A small mountainous island in the Indian Ocean, this was famously home to the Dodo (until the Dutch ate them all). But, before we go further, close your eyes and imagine being on a white sandy beach. The sound of palm trees swishing in the warm breeze, a rum cocktail in one hand and turquoise water as far as the eye can see. If you like the sound of this, this is going to be right up your strada. This island is surprisingly green – rich in vegetation (it has a lot of rain as well as being hotter than the sun) and has spectacular lagoons, reefs, rainforests, waterfalls, wildlife and (of course) beaches to die for. Who isn’t already sold?.
“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain
Where to stay?
Mauritius is the sort of place that appeals to everyone (as long as a 12 hour flight doesn’t put you off). You can flop on a beach without moving – or you can use your hotel as a base to explore. But as always, that big question – where should you stay? We took on this ARDUOUS task (well, someone has to do it) and enlisted the help of a stylish globe trotter: Harper’s Bazaar’s Managing Editor, Connie Osborne. We all jetted off at the same time – but stayed at different hotels, one in the north and one in the south. Both extraordinarily similar and as it turns out, both FABULOUS.
by Mr and Mrs Auree
Newly reopened after a MEGA refurbishment, this is a hotel that is pretty hard to beat. Whatever you can imagine wanting, it’s here – including a pop up Pancake and Ice Cream parlour every afternoon (who doesn’t secretly want a Nutella Crépe around 4 o’clock?). Darling little Colonial suites dotted amongst the lush gardens and designed with everything you could possibly need (including, of course, Nespresso machines and a walk in wardrobe). If you have opted to take a child with you, they provide all the kit (and we mean ALL – prams, sterilisers, high chairs.. the list goes on). They also have a creche that is free for children (any age welcome) with beautiful four-poster cots for the little ones to snooze in and more toys than Master Auree could get his head around. It is a hotel that embraces children yet is not overrun with them *thankfully*.
There are six restaurants to choose from – all with a great variety and something to appeal to everyone. From fresh grilled fish on the beach to some serious tasting menus (and by that, we mean serious: picture ten courses involving lobster). The food is an amazing mix that is no doubt inspired from the colourful history of Mauritius – it was a Dutch Colony (1638–1710), a French Colony (1715–1810) and finally an English colony (1810-1961). It also has a high Indian population (approximately 60%) which means you can expect some of the best Indian curries accompanied by the tastiest French patisserie. Word of warning: this place is not good for the waist line.
Right on the beach, the water is as warm as a bath and wonderfully shallow for children – or for lounging in to read the latest William Boyd. It has three beautiful pools – all with loungers, huge sun umbrellas and naturally, waiter service. They also have a fabulous Spa that rivals some of the best we have ever tried. The massages and facials were exceptional – and the Spa itself has a feel of escaping to some undiscovered tropical corner. Calm, tranquil and with a dangerously tempting treatment list. If we were not by the pool or on the beach, this is where you’d find us.
While it was easy to not leave our new found haven, if you are the sort of person who gets itchy feet after a few days gazing at the view, then there are so many things to do. These were some of our favourites:
- Visit one of the old tea factories and escape into the colonial past of this Island
- Go out in a Glass bottomed boat to see the coral and beautiful coloured fish – if you’re very lucky you may see a turtle and even a shark too.
- Deep Sea fIshing – listed among the worlds best places in the world.
- Dinner at the Chateau de Bel Ombre – this extraordinary building dates back to the 1800s and we suggest you don’t eat for several days prior to your visit.
- Go snorkelling with dolphins – the West coast is best for this
The original Grand Dame of Mauritius, Le Saint Géran, has been the last word in luxury since it opened over 40 years ago – and is still considered by many to be the best hotel in Mauritius. It’s easy to see why. This sprawling resort set around its own private lagoon has over 143 rooms, and is perfectly catered for families of all ages, with plenty of space to relax, and activities to entertain.
We enjoyed the gleaming new spa and fitness centre, which was perfect for recharging and some serious relaxation. The treatment menu is so extensive you could happily stay here all day long (I was very tempted). A Biologique Recherce facial (involving a serious pummelling that is not for the faint hearted!) took away all traces of jet lag and left me glowing, and their signature treatment of a coconut and papaya scrub followed by a full body massage even persuaded my spa-virgin husband George to don a pair of paper pants.
After all that pampering, I could be found relaxing by the pool with a good book, or enjoying a yoga class, whilst my more adventurous husband set off on the various fishing, diving and snorkelling trips. Children are really well looked after at the dedicated Club One area (free for over-3’s), where they enjoy a fun-packed schedule of daily activities, splash in their own private pool, and even practise a bit of horticulture in their own herb garden.
With 5 restaurants, there are endless menu options and every type of cuisine is catered for. From classic French to Asian fusion, the choice of cuisine is endless, and the menus cater to every taste imaginable. At Prime, the contemporary grill, we ate the tenderest Japanese wagyu beef and local crayfish the size of lobsters, while at Tapasake, the pan-Asian restaurant perched on stilts over the lagoon, the crispy chicken wings with miso powder and Kobe beef are sensational. For a more relaxed vibe there is the international menu at La Terrasse, and at the informal beach-side dining at La Pointe you can enjoy locally caught grilled fish and tandoori grills.
But obviously the BEST part of all is the in-house artisanal bakery serving home-made cakes, chocolate and ice cream all day long. This is literally heaven for children and adults alike (there is even a specially built mini ice cream parlour next to the pool – just the right height for little faces to lean over and pick their flavour), and having sampled nearly all the delicacies on the menu, I can seriously recommend the coconut gelato. If the sweet treats are too much (is there such a thing?), you can wash it all down with Oliver the barman’s infamous ‘Dodo’ cocktail
If you can tear yourself away from the resort, the local area is really worth exploring. Hop on one of the hotel’s bicycles and take a guided trip to the nearby town of Poste de Flacq. Or, if you are feeling really adventurous, you can take a hike up the waterfalls and gorges of the nearby nature reserves – the views are breathtaking.
- Go for 10 days. The flight is long and if you can stretch to longer than a week you will thank us.
- During their Summer (Nov – Mar) you can expect some daily rainfall. When we say “rainful” this is not a light shower – but more reminiscent of falling into a swimming pool if you happen to get caught in it – so pack accordingly (remember it will still be tropically hot). And importantly, don’t worry as these showers may be apocalyptic but they don’t last long at all!
- If travelling by BA, nab seats 16B and 16B if you are travelling with children (pair of seats below where they keep the travel cots – no 3rd seat or neighbour to negotiate)
- If not travelling with children, book seats as FAR away from row 16 as humanly possible.
Travel Contributors: Mr & Mrs Auree and Connie Osborne.
Photo Credits: Hotel’s own