During the chikungunya outbreak of 2005 - 2006, the only laboratory facilities available in Mauritius were virus isolation in cell culture tubes and serology. The laboratory was submerged with large numbers of blood samples. Comparative isolation was made in human embryonic lung (HEL) and VERO cells grown in 96-well plate. Culture on HEL cells was found to be more sensitive and presence of cytopathic effect (CPE) was observed earlier than in VERO cells. Out of the 18 300 blood samples inoculated on HEL, 11 165 were positive. This virus isolation method was of great help for the surveillance and control of the vectors. In cases of an outbreak a cheap, rapid and simple method of isolating chikungunya virus is described.