Easy Escapes: Mauritius

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  • Lottie Berridge takes a five-star break in the Indian Ocean

    Lottie Berridge takes a five-star break in the Indian Ocean

    Why go? White sand beaches, tropical warmth, soaring mountains and lush forests… Mauritius is a sporty island with top class hotels and an engaging multicultural mix reflecting Indian, French and Creole influences. Don’t save it for your honeymoon, you deserve some sunshine and luxury now!

    When? Mauritius is known as a winter sun destination, but it’s actually at its most warm and dry from May to September, when room rates are also lower and there are fewer mosquitoes.

    Peak viewing: Le Morne beach and mountain

    Stay at: An hour’s drive from the airport, the new St Regis Mauritius Resort is a collection of elegant colonial-style buildings set at the bottom of Le Morne mountain, in the south-west of the island. It lies beside a beautiful beach with 172 rooms and suites that come with an enormous bed, marbled bathroom and a private terrace to relax on. Butler service is a trademark feature of all St Regis resorts, while small buggies ferry guests to a wide range of family-friendly activities stretching from watersports and spa treatments and yoga sessions and a private cinema.

    You really must… The Le Morne peninsula is a World Heritage Site and its mountain dominates the landscape here, so no trip is complete without exploring it. A local naturalist and super-fit guy, Yan de Maroussem (trekkingilemaurice.com), offers guided ascents that start at 6am so you see the sunrise and avoid walking in the hottest part of the day. The trek takes about three hours and costs £45. Another must is Casela Nature and Leisure Park (admission £7.20, caselayemen.mu), home to 1,500 birds plus lions, zebras, a tiger, giant tortoises and monkeys. It’s a good place to enjoy the natural beauty of Mauritius by quad bike or 4×4 buggy, or take an adventurous hiking tour (£19) with ziplines, hanging bridges and many other surprises.

    On the coast, Mauritius is renown among kitesurfing enthusiasts for the quality and variety of its locations. One of the best places is Le Morne, where expert riders tackle the world-famous ‘One Eye’ wave. Beginners can give it a go at the St Regis Resort’s Club Mistral Prestige Kite Surf Club where a two-hour group lesson costs £155 including equipment. The boat takes guests to a lagoon around the corner (so no public humiliation!) where in waist-high water you’re taught how to control the kite. It’s not as easy as it looks but depending on how quick a learner you are three lessons should have you getting on the board.

    After all that exertion, retire to the Iridium Spa which has 12 airy treatment rooms and facilities including a steam room, sauna, Jacuzzi and relaxation area. The Kitesurfers Massage (£127 for 70 minutes) begins with the therapist holding two large conch shells to your ears and leaves you in a blissfully relaxed state. You can also enjoy a sunset cruise on a catamaran at Black River Bay (croisieres-australes.mu) – sit back with a bottle of Phoenix (the local lager), a glass of wine or a rum cocktail and let the crew do all the hard work.

    Beach bliss: a deluxe ocean-view room at St Regis Mauritius Resort

    Dine at: There are six restaurants at the St Regis resort, with the flagship being Simply India, headed by Atul Kochhar, the first Indian chef to receive a Michelin star. He now has two and even the amuse bouche of cheese croquettes with a mint and tamarind sauce has you in raptures, while the murg tikka starter (tandoor-roasted and chilli yogurt-marinaded chicken with onion salad) is incredible. Then there’s the Floating Market serving south-east Asian, with Japanese dishes on offer at Atsuko (try the grilled Wagyu steak as soft as butter), plus French and traditional Mauritian cuisines at Le Manoir Dining Room. The beachfront Boathouse Grill is perfect for lunch and a signature ‘La Belle Creole Mary’ cocktail – every St Regis hotel does its own version of the Bloody Mary and this one uses rum and aloe vera juice.

    Away from the hotel, find time for lunch at Restaurant L’Alchimiste at Rhumerie de Chamarel (rhumeriedechamarel.com). A 40-minute drive away, this distillery and plantation offers a tour and tasting for £7.50, and from July to September (11am-2pm) you can see the hand-harvested sugar cane arriving. Most of the menu here is sourced from the estate including wild boar and deer – don’t leave without trying the palm heart salad. Each palm tree must be seven years old before the heart is harvested, so it’s a real delicacy of the region. The rum baba, served with a large shot poured over it at your table, is unforgettable too – a three-course lunch with a bottle of wine (go on, you’ve got a driver) costs around £42 a head.

    Rum do: be sure to taste the island’s favourite tipple © Lottie Berridge

    Bring home: Rum from the Rhumerie, and island-grown tea which is available in many different flavours. Beautifully woven baskets and bags make great gifts, along with jelly sweets made using local fruits. Many Western clothes manufacturers have operations here, so look out for familiar labels at discounted prices. Mauritius is the home of the famously extinct dodo, so these funny little birds adorn many tourist mementos from T-shirts to fridge magnets.

    Book now: British Airways (ba.com) flies direct from London Gatwick to Mauritius, from £770 return. A seven-night package staying at the St Regis Mauritius Resort (stregis.com/mauritius) costs from £1,919 per person including BA flights and half-board, for reservations visit ba.com/mauritius or call 0844 493 0758. To arrive in style after the 12 hour flight use the exclusive Yu Lounge (£158 each way, yulounge.com) where passengers are collected straight off the plane by an air-conditioned Porsche Cayenne then whisked away from the crowds to a tranquil space with sofas, showers, free wifi and unlimited drinks and snacks while your luggage is collected and your passport checked.

    Info: Marco Polo Mauritius (£5.99; Mairdumont) covers the island and has a handy pull-out map, useful websites are tourism-mauritius.mu and islandinfo.mu.


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