Port Louis - Abbey Travel, Ireland

Port Louis

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Welcome to Port Louis

Port Louis

The capital of the island of Mauritius is a town full of character and slightly faded elegance, set prettily within an amphitheatre of mountains at the mid-point of the west coastline. Port Louis is a noisy, bustling town with some rather hectic traffic by day, but is not a hot nightspot. Nightlife in Mauritius tends to focus on the holiday resorts. The Caudan Waterfront, however, does offer some restaurants and bright lights after dark.

Symbolic of its multi-faceted colonial history, the city boasts some fine French buildings dating from the 18th century, an Anglican and a Catholic cathedral, a mosque and a fortified citadel, known as Fort Adelaide. The fort is the best place from which to enjoy a panoramic view of the town, harbour and famous racecourse (which was once a French military parade ground, and became the first racecourse in the southern hemisphere).

It may be the capital, but Port Louis is not home to the vast majority of Mauritians; the main residential areas are in the cooler, wetter highlands inland. However, Port Louis is the gateway to the prime beaches and resorts of the Mauritian coast, including Flic en Flac and Grand Baie. Although the reason most people visit Mauritius is for sun and sea, the capital city has some interesting museums and entertaining excursions to offer for those who choose to make it their base for exploring the rest of the island.

Information & Facts


Port Louis has two very similar seasons, with beautiful warm weather nearly all year round. Summer is from November to April, with temperatures reaching as high as 86ºF (30ºC). Cyclones, with strong winds and heavy rain, can occur in Mauritius during the rainy season (January to March) and the average rainfall in Port Louis over this period is 8.3 inches (212mm). During winter, Port Louis' temperatures drop only a couple of degrees.

Getting Around

Travellers in Port Louis will find themselves getting around the town by foot, as none of the distances are too great. Taxis are readily available and efficient, and are easily recognisable by their yellow signs. Car rental agencies such as Hertz can be found throughout the town for visitors wanting to explore the island themselves.

English is the official language of Mauritius, but the most widely used is French and the local dialect, Creole. Hindi, Urdu and Chinese are also spoken.

The currency of Mauritius is the Mauritian Rupee (MUR), which is divided into 100 cents. Travellers cheques and foreign currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and larger hotels. Travellers cheques usually exchange at a better rate than cash. ATMs are widely available in most towns and hotels, restaurants and large retailers accept major credit cards.


Since Mauritius is a completely duty-free country, shopping in Port Louis is something that all serious shopaholics should do at least once in their lifetime. From the plethora of shopping malls and street-side shops and vendors, to bustling markets, shopping in Port Louis might require some comfy walking shoes! Le Caudan Waterfont features 170 boutiques and is a must for those who prefer a more sophisticated shopping experience. All famous international designer names and fine jewellery shops can be found here and there is a wide variety of restaurants for weary shoppers to stop and refuel as well fabulous views over the marina where one can even take in a boat ride. Those who like to hunt out a good bargain should head for the Port Louis Central Market, which is open daily, where tourists can pick up souvenirs. A haggler's paradise where just about anything can be found, with a little perseverance, this market sells the usual tacky tourist tat, but amongst it are also great finds and popular buys such as Mauritian handicrafts, antiques, costume jewellery, DVDs, CDs, meat, seafood, fruit and vegetables. Shoppers should beware of pickpockets who operate in the frenzied jostle of Port Louis' flea markers. Holidaymakers can even fit in a spot of shopping while lazing on the beach as beach hawkers walk the shores selling paréos(sarongs), Ralph Lauren shirts, pineapples and shell jewellery all at the lowest price available, of course!

The beaches of Mauritius are close to perfect, with fine white sand and clear water running to heavenly shades of blue. Some of the island's best beaches on the west coast are easily reached from Port Louis. Flic en Flac is the longest beach in Mauritius and features a beautiful lagoon. Grand Baie, 12 miles (20km) to the north of the capital, is a major tourist centre, offering watersports, shops, nightlife and restaurants to complement its splendid beach and deep sheltered bay. Also on the north coast road is Pereybere, one of the island's favoured swimming spots. The Baie du Tamarin is at the mouth of the Tamarin River in a beautiful setting, and is popular for surfing, with Indian Ocean rollers washing the beach all year round. In the southwest is Le Morne Brabant, characterised by a basaltic outcrop and beaches shaded by casuarinas and coconut trees. Snorkellers enjoy Trou-aux-Biches with its shallow waters and coral reefs.

