Sustainable things to do in Mauritius + local tips

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Mauritius is a beautiful tiny island off the east coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. Being a tropical island created by volcanic activity means that there are plenty of nature-related and sustainable things to do in Mauritius.

But there’s also cultural exploration awaiting you. In fact, Mauritius is often called a “rainbow paradise island” because of its rich cultural diversity and peaceful blend of religions.

Below we’ve compiled a list of the top sustainable things to do in Mauritius, along with local tips and FAQs about this paradisiac island.

PS: For a more in depth list, check out all the places to visit in Mauritius, organised by area, with hotel recommendations.

Make sure to grab your free pdf guide to sustainable travel before your trip.

Top sustainable things to do in Mauritius

1. Splash around or float in the calm blue lagoons

Sustainable things to do in Mauritius
Trou aux Biches, Mauritius

The best way to spend time on a tropical island: beach time! No surprise there. But you don’t need to go to a large scale, unsustainable hotel to enjoy the beaches of Mauritius. The island is surrounded by calm, turquoise water, with coral reefs all around.

These corals act as natural barriers, leaving the lagoons warm and flat. Spend some time by the beach and cool down in the Indian Ocean surrounding Mauritius, or lay on the soft sand in the shade of coconut trees (careful to not sit directly under the coconuts, those things hurt when they drop on you).

Local tips:

  1. Beaches in Mauritius are free to the public. You don’t need to stay at a fancy resort in order to have access to gorgeous, clean beaches. Most beaches have food trucks and public toilets. However, if you are in front of a resort, be mindful of not getting too close to the hotel.
  2. Not all beaches have swimmable lagoons. Some of the wilder beaches can in fact be quite dangerous, with riptides that are not always noticeable.
  3. Our favourite beaches with swimmable lagoons include: Mont Choisy, Pereybere, Flic-en-Flac, Belle Mare, and Le Morne. All of them are easily accessible.
  4. Wear reef-friendly sunscreen to avoid damaging the marine eco system.

2. Go hiking

hiking: things to do in Mauritius
View from Signal Mountain

A great way to explore Mauritius and enjoy splendid views with a low carbon footprint is to hike the multitude of mountains in Mauritius. Some require you to hire a guide, for your own safety.

The mountain pictured above, Signal Mountain, does not require a guide. It’s a 3 km uphill walk on a paved road. It’s also safe to go alone as a solo female traveller, particularly in late afternoon where many locals go for a walk up the mountain for a bit of exercise and fresh air. You will have a view of the capital city Port Louis and the rest of the north west part of Mauritius.

Local tips:

  1. The mountains that do not require a guide: Signal Mountain; Le Pouce Mountain; Le Morne mountain if you’re going halfway.
  2. The mountains that do require a guide: Le Morne if you’re going to the top (although this is debatable); Pieter Both; La Tourelle du Tamarin; Lion Mountain.
  3. For views of the city: Signal Mountain; Le Pouce Mountain.
  4. For views of the lagoons: Le Morne, Pieter Both, Tourelle du Tamarin, Lion Mountain.
  5. Wear waterproof hiking boots because some places might be really dry and slippery, or wet, muddy, and slippery, depending on the weather.

3. Kayak and swim with wild dolphins

dolphin things to do in Mauritius
Dolphins near Tamarin, Mauritius

There are many boat trips that will take you to swim with the wild dolphins that come to the lagoons near Le Morne everyday. Those can be fun because then you’re usually provided with lunch and a trip to a nearby islet.

However, that’s not the most sustainable thing to do and here’s why:

  1. The boat operators are not very concerned with sustainability, coral reefs damage, or even the well-being of the dolphins. They tend to chase the dolphins which is invasive and frustrating for the dolphins.
  2. The boats’ motors pollute the air and the ocean, and the noise it makes bothers the marine animals.
  3. The boat operators sometimes throw bread in the water to attract fish for tourists to gawk at them, but this makes the fish dependent on the human food, resulting in them not eating the algae they usually eat. This in turn overcrowds and suffocates the corals.

But seeing wild dolphins is still a memorable experience, and we can do so without bothering them and without damaging the marine ecosystem.

The answer: rent out a kayak and kayak in Tamarin Bay at sunrise. The sea is usually somewhat calm and clear, so you can float on your kayak without fear or dive in to swim with the dolphins. Just remember to practise ethical etiquette: no touching the animals and keep a distance of at least 50 metres. Do not engage and do not pursue them.

