Go There Surf Travel: Mauritius
Santosha Still Exists
By Michael Kew
As seen in the Travel Issue of TransWorld SURF magazine. Subscribe today and receive a free gift!
Where: The beautiful island republic of Mauritius sits about 200 miles east of Reunion Island in the southwest Indian Ocean, about 1,300 miles from Africa.
What: Surf—and lots of it. Tamarin Bay, the island's marquee spot, is so rare but so good that a typical Mauritius surf trip is akin to lounging and blowing cash at Sapphire in Las Vegas: please look and spend, sir, but you will not touch the girls. In Tamarin's case, it's usually: please look and spend, bro, but you will not surf the world-class wave you came for. However, Mauritius is well worth a visit, especially since its west and south coasts are rife with shapely surfing spots that are far more consistent than Tamarin Bay.
When: May through September, when the Roaring Forties spawn piles of swell, headed straight for the southern Mauritian coastline. The only problem during those months is the onshore wind, which howls (mostly) incessantly from the south-southeast, so hiding from the wind is often an issue (but it does blow offshore at Tamarin). Other months of the year can see nice, albeit somewhat rare, waves in the northern and eastern parts of the island.
Why: Because to any surfer who has seen 1974's Forgotten Island of Santosha, Tamarin Bay is elite and irresistible, and you are keen to surf the blazing-fast left over its perfectly contoured kaleidoscope of coral, channeling Joey Cabell, streaking toward the iconic black stone of Montagne du Rempart. Even if Tamarin is flat during your stay, there are several other good reefbreaks to explore for something to ride in utterly idyllic surroundings.
How: Book a (usually expensive) flight to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport (MRU), which is serviced by many airlines. The best connections are usually with Emirates, Air France, British Airways, South African Airways, or Air Mauritius. You'll need a rental car if you want utmost freedom. Rates are fairly average at the airport. A taxi is affordable but can be inconvenient. You could try your luck on the local buses, but they're usually jam-packed.
Places To Stay: In the Tamarin Bay region, Tamarin Hotel is pretty sweet but the cheapest room is $150 a night. Tamarina Golf Estate & Hotel is nicer but much pricier. Chez Jacques is the choice for affordability and location. Elsewhere on the island, there are a bunch of oceanfront luxury resorts on the Le Morne Peninsula. Several cheaper options exist in the town of La Preneuse, which is a few miles south of Tamarin, and in Flic en Flac, a few miles north.
Places To Eat: There are all kinds of restaurants, big and small, on the west coast. You might end up eating at your hotel quite a bit, but do check out some of the hole-in-the-wall Creole joints, Chinese restaurants, pizza places, and roadside food stalls that sell plates of spicy, delicious Indian food (70 percent of Mauritius' population is of Indian descent). Keep the Pepto-Bismol handy.
Babes And Bros: Could be lots to choose from if you're into Indians. Since Mauritius is touristy, there can be options for matchups of other ethnicities, especially with French-speaking folks. If the extent of your French is oui and bonjour, definitely pack a French phrasebook. Not only will it make life easier, it will greatly enhance your game with the local mademoiselles, although some do speak English.
Above: The guy can barely surf, but you get the picture…Tamarin Bay.
Crowd Factor: Tamarin Bay and Black Rock are busy, but there are several other quality reefbreaks along the south and west coasts. Mind your manners, learn a few basic French phrases (Bonjour, l’ami! is a good one: "Hello, friend!"), wait your turn, and never, ever drop in on anybody wearing white boardshorts. With a finite number of spots and an increasing number of surfers on one tiny island, especially at Tamarin, there's bound to be some tension.
Stuff To Bring: The climate is tropical, so pack accordingly. In the ocean, windchill can warrant a vest or a springsuit. Reef booties and sunscreen aren't bad choices, either. As for boards, you'll want something fast and whippy for the roping Tamarin tubes and walls, and for most of the island's spots in general. Don't forget your DVD of Forgotten Island of Santosha to make you envy the early 1970s.
If The Surf Is Flat: Mauritius is a very diverse and interesting island, so you'll never be bored, especially if you like to do stuff outside. You could drive along the rugged and sparsely populated south coast, go diving off Flic en Flac, check out the lively and historic city of Port Louis, venture inland and hike Black River Gorges National Park, drink some excellent Phoenix beer, learn all about sugarcane, or just bronze on the beaches of Ile aux Cerfs.
More Information: Lonely Planet's Mauritius, Reunion & Seychelles (7th edition) is great if you want something in physical form. Otherwise, there is a ton of information available online. Check out the official tourism site at tourism-mauritius.mu. Other useful sites are mauritius.net and wikitravel.org/en/Mauritius.