Suzy Palmer reviews a five-star beach resort in a stunning location.
After the long, overnight flight to Mauritius, it seems my sleep-deprived mind is playing tricks on me.
In the hour’s drive to our resort, we pass a succession of French-named coastal villages where I have to look twice to check that, yes, that really is a Hindu temple just two buildings away from a Christian church, which is, in turn, next door to a mosque. And no, I haven’t travelled back a few centuries to the Caribbean, as scarf-clad women harvest sugar cane by hand beneath a looming plantation chimney.
Through the morning mist, the cane fields and tropical palms give way to grassy lowlands rising up to sharp peaks that look uncannily like, er, the Lake District. Admittedly, my only expectations of Mauritius had been of white sand beaches and a turquoise sea, but I soon see this is an island that is far more culturally and geographically intriguing than I realised.
Of the many five-star beach resorts that have put Mauritius firmly on the luxury getaway map, Dinarobin Hotel Golf & Spa stands out thanks to its stunning location. Set on a peninsula, its 172 sea-facing suites rest between a white coral beach and the dramatic Le Morne Brabant mountain.
There is a large, thatched main pavilion, as well as a superb infinity pool, tennis courts, fitness centre, spa and kids’ club. Lavishly refurbished last year, it now has five new fresh-water swimming pools set among the villas, so you can always find a quiet spot, even when the resort is full.
Our junior suite is comfortable and spacious with a veranda, colonial-style rattan furniture, a huge bathroom and a super-cosy bed. For dining, there’s a choice of eight restaurants – four at Dinarobin and four at neighbouring sister resort, Paradis. Our favourites are those that offer Creole-inspired menus – as good as any top-class London eaterie, with prices to match.
In between the feasting and relaxing, there are plenty of activities to enjoy. The Clarins spa, a temple-like oasis of serenity, provides a blissful massage, and there are daily sailing, snorkelling and glass-bottom boat trips.
It’s also well worth venturing further afield. The capital, Port Louis, is a lively town with a modern waterfront as well as a historical quarter and a colourful market that captures the colonial past and cultural diversity of the island. Other attractions include Chamarel, a striking geological phenomenon hewn out of volcanic rock; Grand Bassin, a sacred lake known as the Mauritian Ganges with Hindu temples and statues of deities; and Bois Chéri in the heart of the tea-growing region. Or for something stronger, try rum-tasting at Rhumerie de Chamarel.
So, is Mauritius heaven? Well, the weather doesn’t quite live up to our travel agent’s promise and we have a few too many days of tropical downpours, but the excellent service, location and sheer luxury of the resort make it hard to beat. And there are memories that will last forever. A leisurely lunch under the shade of a palm tree, as local children somersault off a jetty into the ocean. A moonlit boat trip under a star-packed sky. And romantic walks along the deserted beach at sundown, as the last rays of the day light up the mountains.
British Airways (ba.com) flies from Heathrow to Mauritius from £667 return in May, including taxes.
Beachcomber Tours (01483 445642; beachcombertours.co.uk) offers packages to eight resorts on the island. In May, seven nights half-board in a junior suite at Dinarobin Hotel Golf & Spa (dinarobin-hotel.com) costs from £1,795 per person, including BA flights and transfers.
May to November is the best time to visit. Mauritius (£15.99, Bradt) is a comprehensive guide. For more information, see mauritiustourism.co.uk.