Local tip:

If you go between June and November, you might see whales. Just kayak out far enough to where they are (but be careful of currents) and just wait quietly. Remember that this is their mating and calving season so they might have a baby whale, and it is very important to not disturb or chase them, and definitely do not touch them.

4. Take in the culture

Visit religious sites

Notre-Dame Auxiliatrice de Cap Malheureux

Mauritius is a multicultural country, with influences from Africa, France, India, and China. The main religions that Mauritians practice are Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. There are many religious sites in Mauritius that are quite unique, mostly because of their postcard-looking setting. Like the church above, where many locals choose to do their wedding photoshoots.

Other popular religious sites to visit are:
  1. Jummah Masjid Mosque – an elegant, quiet building built in the 1800s and located in the capital city, Port Louis.
  2. Ganga Talao Sacred Lake – a sacred Hindu pilgrimage site located along the Grand Bassin lake.
  3. Kwan Tee Pagoda – one of the few pagodas in Mauritius, and the oldest one. It is located in Les Salines.
  4. Kaylasson Temple – located in Sainte Croix near Port Louis, it is a colourful piece of architecture and the oldest Tamil temple in Mauritius.

Local tips:

  1. Mauritius is a hot, tropical beach paradise so you might feel tempted to dress in shorts and sleeveless tops. But it is absolutely crucial to dress appropriately and respect the rules when visiting any religious or sacred site. What “appropriate” means may depend on several factors, but a general rule is to wear clothes that cover the knees and shoulders.
  2. Always ask before taking photos.
  3. As a rule of thumb, explore the sacred sites as quietly as possible.

The market and city centre

port louis mauritius
Port Louis, Mauritius

If you were to visit any cities in Mauritius outside of your nature and beach time, Port Louis should be your main choice. It is the capital city of Mauritius, home to:

  • The government house, amongst colonial and historic buildings
  • China Town
  • The Caudan waterfront for shopping, leisure, and plenty of restaurants
  • The Central Market where locals buy their produce and meat (you can also buy souvenirs there)
  • Fort Adelaide (also called La Citadelle), a fort that offers panoramic views of the city
  • Jummah Mosque mentioned above

Local tip:

  1. Port Louis can get loud, crowded, and busy, and will offer a very different vibe from the nature and beach activities. If you’d rather just stick to a more nature-filled trip, you can skip Port Louis.
  2. You can find many places to buy souvenirs in Mauritius, but make sure they are locally made. The Caudan Waterfront has an artisanal section where they sell products made by Mauritians.

Bois Cheri

Bois Cheri is a tea plantation established in 1892, and was the first ever tea plantation in Mauritius. There’s a museum and a factory for those interested in its history and tea tasting, as well as a restaurant with fabulous views.

Local tip: you can find the same tea in every supermarket, so don’t worry about stocking up during your visit. The ones from the supermarket are most likely a bit cheaper as well.

Mauritius Glass Gallery

A visit to the Glass Gallery in Mauritius allows you to see the traditional process of blowing glass, buy locally made artefacts and souvenirs made of recycled glass, and even make your own hand print or foot print glass model.

5. Botanical Gardens

botanical gardens
Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens, Mauritius

The main reasons people love to visit the Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens are the giant tortoises and the water lilies. While both worth the visit, there are other things to see as well: birds, spice garden, indigenous tropical plants, and palm trees from all over the world.

Local tips:

  1. Bring your own water to drink. There are no places to buy food or drinks in the garden.
  2. Wear mosquito repellent. The best repellents are the natural sprays that don’t contain chemicals but work well, such as citronella.
  3. It’s pronounced “Pah-pleu-mouss”.

6. Visit the islets and go snorkelling

snorkeling mauritius
Snorkelling near Le Morne, Mauritius

There are many islets around Mauritius that are great for snorkelling. Some even have sandy areas where you can park your kayak and lay on the beach.

Popular islets are: Ile Ronde (Round Island), Ile Plate (Flat Island), Ile d’Ambre (Amber Island), Ile Aux Aigrettes (it has a nature reserve where you can see giant tortoises and pink pigeons), and Iles aux Cerfs.

