Mauritius is well known as a relaxing beach destination: think lazy days lying on the white sand, pineapple cocktail in hand. But if you’re visiting the island with children, it’s unlikely that they’ll want to lie horizontal for most of the day (even if you do!). Of course, there are amazing kids clubs attached to most of the bigger resorts that will keep them occupied, but if you want to spend time with them, this doesn’t help much.
Luckily, Mauritius has a huge range of child-friendly things to do and is the perfect destination if you want to stay active. As a family, it’s also highly convenient to travel here from South Africa: it’s a quick four-hour direct flight, not to mention that if you fly Air Mauritius, kids under 12 fly for free (Ts and Cs of course apply) as part of their Travel Smart programme.
Here are five reasons why it’s the perfect holiday destination for the active family.
- It’s a watersports paradise
With over 300km of sparkling blue coastline surrounded by a reef-protected lagoon, the sea is calm, warm and mostly safe, so it’s ideal for family-friendly watersports. Take your pick from swimming, kayaking, surfing, windsurfing, sailing, parasailing and diving, or go snorkelling on the coral reefs and swim among the tropical fish. You could also try your hand at kite surfing if the wind is right – though younger kids may need to watch rather than participate, due to safety reasons. If your holiday at an All-Inclusive Club Med resort on the island, you’ll have access to a wide variety of water sports (and land activities) that’ll keep the whole family entertained!
- Golf enthusiasts will have a ball
If you want a break from the water, Mauritius has an impressive number of golf courses considering the island’s small size. Plus, the island’s lush mountainous terrain and sparkling sea make for some of the most picturesque course backdrops in the world. Most golf courses are within easy reach of the major resorts, and some notable ones include Heritage Golf Club in the south, Ernie Els-designed Anahita in the east, and Mont Choisy in the north. If your children are too small to play 9 or 18 holes, there are also chipping and putting greens, and golf lessons for all ages. A handy thing to note: if you fly with Air Mauritius, golf bags fly free.
- It’s all about the animals
Mauritius features several nature parks that offer the perfect opportunity for you and your kids to get up close and personal with the island’s indigenous animals – plus those being rehabilitated from further afield. La Vanille Crocodile Park is involved in captive breeding programmes for several threatened species including crocodiles, giant tortoises, monkeys, lemurs and more. Then there’s the Mauritius Aquarium in the village of Pointe aux Piments showcasing the island’s rich aquatic life, and the Casela Bird Park, with more than 2500 birds and 140 species from across five continents.
- Walking and hiking spots abound
If you’re up for hiking, there are plenty of spots to choose from. The Le Morne Brabant Mountain in the south-west is a Unesco World Heritage Site and is a fairly tough hike to the summit, taking around 3-4 hours. For younger kids, there’s a far gentler 3km walk you can do around La Vallée de Ferney, a 200-hectare forest and wildlife sanctuary for rare and endangered indigenous tree species, which also has wonderful views of the south-east of the island. Domaine de l’Etoile is a 1200 hectare private nature reserve with trails to the top of the Bambou mountain range, while the Black River Gorges National Park with its thick forests offers a window into what the island was like before it was inhabited.
- Discover the islets
Some of the best views of Mauritius’s coastline are by boat – so book a day trip to one of the many surrounding islets. Choose from short trips of just a few hours to longer day trips where you may visit several islands, as well as a stop for lunch along the way. In the north, you can see Gabriel Island and Flat Island where you can snorkel, swim and wander along the pristine beaches. To the east, off Trou d’Eau Douce, Ile aux Cerfs lies within the island’s largest lagoon, offering breathtaking beaches, five restaurants and a bar, plus kayaking, paragliding and even golf (Bernard Langer designed an 18 -hole championship golf course here). Off the West Coast is the much quieter Ile aux Benitiers, named after the rocky outcrop resembling a clamshell (benitier).