Travel

Mauritius: Beyond the beach

Heady hikes, blissful solitude, abundant greenery and panoramic views: discover a new side of MauritiusMonday, June 3, 2019

By Heather Richardson
Hiking Montagne Bambous from Otentic Mountain

It’s the moment I realise I probably shouldn’t be doing this hike alone. 

I’m looking up at the final vertical rock face I have to scale, a thin knotted rope as my only aid. Steep, forested slopes drop off on either side of the narrow ridge on which I’m standing. Since I left Otentic Mountain eco-camp about an hour ago, I haven’t seen or heard a single other person, which — while admittedly not great if I fall — has been nothing short of heavenly.

Otentic Mountain isn’t the sort of accommodation most people would associate with Mauritius — an island synonymous with polished, beach-side resorts. Set on a lush hillside overlooking the lesser-visited east coast, Otentic has four thatched, spacious tents perched on stilts with en suite bathrooms and glorious views out to the ocean. There’s no phone signal or wi-fi here, water is sourced from the mountain stream that gurgles through the camp, meals are vegetarian, and it’s fully solar-powered. I’m also thrilled to find seven two-month-old puppies tearing excitably around the place.

Heading out from Otentic that morning, camp manager Cedric had instructed me to follow the red dashes on the trees and rocks that mark the route to the top of Montagne Bambous, which rises 2,070ft behind the camp. There were other easier and shorter hikes, but I was after a challenge. “There’s some exposure at the top,” Cedric had said. “If you feel uncomfortable, just turn back.” 

Having passed the last tent, I follow a single dirt track as the morning humidity sets in, pushing past giant ferns and palm leaves, as plants in the undergrowth brush and scratch my legs. It’s cooler under the canopy, sunlight dappling the spongy, leaf-littered ground. I hike to the top of the ridge, turn right and follow it upwards. Dead leaves crunch underfoot, gnarled trees glisten beneath a velvety moss. A slash of scarlet here and there reassures me I’m on the right path. I use the slim, coppery trunks of guava trees to haul myself up, negotiating boulders, low-slung branches and knotted roots, eating countless spider webs as I go.

When I come to the last sheer section, I’m almost at the top. Catching my breath, I look down and wonder if it’s worth risking a slip. Throwing caution aside, I decide it is and clamber up, using tree roots as footholds. 

Ducking through a thicket, I find myself in a clearing, a sudden gust of air chilling the layer of sweat that now covers me, along with patches of dirt, insect bites and scratches. I’m at the top of Montagne Bambous. The forested ridge along which I’ve just hiked stretches out to one side. Below me are fields of palm and sugar cane, and beyond, the Indian Ocean. This is a side of Mauritius I’ve not seen before: heady hikes, blissful solitude, abundant greenery and panoramic views. It’s not what most people come here for — but for me, at least, it’s a stronger draw than even the most polished beach-side resort. 

Tents at Otentic Mountain cost from Rs6,000 (£133) a night, B&B, with some activities included.

Air Mauritius, British Airways, and TUI Airways fly direct from London to Mauritius from around £500 return.

Mauritius Conscious create eco-friendly, tailor-made packages. 

Published in the June 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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