Shy Trees & Tea Connoisseurs
Mauritius is young in human terms, only inhabited in proper terms since 1715 yet it has a history of curiosity, cultivation and human endeavour. However, some endeavours are more captivating than others such as the Tea Degustation route, which begins in the high tea plains of the island’s leading tea producer, Bois Cheri. The fecundate plantations are picked and clipped into fine and elegant blends and infusions, and the tour around the factory which quenches the thirst of a million Mauritians as well as tea connoisseurs around the globe is well worth a visit. The heady damp aroma of dried and fermented tea leaves fills the nostrils upon arrival in the factory’s simple reception. The degustation then continues in the plantation tasting pavilion and restaurant set high above a lake which reflects the densely packed flanks of tea trees, mountains rising to the East, a picture of Eden. (Note do not eat at the restaurant just outside Bois Cheri, Chez M...it’s overpriced and poor quality, instead eat at the Bois Cheri restaurant).
A slightly less rewarding experience is the rum distillery of Saint Aubin, unprepared guides plop visitors in front of a series of corporate video ‘showrooms’ which narrate the production of rum, vanilla and the plantations environmentally sustainable practices patronized by a couple of slugs of rum. The whole experience is largely underwhelming, no visits to plantations or the large scale production behind the rum label, the best one could wish for is the lunch at the thoughtfully landscaped Plantation House.
If a visit to Port Louis market isn’t possible, then the Thursday market at Quatre Bornes is a second best option, personally I’d park the rupees and splurge in the capital.
However a must is the centre-piece of the island’s crown, Pamplemousses Gardens, a botanical adventure created by Pierre Poivre, covering 50 acres with over 600 trees and curiosities such as Captain Cook’s bleeding tree and the shy Talipot palm which blooms once every 30-100 years and then relinquishes its life. Perhaps the Kodak moment of choice is the lake of giant Amazon water lilies, providing the perfect launch pad for passing thirsty birds. Forget your independence for an hour and hire one of the guides as they take you on sensory journey turning fragrances such as a nutmeg and cloves leaves into a 3D experience. Mauritius earns its apt description as an island of spice and natural splendour.