A Mauritian idyll

 A rainbow over the beach in Mauritius. Pic by @jabberingjourno

Once upon a time a small, fat, stupid, flightless bird lived on a beautiful, volcanic, island fringed by some of the world’s most beautiful white sand beaches.

By day the Dodo baked in the sun and cooled off in the balmy water of the Indian Ocean. By night he feasted on the riches of this plentiful island, before nesting in the lush undergrowth beneath the tropical palms that lay in the shadows of the volcanoes.

But by the 1600’s the Dodo was extinct, driven out by humans who, understandably, wanted a share of the Dodo’s exotic paradise.

These days thousands of visitors travel to Mauritius for dream holidays on the magical island. It has developed a reputation for exclusivity, for luxurious hotels as well as wedding and honeymoon paradise. Mauritius offers the ultimate in sun, sea and sand. With a bit of Dodo related merchandising thrown in.

We landed after an exhausting 11 hour flight with Air Mauritius to be greeted by rum. You can’t argue with that – and we didn’t – as we sipped away and admired our home for the next few days.

We stayed first at La Pirogue, located at Flic en Flac on the West coast of Mauritius. The resort fringes a never ending white sand beach, next to a luxuriant, palm fringed garden. The guest cottages themselves are inspired by the famous fishing boats from which the resort takes it names. Each self contained thatched cottage opens privately on to a palm grove, with direct access on to the beach and sea. The setting is quite simply breathtaking, very calm and discreet, literally the destination you dream off while sitting in the office with the rain pouring outside.

Personally I was overwhelmed by the quiet efficiency and genuine welcome from the staff. Little things make a difference and here nothing was too much trouble. The welcoming rum didn’t go amiss either.

That night we feasted at the resort restaurant Paul and Virginie, itself situated in the breathtaking setting overhanging the infinity pool, against the backdrop of the le Morne mountain. The focus here is a sophisticated mix of seafood and healthy stir fries, complemented by South African and new World Wines.

Breakfast was enjoyed at main restaurant Thatches, where the buffet included every food under the sun with English, Creole, Mauritian and Indian touches. We ate there again at dinner, where the emphasis was world cuisine, prepared fresh on live themed cooking stations.

After a couple of nights we moved to next door Sugar Beach Resort. Just a few metres down the beach, but a world apart. The theme jumps from Mauritian style to luxury colonial with white villa style apartments which all open on to the beach or rolling landscaped gardens. Sugar beach is the ultimate in luxury – all palm fronds and yoga on the beach. For the more active a whole host of watersport activities are thrown in for free and if there is anyone for tennis, Kamil the hunky world ranked tennis pro is at hand for a few lessons.

And it’s a fairytale for the kids – literally. The Kids Fun Club, with its incredible ‘gingerbread’ club house is a mini-me paradise with its own pool, playground and well stocked with essentials – including a dedicated chef and an ice cream bar. If only I was five.

The resorts offer so much you quite happily spend all your holiday there – but Mauritius has so much more to offer.

Under the guidance of White Sand Tours, we visited the capital Port Louis, where we bartered for bargains, including a mini Dodo of course, at the markets, shopped at the La Caudan waterfront and visited the lush Pamplemousses Botanical gardens. It was here we bumped into a giant surprise – in the form of giant Tortoises, native but now rare on Mauritius. The combined experience was reminiscent of Jurassic Park, a real step back in time.

Another day we headed out to sea for a full day Catamaran cruise along the coast, where we spotted shoal after shoal of dolphins riding the waves, before leaping in for a spot of snorkelling. Relaxing on deck we were treated to a spot of music and a fantastic barbeque lunch of fresh fish and chicken. An incredible experience.

Mauritius is a small island with a big heart, a lot to offer and many surprises.

And if you visit – pay a visit to the Port-Louis natural History Museum and say small thank you to the memory of the Dodo. Not so stupid after all!

A bit about Mauritius:

Mauritius, a volcanic and mountainous island in the Indian Ocean, lies 2000km (1240 miles) off the south eastern coast of Africa, due east of Madagascar.

The group of islands was uninhabited until the 16th century, when it was occupied by a small Dutch force that named it after Prince Maurice of Nassau.

It was abandoned in 1710 and then re-occupied five years later by the French who imported African slaves to work on the sugar plantations.

Mauritius and its neighbouring islands were captured by the British in 1810 and formally conceded by the 1814 Treaty of Paris.

After the abolition of slavery in the 1830s, Indian labourers were imported and their descendants now comprise more than two-thirds of the population.

It remained a British colony until 1957, when it was granted internal self-government with an electoral system based on the Westminster model. Full Independence was granted in 1968, but the British kept a number of smaller islands.

These connections to the Dutch, the British, the Indian and the African, means Mauritius is truly multi-cultural.

Other facts:

*The currency is the Mauritian rupee, which divides into 100 cents.

*The population is 1.2m including Rodriguez and outer islands.

*You won’t need a travel plug – They use the British system.

*Rum is the tipple of choice in Mauritius; it comes in every flavour imaginable. Sugar Beach resort has its own Rhumery.

First published in the Lancashire Evening Post