Life in Mauritius is marked by the seasons and the holiday calendar… Here is a month-to-month review of what’s to expect under the tropical sun.
In January, many Mauritians take time off work to celebrate the New Year. The festive mood usually stays on until the 10th of January, the 1st and 2nd being public holidays. The weather is hot and wet, so everybody longs to spend the day in the water to cool off. In January (or February), the Tamil community celebrates one of their most important and spectacular festival: the Thaipoosum Cavadee.
In Mauritius, the New Year is not only celebrated on the 31st of December, like in many countries across the world, but also on other dates according to the different cultural calendars. For instance, the Mauritian Chinese community celebrates the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, in February. Abolition of slavery is commemorated during the same month in various ways. And if you have never tasted “longans” before – those fruits are from the same family as litchis – this is the right time!
Every year, the Maha Shivaratree Festival brings up to thousands of devotees on the streets: they walk to the holy lake of Grand Bassin to worship their lord Shiva. March is also the month of the Festival of colours, also known as Holi. The Mauritian National Day on the 12th of March commemorates the independence of the island. A public show is hosted on this occasion, and at Heritage Resorts, flags, cocktails and typical Mauritian delicacies are distributed after the flag raising ceremony.
Ougadi, the Telugu New year, is a public holiday in Mauritius. This festival is celebrated according to Indian custom with traditional rice drawing, songs and dances. April is the transitional month between summer and winter and, therefore, one of the best times of the year to travel to Mauritius, with hot weather during the day and cool temperatures at night. Speaking of fruits, it’s the strawberry guava picking season: take a walk deep down into the forest and you will find some.
Temperatures around 25 degrees in May are a harbinger of the southern winter. Evenings and nights get cooler and sea temperature in the lagoon drops to 24 degrees. Labour Day is on the 1st of May. Major political rallies traditionally take place on this national holiday. At the Champ de Mars in Port-Louis, the horse racing season, which lasts from late March to early December, reaches a climax in May. It’s also the perfect time to try local varieties of guava, if you haven’t before.
Southern winter is also the ideal season for kitesurfing. The island is exposed to south-east trade winds, which keeps the wind blowing at 10 to 20 knots. From May to October, whales can be seen off the coast. Humpback whales migrate from the Antarctic to spend the whole winter in temperate and tropical waters up north. June also marks the opening of the Java deer hunting season in the island’s 72 registered hunting grounds.
In July, the Muslim community celebrates Eid-Ul-Fitr. This marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, during which Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk and devote fully to their god, Allah. With regards to social activities, it’s the best month to play golf, as the long hot days are gone.
With Catholics representing 26% of the island’s population, the Assumption of Mary has been declared bank holiday in Mauritius. While masses are celebrated, it is also the occasion for families to spend time at the beach or go camping, since it usually coincides with the last days of school holidays.
In September, the Hindus of Mauritius celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, the birth of their lord Ganesh: they would gather at the beach and immerse a statue of the god into the sea before sunset. Another major event in September is the pilgrimage to Father Désiré Laval’s tomb, during which people of all faiths pay tribute to this Catholic missionary and doctor, who is also remembered for federating the freed slaves back in the 19th century.
Depending on their calendar, Mauritian Hindus celebrate Divali, the Festival of lights, at the end of October or early in November. This is the most important Hindu festival. October also marks the beginning of summer in the southern hemisphere: the weather is usually warm and dry during this mid-season. It is one of the loveliest times of the year before the heavy summer heat.
The arrival of the pioneer indentured labourers in Mauritius is commemorated in November: these labourers used to travel from Calcutta to Port-Louis on a long six-week journey. In November, we indulge in a variety of fruits that grow in early summer only, such as litchis (November to December) and pineapples (November to January), and we feast on other fruits, which are usually available all year round but taste absolutely better in summer: banana, pawpaw, coconut…
December is definitely the holiday season, with delightful temperatures both in and around the water. While the Flamboyant trees are in glorious bloom, other trees provide fruit such as mango, avocado and other natural treats. At that time of the year, and most particularly on the 25th (which is bank holiday) and on the 31st, the whole island is in a festive mood. Mauritian people are fond of fireworks: whether you are at the hotel or on the beach, you won’t miss the show!
To learn more about Mauritius, book your stay: http://www.heritageresorts.mu/