Located in the subtropical belt of the equator, the island of Mauritius is subject to a mild, tropical, maritime climate and attracts tourists from various parts of the world throughout the year. In fact, the tourism sector has been a major catalyst in the growth of the socio-economic sector of the island with tourism gross earnings amounting to Rs 67.5 billion for the year 2019 . Many beach resort tourists from Europe, India and more recently China visit the island because of its clear, warm water, white sandy beaches and sunny weather backed up by well-designed and run hotels, reliable and operational infrastructure and services as well as a culturally friendly population. Over the years, as the tourism sector has shifted towards a sustainable approach, Mauritius has also embarked on an ecotourism strategy based on its green, lush forests, hidden waterfalls and pools, and majestic cliffs. By exploiting the different eco-spheres of the island, there has been a boom in the ecotourism industry of Mauritius.
Many tour operators and tourist guides offer eco-touristic activities as part of their packages or exclusively as eco deals. So, besides the relaxing soft beaches of the island, tourists can visit a number of natural points of interest, engage in eco-friendly activities such as hiking, quad-biking, dolphin watching, underwater sea walks, kayaking in mangroves and kitesurfing.
The marine life of Mauritius is quite rich with its shallow lagoons and colorful fishes swimming around the intricate coral bed. Glass bottom boat trips to view this magnificent marine environment is quite common at most of the beaches with the Blue Bay Marine Park in the south east of the island providing one of the best experiences on marine beauty. Also, catamaran cruises are organized on a daily basis and include snorkeling at the best marine hot spots which are sometimes coupled to trips to the outer islets of Mauritius. Tourists can engage in various water based activities at the different beaches like parasailing, water skiing, windsurfing, deep-sea fishing, sea karting, stand up paddling to name a few.
In the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of underwater activities on the north and east coasts such as undersea walks, sea bob underwater visits, underwater scooter cruiser trips and submarine underwater trips for tourists to enjoy the marine environment at its finest.
These majestic creatures can be seen on the south west of Mauritius early in the morning and as such several tourist event planners organize early morning trips to view dolphins and whales. Swimming with dolphins also forms part of many packages but for short periods only so as not to disturb the aquatic mammals in their natural environment.
Though mangroves border most of the coasts of Mauritius, the mangrove forest around the outer islet of Ile d’Ambre provides a unique opportunity to escape from the pollution and vehicles of cities and enjoy a peaceful moment swaying serenely in a kayak through the mangrove trees.
Since the notion of ecotourism has gained ground in Mauritius, much of the forested area has been turned into nature reserves and parks that offer various eco-friendly activities. Besides the traditional Botanical gardens, Black River Gorges, volcano craters and Chamarel coloured earth trips, tourists can enjoy the fresh air while trekking in the dense forest or get their adrenaline rush along the rugged landscape on quads, bikes or 4×4 jeeps. In addition to that, they can take part in activities such as archery, zip-lining, walking along Nepalese bridge, bird watching, horse riding and waterfall canyoning at these different parks. For the animal lovers, a plethora of amazing creatures such as ostriches, giraffes, hippopotamuses, lions can be seen at the Casela Nature Park while crocodiles and giant tortoises are found at the La Vanille Crocodile Park.
Since Mauritius is volcanic in nature, there are tremendous peaks and valleys that make hiking an unforgettable experience as it takes tourists to picturesque destinations with incredible views of the island and surrounding ocean. There are several trails such as the Black River Gorges, Le Morne Mountain, Piton de la Petite Riviere Noire, offering different panoramic scenes as well as of varying difficulties for the hikers. A detailed list of the trails can be accessed here.
While ecotourism activities encourage travelers to be more environmentally conscious, it is also important to link those activities to sustainable practices. In this respect, many tour operators rent light and modern cars that are fuel-efficient, promote the use of public transport and the government has even invested in eco-friendly outboard engines for crafts at sea  in order to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles. Furthermore, according to the UNEP, the accommodation sector of the tourism industry contributes to 21% of total carbon emission and is believed to be the one element within the industry that can substantially promote sustainable actions. Measures such as using renewable energy sources like solar panels, promoting green practices including composting of waste materials, rainwater and stormwater harvesting to irrigate lawns and golf courses, designing building codes for better air circulation and light penetration, using sensors to decrease resource wastage, growing vegetables and fruits and buying local products such as seafood now form part of the Mauritius sustainable tourism industry . Some hotels such as the Lux Resorts and Constance Belle Mare have even acquired the Green Globe certification for their sustainability strategies and devotion in supporting eco-friendly gestures.
Since Mauritius heavily depends on its tourism sector, showcasing Mauritius as an eco-friendly destination is crucial and consequently, nature based activities on the regional to international level aims to accomplish that goal. For instance, eco-friendly events such as the International Dodo Trail Running competition, the XTERRA World Tour Triathlon consisting of mountain biking, swimming and trail running and kitesurfing at Bel Ombre, one of the safest spots in the world to engage in that sport, attract enthusiastic tourists to the island every year.
Likewise, travel and tourism has been instituted in the educational curriculum since the quality of the sector depends on the education of the employed personnel as they are at the forefront and tail of the management chain and consequently the best advocates of sustainable management. In addition to that, research into the tourism industry is highly encouraged in Mauritius as it is a dynamic sector and there is a need to be constantly updated on the matter to be able to adjust to physical and behavioral patterns. Similarly, hotel and associated personnel are also regularly trained in sustainable practices and motivated to find new ways to market the island as a green destination.
Also, given the impact that climate change may have on coastal resources and subsequently the tourism industry, the Government of Mauritius states that much research is being undertaken by the Climate Change Division of the Ministry of Environment to come up with strategies (sea walls, groynes, wetland restoration) to protect the beaches and coastal infrastructure that are critical to the tourism sector.
Needless to say that tourists play a major role in the creation of business interest directed towards a sustainable market through their choice of the place to be visited, promising environmentally sustainable modes of transport, choosing hotels that are green and consuming from restaurants that provide organic food. As such a natural pressure is exerted on their part to push tourism service providers to embrace sustainable means to provide such services thus helping to alter the global trend in tourism, including that of Mauritius. Tourists themselves are now becoming more eco-conscious and independent and would rather organize their own journeys instead of relying on tourist operators. They create their own experiences based on what they think would make the journey memorable using internet technology to rebalance traditional information hence making better eco-friendly decisions . Conversely, tour operators and hotel managers attract more clients by branding green practices which then influences the behavior of tourists to become more environmentally alert.