Perhaps the best way to get around the island is to beg, borrow or hire a car. Public transport in Mauritius, while cheap, is limited and doesn’t cover all the destinations holidaymakers might want to visit. So find out the basics on driving in Mauritius and the best scenic routes.
Speed limits, parking and distance
Driving is on the left in Mauritius and the speed limit is from 40 km/h on urban and rural roads to 90 km/h on the motorway. Police carry out occasional spot checks using hand-held radars to catch speeding drivers.
Parking is generally free throughout the island except in the centre of the capital and towns. Where parking is paid, there are two rates defined by the type of parking zone you are in. Tickets may be bought at petrol stations;fill in and display these tickets when you park your car.
Most petrol station close at night so don’t wait at the last minute to fill up.
Small island leads to small roads or rather narrow roads. If you come from the US or Australia, don’t expect 6 lanes roads or long straight stretches. Don’t expect either to have to drive for hours on end to reach your destination: from north to south and east to west, you will take little more than an hour, traffic permitting.
While taking a taxi for a trip or two or even a day guided tour is fine, if you intend to travel a lot around the island for the duration of your holidays, you will save more money in the long term by having your own vehicle. The easiest way is to hire one and you will find plenty of car hire choices on the island.
Perhaps the first difficulty you might face is not knowing the roads to take. But due to the geography and small size of the island, it is difficult to really get lost, even if most roads are not clearly named. There are also a relatively small number of major roads on the island so if you need to get to a certain destination, there is probably only one or two main roads leading to it. If you are on the coast and your destination is inland on the central plateau, by following the rising slope of the land as you leave sea level behind, you can guide yourself. There are mountains dotted around the country, with the exception of the north which is flat. Use these mountains as a visual guide. Even in the north, you can see the Coin de Mire jutting out from the sea. If you are heading to the capital, the motorway will take you straight there. You will be able to see the Port-Louis and Moka mountain range circling Port-Louis. The capital is backed by these mountains and faces the sea as it is also the only harbour of the country.
If you are leaving the north to go to Flic en Flac for its beach or to the town of Quatre-Bornes, guide yourself using the Corps de Garde mountain. The name means bodyguard in English and the mountain takes its name from the fact that its relief at the top looks like a man lying. The mountain acts as a backdrop to Quatre-Bornes. If you are going to Flic en Flac from the north, turn right soon after passing the mountain on your left.
For those wanting to get to Le Morne right in the south-west corner of the island, nothing is easier. There is only the coastal road leading to it and the aptly named mountain Le Morne Brabrant is situated there, acting as a visual cue to lost tourists.
Along the west coast
In fact, if you are after scenic routes, you can follow the west coast from Albion to Flic en Flac, Tamarin, Black River and finally Le Morne. The road hugs the coast from Tamarin onwards to the south and will give you fascinating views of the sea. Before you reach Le Morne, you will see a small island very close by – this is Benitiers Island. The road is narrow for long stretches and if you are stuck behind a slow-moving bus belching black fumes in your face, just be patient and don’t attempt to overtake as the oncoming traffic is driving fast. At Le Morne, you will be rewarded with a sandy beach and Le Paradis Hotel.
The South coast route
On another day, you could continue past Le Morne and follow the south coast. The south coast is noticeably different from the west coast and will give a darker mood to your pictures. From Le Morne, go past Baie du Cap, Riambel and Souillac and don’t miss Gris Gris and Le Souffleur along the way. Waves batter the rocky coast at these points and make for spectacular viewings.
The Plain Champagne scene
An inland scenic route this time, Plain Champagne is within the Black River Gorges National Park and will yet again provide you will a completely different atmosphere. Depending where you come from, your approach will vary. If you can, start at Corps de Garde in Quatre-Bornes. There is a road parallel to this mountain called Berthaud. Follow this road leaving the coast behind you.
If you simply follow your nose and stick to this road, it will take you all the way deep inside the Black River Gorges at Plaine Champagne. You will meet a junction there, turn right to stay within the National Park and you will come across a view point later on. Keep going and you will leave the gorges and drive through hairpin bends down a mountain to reach Chamarel where the earth assumes 7 colours. From there, you can either join the west or south coast and finish your trip for the day. There is also an excellent restaurant called Varangue sur Mornes as you leave Black River Gorges if the drive has made you hungry or if you wish to sit in splendour with superb views to Le Morne and the whole south coast.