The lively Caudan Waterfront in Port Louis features the Blue Penny Museum, which is primarily devoted to Mauritian art and history, but whose place of pride is given to two of the rarest stamps in the world: the Mauritian 1847 'Post Office' Penny Red and Twopence Blue, estimated to be worth more than US$1 million apiece. Mauritius was the fifth country in the world to begin issuing postage stamps, back in 1847, and some of the few remaining early island stamps are now highly valued around the world. The museum is run by the Mauritius Commercial Bank, which formed a consortium of local companies to purchase the stamps at an auction in Switzerland in 1993, and bring them home for posterity.

A short taxi ride to the south of Port Louis is the Domaine Les Pailles cultural centre and nature park, covering more than 1,500 hectares (3,707 acres) and offering plenty of entertainment for visitors. Activities include horse-drawn carriage and train rides, viewing a working replica of an ox-powered sugar mill, a rum distillery, exploring a herb garden and natural spring. There is also an onsite horse riding centre, several restaurants, a jazz club and casino.

The small island of Ile aux Cerfs (Stag Island) off the east coast of Mauritius is a popular tourist haven, managed by the adjacent Touessrok Hotel, but open to the public. The island, featuring splendid tropical vegetation and encircled by magnificent beaches, can be reached by boat from the small fishing village of Trou d'eau Douce. The island is equipped with a bar, restaurant and shops, as well as watersports facilities from parasailing to windsurfing. The most recent, and somewhat controversial, development on the island is an 18-hole Bernhard Langer designed championship golf course, which affords a sea view from each hole and often requires the novelty of hitting a tee-shot over a natural sea inlet onto the fairway.

La Vanille Reserve des Mascareigne is nature reserve best known for its thousands of crocodiles and the giant tortoises, which they are helping re-introduce to the island of Rodrigues. Children can sit on the giant tortoises and watch the crocodiles being fed. The shop sells crocodile skin products, and the restaurant serves crocodile steak.

Those who enjoy seeking out some culture along with their sunshine holiday should visit the town of Moka, seven miles (12km) south of Port Louis; Moka is not only Mauritius' academic centre but also blessed with some beautiful scenery and impressive historic manor houses. Home of the University of Mauritius and the Mahatma Ghandi Institute, the town is tasked with preserving the island's Indian culture. There is an Indian folk museum to visit, and the Eureka House (now a museum) dating from 1830. Moka can be reached by bus or taxi from Port Louis or Curepipe.

The diversity of the Mauritian population is never more obvious than during a visit to the lively, bustling and colourful Central Market in Port Louis, accessed from Farquhar Street, near the harbour. When you enter take note of the intricate ironwork on the gates, erected in 1844, dedicated to Queen Victoria. Inside the market is a whirl of Muslim traders, swarthy Indian touts, Chinese and Creoles, all demanding attention as they offer their wares. It is advisable to visit the market early, before the heat of the day descends (it opens at 6am every day including Sundays), and be prepared to have your senses assailed with a variety of odours from the fruit, herbs, spices, potions and lotions and various other goods offered for sale.

Port Louis' Natural History Museum is well visited mainly for one single important exhibit: a replica of the flightless bird, the legendary dodo, which has been extinct since the end of the 17th century. Researchers believe the dodo was a member of the pigeon family, which weighed about 50 pounds (23kg) fully grown. The bird was found only on the island of Mauritius, and was discovered by the Portuguese explorers around 1505. The bird became extinct because of the predators such as dogs, pigs, rats and monkeys that were introduced to the island by European colonisation. Numerous other Mauritian bird species have also been driven to extinction, including two related to the dodo.

About seven miles (11km) northeast of Port Louis, and easily reached by regular buses, lies the island's premier tourist attraction, the Pamplemousses gardens (now officially called the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens in honour of the late Prime Minister, but still colloquially referred to by their original name). The gardens are enclosed by beautiful wrought iron railings which are today in disrepair but when first manufactured in 1862 won a prize at an international exhibition at Crystal Palace in London.

The gardens were first laid out in 1735 around a mansion house called Mon Plaisir as a vegetable garden to supply ships calling at Port Louis. Later the house was bought by horticulturalist Pierre Poivre, who introduced plant species from around the world interspersed with indigenous species. The garden is redolent with the perfume of fruit and spice trees, and the 24 hectares (60 acres) also sport a collection of stately palms, ebony, mahogany, latania and pandanus. A great attraction is a pond full of the Giant Amazon water lily.

The small seaside resort of Souillac is sited along the rugged coast in the southern Savanne district. The appeal of Souillac lies in its scenery, as it is not a bathing spot. In striking contrast to the soft curves of the northern coastline, the high cliffs here drop abruptly to the sea to face the bracing winds of the Indian Ocean as it blows all year round. Among the features of the area is a public garden overlooking the sea, the popular Gris-Gris viewpoint, and the nearby Rochester Falls.

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