Ah, Mauritius – it’s high on most people’s wish-lists, with the caveat that a Lottery win might be required first. But no more. These days, if you know where to look, prices in four-star hotels can be downright reasonable and in keeping with the best deals in the Caribbean.
I’m just back from 10 days there, staying in three different resorts: two on Mauritius and one on neighbouring Reunion Island. All were exceptional value (and I’m picky).
Although you will definitely get some winter sun in the Indian Ocean, the chances are pretty high that you’ll get some rain too (albeit warm), so when choosing your resort note that the east coasts of these islands are wetter than the west coasts.
Mauritius doesn’t pretend to have amazing architecture or world-class museums – its offering is of the natural kind: white-sand beaches, impressive flora and birdlife and good hiking, though Reunion offers more on that score.
Mauritians are a joyous fusion of Indian, Creole, Chinese (though declining in numbers) and French Mauritians (tiny in number, but they still dominate the sugar industry).
Call me cynical but I reckon a lot of this bonhomie can be put down to the incredible number of public holidays they enjoy – 15 every year. Cultural diversity is perhaps easier when you’re all partying together.
This was my sixth trip so I was looking for something new and found it in the walking tour by the lovely Shakti Callikan, through her company www.mymoris.mu.
This enterprising local has teamed up with a Belgian anthropologist to offer tours that give you a deeper taste of Mauritius. We ate street food in a local market, explored fascinating neighbourhoods not on any tourist circuit and went to a Buddhist temple hidden on the roof of a multi-storey with absolutely no signage. My idea of a tour.
After the most unwelcome four-day cyclone passed and flights recommenced, we landed in neighbouring Reunion. Volcanic and exciting, 40 per cent of the island is a Unesco World Heritage site.
On an expensive but worthwhile helicopter trip (£250) we flew over highlights of the island including Piton de la Fournaise – the second most active volcano on the planet, conveniently spurting jets of lava.
Reunion has an extraordinary geology, and the landscape explains why so many French visit this charming departement (yes, it’s part of France, in the EU; and you use euros here).
What excites me most about Mauritius, apart from its beaches, is its cultural diversity, and this manifests in great street food and the buzz you only get in a true melting pot.
As to the hotels I recommend both the Beachcomber Victoria and Shandrani. They’re comfortable and offer good value. They have friendly staff, wonderful beaches and pools, a spa, massive beds in air-conditioned rooms and there’s a variety of restaurants. Go all-inclusive to save bar bills. At Shandrani you can even quaff proper champagne (try doing that in the Caribbean for the same price). Its location on a private peninsula probably means that, if pushed, I’d say it’s my favourite of the two.
On Reunion, Lux St Gilles is a natural choice. The staff are exceptionally helpful; the rooms work on every level, you even have your own balcony hammock to swing in. It’s a spacious, very relaxed resort with quality restaurants, a beautiful large pool, and it’s the only hotel on Reunion with its own beach on the coral reef.
Given the 12-hour flight, treat yourself to business class if you can. From late 2017 Air Mauritius will have new planes with better seating and in-flight entertainment, but in the interim their service and executive lounges make all the difference.
Getting there and where to stay
Shandrani Beachcomber Resort and Spa offer seven nights in a superior room on an all-inclusive basis, hotel transfers and economy flights with Air Mauritius from £1620 per person sharing. For their equally impressive Victoria Beachcomber Resort and Spa, a week costs from £1500. Visit beachcombertours.uk or call 01483 445610.
A double room with B&B for two at Lux St Gilles on Reunion starts at £293. Visit luxresorts.com/en/hotel-reunion/luxsaintgilles.
Given the 12 hr flight, treat yourself to Business Class if you can. From late 2017 Air Mauritius will have new planes with even better seating and in-flight entertainment, but in the interim their service and executive lounges make all the difference.
Return economy from Heathrow to Mauritius with Air Mauritius starts from £785 per person including tax. Return economy fares to Reunion via Mauritius start from £837 per person. These fares do not allow a stopover in Mauritius. Fares that allow a stopover in Mauritius you should add around £75 per person. https://www.airmauritius.com/ 0207 434 4375