Easy Escapes: Shanti Maurice, Mauritius

Caroline Leaper explores the unspoilt south of this heavenly Indian Ocean island

Caroline Leaper explores the unspoilt south of this heavenly Indian Ocean island

Why go? If, like us, aqua and emerald is one of your favourite colour combinations, then the clear waters and lush forests of Mauritius will provide the paradise you seek. The untouched, naturally beautiful south of this tropical island is now a clear rival to the popular and more touristy north-west, with just a few luxury resorts making impressive moves to stand out, focus on eco-preservation, and nurture a vibrant foodie scene.

Decked out: a two-bedroom villa at Shanti Maurice comes with a fabulous pool

When? May to November are generally seen as the best months to go, as temperatures are reliably over 26°C and rain showers shorter and less frequent. In the island’s summer months the temperature doesn’t increase much but the rainfall doubles, with cyclones and rougher sea conditions to be expected.

Stay at: The five-star Shanti Maurice (doubles from £320 half-board from 15 April to 30 September 2016, shantimaurice.com), near the town of St Felix, is a gem of a resort with 44 suites and 17 villas set beside a powder-perfect beach and turquoise bay – the calmness of which is created by a semi-circular coral reef about 300 metres out. The lay-out is idyllic and designed to fit in with its tropical surroundings rather than impose on them. While each room is unashamedly luxurious, the stylish modern décor is offset with surprises, like your own outdoor rain shower or a room-side hammock to laze in.

Seaside dreams: a two bedroom villa at Shanti Maurice

You really must… Get out on the water. The island’s stunning mountain ranges, gorgeous lagoons and dense green forests are best seen from the back of a speedboat. From scenic cruises past the Le Morne Brabant peninsula to diving in the crystal clear shallows, there are many unique experiences to try. Lifestyle Boating (lifestyleboatingmauritius.com) has friendly staff – try their swim with wild dolphins experience in Tamarin Bay, where the pods swim by in their hundreds unaffected by the snorkels hovering above. A half-day cruise costs around £348 for up to six people, with an extra charge of £46 per person for a beach barbecue lunch of freshly caught unicorn fish, free range chicken and lobster on Ile Aux Cerfs.

Earthly delights: the ‘Seven Coloured Earths’ of Chamarel

On land, a 30 minute taxi ride gets you to the free-entry Alexandra Falls National Park, another breathtaking vantage point in the south (plus you can get a little closer to the island’s spectacular waterfalls). At the same time you can visit the famous ‘Seven Coloured Earths’ of Chamarel, around 10 minutes away, to marvel at the earth’s natural colours – just what you need to restore your faith in the beauty of this planet. Entrance costs approximately £3, tours arranged by the resort cost from £64.

Wherever you drive, you’ll notice endless fields of sugar cane – the raw material for one of the island’s top exports, it covers 80 per cent of the island. A tour of Le Saint Aubin (£9, rhumsaintaubin.com), a plantation house built in 1819, offers the chance to see the sugar, vanilla and rum production processes in action.
Indian Ocean idyll: Le Morne Brabant in the south-west of Mauritius

Relax at: At an impressive 6,500 square metres, the Shanti Maurice spa is one of the biggest in the Indian Ocean. It is so large it is technically four different spas offering a choice of Holistic Bio, Indian, Oriental or Fitness & Wellness experiences. Re-launched a year ago, its 25 treatment rooms are stylish and spacious and set around a tranquil tea room, plus there’s an outdoor spa pool and Jacuzzi. Try a Balinese massage from the Oriental menu (£61 for 60 mins), which is the perfect remedy for the long flight here, while a Shanti Fusion massage from the Holistic Bio spa (£65 for 60 mins) will get rid any final tensions before you head home. For yoga fans there are free basic classes three times a week in the semi-outdoor Fitness & Wellness centre (it’s impossible not to relax when surrounded by the resort’s dense greenery) and for the more advanced daily classes in everything from aqua yoga to Chakra meditation start from around £6.

Spice island: Malagasy chicken stew with coconut and lemon from the Aquacasia menu

Dine at: Foodies will rejoice in the island’s vibrant and diverse dishes – from the world class cuisine served in resort restaurants to the beach barbecues that make the most of the ocean’s bounty. You can also enjoy spicy street food on a visit to the capital, Port Louis, where Indian flatbreads called dhall puri are cooked on a tawa (a traditional metal plate) and come stuffed with butter bean curries like grois pois, while rougaille (tomato and chutney wraps) make for a delicious lunch at around 40p each.

This month Shanti Maurice launches its Aquacasia menu, sampling flavours from all the islands in the Indian Ocean in an exotic, moreish mix. Executive Chef Willibald Reinbacher has developed this for the signature Stars restaurant, sourcing most ingredients from his on-site vegetable gardens and local fishermen. Be it a white fish and coconut ceviche, or halim with lamb mashroshi (a savoury cracked wheat soup with lamb-stuffed flatbread) Chef Willibald puts artisanal spins on his local favourites – creating exactly the kind of food that’s worth travelling half-way around the world for.

Also on the Shanti Maurice site, there’s the beach-side Fish Shack where local dancers perform around a bonfire as you tuck into the day’s barbecued catch (£32 for as much as you like) and La Kaze Mama, a garden setting where local grandmothers become guest chefs, giving you the most authentic Mauritian home-cooking you could ask for.

Shack attack: be sure to have a drink in the Rum Shed at Shanti Maurice

Bring home: Vanilla pods, rum, spices and sugar make great souvenirs and can be bought on plantation tours and at markets and gift shops. And it’s hard not to be charmed into buying a dodo fridge magnet, or two, or three…

Book now: Air Mauritius (airmauritius.com) has flights from Heathrow and Thomson (thomson.co.uk) from Gatwick. Transfers to Shanti Maurice costs £117 one-way per vehicle when booked through the hotel.

Info: Marco Polo Mauritius (£5.99; Mairdumont) covers the island and has a handy pull-out map; for more information see tourism-mauritius.mu and mauritius.net.

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