The first time I stayed at Club Med, I remember being wrapped in who knows how many layers as we hit the slopes in the wintery, snowy wonderland of the French Alps, before soaking up the ‘after ski. by the crackling fires of the station.
These memories come back today in dreamy and gentle Mauritius. Entering the powdery coral sand beach after a late afternoon swim in the warm blue-green waters of the bath, I head to the bar for a rum-laden sunset when I spot a sign multicolored indicating other Club Meds around the world. One is Les Arcs Panorama, the alpine retreat in my mind. The location (8992 kilometers away) and temperature may be very different this time around, but there are familiar aspects to our Mauritius Club Med experience: fun yet relaxed vibes, sublime natural surroundings, activities galore , a cordial and upbeat staff and (almost dangerously) more food.
This is particularly the case on this hollow island in the Indian Ocean. Its history and the influx of immigrants from India, Africa, China and Europe have shaped its mixed culture and belly-pleasing cuisine. During our stay, we devour fragrant curries and rougailles (tomato stews) and heaps of seafood, tuna tataki and smoked marlin with grilled sea bream and jumbo prawns – and even a spicy version of fish and chips.
Named after Maurice, Prince of Orange, by 17th century Dutch settlers, Mauritius was a British colony between 1810 and 1968 – and they still have English as their official language and drive on the left here. But it’s the influence of the French, who ruled the island from 1715 to 1810, that really permeates daily life here.
Mauritians generally converse among themselves in a French-based creole, TV programs are regularly dubbed into French, and place names evoke the Gallic era, including Port Louis, the capital, where, on a day trip , we trawl bustling, aromatic markets, admire forts, churches, temples and mosques, and sample char siu bao buns and baguettes in its street art-splattered Chinatown.
Although this subtropical island is a delight to explore – it is only 61 kilometers long, 45 kilometers wide and also attracts you for hikes near extinct volcanoes, gorges and waterfalls and tastings at rum plantations, of tea and coffee – you’ll enjoy a nice place to come back and linger. Mauritius has two all-inclusive, family-friendly and chic and relaxed Club Meds: La Plantation d’Albion, cocooned on the west coast, half an hour’s drive from Port Louis, and La Pointe aux Canonniers, which adjoins a sleepy coastal village. in the north of the island near the tourist center of Grand Baie.
We sample both resorts, which have rustic, photogenic locations next to public beaches, reef-protected coves and lagoons, with jagged mountain backdrops, and accommodations, pools and venues — some with a wooden architecture of Mauritian and colonial inspiration. They are scattered in the middle of exotic and fragrant gardens, where chirping birds, such as the red-breasted fody and the bulbul, with its punk-rocker hairstyle, twirl between hibiscus flowers and cacti, coconut palms, casuarinas, bamboos and banyans.
Guided island excursions are offered (for a fee) and taxis are available 24/7 for independent getaways, but you could just as easily hang out at your resort and enjoy the wealth of land sports and “free” water sports. Some days we try stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking. Others we snorkel (around 80% of Mauritius is surrounded by coral reefs and you will see a lot of the cast of The world of Nemo). You can also work out in the gym and take courses in diving, sailing, water aerobics, pilates, yoga, tennis and golf. In Albion there is even a flying trapeze, while La Pointe aux Canonniers offers wakeboarding and water skiing.
Your package also includes 24-hour food, an open bar, evening entertainment, and all-day kids’ clubs. You can shell out extra for lobster nights and treatments at the resorts’ Cinq Mondes spas. Oenophiles may find themselves splashing out for more sophisticated French wine, as the free South African house wine is average. More appetizing, for me, are the mojitos and the Mauritian Phoenix lager.
Opened in 1973, La Pointe aux Canonniers is the oldest resort, but in search of a pre-pandemic revamp, with new pools and a facelift for the main Belle Créole restaurant, where the food is exceptional, especially the sushi and sashimi, chateaubriand and delicate desserts (which my French partner considers the standard Parisian patisserie). Beaches are superior at this resort, too, which has 394 rooms and suites (from 28 to 62 square meters) with folding cane-lattice walls, infusions of the island’s Bois Cheri plantation, and balconies with sea views. ocean and garden.
