges from waters around the island. Nile crocodiles can be spotted at La Vanille Crocodile Park, near Soillac, which offers a beautiful nature walk through forest and freshwater springs, and La Vanilla Reserve des Mascareigenes, which also has an insectarium with 20 000 species of insects including butterflies from different regions of the world. Tortoises are a common sight on the island and roam in many gardens and parks, including La Vanilla Reserve des Mascareigenes where 500 giant tortoises roam free.
There are plenty of beaches with gorgeous views, allowing visitors to soak up the sun while frolicking on the white sand and bathing in the warm sea. The most well known beaches for bathing are Péreybère with its deep clear water, Tamarin, with big ocean swells, a fine lagoon and popular with black and long-beaked dolphins, Roches Noires and Poste Lafayette, perfect for hot months because of its fresh winds that blow for most of the year, Blue Bay, lined by a semicircle of casuarina trees, and the peaceful Belle Mare, where one can also find a Water Park. Grand Baie, north of Pamplemousses Gardens, is the main centre for water sports such as yachting, water-skiing, windsurfing and diving. The northern coastline has many popular beaches. Rodrigues Island is another good spot for diving and the tiny island of Ile aux Cerfs is renowned for its beautiful beach, suited to water sports.
For civilization, head to Curepipe, the island’s main residential town in the west of the country with good shops and restaurants. Other villages and towns offer delicious Mauritius cuisine and stunning views of the Indian Ocean. In the eastern region of the island, you will find the largest open air market, Flacq Market, full of people and colour. While you’re there, you can slide on giant chutes in the Waterpark Leisure Village.
Mauritius has some great places for walking and hiking. Labourdonnais Orchards offers hiking trails among a variety of tropical fruit trees and colourful flowers. Biking is also popular here. Inland, walkers can visit Réserve Forrestière Macchabée and Rivière Noire National Park.
Africa Bespoke will take care of all your needs during your island vacation. Our specials in Mauritius includes a week’s stay at your choice of Beachcomber Hotels and three deals at Shanti Ananda Maurice, one of which offers a great family discount and another perfect for honeymooners.
The beautiful, isolated Seychelles are made up of 115 island, most of which are coralline, flat, have elevated reefs and are covered by plants. The other islands are granitic and hilly and support flourishing forests.
One of these, Mahé, is the largest island of the Seychelles and is the transportation hub. With plantations of cinnamon and coconut palms, fine white sands and green forest, Mahé will offer visitors views they will never forget. Places of interest include the Morne Seychellois National Park and the National Museum.
One of the coralline islands, Aldabra, which actually consists of 13 islands, is the world’s largest coral atoll and makes up one-third of the island’s land mass. It is a World Heritage Site.
Almost 50% of the Seychelles has been given over to National Parks and Reserves, which protect the rare and endangered fauna and flora the islands support.
The Seychelles are known for their rare plants. Most well known of these is the giant coco-de-mer or sea coconut which lives for up to 1 000 years and is native to Praslin, thus honouring the island with a World Heritage Site. They also make an appearance on the hills of Curieuse along with eight different species of mangroves and other luxuriant vegetation. Another rare plant seen in the Seychelles is the jellyfish tree.
Esmeralda is 150 years old. She is also the largest tortoise in the world and lives on Bird Island. Seychelles is home to the very rare giant tortoise. 150 000 of these creatures wander the island of Aldabra. Other animals include live fruit bats, flying foxes, geckos and stinks. Many species of rare bird make the Seychelles a popular destination for birdwatchers. Millions of terns nest on the islands. Bird is one of the four bird sanctuaries in the Seychelles and is known for the millions of sooty terns that migrate to the island to breed between May and September. Recognised for its pristine condition, Aride boasts the world’s largest colonies of lesser noddies, roseate terns and other tropical birds, as well as rare species of flora, including the Wright Gardenia. La Digue is home to the rare black paradise flycatcher. At Fregate one can spot the almost extinct magpie robin. Cousin has many rare birds including the brush warbler, the Seychelles toc-toc and the fairy tern. This island is a bird lover’s paradise in April and May.