7. Visit the natural landscapes

Chamarel, Mauritius

Aside from beaches and mountains, there are so much natural landscapes awaiting you in Mauritius. Here are the most popular ones:

  1. Chamarel village, home to the Chamarel waterfalls and the geopark, where you can find the natural phenomenon called the 7-coloured earth. The sand dunes are made up of 7 different colours that don’t mix together. The colour variations occurred due molten lava, from more than 3 million years ago.
  2. Tamarind Falls, also called 7 waterfalls (although there are more than 7). This is a great spot to hike and take a dip into the small cooling lakes by the falls.
  3. Black River Gorges nature reserve. This gorgeous national park contains Mauritius’ remaining forest and wildlife, such as the Mauritian flying fox, deer, monkeys, wild boar, and many endemic birds.
  4. Rochester Falls.
  5. Pont Naturel (a natural rock bridge formed by powerful waves).
  6. Bras d’Eau National Park.
  7. Trou aux cerfs (dormant volcano).

Local tips:

  1. Don’t collect the sand from Chamarel, and don’t buy the souvenirs. There’s a reason that the dunes are now barricaded – it was not always so. But visitors were collecting the sand which led to the degradation of the dunes, so now they are protected.
  2. If you want to hike Tamarind Falls, choose between the easy hike and the hard hike. The hard one can get very slippery, but really cool as you will be hiking right next to the falls. The waterfalls are nothing like Niagara Falls, Victoria Falls, or Iguazu, so being close to them is not dangerous in itself, but the rocks are slippery.
  3. Don’t attempt to hike the Black River natural park alone. Many people get lost in there. Go in groups and go during the day.

8. Water sports

surf mauritius

Given the natural landscape of Mauritius, there are a few sea activities that you can do, all of them sustainable. There are beaches where you can surf, and there are also opportunities for kite surfing and parasailing.

The 3 surf beaches: Le Morne, Tamarin bay, and Rivière des Galets.

The top 3 spots for parasailing: Grand Baie, Belle Mare, and Ile Aux Cerfs or Trou D’eau Douce.

The most popular places for kitesurfing: Le Morne, One Eye, Manawa, Bel Ombre, Pointe d’Esny, Trou d’Eau Douce, Palmar, Belle Mare, Poste Lafayette, Anse la Raie, Cap Malheureux, and La Preneuse.

Local tip: surfing is a bit of a sore issue in Mauritius. There are a few locals that claim the surf beaches as their turf, and become territorial when people outside of their circle come to the beach to surf. They even ask people to leave, and can get aggressive if you refuse to do so. This is of course not legal nor it is ethically appropriate, as all beaches in Mauritius are free to the public. And certainly no one can claim waves as theirs.

Things to avoid in Mauritius

1. Horse racing

Horse racing is a favourite activity among locals, but many turn a blind eye to what this does to the horses.

2. “Safaris” and lion walks

The safari in Mauritius are not real safaris like in Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, or Botswana. The animals are not free – they are just in slightly larger cages than a zoo. The “walk with lions” activity may sound appealing, but the lions are not generally treated well, and are usually heavily sedated constantly.

3. Large scale hotels

Large international hotels rarely care about empowering locals or about their environmental impact. On top of that, they are usually quite big, meaning you spend a lot of time just walking from your room to the hotel amenities.

There are many smaller-scale, boutique hotels in Mauritius that offer a more unique stay and generally better personalised service. Boutique hotels also tend to have locally-influenced design and decor, which make your experience more distinctive and pleasurable.

4. Avoid using plastic bags

In an effort to be more sustainable, plastic bags, plastic take-away food containers, and single-use plastic utensils are banned in Mauritius. Only biodegradable plastics are allowed, and you might get fined if you are caught with a plastic bag. If you get styrofoam takeaway boxes and plastic utensils from a restaurant, you are allowed to complain and even report them.

Unfortunately, plastic water bottles is still very much in use. This might have to do with some parts of the island not having access to potable water, thus buying bottled water is deemed safer.

Final thoughts on sustainable things to do in Mauritius

There are plenty of things to do in Mauritius, despite being a small tropical island. There are beaches, islets, mountains to hike, and endemic animals to observe. A sustainable trip to Mauritius can easily be done by being mindful of our carbon footprint, and following the tips mentioned above.

And now that you’ve figured out all the eco-friendly ways to explore Mauritius, have a look at the most sustainable, eco hotels and resorts in Mauritius.

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