I first landed in Mauritius three years ago and, I haven’t left ever since. My friends and family back in Mexico think that the green-blue waters and year-round perfect weather allured me to stay. “You are lucky”, most people say. And indeed I am; not because of the promised paradise Mark Twain once wrote about, but for the opportunity, I had to discover Mauritius like no Hotel brochure, Lonely Planet guide or tourism website showed me before.
People in Mexico are spoiled on beaches. Long, virgin vast beaches. So when I first visited the world-acclaimed, powdery coast of Mauritius I was perfectly coded for disappointment. “This mustn’t be it’s best one” I tried to reassure myself standing on Flic en Flac beach. Little did I know that the worst, and the best, was yet to come.
I soon realized that all the research I did before my trip was either misleading to commercial tourist traps or photoshopped and that the best would be to find new paths on my own. I took my warm-skinned man in one hand and an A1 map on the other and, set off for the bus riding adventure that determined my future in this island.
Somehow, hopping on and off the frenetic buses with funky paintings on their back doors brought my explorer’s excitement back. I didn’t really know where I was, but I finally found myself, and the real Mauritius, in the midst of noisy bus stops, colorful Tamil temples and deep-fried street food that I couldn’t pronounce.
Destiny (and hundreds of buses) brought me to meet amazing people. Mauritians who created their own paths, just as I did, and converted them into biking trails. A young man who used to work in a call center, with a fancy and very fake French name, had just quit his job when he brought us to discover one of the wildest areas of Mauritius: a valley full of waterfalls, walled by green carpets of lush vegetation. A lovely couple once invited us for a meditative water trek from their beachfront home in mainland Mauritius to Ile aux Benitiers, 500 meters off the coast. I started discovering the island like almost no one else and making remarkable friendships on the way.
By this point, I became very aware of the negative impacts that mass tourism had on my newly beloved, wild and underestimated island. Starting with the excessive exploitation of wildlife to develop luxury resorts and motorized activities; continuing by the lack of recognition, empowerment, and involvement of the local communities.
Hotels do create a lot of basic jobs but, who do the millions of Euros spent on all-inclusive, international hotel chains really benefit? Finally, the idea that other travelers were guided to overcrowded activities, brainwashed by spectaculars that walking with lions is one of the Top Things To Do in Mauritius, simply made me sick.
I felt like we had in our eyes the truth, and in our hands, the power to change the tourism industry in Mauritius; or at least offer an alternative to conscious travelers like us.
That’s when Mauritius Conscious came to life. A community of tourism players I met by bus. People aware of their impact on the environment because they love it because they live from it. Proud Mauritians running their own businesses, lodging opportunities, and fighting for their cause: organic agriculture, the preservation of culture and traditions, saving their endemic flora and fauna from extinction.
Speed forward three years down the road and, today, you can experience your own, conscious trip to Mauritius from A to Z, discovering the side of the island that made me stay.
Mauritius Conscious assesses its Partners every year in 13 different criteria, celebrating their commitments to positively impact the island. The Conscious Travel Seal is a recognition of the level of engagement of every Partner, and an assurance to conscious travelers that the money they are investing in travel is benefiting directly conservation projects and local families in this destination.
Mauritius, a favorite destination for honeymooners and retirement holidays, has “suddenly” become attractive to adventure travelers, families, authenticity seekers and backpackers. What is best, is that every segment now has the opportunity to give back to the local community and the environment through hands-on activities.
- Jean Bonny, the local guide who used to work in a call center, became Mauritius’ best ambassador of My Green Trip, a global community of travelers that pick-up litter during their trips. He has brought hundreds of travellers to discover Mauritius’ mountains, forests and coastal treks well equipped with a cleaning kit, assuring to leave the places better than we found them.
- Gael is building a permaculture food forest where regional crops and exotic hybrids find their way back to Mauritians and travelers’ tables. “In fact, all plants are medicinal if they grow naturally, you just need to know how to use them” Gael explained to me during my first visit to the garden. That day I learnt about the miracle of life, through organic agriculture. The fact that we don’t invest enough time sourcing our own food, or becoming aware of where it comes, sunk in.
- The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation invites you to be a conservationist for a day, assisting the biologists of Ile aux Aigrettes endemic reserve in their daily duties, monitoring giant tortoises, endemic pink pigeons, and Mauritian flying foxes.
The list goes on and on, demonstrating me the powerful, yet simple ways of developing a destination in a sustainable way through tourism. The only thing required to revolutionize tourism practices is in each of us, as travelers.