Located off the east coast of Africa, Mauritius is a small island nation that’s known for its pristine beaches and luxury 5-star resorts.
It’s not all about the sand and sunbeds though. Mauritius also offers a rich cultural heritage and incredible food scene – partly to do with its diverse mix of Indian, Creole, Chinese and French ethnic groups.
What’s more, the island’s pristine landscapes have made it a bucket list destination for nature lovers. So, if you want to experience the island in a more mindful way, here’s your guide to ecotourism in Mauritius.
Ecotourism in Mauritius: Why it’s important
Mauritius’ position as a small island makes it perhaps more vulnerable than most to the effects of climate change.
Rising sea levels have already impacted the island and the pristine beaches it’s known for are under threat. In fact, some beaches have shrunk by more than 10 metres over the last decade!
The island’s location in the Indian Ocean puts it in the cyclone belt. Thanks to climate change, flash floods and tropical storms are becoming increasingly deadly.
Despite these threats, tourism is a vital part of the island nation’s economy as it helps fund many of its economic and sustainable developments.
Just like many African small states, the arrival of the pandemic caused conservation and sustainability efforts to suffer.
Many nature reserves and wildlife parks had prolonged closures and the decreased income resulted in shrinking budgets for conservation, according to a Commonwealth report.
As a sustainable traveller, seeking out activities and accommodation that benefit the environment and local people is a way to support and strengthen conservation efforts for generations to come.
The Best Ecotourism Activities in Mauritius
Here’s a quick guide to the best ecotourism activities to help you enjoy Mauritius responsibly.
Meet giant tortoises
Did you know Mauritius is home to giant tortoises? Sadly the native species suffered the same fate as the dodo and went extinct sometime in the 1700s.
In an effort to restore the island’s natural ecosystem, the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation introduced the Aldabra Giant Tortoise from the Seychelles in 2000. The best place to see them is on a tiny islet called Ile aux Aigrettes which is a protected nature reserve.
Here you can see babies and full-grown tortoises eating and dozing across the land. It’s a fantastic spot for seeing rare birds and plants too. What’s more, your money goes directly to supporting giant tortoise conservation.
Go hiking in Chamarel
See a different side to Mauritius beyond the beaches and lagoons. Head inland to Chamarel’s Ebony Forest Reserve where you can go hiking and support rewilding projects.
Join guided or self-guided tours up the 300m raised walkway through native bush to Sublime Point Lookout. Here you can get phenomenal views across the island to the coast.
Stop for refreshments at the tiny cafe or continue up for another hour or so to the summit of Piton Canot for even more views.
Chamarel also has a small number of giant tortoises and a stunning natural spectacle called the Seven Coloured Earth. The small area of sand dunes is streaked with different colours just like Rainbow Mountain in Peru!
Visit a nature reserve
Head to the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Bel-Hombre to experience one of the last strongholds of the island’s endemic flora and fauna.
Featuring 3,500 hectares of protected land, the reserve is vital to the survival of rare endemic birds such as the Pink Pigeon and Mauritian Fody.
Look out for giant fruit bats too (don’t worry, despite having a wingspan of up to 5ft long, they’re fruitarians and completely harmless)!
You can support the conservation work by doing tours of the reserve. Do a 5-hour trek with a ranger which takes you deep into the island’s unspoilt nature.
Alternatively, opt for the 2-hour 4×4 drive or quad bike tour with an experienced guide from the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation.
Go snorkeling in a protected reserve
Meet the local marine life the eco-friendly way by snorkelling in a protected marine reserve.
Anse la Raie lagoon in the north of Mauritius is home to a Voluntary Marine Conservation Area (VMCA) which means no fishing or other destructive activities are permitted.
The best snorkelling tour you can do here is through Lagoon Attitude resort on the shores of the lagoon, a key supporter of the VMCA project.
The guided tour takes you on a glass-bottomed boat to the marine reserve where you can spend a few hours enjoying the local marine life.
Do an eco tour
One of the easiest ways to support ecotourism in Mauritius is to plan your trip with a tour operator that’s done all the research for you.
Pure Breaks offers tailor-made responsible holidays that are personalised to your interests.
The self-guided tour operator has partnered with certified eco-resorts and activities that help you explore the island in an authentic and eco-friendly way.
Eco-friendly places to stay in Mauritius
These eco-friendly resorts and lodges offer places to stay that harmonise with nature. There’s enough to suit a range of budgets too! Check out these top three eco resorts:
Otentic Eco Tents
For those on a budget, Otentic Eco Tents offers an eco-friendly escape in the arms of nature. Accommodation is in the form of safari tents, complete with cosy beds and a shower at the back. Furnishings are rustic and cleverly fashioned from upcycled materials. No plastic here.
