If only every ‘educational trip’ was like this … jetting off to marvellous Mauritius, a sparkling jewel of an island set in the shimmering Indian Ocean, located some 2,000km off the South East coast of Africa.
Despite what you may think, it’s not often that the life of a travel consultant is just this good so I was delighted recently to visit Mauritius as the guest of the acclaimed specialist company, If Only. My whirlwind fact-finding tour of this amazing destination, checking out eighteen properties in just five days, left me exhausted, but begging for more!
The location of Mauritius offers everything you would expect from a paradise island – and more. The land and seascapes are utterly stunning and the relaxed pace of life really encourages you to kick back and enjoy the bounties of nature. The island, famously, offers the ultimate in lazy luxury for happy hedonists but, as I discovered, there is also plenty to do if you’re feeling energised by the wonderful surroundings.
Most Mauritius holiday-makers will spend a substantial amount of their time enjoying the facilities and absorbing the atmosphere of their chosen hotel, so it’s worth doing a little advance research to choose the perfect hotel to match your mood, taste and budget. Standards on the island are generally extremely high and even a glance through the If Only brochure will illustrate the amazing choices which await you.
On the South Western coastline the Heritage Le Telfair Resort & Spa and its close neighbour, the Heritage Awali enjoy the dramatic scenic backdrop of the Bel Ombre mountain and close proximity to the celebrated Fredrica Nature Park. The two hotels share restaurants and an 18-hole golf course, but are quite different in style: The Telfair has the feel of a luxurious plantation house while the Awali boasts African-style décor. Both offer fabulous cocktails, lots of facilities and are available on a half board or all inclusive basis.
On the South coast the four star Tamassa, part of the Lux Group, has a vibrant resort ambience, perfectly complemented with its signature décor of vivid colours, spilling into manicured tropical gardens while, further along the shoreline, the five star Outrigger Resort & Spa is an upmarket, luxury property where all rooms are sea facing and there is a great range of facilities for all ages.
The St Regis Mauritius Resort has an opulent, English colonial feel with butler service to all rooms and a fabulous first floor balcony with superb panoramic views: perfect for cocktail sampling! There is a busy kids’ club but its air of easy sophistication make this a more grown up choice.
The Lux Le Morne is one of my favourite Mauritius hideaways, with a beautiful location and great attention to detail and clever ‘extras’ such as an ice cream stall neatly tucked away in a corner of the tropical gardens … a chic coffee house and a range of rooms with jacuzzis and rain showers. The perfect choice for honeymooners.
I arrived at Sugar Beach just in time to see the sun set over its beautiful plantation style gardens. By night, music and dancing in the beach bar and restaurant provide a wonderful atmosphere while days are packed with activities (including teen and kids clubs) and access to a beautiful golf course.
The extensive grounds of Sugar Beach blend seamlessly into La Pirogue, with its authentic, Mauritian feel. Residents of this great four star village style resort can share the Sugar Beach facilities and vice versa – which gives holiday-makers super extra value and variety.
The five star Maritim on the North West coast, with its tropical magic mood, is justifiably popular for weddings and special celebrations. There is a Chateaux in the grounds which is used for fine dining and weddings, as well as a 9-hole golf course, while a butler service is an optional paid for extra.
The Oberoi lives up to the international chain’s reputation for luxury, creating a uniquely peaceful retreat atmosphere. High points are its superb a la carte dining, four-poster beds and sunken baths and piano bar.
The three star Veranda Pointe aux Biches Hotel may seem a more modest choice, but I loved the relaxed atmosphere with its barefoot concept … we were asked to take our shoes off and they blessed our feet on arrival with cold water! They have a very relaxing spa from where you can see and hear the sea and its public areas were buzzing with people of all ages enjoying local music and dance. The hotel has rooms designed to accommodate a family of 5 with bunk beds, plus an adult-only area called Sandy Lane Village with superb accommodation, pool and beach. The hotel operates a shuttle service to nearby Grand Baie (a shopping centre) three times a day.
Paradise Cove Boutique Hotel is a lovely intimate place, with only 67 rooms, a club lounge for junior and senior suites – even a pillow menu! It offers some secluded spots for sun bathing and there are catamaran trips and sunset cruises from hotel.
Lux Grande Gaube – Legends overlooks the triple-bay beaches, lagoon and spectacular northern coastline: a great location for relaxation or water-based sports and activities.
At three stars plus, Paul & Virginie is a small intimate property for the adult only market, where all rooms are sea facing. It has a small beach with water sports and it is just a short walk away from the fishing village of Grand Gaube with its tourist shops and café bars.
Refurbished in 2015, the five star deluxe Le Prince Maurice offers villas, junior suites and family suites and has a large pool which (nice touch of style!) is overlooked by the lobby as well as a quieter pool. In the evenings its floating restaurant and bar is a lively place to be.
The five star Residence has been providing luxury accommodation to discerning visitors for more than seventy years and its private beach with its powdery white sand is still one of the best on the island. Expect rich dark wood décor, great ocean views and sublime service! The hotel offers interconnecting rooms and a Kids Club (from age 3) so it’s a perfect luxury family choice as well as an adult retreat.
The five star Bellmar Plage is close to the village of Flack, well known for its characterful traditional market.
The hotel’s extensive and wonderfully maintained grounds incorporate two golf courses, two kilometres of beach; four pools (one with a swim up bar), and an exclusive beach restaurant featuring live music every night and shows twice a week. Tempted? I was!
The up market family resort of Four Seasons at Anahita (five star) is set on 216 hectares featuring an 18-hole golf course, 90 pool villas, a choice of three restaurants and a Butler on request. There is a shuttle to the private island, Ile de Cerfs, every hour and the hotel organises theme nights (sometimes at a supplement). The venue can also organise helicopter and boat transfers from the airport). Attention to detail is the name of the game here and the hotel has a great kids club and teen centre. Its complimentary bikes even come with optional stabilisers for little ones!
Just 15 minutes from the airport and very close to Blue Bay Marine Park, one of the island’s top tourist attractions, is the four star Preskil Beach. The hotel’s location make perfect for an incredible range of activity options: everything from horse riding, hiking and nature walks to quad biking and sunset cruises. All-inclusive customers can avail of legendary buffet options in its large dining room or pay a modest supplement to enjoy its tapas restaurant or steak house. It has spa facilities and the rooms are comfortable with interconnection available if required.
My top travel trips?
Spicy or plain? Mauritian food tends to be rich in flavours and spices: if you are a plain eater (and many of us are) consider choosing hotel or resort which majors of buffet service. That way you can sample some local cuisine alongside your own favourites. Insiders also know that you can pre-book plainer food options with Air Mauritius.
Weather forecasting? Check with us about the sort of weather you can expect at various times of the year. Whether you want to max out in hot and humid or prefer soft breezes with your sunshine, we’ll find the best time for you to travel.
Buzzing? Buzzing with excitement is great, but this is a tropical isle so expect some mosquito buzzing too and come prepared with repellents!
Time to travel? I have to confess that, even a seasoned traveller like me, can sometimes cut things a little fine! Allow plenty of time if you need to transfer through Heathrow and you’ll arrive at check in cool, calm and collected … I’m afraid I arrived frazzled and rushed this time around, but I’ll do better next time!
Discover Mauritius! Just do it! Mauritius is a fabulous experience and I’d love to share my own travel experiences and tips with you … just call me at the Lisburn Portfolio Suite on 028 9263 5223 and you could be planning that dream holiday!
By Wendy Harper, Lisburn-based Portfolio Specialist