Beachcombing at Mauritius
“WELCOME to paradise” the sign above us proclaimed as we entered the Mauritius International Airport terminal and headed towards immigration.
“That’s a big call,” I thought to myself.
After all, I’d been all over the Pacific and found plenty of spots that would be genuine contenders to the title of “paradise”.
How could anywhere in the Indian Ocean compare?
But over the next three days, I came to realise this big, wide world has countless different versions of paradise.
And the first one in Mauritius was less than 15 minutes away at Shandrani Resort and Spa.
But I wouldn’t realise that until the next morning when the sun rose over the water right outside my groundfloor superior suite and I pulled open the sliding door to find that my “backyard” was a private beach.
The majestic scene was something out of a movie: coconut palm fronds fluttering in the breeze, a rocky foreshore framing a wide stretch of soft sand, “grass” umbrella shading chairs by the water, birds chattering away beside the bougainvillea trestle.
I had to snap photos of the sunrise and every angle of “my beach” to prove I wasn’t dreaming.
Built on a peninsula on the south-eastern coast, this five-star resort from the Beachcomber group ( www.shandrani.com.au) boasts a great staff-to-guest ratio: 750 staff and a maximum of 700 guests in 327 rooms – and that’s only in the high season.
The pristine 50ha complex offers nature lovers, families and adrenaline junkies three separate beaches with different outlooks (including a small reef break at Wild Beach), while beautiful islets and a marine national park are only a boat ride away.
A nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, gym and at La Source Wellness by Clarins spa and beauty parlour add to the mix, along with five restaurants and two bars.
The “Serenity Plus” fully inclusive package means Aussie guests can pay for the package before they leave, then partake of a la carte dining, unlimited spirits, wines and champagne, all land and water sports and mini-club for free, as well as enjoying a complimentary massage and pampering .
That’s paradise to me.
But it wasn’t the last time I would say that during the trip.
In fact, the word “paradise” came up every time I saw yet another spectacular Mauritian beach.
On another occasion, our media group was visiting Beachcomber Resorts’ five-star Trou aux Biches Resort and Spa at Triolet (pictured top right) on the north-west of the island, 20km from the capital of Port Louis and 8km from the shopping hub in Grand-Baie.
We had spent the best part of an hour inspecting suites and being told about the “millionaire lifestyle” inclusions.
Finally, we made it to the beachfront path and looked past the talcum powder-soft white sand to the crystal clear turquoise waters of the lagoon.
We stood and stared.
No superlatives could do the view justice.
I’ve camped on the Whitsundays’ Whitehaven Beach, cruised Fiji’s Yasawa Islands and visited New Caledonia’s Isle of Pines and yet this 2km stretch was possibly the most beautiful beach I had ever seen.
“Who cares about the butler service when you have this beach?”
The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them.
But I knew that no matter what luxurious accommodation and first-class facilities and services were provided, Aussies would come for THAT beach.
Yet there was barely a soul taking advantage of this magnificent body of water. All manner of aquatic vessels were sitting idle.
That’s because this icon of the Mauritian tourism industry over the past 30 years only reopened on November 5 after renovation and construction works began in January 2009.
The completely rebuilt Trou aux Biches (“Place of Deers”) has a new-look design, including a repositioned road through the resort, and is being referred to as a “new generation hotel”.
It has laid claim to being the island’s first eco-friendly resort for its recycling systems for irrigation and composting, plus its use of LED lightbulbs throughout, and on-site nursery.
Its luxury village-style layout over 45ha, sandy surrounds with tropical gardens, and laid-back open-plan living with comfortable furnishings will appeal to the emerging Australian market.
When fully completed in April this year, the complex will boast six restaurants promoting al-fresco dining (two have already opened: Il Corallo Italian and La Caravelle International Restaurant and Bar), a tropical spa by Clarins with 20 cabins, a conference room seating up to 150, a sports and fitness centre (already opened, with three rooms dedicated to fitness, bodybuilding and cardio, spinning and aerobics), a tennis academy (including six floodlit courts), and Beachcomber’s signature Bob Marlin kids’ club (ages 3 to 12) with its own restaurant.
All water and land sports are free, except scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, bike rental, tennis balls and private coaching.
