Mark Twain famously said:
Mauritius was made first, and then heaven, and heaven was copied after Mauritius.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that Mauritius is solely a spectacular beach destination. After all, it is home to 330 kilometres of idyllic white sandy beaches that could easily be mistaken for paradise. But this is just a snapshot of what this wonderful place has in store for inquisitive, adventure seeking travellers. For a nation that is smaller than most UK counties, it packs a punch.
And when it comes to diving and marine life? Mauritius, being home to a rather large barrier reef, rivals destinations like the Maldives. Boasting rare and enigmatic wildlife, mountains reaching 800 metres high and a network of forest dotted with waterfalls, this is not a place to be missed. Unlike many other luxury beach destinations, there's a thriving culinary scene, a myriad of cultures fused together and diverse religious roots - making it an extremely fascinating place to visit.
But perhaps what makes it so unique is the combo of cultures. When you throw Indian, African, Chinese and European influences into the mix, you get a population with wonderful cultural diversity which has an impact on both religion and food, amongst many other things. From Hindu temples to lush green mountains and shallow bays where you can lose yourself in watersports - you'll be blown away by everything on offer.
2018 - Mauritius 50th anniversary as an independent nation
Every year they celebrate ‘independence day' on the 12th of March - and 2018 was a special instalment, marking their 50th anniversary of being independent from the UK. It's their golden jubilee. March 12th 1968 was an extremely history and important day in the nation's history because they adopted a new constitution and gained independence.
Considering how short a time the nation has been independent, it has done remarkably well socially and economically. The Bank of Mauritius has revised the forecast of tourism earnings for the year 2018 upwards from Rs 61.6 billion to Rs 62.5 billion. This revised figure represents an increase of 3.7% compared to Rs 60.3 billion recorded in 2017. The nation is a great example of numerous religions living in harmony with four main religions peacefully coexisting.
Why I'm adding Mauritius to my girls holiday list
Located in the southern Indian Ocean, around 1240 miles from Africa's coast, Mauritius has now made it onto my girls' holiday list. Isn't it a couples destination I hear you cry? Well yes, it can be, but too many places get ruled out for girls' holidays for this exact reason, when they also make a fab place to have some cracking fun and adventures with your best pals.
If you're looking for a destination with something more than fancy upmarket beaches and five-star hotels, then pack your suitcase and book a flight to Mauritius. Amazing historic underwater wrecks, an array of watersports including surfing and kite-surfing, national parks packed with awe-inspiring animals, volcanoes and glistening waterfalls. These are just some of the reasons I'm convincing my female friends to come here with me.
Oh, and if you're a little nervous about going somewhere safe - you'll feel right at ease here. Why? It's often dubbed one of the most peaceful countries in Africa, probably partially because they haven't had a standing army since 1968. Hello stress-free holiday.
It's also known for rainbows and shooting stars of all things. I kid you not. Plus there are also spectacular sunsets to be enjoyed. So really, what's not to love?
Now I'm not a diving enthusiast, but I do love snorkelling and admiring marine life in the ocean. The quality of the diving here is second only to the Maldives. If you're into watersports, head to the north. But if you're after pristine postcard-worthy beaches, then you'll want to make a beeline for the south, east and west coasts.
An then there's the greenery, treks and wildlife. Perfect for the explorer types. So if your friends are more like Jane from Tarzan than Charlotte from Sex and the City, you'll be able to satisfy your inner adventurer here. Take Black River Gorges National Park for example. It's the countries only national park, but it is home to dense forest, a whopping 300 plant species and some precious, rare birds like the pink pigeon and the Mauritian kestrel.
You can spend the morning walking amongst breathtaking mountainous areas and then retreat to a lavish spa in the afternoon. From what I've read about Mauritius, one thing many people say is it is far greener than they'd expected. I'll definitely be booking a ziplining adventure through the forest with my gals.
The country also has a varied religious tapestry which includes Hinduism, Islam, Buddism and Catholicism. And this tapestry has created a wealth of fascinating religious sites including temples and churches. So if your friends enjoy a spot of culture and like to learn about local traditions, you can spend a day or two delving into the different religious and seeing how they coexist together.
A trip to the capital city will also be on our to-do list. Port Louis is the largest city and it's filled with striking Colonial architecture. There's a wonderful market you can get lost in and a waterfront that's perfect for some alfresco dining. There are a few museums and plenty of religious landmarks to visit.
Of course, we wouldn't want to miss out on casting our eyes upon the two UNESCO sites in Mauritius. The Le Morne Cultural Landscape and Aapravasi Ghat. Plus, I think one of the most striking places I'd want to visit would be Chamarel. It's a vibrant, colourful place with brightly coloured, contrasting soils in shades of yellow, green and red. The soil has turned these colours thanks to the erosion from the volcanic ash.
Mauritius seems to be far more affordable than similar destinations of this stature. Which means it makes a reasonably priced girls' holiday destination. And you know what they love to drink here? Rum. I must say, I've got very fond memories of drinking rum on catamaran trips in the Dominican Republic. I'd certainly like to do that again!
Lastly, I think the culinary scene is a huge draw for me and my friends. We like to go out and get a sense of the local cuisine and I'm excited to try the wide variety of local dishes which celebrate Indian, French, Chinese and Creole cuisine.
So has Mauritius made the cut?
I think after reading this article there's no doubt my friends will be tempted to book flights to Mauritius and head out on the girl's holiday of a lifetime. There are clearly lots of reasons to go and personally, I think we'd have sooo much fun exploring everything this place has to offer. Wish me luck!