There are two Otentic glamping sites to choose from: one by the Grand River and the other at the foot of Bambous Mountain. Both sites are small and intimate, which puts them in high demand for tourists.
They have gardens where they grow their own food. Home cooking is a speciality here with local people from the village cooking coming every day to cook some of the best food around!
Lagoon Attitude is a chain resort that’s committed to making a difference. A great mid-range option, the resort has taken huge steps to mitigate its environmental footprint.
All rooms are free of single-use plastic and they have safe water refill stations all over the grounds.
There’s a marine on-site discovery centre where scientists, schools and local tour operators can work and learn about marine conservation. It even sells its own reef-safe sunscreen too.
Perhaps the most impressive of all is the free on-site zero-waste refill station for tea and coffee. Simply fill up glass pots of what you need and take them back to your room!
Heritage Le Telfair
Heritage Le Telfair is a luxury 5-star resort that’s part of the Heritage Resorts chain. It’s Green Key certified and regularly trains staff on sustainable development initiatives.
The resort works with local NGOs to donate surplus food to those in need. It also has its own recycling plant for paper, glass and plastic packaging. Even excess oil is turned into biofuel.
It also owns a 1300-hectare nature reserve which is a protected area of conservation. Anyone can visit and activities here have a strong focus on education and protecting the environment.
Mauritius eco-friendly travel tips
Check out these eco-friendly tips to help you travel better and support ecotourism in Mauritius.
Offset your Carbon Footprint
Mauritius is not an easy place to get to as it’s a small island in the Indian Ocean. This means you’ll likely have to fly which isn’t the most eco-friendly way to travel.
However, tourism is a vital part of the country’s economy. So, offset the carbon footprint of your travels by supporting ethical and sustainable businesses while you’re there.
You can also donate to carbon offsetting projects, but make sure they’re Gold Standard certified as it’s the best way to guarantee that they’re legitimate.
Have a plastic-free packing list
If you’re travelling sustainably, it’s good practice to keep single-use plastic out of your backing list. This helps you avoid bringing excess waste for this small island to deal with.
Removing plastic is as easy as doing a few eco-friendly swaps. For example, swap out plastic bottles for a reusable water filter bottle.
Take zero waste solid toiletries instead of mini travel toiletries. If you can, try to take any plastic waste home with you at the end of your trip.
Wear reef-safe sunscreen
Keep yourself and the environment safe by wearing eco-friendly sunscreen.
Chemical-based sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate have been found to kill or bleach coral at a very low concentration.
Choose a reef-safe mineral-based sunscreen with non-nano titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. It’s just as effective and better for marine life and your health!
Leave your resort
Resorts are well-known for having everything you need all in one place. You don’t ever have to leave, right? But if you do leave your resort, you’ll have a much richer and more authentic experience.
For one thing, you’ll see the real Mauritius beyond the beaches and sunbeds!
And another reason? You’re supporting local businesses and giving back to the economy rather than allowing big chain resorts to horde all your tourist money for themselves.
So, leave your resort even if it’s for a day or as part of a tour.
Do ethical, eco-friendly activities
As you start to plan your Mauritius itinerary, think about the type of activities you want to do.
Many resorts and hotels offer experiences you can book directly through them. Some of the most common ones are marine and wildlife activities – particularly if the resorts are on the beach.
Before booking anything, interrogate how these activities are operated and who runs them. Look at how many tourists they take on the experience, how they portray and interact with the wildlife and whether or not they make an effort to reduce their impact.
If it’s whale or dolphin watching, do they have boats that minimise noise pollution? If you’re snorkelling, do they tell you not to touch or step on coral reefs?
Avoid activities that invite you to touch or hold animals. Even though the tour operator might deny it, there’s no guarantee that the animal isn’t stressed or suffering.
If none of these issues above are overtly addressed, don’t be afraid to ask questions directly and let them know it’s important to you.
Support local businesses
Where possible, support local businesses. This is a guaranteed way to make sure that your money is going directly into the local economy and strengthening the local community.
This could be staying in homestays or small, family-run accommodation. You could also check out the local markets, eat at local restaurants or book with small tour operators.
Final thoughts on ecotourism in Mauritius
The island nation of Mauritius knows perhaps more than most the value of ecotourism in preserving its fragile ecosystem. Travellers that make sure to support it are guaranteed an authentic and enriching experience.
The small island in the Indian Ocean is fast becoming a bucket list ecotourism destination for nature lovers, adventurers, foodies and luxury travellers who are mindful of their footprint.
So, if you’re planning a trip to Mauritius, put your money into initiatives that have a positive impact on the environment and community.