Accommodation is in individual pavilions with spacious rooms or suites with outdoor showers and two and three-bedroom villas with their own private pools – available in tropical garden or beachfront settings.
A total of 333 suites and villas range from 90 of the lowest-priced junior suites (63sq m) to 17 three-bedroom pool villas (290sq m).
Waterfalls and decorative pools create a sense of tranquility and welcoming atmosphere in common areas such as the bar and restaurants.
A strong emphasis is placed on stone, marble and timber inside and out and combine with rendered exteriors, and thatched and shingled roofs to give the resort a unique personality – almost like a modern-day Bedrock. But Fred Flintstone never had it so good and there’s definitely nothing primitive about this elegant resort.
The top-of-the-range three-bedroom villas, accommodating four adults and three children, are much more than a “home away from home” with their modern fixtures and furnishings with virtually everything thought of – from lowered toilets and taps in the children’s bathroom to a multi-usage electronic charger and a fridge stocked with items ticked off a list before arrival.
And this is where the butler service comes in.
A butler is included in the package rate and is on call from the morning to 11pm – and even has his own villa entrance so as not to disturb the guests.
To take advantage of a truly relaxing setting, these villa guests also can hire a cook who not only will man the kitchen for meals but also preside over the backyard barbecue if desired.
But as wonderful as all that is, to me, “paradise” is still that jaw-dropping beach.
For more on Trou aux Biches Resort and Spa, visit www.trouauxbiches.com.au.
The writer was a guest of Flight Centre.
BEACHCOMBER RESORTS, MAURITIUS
Mauritius, lying between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Equator in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa, is an all-year-round destination, with temperatures rarely dropping below 20C.
Covering only about 2000sq km, the island is very compact, shaped by two series of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago and boasts some of the world’s best beaches.
After developing its first resort on the island in 1952, Beachcomber Hotels has become the largest hotel chain in Mauritius with a total of eight properties, mainly along the west coast, and each with its own style, character and charm. They range from value-for-money family resorts to exclusive hotels and leisure travel destinations offering the best of everything in haute cuisine, service, facilities and accommodation. Here’s our pick.
LE VICTORIA HOTEL: Relax and unwind in luxury in this family-orientated hotel on the north-west coast, halfway between the capital Port Louis and fashionable Grand Baie, which overlooks a pretty bay sheltered from the trade winds. An optional “all-inclusive” package is available here, and a wide variety of land and water sports. All rooms are sea-facing. Feel like a celebrity while dining under the stars in restaurants at either end of the resort: La Casa Italian and the L’Horizon Seafood Restaurant (especially on lobster buffet night). Visit www.levictoria.com.au
ROYAL PALM: A member of The Leading Hotels of the World, this six-star hotel on the north-west coast is considered one of the most prestigious in the Indian Ocean. Its elegant Indian-colonial style combines with some of the finest dining restaurants on the island, a Clarins spa haven, plus impeccable and discreet service and privacy to ensure a holiday of a lifetime. The spectacular white sandy beach and turquoise blue ocean setting almost plays second fiddle. www.theroyalpalm.com.au
DINAROBIN HOTEL GOLF AND SPA: Situated at the foot of majestic Morne Mountain in the south-west, the idyllic five-star resort is exclusively luxury suites and is the choice of elite clientele seeking the best in leisure travel. Guests have access to three world-class golf courses as well as the facilities at nearby Paradise Hotel and Golf Club. The Clarins spa, famous throughout the island, has an area devoted to Ayurvedic treatments. Don’t miss dining at lunch with sand underfoot, gazing out over the pristine lagoon. www.dinarobin.com.au
For more on Beachcomber Resorts, visit www.beachcomber.com.au
For prices on individual or group packages, itineraries and airfares to Mauritius, contact Flight Centre at www.flightcentre.com.au or call 1300 939 414.
Air Austral flies direct from Sydney to Reunion, twice weekly, with connections to Mauritius daily.
Flight Centre has can arrange flights, accommodation and tour packages to suit your travel needs.
Return airfares to Reunion start from $1103 per person flying economy class and from $2773 flying premium economy class.
Prices are based on travel between February 1 and October 25, 2011 and valid for sale year round until sold out.
Phone Flight Centre on 1300 939 414 or see www.flightcentre.com.au for bookings.