Mauritius: Where dreams become reality
Situated 1,200 miles off the southeast coast of Africa in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, this idyllic island nation may be small in size but mighty in spirit. Synonymous with romantic luxury, Mauritius is the wondrous destination wedding of dreams. Endless stretches of white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and lush vegetation combined with a multitude of opulent five star resorts enticing couples-to-be and newlyweds with the promise of escaping the demands of modern life and drudgery of getting married on home soil. LTG’s Josephine Henry looks at why Mauritius is a heavenly island escape you will never forget.
Wondrous Wedding Venues
Mark Twain once wrote ‘Mauritius was made first and then heaven; and heaven was copied after Mauritius’. As soon as you lay your eyes on this beautiful island those words could not ring more true. Choosing Mauritius as a wedding destination is a no-brainer, but once you have set your sights on the island it’s deciding where to actually say your vows that will become a rather pleasant problem to have. One quick Google search of ‘Hotels in Mauritius’ and you’ll be inundated with pages of picturesque resorts lined with palm trees seductively swaying in the wind and crisp white bed sheets adorned with delicately arranged rose petals in the shape of a heart. For many, opulent resorts featuring a dedicated team of in-house professional wedding specialists who can organise all aspects of your big day and customise every detail to your individual taste are the venue of choice for an unforgettable wedding day, and understandably so. However, the island’s rich history and diverse ecosystem means there is a vast range of unique offerings for those looking to get hitched in paradise.
Nothing screams extravagant luxury quite like sipping champagne and saying ‘I do’ on board a catamaran whilst bobbing along the glistening turquoise waters. Or why not delve underneath the ocean for the enthralling and alternative experience of getting married in a submarine with a marvellous array of marine life as your witness? There is even the option of getting wed on the ocean floor and having colourful coral reefs as delightful decoration. Equally, thrill seekers looking to shun normality and tie the knot in an unconventional way can say ‘I do’ while zip lining over the forest at Casela Park, that’s if they can take their eyes away from the dazzling sites around them to focus on their beloved.
For those of you that long for the traditional church wedding, there a number of elegant churches scattered across the island as well as other places of worship so regardless of your religion you’ll find somewhere sacred to confirm your love for one another. And of course, there is always the barefoot beach wedding where you can plunge your feet into the sand and have the gentle lull of the waves rolling into the shore as background noise. Whichever venue you choose, the combination of warming temperatures, gleaming rays of sunshine and spectacular scenery give you that ‘pinch yourself moment’ at the realisation of stepping into a picture-postcard scene, transforming a distant dream into a remarkable reality.
Having a Eureka Moment
Nowhere is Mauritius’ colonial legacy illustrated more beautifully than in the gorgeous Eureka House by the River Moka in the west. Built in 1830, this classy Créole residence was formerly owned by British and French aristocrats in the 19th century and is one of the island’s best preserved plantation houses and also one of the largest. The house is surrounded by luscious vegetation, cascading waterfalls, mango trees and rare plant species endemic to Mauritius and with the breathtaking backdrop of the Moca Mountains, it is an exquisite and historic venue to host your wedding. Yet, even if you do not decide to get married here, opting to take a tour of the house, gardens and waterfalls is a magical day out you will not want to miss out on.
Whether you are combining a wedding and honeymoon all in one or jetting out after the big day, deciding which part of the island to reside in for the duration of your stay becomes the million dollar question. From the vibrancy of the northern part of the island down to the sleepier south, there are bountiful opportunities for discovery.
The village of Grand Baie in the north is awash with world-class resorts, luxurious villas, romantic restaurants, shops, nightlife and phenomenal beaches such as the secluded La Cuvette beach that seem too good to be true. Staying in the area will also give you access to the few small islands that lie off the north coast, which as soon as your cast your eyes on them it really does appear that heaven is in fact a place on Earth. [L1] Staying in this area will also give you the chance to retrace the past and visit charismatic colonial houses such as the Château Labourdonnais, a magnificent Victorian mansion that has been restored to its former glory to give visitors a snapshot of the lifestyles of those who lived there during the 19th century. Similar to so many other places across the nation, it also makes a charming wedding venue. Aside from beaches and colonial houses, the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens is one of the most renowned botanical gardens in the world and scenic place to leisurely amble around, hand-in-hand with that someone special, as you both marvel at the abundance of plant and bird life, stopping to admire the garden’s centrepiece: a giant pond covered with Victoria amazonica water lilies.
Move along to the east coast where captivating coastlines with powdery sand, emerald coloured lagoons and even more plush accommodation options await. Île aux Cerfs or ‘Deer Island’ is a privately owned island near the coast, which in addition to being beach bliss, it is also a haven for water sports enthusiasts with parasailing, water skiing and wakeboarding just some of the vast array of activities on offer. Nature lovers and adventure junkies will be in their element on the more sheltered west coast. Walk alongside African mammals such as lions and zebras, feed giraffes and lorikeets or opt for a pulsating zip wire at eco-adventure park Casela. The seaside resort town of Flic en Flac is quintessentially Mauritian with enchanting azure waters that excite with the possibility of swimming with dolphins. Uncover the rustic wilderness of the Le Morne Brabent peninsular in the southwest, where a dramatic landscape and poignant history has seen the area’s majestic Le Morne Brabant Mountain designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Steeped in history and surrounded by urban myth and legend, it is not just Le Morne’s physical presence that confirms it as a standout attraction; in the 19th century it was used as a refuge for fleeing slaves who formed settlements in the caves at the summit of the mountain and remains a striking reminder of the slaves’ struggle for freedom.
