Called the “Star and Key of the Indian Ocean” by early European colonists, Mauritius is now a guiding example of progressive democracy in Africa. From the Mauritian flying fox (a bat with a three-foot wingspan!) to geologic formations like the Seven Colored Earths, there is no place quite like Mauritius. The independent island nation is roughly 1200 miles east from the coast of Mozambique, but it entices visitors from all around the world with its white sand beaches, stunning blue waters, ample wildlife, and authentic culture. If you’ve considered spending time in Mauritius, volunteering is a great way to experience the country’s beautiful scenery while also helping to preserve it.
With a total land size of only 787 square miles, what Mauritius lacks in land mass, it makes up for in biological and geographic diversity. Though it’s the the largest city and the capital of Mauritius, Port Louis is small by city standards, as just one-tenth of the 1.2 million total Mauritians live here. It is the main city of entry for most visitors and volunteers in Mauritius, and boasts opportunities to experience relics of colonial history alongside an eclectic blend of the Dutch, French, Indian, African, and Chinese people who now call this country home.
Most volunteer work in Mauritius focuses on coastal communities and regions where ecological conservation is most needed. In case Mauritius isn’t a small enough island, you can spend time volunteering on Ile de la Passe, a rocky islet in the bay off Grand Port; there’s no accommodation on this tiny landmass of rocks, sand, and palm trees, but it serves as an important base of operations for activities in the waters surrounding it.
In the tiny seaside community surrounding La Preneuse beach, volunteers can both stay and work in settings that are close to nature and to the native Mauritians. Given that Mauritius is among the densest countries in the world, most areas are well-populated, but you can still find peace, quiet, and solitude within the country’s nearby national parks, preserves, and mountains.
Volunteer Work in Mauritius
As previously mentioned, volunteering in Mauritius is primarily focused on conservation, but this can be further divided into marine and land-based volunteer opportunities. One of the few places on earth that can boast housing the dodo, Mauritius is blessed with both a massive amount of biodiversity and a track record of struggling to save endangered species from becoming extinct. If this mission calls to you, there are few places to volunteer abroad like Mauritius that can answer this noble call.
The primary volunteer programs in Mauritius that focus on marine conservation encourage monitoring, protecting, and restoring the coral reefs surrounding the island, as well as supporting the endangered and critically endangered green and hawksbill turtles. As a volunteer in Mauritius, you’ll have the opportunity to spend time in the pristine sapphire waters or study it extensively from boats.
On land, volunteer programs in Mauritius focus on mangrove and beach restoration as a form of conservation. As an increasingly popular and coveted spot for surfers and tourist from around the world, ensuring the white sand beaches and verdant rainforests are protected for future generations is an important task for volunteers. There are also less structured volunteer opportunities in Mauritius in the arts, but these programs put a heavier emphasis on enjoying Mauritius’ natural beauty instead of actively conserving it.
Volunteering in Mauritius last anywhere from one week to twelve months, though most volunteer programs are between two and twelve weeks. In general, program length varies based on both ecological necessity and volunteer interest. As far as concerns about language immersion and culture shock for long-term placements, Mauritius is a multilingual country where locals may speak English, French, Mauritian Creole, or any combination, which makes volunteering in Mauritius particularly convenient for a range of volunteers as a language barrier is less likely.
Costs & Affordability
Given its stable political climate and rapid development, Mauritius is an affordable, yet unique, place to volunteer abroad. On average, costs for most items ranging from food to accommodation are roughly half of what you will find in the U.S. or Western Europe. You won’t find the same low-cost opportunities of island nations in other parts of the world, but you can live very comfortably in Mauritius on a conservative budget.
Regarding the cost of volunteering in Mauritius, most programs are all-inclusive for your expenses upon arrival (though keep in mind that airfare is not cheap). A good daily budget during volunteer work in Mauritius is $50, which includes food, accommodation, transportation, and any support needed for volunteer activities.
Accommodation & Visas
Accommodation is usually included in the cost of volunteer programs in Mauritius. Volunteers are typically housed in shared apartments or group living arrangements. Some volunteer organizations offer volunteers the chance to live with local families through home stays, which is a great opportunity for deeper immersion during volunteer work in Mauritius. However, if you choose this option, get ready to practice French during your stay. Though Mauritians of all cultural backgrounds and reputedly very welcoming, this former French colony still has deep linguistic ties, especially in smaller communities.
Mauritius is a rapidly developing country, so you’ll need to adjust your expectations accordingly. You may be in either rural or urban communities, depending on the nature of your specific volunteer program in Mauritius. It is best to arrange your volunteer placement through a designated program provider to ensure you’re guided in responsible conservation practices during your volunteering in Mauritius.
For volunteer work in Mauritius that lasts less than 90 days, you will most likely not be required to obtain a visa if you hold a passport from North America, the European Union, Australia, or New Zealand. Rules vary for other countries, so it’s always wise to consult with your local embassy before traveling to ensure you don’t accidentally violate any immigration regulations.
Benefits & Challenges
If you’re looking for a beautiful setting to spend time volunteering abroad, Mauritius surely ranks near the top of the list. When you’re not working to restore and protect the beautiful scenery and animals who share this island, you’ll get to enjoy warm weather, pristine beaches, and plenty of sunshine.
That being said, spending an extended amount of time on Mauritius may be isolating, both geographically and culturally. While Mauritius has an excellent reputation of welcoming visitors and volunteers, the unique blend of cultures is probably unlike any place you will have ever visited before. Keep in mind: when you’re stuck on a piece of land in the middle of Indian Ocean, flying home is probably not a weekend trip option.
Nonetheless, volunteering in Mauritius is a wonderful opportunity for those passionate about helping preserve the world’s beautiful places and unique wildlife. You’ll get a chance to experience a country with rich history, meet people who are proud of the place they live, and help keep the country enjoyable for future visitors.