The area known as Grand Bay lies in Mauritius's northern-most region and manages to combine some of the best sand, sun and surf that the isle has to offer with scintillating nightclubs, top-notch restaurants and camaraderie-filled bars.

The village of Grand Bay, or Grand Baie as it is sometimes called, lies on the shores of the Pamplemousses district at the tip of one of the island's largest bays. As Pamplemousses - which means "grapefruit" - is the most densely populated province in Mauritius and attracts the largest number of tourists, Grand Bay has been extensively developed to cash-in on the country's burgeoning tourism industry.

The bay area is exceptionally tourist friendly, and, not only does it offer the usual Mauritian watersports like snorkeling, windsurfing and diving. it is also the departure point for helicopter tours and deep-sea fishing expeditions.

The attractions that Grand Bay has to offer are, however, not all sports-related, and bustling bazaars vie for the tourist's attention along with intriguing local eateries and cut-price souvenir shops.

By night, however, the district takes on an altogether different vibe, and pub and nightclub crawls immediately become the must-do things in Grand Bay. All is not beach or bar in Grand Bay, though, and there are other interesting attractions in the area like the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam - SSR for short - Botanical Gardens, which are the oldest such gardens in the southern hemisphere, and the lively market that is set up every Sunday in the otherwise-sleepy hamlet of Fond du Sac.

Grand Bay is also the perfect place from which to orchestrate an exploration of the small islands that lie off the Mauritian coast like ducklings following mother duck.

Visitors can choose between setting sail for Gunners Quoin - also known as Coin du Mire - with its solitary hotel, Ile Ronde, which sports a dark-grey conical silhouette rather like South Pacific's Bali Hai, Ile aux Serpents, which is strangely devoid of snakes, and the aptly named Flat Island.

Grand Bay visitors can also strike out in the opposite direction and explore the north-western Mauritian hinterland, but, given the bay's sapphire-blue waters and achingly bright white sands, no-one should ever want to leave.

As Grand Bay is one of the most built-up and tourist-centered locations on the island, visitors to Mauritius should perhaps start their tour of this exotic land right there and then move on to parts unknown.

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