Sublime Spa Experiences
There are swathes of sumptuous spas across the island that draw visitors in with the tempting promise of escaping the stresses of modern day life and immersing yourself in an oasis of bliss. Before the big day, brides, grooms and wedding guests alike should unashamedly opt for a little TLC and pamper themselves to ensure that they look and feel their absolute best. After all the festivities you’ll want to unwind with a rejuvenating treatment and banish any post-wedding day blues. The overwhelming majority of hotels, resorts and villas will offer an extensive selection of spa treatments taking inspiration from celebrated Thai and Balinese techniques as well as traditional Mauritian rituals. Across the island at both hotels and day spas, there is also the amorous prospect of sharing these relaxing experiences with that someone special through a luxurious couples’ package. The Lover’s Romantic Retreat in Fond-du Sac in the north of the island gifts joyous couples five hours of uninterrupted bliss as they are taken on a multi-sensory journey to soothe mind, body and soul.
More than just beaches
Pristine beaches are arguably Mauritius’ greatest allure, but what makes this utopia in the Indian Ocean even more appealing is its rich history and diverse culture. Pulling yourself away from the sun lounger to take the time to explore the island may just be one of the best decisions you ever make.
European, African and Asian influences have resulted in a tremendous tapestry of cultures that is seen across the island from elegant colonial architecture to mouth-watering local cuisine infusing bustling street markets with appetising aromas. On the subject of food and drink, Mauritius has firmly established itself as a serious foodie destination that caters for all taste buds from exquisite fine dining options in lavish hotels to the splendidness of authentic Mauritian fare that utilises the abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and spices from in and around the island. The Flacq Market is the island’s largest open air market while the Central Market in the capital, Port Louis, are fantastic places to absorb the vibrant buzz of the marketplace, but be prepared to haggle your way through if you want the best deals. Step away from the Central Market to Le Craft Market and witness local artisans showcase their talents and pick up one of their creations, ranging from intricate basketwork to colourful cloths that serve as one-of-a-kind souvenirs.
Move over Jamaica, Mauritius is also a haven for rum lovers. Keep spirits high and take a tour of the Rhumerie de Chamarel, an educational experience that will guide you through the history of the distillery as you learn how sugar cane is distilled. Naturally, you will finish the tour with a refreshing rum cocktail as you gaze in awe at the vast plantations. We know only too well how easy it is to get side tracked with rum, but when in Chamarel do not miss out on the Seven Coloured Earths – a phenomenal geological formation comprised of sand dunes that are, you guessed it, seven distinct colours. Be the envy of your friends back home and use the cascading Chamarel Falls as a backdrop for treasured couples’ photos, or the fearless amongst you can even arrange to abseil along the gushing waters. Whether you want to uncover every natural attraction of the island, appreciate the fantastic fusion that is Creole culture or just lounge on a beach with your beloved, Mauritius is everything that anyone could possibly want out of an island escape and more.
When to Visit
Characterised by a year-round tropical climate, Mauritius has two seasons: summer and winter. The summer months of November to May are hot and humid with a wet cyclone period between January and March, whereas the winter months of May to November are comfortably cooler but still warm and dry, making it the ideal time to visit.
At least eight weeks before arriving in Mauritius the following documentation will need to be sent to the wedding planner in order to arrange a certificate of non-citizen and non-resident: two copies of passports and birth certificates (for each person) copies of the first six pages of your passport. Divorce, deed poll and death certificates, if widowed, will also need to be provided if applicable. Any documentation that is not in English will need to be translated. On the day of the wedding all of the original copies of these documents will need to be present in addition to having two witnesses. Be sure to arrive a few days before the actual ceremony to go to Port Louis as there are four offices you will need to attend to get everything finalised for the wedding to legally take place. Many wedding specialist companies and hotels will help arrange this for you, often offering a specialist transfer service to take you where you need to be. Note that you cannot get married on a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday. UK and US Citizens do not need a visa to enter Mauritius as passports are stamped on arrival allowing up to a 60 day stay.
Hinduism is the largest religion in Mauritius, followed by Christianity and Islam, meaning that it is possible to have a religious ceremony. If you do plan on a religious ceremony you will need to arrive 15 days before the wedding day and must have already had a civil marriage, whether that be in your home country or Mauritius. For a Catholic wedding, you will need to have contacted your local parish priest and have an authorised letter to confirm your request to marry in Mauritius as well as contacting the Port Louis Diocese. Similarly for an Anglican wedding, you will need to have contacted your local minister and the relevant minister in Mauritius to obtain written confirmation of your request to marry.
Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport (SSR) on the southeast of the island is where all flights will fly into with Air Mauritius operating a number of flights to and from the island. If you plan on getting married in Mauritius, be sure to arrive a few days before the actual ceremony to go to Port Louis and get all the necessary documents finalised for the wedding to legally take place. Many wedding specialist companies and hotels will help arrange this for you, often offering a specialist transfer service to take you where you need to be.
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