Seychelles, surrounded by coral reefs, is rich in marine life. Looking through a glass-bottomed boat, one will enjoy the beautiful spectrum of colour given off by the multitudes of fish that inhabit the waters around the islands. At Desroches, sea cliffs, tunnels and caves make for wonderful diving spots. Coral reef diving is one of the most popular water sports on the islands. Visitors can game fish for black, blue and striped marlin, sailfish, yellowfish and dogtooth tuna, wahoo and barracuda, among many others. Alphonse and Desroches islands are good spots for fly fishing. Other water sports include canoeing, sailing, windsurfing, waterskiing and paragliding. With clear coastal waters, 100 species of coral and more than 900 species of fish, underwater photography is a must. Snorkelling is very popular at the St Anne National Marine Park. The Park encompasses six islands off the coast of Mahé. Aride, Praslin and Silhouette also offer beautiful walking trails.
Fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar has two very different regions separated by a central chain of rugged, heavily forested mountains which occupy more than half of the main island. The east is mostly dense rainforest whereas the broader west coast is mostly savannah, and thus the two regions have differences in geography, climate and even culture. Two of Madagascar’s great mountains dominate the north, and the south is arid with plants unique to Madagascar, such as the cactus-like plants of the Didiereaceae family and baobabs, six of which are endemic to the country. Madagascar’s biodiversity is said to be the most unique in the world and offers visitors beautiful views of rainforests and mountains inhabited by exotic creatures and plants.
Madagascar is home to 5% of all the plants and animals in the world. Second only to Australia for possessing the most endemic species of plants in the world, about 12 000 plant varieties are found on the island. Madagascar’s most famous creature is the lemur, of which 50 species are unique to the island. These strange looking primates can be seen swinging flexibly through forests or making noises resembling those of a whale. There are more than 300 species of reptiles in Madagascar which includes lizards, snakes, turtles, tortoises and crocodiles. There are countless invertebrates, 3 000 endemic species of butterfly and a diversity of birds, especially ducks.
Over 14 Parks protect the country’s unique fauna and flora. Covered by lush forest, Parc National de Montagne d’Ambre in the north is one of the most visited attractions on the island and is home to seven lemur species. Set mainly in rainforest, at Perinet Park you can find the Indri, a type of lemur, a record breaking number of frog species, birds, reptiles and many species of orchids. Other well known Parks are the Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve with undisturbed forests, mangrove swamps, limestone peaks, rivers and springs, the beautiful Ranomafana National Park with its white Namorona River, and the Masoala National Park, one of the only parks located on the lowland rainforest.
For civilisation, the capital city Antananarivo is built on three levels. Here you can browse around the Zoma Market which claims to be the second biggest in the world. Nearby, Ampefy has spectacular waterfalls, geysers, dams used to catch eels, volcanic hills and crater lakes. Antseranana is a cosmopolitan seaport surrounded by mountains, lakes and caves. Other interesting towns are Toamasina, Madagascar’s main port with several busy markets and a botanical garden, Fianarantsoa, a good base from which to explore the southern highlands, Taolanaro, famous for seafood, orchids and carnivorous pitcher plants, and Toliara, with excellent bathing beaches good for fishing, sailing and other water sports.
Golden beaches and palm trees line the coast. Adding to their beauty is their unspoilt condition. One of the most popular holiday resorts is Nosy Be, close to the capital. Ile Ste Marie off the east coast has miles of white sandy beaches, palm trees and coral reefs which make it a popular spot for water sports, such as diving, fishing, surfing and swimming.
Africa Bespoke offers a fabulous Dhow camping trip in Madagascar, taking tourists from one island to the next and entertaining them with a range of water sports. Also on offer is the Beach and Lemur package, which includes comfortable accommodation and activities, and 1000 Views of Madagascar, which offers just that.