This stretch of coastline bears some of the most interesting spots, a mixture of historical sites, lookouts and viewpoints as well as a chain of tiny islands that are located on the southern reef, offering rare views of Mauritius as it must have appeared to the first settlers: a place of rare beauty with a dramatic silhouette and green shores. The road narrows along the coast, as it is nearly pushed into the ocean by the Bambous Mountain Range.
This comes to a dramatic peak at the jutting land spit Pointe au Diable, where geographic factors played an important part in the positioning of the ancient battery; its cannons aiming on the main entrances Old Grand Harbour; once the main harbour of the island and fought over bitterly by French and English navy ships in the battle bearing the same name in 1810. Along this great ancient battlefield and cemetery of hundreds of faithful marines, the road leads along the narrow coastal strip, its dramatic setting enhanced by the beauty of nature.
Various domains and entrepreneurs such as Ferney, Domain d’Anse Jonchee or le Barachois guest house offer nature trails and trekking tours all over the green mountain slopes and coastal mangrove forests of this pristine area. Small fishermen villages lie scattered along its way, some bearing exotic names such as Quatre Soeurs, Grand and Petit Sable, or Bois des Amourettes. This is one of the nicest stretches of road on the island, as the dramatic landscape, unspoilt green surroundings and unobstructed view over the bay and the chain of Southern Islands seem to take the traveller beyond time and space.
Finally crossing the river over the longest bridge of Mauritius, one returns to present day Mauritius by entering the largest city of the South, Mahebourg: But this also is a most pleasant experience, as the ancient island capital has definitely retained its charms and an aura of bygone glory. The Rault biscuit factory, Monday street market, Naval Museum and waterfront are must see attractions. Mahebourg is also the place to dine, exchange money or stock up supplies. Several large shops, banks and a newly built shopping mall at Beau Vallon are conveniently located to accommodate visitors and locals alike, as the area is one of the rare ones along the coast which is independent from tourism.
Along a narrow coastal road, Blue Bay can be reached from Mahebourg by bus or rental car in a mere 10 minutes. This small but budding coastal settlement features rental bungalows and beach houses by its very busy public beach which is frequented by Mauritians and tourists alike. A myriad of water activities as well as boat excursions to the isles off the South East Coast and glass bottom boat tours in Blue Bay Marine Park can be booked at the jetty. The coast guard maintains a small visitor’s centre by the police station opposite the beach park. The reef at La Pointe d’Esny, extends around the bend from Blue Bay and protects one of the finest beaches on the island: Pointe d’Esny beach; great for snorkelling, windsurfing and kitesurfing as well as all other imaginable water sports. The beach is bordered by a cluster of elegant and classy beach villas; some of them for rent, others belonging to local families.
Mauritian Wildlife Foundation-managed Aigrettes Island is the tiny spot opposite its shore and can be visited for a fee; offering interesting glimpses into endemic plant and animal life. Further down south, small but extremely lovely and untouched La Cambuse beach is an all-time favourite of fishermen and locals who love to flock to it especially during the weekend. La Cambuse can be reached via a small nature road only.
Pointe du Diable
When coming from either direction, one cannot miss stopping at Pointe aux Diable to admire the great view and take a look of the centuries old cannons stationed there by the British to fight off the French who never came.
A real fishermen village, Bambous Virieux is located directly by the ocean and offers great views over the Southern Isles from its jetty. The moment you park your car you are a part of this lovely village, where time seems to stand still and Creole life in its original style can still be admired today.
A few kilometres out of Mahebourg, Anse Jonchee extends from the sparkling beach right up into rugged Bambous Mountains. A small winding road leads up to "Kestrel Valley" formerly known as “La Domaine de Anse Jonchee”, home to endemic and rare kestrel falcons, where nature excursions and a restaurant as well as accommodation in typical African round-style bungalows await the visitor. A night in this quiet and pristine environment is designed to restore the health and vitality of stressed out and run down city dwellers. A few kilometres down the road, a small sign points the way to Les Huiles Essentielles de l’Ocean Indien (LHEOI), where homemade essential oils, tours of the premises and a variety of souvenirs and handicrafts can be obtained together with a tour of the interesting premises and its fauna and flora.
Bois des Amourettes
Tiny coastal village Bois des Amourettes lies spread in the shade of the towering Lion Mountain range. Apart from a fuel depot and the rather large jetty from where sailing competition of local pirogues are taking off on a regular basis, it features an annual music festival. Lion Mountain though can be accessed on a fairly good and easily recognisable trail and offers great views to the surefooted and medium sportive hiker.
Vieux Grand Port
Vieux Grand Port, its name in English meaning Old Grand Port, is a small village, the site of Fort Frederick, one of the first Dutch settlements on the island and the place where Mauritius’ first harbour was located. It was also the battleground of the only naval battle Napoleon's ships ever won against the British in 1810 and the cemetery of many ships and their unlucky crew. The First Settlers Museum shows a collection of artefacts retrieved in the area and undoubtedly of Dutch origin. Close by La Case Du Pecheur offering unique accommodation as it is located in a barachois thus, the restaurant offers superb fresh seafood, exciting nature trails through the replanted mangrove forest and exotic lodgings in rustic bungalows, some right by the water’s edge.
