Port Louis

Villa heaven

For an exotic get-away or holiday home investment, the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius is worth exploring,
says Jane Archer

It was an enjoyable coincidence that on the day the ‘blues and reds’ were slugging it out in a mock battle in the Solent to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, I was near the scene of the only naval battle – Grand Port – won by France during Napoleon’s reign.

The battle was in August 1810, off the south-east coast of Mauritius, and I mention it only because it was one of several gems of information that I stumbled over on this Indian Ocean island.

Another – and forgive my ignorance if you knew this – was that the island was under British rule from 1810 until it won its independence in 1968. Having licked its wounds after the Battle of Grand Port, Britain took the island off the French anyway.

Few signs of Britain’s occupation remain. True, they drive on the left, the parliamentary system is similar to ours, English is the official language and there is a statue of Queen Victoria in front of Government House in Port Louis, the capital – but that’s about it.

Mauritius offers miles of spotless white sand beaches

French and Creole are what you’ll hear on the streets. Places have names like Grand Baie and Mahébourg, and local dishes combine French, Creole, Indian and Chinese tastes – plenty of garlic and spices, lots of curries, rice and seafood and local fish with intriguing names such as vieille rouge and sacréchien.

The British – and the French and Dutch before them – were attracted to Mauritius for its climate, perfect for growing sugar. At one time canes covered 80 per cent of the island’s arable land. Today’s visitors are also lured by the weather – winter temperatures average around 86F – along with the white-sand beaches, blue-green sea, beautiful scenery and some of the best villas your holiday money can rent.