Mauritius is a splendid island and it’s full of amazing places to absolutely visit. I’ve previously wrote about what not to miss in Mauritius so it seems only logical to also write about what to avoid in Mauritius. Unfortunately, some places and activities are overrated, not as you’d expect from the pictures or downright uninteresting. Just a few but it’s worth to know them in order to not waste time and money when there.
Therefore, what to avoid when in Mauritius?
I bet it’s nobody’s first thought visiting the Mauritian capital when first thinking about travelling to this Indian Ocean island. Indeed Port Louis is a mostly modern city, with plenty of unimpressive roads, traffic, modern skyscrapers and poor areas. It’s not downright ugly and indeed has its charm but it’s far from being one of the best places in Mauritius.
First of all, it’s mostly full of cars, at any time of the day and night. If you are coming here by taxi or your own car, expect lots of traffic. Not a great welcome being stuck half an hour in the highways surrounding Port Louis, you can imagine.
Secondly, the few attractions that are usually advertised are not that great. There’s the fort up the hill overlooking Port Louis, from which you can admittedly have a nice view of a large part of the city, but it’s a military fort, with a handful, at most, rooms open to the visitors and a walk on the walls is the highlight of the whole visit. Not enough to warrant a taxi trip up the hill. It can be nice for a few pictures from above, and little else.
The other attraction that is often advertised is the Central Market, just a couple of turns from the port. I’d say it is not as good as you can expect. It is quite small, it can be visited it all in 10 minutes, and not as vibrant and colourful as many other markets in tropical countries. There’s little food to buy, barely any street food to try and many souvenirs for tourists, a sign that it is far from an unique and genuine experience. Most sellers will of course overcharge you the second they realize you’re a tourist, making it pointless to come here to strike a good deal. Personally I’ve seen much more intriguing markets in the middle of the old Europe than this one.
The rest of Port Louis offers only a few Hindu temples here and there, a nothing-to-write-home-about port area and marina and a couple of historically interesting building. Way too little in total to be worth spending half a day or more to visit the city. I would have happily avoided it altogether and not have missed any bit of it.
Dolphin watching tours
It may seems weird to list a speedboat tour to watch dolphins in their natural habitat in the list of what to avoid in Mauritius. Who doesn’t like dolphins after all?
Well, the issue here is not that the tours are bad per se. You will have plenty to choose from as local travel agencies and touts will approach you everywhere, even right in your hotel’s beach as the beaches are public in Mauritius, but the ethics of such tours. To make you watch dolphins from very close they use speed boats to be able to match the animals’ speed and scare them into a specific direction, so they’re cornered and need to stop or slow down. Then you can take a dip with them, or without as they will probably wander away before you can be in close contact. The issue here is that wild dolphins are not used to the human’s presence and will be stressed out by one, or multiple, speed boats chasing them for hours in their natural environment.
It is not surprising that most of those encounters end up with a bunch of tourists on a boat jumping into the waters only to discover dolphins are moving away as soon as they notice them. Repeat this multiple times over a few hours. I find it very hard to believe animals enjoy being chased and have heard that some tour operators actually use multiple speed boats to scare the dolphins towards the speed boat with tourists on, so they can watch the animals closer and for longer. That is a practice that I personally can’t condone. In any case, not all tour operators do it and I am sure plenty of Mauritian ones don’t.
Same applies to whales tours, of which I heard some use audio impulses to prod the whales in a specific direction. That sounds quite a questionable practice to me, and one I wouldn’t be involved in.
Whatever you think of these kind of tours, do your own research before booking. To me they are not worth the money and time, nor the risk that you are stressing highly intelligent animals. To each his/her own of course, feel free to book one if you really want but do make sure the tour is a reliable and honest one, with great care for the well-being of animals and not one promising the moon. The chance of being deluded is often high.
Casela World of Adventures
The Casela Park in the south-west area of Mauritius is one of the most popular attractions on the island. Not only it offers a large zoo, in a mostly open-air environment and with animals that live in a climate not far from their original ones, but it has also a few slides for children, games for the whole family, a petting area with domesticated animals and, especially, a vast safari zone to watch wild animals, imported from Africa, in their complete freedom. The vastness of the park requires at least half a day to visit it, as you will have to go through an aviary, a few pools with fishes, a normal zoo with monkeys, rhino, hippopotamus, giraffes and the petting area before taking the collective bus and do the proper safari (which alone takes 45 minutes to start and experience).
It goes without saying that as animals are held in captivity, you may be against it from the start and add Casela World Of Adventures to the list of what to avoid in Mauritius. I’m with you here, I don’t like seeing animals in cages. On the contrary, you may feel like this is a great attraction (and it is very well organized and kept indeed) and worth your money and time. Fine.
What is instead much more controversial is the fact that most animals are captured in Africa at a young age and then kept for years at the park, with a questionable use of sedatives and canes to “educate” them to not be aggressive with tourists. There are plenty of reviews on TripAdvisor that are quite scary for those concerned with the health of the animals. All to allow you to “pet” the big felines at the park and walk for a while with them. I guess for many people a good photo on Instagram caressing a lion is worth all this but for me no, it is not. It should never be worth making animals live in a prison for humans’ enjoyment, nor actually torturing them to make them less wild.
The phenomenon is not limited to Casela nor Mauritius. Watch the documentary “Blood Lions“ if you have some time. Get informed and then decide if you want to give money to a company with questionable activities towards animals. I did visit the Casela Park but did not want to pay more to interact with the felines there, just watching the more docile animals. In some way it made me feel less responsible for their well-being, or lack thereof, but admittedly I wouldn’t go back now that I am more informed about what they possibly do with wild animals. My suggestions would be to avoid Casela Park altogether and spend a day more in the gorgeous Black River Gorges Park nearby or hiking on Le Morne. There you can admire less animals but more of the nature of the island, without risking giving money to questionable businesses.
Anything else to avoid in Mauritius?
Not really. I avoided spending much time around Grand Baie as it is very touristic but the Casino and plenty of open-air bars near the beach can provide lots of fun. Most of the interior areas of the island are unimpressive but I doubt many tourists would like to spend their vacation there anyway.
Stick with the beaches instead (plenty of them to choose from), explore the Black River Gorges Park area thoroughly (the 7 Coloured Earth, the Ganga Talao, the Chamarel waterfall and tea plantations) and enjoy the diverse cuisine. There’s a lot to admire in Mauritius without having to compromise your ethics or spend a lot for touristic stuff that can be easily found elsewhere.