Literary & Movie Tourism – Mauritius

British author Patrick O’Brian wrote an excellent series of books on the seafaring adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey and his confidant Stephen Maturin on the HMS Surprise during the Napoleonic wars. He does a splendid job in portraying the frequent, amusing interaction between the two men, who seem to have little in common except a love of music.

Paul Brittany as Maturin, the ship’s doctor, is more interested in exploring natural history and finding the elusive albatross than in pursuing the enemy, quite the opposite of Russell Crowe as the impulsive and sometimes impractical Captain Aubrey. The film Master and Commander – the Far Side of the World based on O’Brian’s books was released in 2003, 3 years after O’Brian’s death. Nominated for 10 Oscars, the movie received 2 for spectacular cinematography and sound editing. In the 4th book of the O’Brian series, the journey continues in pursuit of the enemy beyond the Cape of Good Hope to the French islands of Mauritius and Le Reunion in the Indian Ocean. 

 

We will focus on Port Louis, the capital and largest city on Mauritius, as a vacation destination. Mauritius, about 27 miles wide x 40 miles long, was once inhabited by the now extinct Dodo. Today, this tropical island with sugar cane fields, waterfalls, mountains, beautiful beaches, and sparkling turquoise lagoons is popular with travelers worldwide. Port Louis, a busy harbor for international trade and a main financial center for Africa, attracts business people and tourists year round.  

Attractions:

La Citadelle, or Fort Adelaide, was built in the 19th century to house troops and protect the city from enemy invasion. Standing 300′ above the harbor at Port Louis, the fort is the only one remaining of the original four forts on the island. Small entrance fee to this national monument, open year round.

Le Caudan Waterfront is the meeting place for tourists and locals looking for entertainment, duty free shopping at over 170 stores, strolling through the handicraft bazaar, visiting Dias Pier for African specialties, seeing the latest in 3D at the cinema, or trying their luck at the casino. Travelers will find numerous cafes, pubs, and restaurants offering everything from Mexican and Cajun to seafood, Indian, and French cuisine. Live entertainment is featured in the amphitheater by the waterfront on weekends and in the evenings.

Visit the Botanical Garden Pamplemousses, built in 1767, and explore 60 acres of water lilies, a spice garden, palms, and other exotic plants. Hours: 8:30am-5-30pm. Admission: $7 p/p

Museums:

The Blue Penny Museum is a must see attraction located at the Caudan waterfront in Port Louis. The museum is famous for its unique cultural and heritage collection of maps, documents, nautical artifacts, and art from the Dutch, French, and British periods in Mauritius history. This is the only museum in the world to house the rare Penny orange and Two pence blue stamps printed and issued locally in 1847. Gift boutique & audioguides. Tours can be arranged. Hours: Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm. Admission: Adults – $8, ages 7-17, $3.50.

A short distance from Port Louis is the Eureka Creole House, a colonial villa built in 1830 and now converted into a museum. The house of 109 doors and windows features rooms with 19th century décor and individual access to the verandah surrounding the entire mansion. A narrow path from the outdoor gardens takes you through a rainforest past waterfalls to the valley below. Have lunch on the veranda or arrange a half-day tour, 9-2pm or 1 to 6pm. $92 for 2. Three self-catering guesthouses for rent on the property, fully equipped with daily maid service. Rates: $229 for 2.

Regional plant, animal, and marine life, the geology of the island, and the unique reproduction of the giant Dodo bird are housed in the Natural History Museum. Hours: 9am-5pm. Closed Wed & Sun. Free entry.

Things to Do: Outdoor recreational activities include all types of water sports, deep-sea fishing, golf, tennis, skydiving, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Every Saturday afternoon Mar – Dec, horse races are held at the famous Champs de Mar racecourse, built in 1812 and the second oldest in the southern hemisphere.

Still looking for more – arrange a helicopter ride, an underwater submarine or safari jeep tour, visit the sugar mill and rum distillery, or just explore the natural beauty of Mauritius.

Accommodations:

The 5-star Labourdonnais Hotel on the waterfront provides leisure and business travelers with direct access to the entertainment complex at Le Caudan. Each suite and guestroom has modern amenities, floor to ceiling windows, and private balconies overlooking the harbor. Guests enjoy casual and gourmet dining at three restaurants, socializing in the Latitude 20 cocktail lounge, catamaran cruises around the harbor, and free fitness services provided by the hotel. Rates: $400+ (dbl, breakkfast included)

Le Souffren, the sister hotel of Labourdonnais with comparable rates, offers the same excellent service and convenient location. A private beach and marina, as well as an outdoor pool, shopping, and a variety of recreational activities nearby, add to the appeal of this hotel. Guests of Le Souffren have free access to the services and facilities of Labourdonnais.

Located about 7 miles from downtown Port Louis on the Pointe aux Piments bay, Le Meridien Ile Maurice luxury resort is highly recommended for the beautiful surroundings and friendly staff. Four restaurants, fitness center, recreational activities, shopping, and diving center, as well as a children’s club, make this hotel an ideal vacation accommodation for couples or families. Rates: $225-$250 (dbl)

(Note: Travelers should use mosquito repellent and watch out for sea urchins on the beaches.)

Popular B&Bs include La Maison de Vallee des Pretres, Regency Villa, and Villa Jorico with rates from $45-$90. Other accommodations available on the island.

Dining: Over 140 restaurants in Port Louis – here are a few recommendations (prices not available).

Have wild boar or deer curry at the Panoramour restaurant while enjoying the view below and the opportunity to glimpse the endangered Mauritius kestrel. Also recommended for lunch is La Bonne Marmite, serving Indian, Chinese, and Creole food.

L’Escale at the Labourdonnais hotel offers international cuisine in a casual atmosphere. Open: 6:30am-11pm, 7 days.

For excellent fresh seafood in a romantic setting, dine at Le Capitaine in the center of the waterfront. Hours: 11:30am-4pm, 6-10pm, 7 days.

You can also try street food vendors or visit the central market for local specialties such as chili cakes, meat puffs, and octopus curry. Enjoy a cold Phoenix or Black Eagle beer on a hot summer day, or enjoy excellent food while visiting Chinatown.

Getting there: International flights, 3 to 7 days a week, from London Heathrow including Air France, British Airways, Emirates, and Air Mauritius. 12-14 hours, usually overnight, non-stop or 1-stop in Paris or Dubai. Avg rd trip airfare – $850-$950.

Sharon L Slayton

Filed Under: Movie tourism

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