Located near the sugar cane fields, Albion is classified as the most luxurious option, part of Club Med’s Exclusive 5 Tridents (five star) Collection. Choose from 266 upscale rooms and suites adorned with balconies, spacious from 40 to 70 square meters, furnished with lacquered wood, works of art, antiques, brightly colored fabrics and coffee machines. As at La Pointe aux Canonniers, rooms can be interconnected for groups and families, and there are also two- and four-bedroom villas with butlers. After 6 p.m., Albion patrons are offered free champagne and snacks like chili bites and samosas as flying foxes roam the pink skies above.
By day, we like to idle in the adults-only Zen area of Albion, which got a pre-COVID-19 makeover. Crimson lounge chairs and umbrellas line a boardwalk and infinity pool with a wondrous soundtrack of ocean waves crashing against agave-covered volcanic rocks. Conveniently, there’s a bar and a la carte restaurant (La Phare) here, with late breakfasts of pastries and tropical fruits, and daily lunches with crunchy heart of palm salads and spiced up seasonal vegetables. garlic, chilli and turmeric. Tip: capacity is limited, book your table for dinner well in advance via the Club Med app.
Most patrons flock to the main Distillery restaurant, which is fan-cooled, buffet-style, but largely cooked-to-order, where carnivores and pescatarians alike are catered for. Vegetarians and vegans will find salads, fresh pastas, vindayes (curries), brianis (biryanis) and lentil offerings. Mauritius Night – held in both hotels on Mondays – is cheerful. Venues are draped in the red, blue, yellow and green national flag, and there are island specialties like roti and dholl puri (a cumin-tinged split pea wrap), peanut rougaille and chicken fricassee and pumpkin.
After dessert – for us, cheese, coconut panna cotta and tamarind ice cream – we head to Albion’s lantern-lit Mangrove Beach Bar via the “Rum Road”, on which we are served with local arranged rums infused with pineapple, vanilla, orange and anise. Perched on deckchairs, we watch a drum-fueled Sega show – with performers in traditional outfits performing the national dance, which originated among the African slaves who worked the sugar cane plantations of Mauritius. Next, a pair of wiry, shirtless men streak across the sand with a captivating and increasingly daring fire show.
Another evening, we dined al fresco on sea urchins and oysters near the ruins of the station’s centuries-old stone battery-fort. A downpour puts a damper on our meal, with the starry sky darkening in seconds, but this can happen in the summer when it’s hot (above 30C), humid and stuffy. Winters are cooler and drier, when sea and daytime temperatures are normally 23-27°C, making it a year-round destination (it’s at the same latitude as Airlie Beach in Queensland). With its laid-back atmosphere and stimulating landscapes, culture and cuisine, Mauritius has all the ingredients for a fabulous holiday. We are already preparing for our return.
FIVE EXCURSIONS IN MAURITIUS
French for “Grapefruit”, this area is best known for its attractive 37-hectare botanical garden and modern sugar museum.
BLACK RIVER GORGES NATIONAL PARK
Marked hiking trails traverse this wooded upland expanse with breathtaking viewpoints and gushing waterfalls.
The tallest waterfall in Mauritius tumbles down near this nearby village, famous for its surreal Seven Colored Earth geological formation, turtle sanctuary and numerous restaurants.
Climb the 556-meter peak of this UNESCO World Heritage Site – once a haven for runaway slaves – for stunning views of the islands and ocean.
Enjoy a barbecue lunch on the beach, bask in the turquoise lagoon and play 18-hole golf on this picture-postcard pretty island – Ile aux Cerfs in French.
Club Med La Pointe aux Canonniers has rates starting at $1,440 per person, all-inclusive for seven nights, based on double occupancy. It’s from $1640 at La Plantation d’Albion. Flights and transfers can be arranged additionally. Both resorts are about an hour’s drive from the international airport. See clubmed.com.au
Emirates flies from Sydney and Melbourne to Mauritius via Dubai. From November 2022, Air Mauritius will resume bi-weekly flights to and from Perth with codeshare connections available to and from Sydney and Melbourne.
Visitors to Mauritius (vaccinated and unvaccinated) no longer need to test or quarantine upon arrival.
Steve McKenna was the guest at Club Med.