Ferney Valley hosts some extremely rare plants and has been developed into an exemplary nature site thanks to the initiative of Mauritian citizens and nature organizations that prevented the construction of a highway through it. The discovery of a unique endemic species of pandanus, native to only this particular site and nowhere else to be found on the planet led to the development of nature trails, guided tours and all kinds of nature activities. The well informed and very friendly staff at the Ferney visitor centre informs visitors with great pride and care about the area and its nature treasures. Tours can be booked directly at the centre. Good shoes and mosquito-repellent are a must.
Once upon a time capital of Mauritius and still exuding the charms of bygone times, Mahebourg is without doubt the most Mauritian of all Mauritian cities; even more so than the capital Port Louis itself! Here, the visitor can find colonial mansions beside mosques, quiet roads with small shops and lots of fresh fish, fruit and vegetables at the market by the central bus station. The Naval Museum, Rault biscuit factory and waterfront are definitely a must see. Plan your visit on a Monday, the largest and nicest fair of the entire island takes place regularly on this day; excellent for those hunting for colourful pictures or souvenirs.
Ile Aux Aigrettes
A few kilometres down the coastal road out of Mahebourg and Blue Bay, Ile Aux Aigrettes the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation’s project welcomes visitors (for a fee) and offers glimpses into the times when Mauritius was solely inhabited by animals. The large turtles roaming the tiny islet freely are an impressive sight to see, same as the rare ebony trees and endemic birds inhabiting the island. Very charming and knowledgeable tour guides answer all the questions one could possibly have about endemic plants, birds and flowers.
Ile de La Passe
One of the outer isles of the South, Ile de La Passe takes its name from the passage in the barrier reef which enabled large ships entry into Old Grand Port. A large fortress originally built by the French but extended and fortified by the British takes up most of this otherwise rather flat and large island. The landing is not easy on Ile de la Passe, as there are strong currents.
Ile aux Phares
Also called Ile aux Fouquets, Ile aux Phare is located right beside Ile de la Passe and Ile aux Vacoas, forming the second island of the chain. In comparison to the other islands, it is relatively hilly; on its topmost point sits the ruined lighthouse from which it derives its name. Unfortunately this lighthouse has not been restored and the metal parts of its once gleaming orb are scattered all over it. The ruins provide shade from the sun or shelter from the wind though and Ile aux Phare is thus a favourite picnic spot of local people and fishermen. A colony of tropical birds is nesting right behind the lighthouse, in the steep part of the drop.
Ile aux Vacoas
The third island in the southern chain, Ile aux Vacoas is tiny compared to the others. It has a rather nice beach though, where the boats of Lagoon Harmony stop for their lunch; providing their guests with a “private beach” experience. Its other side is very rugged and sharp corals stick out of the ground which is thrashed by the waves of the open ocean, walk cautiously and keep watching those waves when exploring. The lizard-like inhabitants of the island are relatives of the extremely rare Telfair skink and exist exclusively on Mauritius. Despite their appearance, skinks are rather “snakes with legs”, but there’s no need to worry as they do not bite, are not poisonous and come out of their hiding places only to share lunch with the visitors.
On the road between Mahebourg and Blue Bay, the traveller passes through Pointe d'Esny, the small settlement along one of the most beautiful stretches of beach on the island. In summer a wonderful spot for bathing and family vacationing, it becomes rather windy during the winter months and is thus a favourite place for wind- and kite surfers as well as local and tourist families who love to spend their weekends or holidays in one of its lovely beach houses and villas.
At the far end of Grand Port Bay and with excellent views over Lion Mountain and the Bambou-Mountain Range, Pointe Jerome can be rather windy in the winter. It is thus a favourite spot for wind and kite surfers. Preskil Resort which is built on a peninsula right on the spot offers a myriad of water sports.
Once nothing but a few rows of filao trees by the beach, Blue Bay has turned into a bustling little village, with visitors from all over Mauritius especially on the weekends or on public holidays; mingling with tourists from nearby Le Peninsula Bay Hotel (ex Blue Lagoon hotel) or one of the many bungalows available for rent all year round, standing in line on the jetty to go on one of the pleasure boats taking them on a tour of the outer islands or the Marine Park.
Plaisance - Airport
Plaisance was once a small settlement in the middle of the sugarcane fields; today it hosts Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Airport, a new international airport. The airport is located about 10 minutes by car from Mahebourg, one hour from Port Louis, 50 minutes from Flic en Flac and depending of the traffic situation, between 90 minutes and two hours from Grand Bay.
There are public bus service, however; not to the standard that most traveller would appreciate after a long flight. Here is also not hotel shuttles available thus, most travellers have pre-booked airport transfer with a local tour operator or car rental.
The taxi services can be an experience by itself, and caution as it can feel like being thrown to the sharks.
Le Chaland is the name of a charming spot behind the airport on a long nature beach and also the ancient name of the Shandrani hotel which is situated right there; opposite Blue Bay in a wonderful nature environment. Guests should be aware that there may be air traffic passing overhead. Le Chaland beach is facing the wild and windy south of Mauritius and offers spectacular sights especially in the early morning or evenings when the sun creates dramatic scenes.