Mauritius is so much more than your OOO screensaver. Junior Beauty Writer Sarah Barnes explores where to stay on this green gem of an island...
Words by Sarah Barnes
I am laying like a starfish amongst white sheets that origami around me in the most expansive bed I have ever slept in. The sliding doors to the balcony are wide open so that my ears are filled with only the sound of waves, lapping softy against the sandy beach below. The moonlight is reflecting off the ocean in the most romantic way, making everything in the room glow. I squeeze my eyes shut again and open them wide- I have woken up in paradise.
Rewind 9 hours, jumping off the plane you are a 40 minute drive to Shangri-La Le Touessrok Resort & Spa Mauritius, a luxury 5 star resort on the east coast of the island. The drive, not one to nod off to, is what your eyes crave after a 12 hour flight. Driving through little villages, the winding roads are built around colourful temples, local shops and roadside fruit stalls all with a mountainous backdrop, giving you a glimpse into Mauritian life. Arriving at Shangri-La Le Touessrok Resort & Spa we were greeted with lemon grass infused towels to pat over our sticky faces and island iced tea to sip on- summer is truly here.
Le Touessrok was born from humble beginnings in 1915 when sugarcane farmer, Henri Wiehé, built a simple beach house to host family and friends, which later turned into a 5 bed guesthouse. Fast-forward to 2015, following a huge renovation, the resort re-opened in partnership with Shangri-La. Shangri-La Le Touessrok Resort & Spa preserves true Mauritian hospitality. Spread over 34 private acres with multiple talcum- white beaches and deep pools, the resort was designed using indigenous, organic and recycled material all wrapped up in one idyllic white washed bubble, shaded by leafy palm trees.
There are 200 rooms and suites with Indian Ocean views you only dream of. I stayed in the Frangipani suite – a glamorous hideaway. The room was vast and calming and brought the tropical colours from outside in onto the walls. Sparkling wine and iced water in glass bottles (the hotel is reducing single-use plastics) awaited me, which I sipped gratefully whilst on my balcony overlooking the bluest ocean reef. The bathtub was endless where I wallowed happily, washing off my jet lag before heading to the main beach. Tiredness hitting, I collapsed onto one of the beach pods that were dotted amongst the palms along the sandy cove. These pods come equipped with a buzzer so that you can order from the fresh juice station and sip away without having to move. All the staff are warm, welcoming and went beyond to create my new personal paradise!
Beach Cabannas on Ilot Mangenie Island
Shangri-La Le Touessrok Resort & Spa has it’s own private island- the only hotel in Mauritius to do so. Just when I thought this place couldn’t get any more special I found myself walking down the wooden jetty, beach bag in hand. Long white boats bobbed alongside ready to float us to the island. The ride there is the best commute going, 10 minutes speeding through crystal water (so close that I could dip my fingertips in) to a small jetty that lead us onto Ilot Mangenie, where lush green jungle and white sand, only disturbed by volcanic rocks, merged together peacefully.
The hotel has introduced 5 beach cabanas, available to hire upon request and set up with a bottle of sparkling rose, bowls of fresh fruits and butler service. I whiled away the hours here, swimming in the shallow waters and buried in a good book- all my worries disappeared after a few deep breaths. When the sun peaks in the sky it is the signal for lunch. The island is renowned for their truffle pizzas and fresh white fish. We dined ocean side at a table by the water, laden with the best hot truffle pizza’s (sorry Italy), crunchy salads and red snapper caught that morning. Collapsing back to our beach cabana, the welcoming sun warmed our full stomachs. The island manages to feel natural and secluded yet manicured simultaneously- the best place to be washed up on.
Boats depart every 20 mins from the resort. Contact guest relations for the beach cabana experience.
Golfing at Île aux Cerfs.
A keen golfer? This is one to tick off your bucket list as the neighbouring island of Île aux Cerfs boasts a championship grade golf course, driving range and clubhouse, with all 18 holes designed by the famous German golfer Bernhard Langer. Golden bunkers are weaved perfectly around miles of green law and buggies come complete with GPS so you can tee off every ten minutes from 7:30am where guests of Shangri-La Le Touessrok Resort & Spa have complimentary green fees. Finishing your round, relax tired legs at one of the private beaches where thatched beach bars serve up ice-cold cocktails for you to cheers a ‘good game’ too. Barely an amateur, I had a lesson on the driving range, using sleek clubs to hit the balls as far as I could to the tranquil gardens in the distance. To top off a days work you can stay in one of the three exclusive Bubble Lodges on Île aux Cerf, a private transparent lodge where you can star gaze from bed. A personal butler will be on hand to set up dinner on the beach for the ultimate island night.
Thrill seeking at Domaine De L’Etoile
We drove a short way from the resort to Domaine De L’Etoile, a sweeping hunting reserve of 1,200 hectares of plantations that cover the hills and valleys. 65% of all electricity on the island is made from burning sugar cane stems from plantations like these, another way that Mauritius is green (not just in colour). This is the place for adrenaline seekers as, 750 meters of zip lining, quad biking and wild horse trekking are all ready and waiting. I found myself on a quad bike, hardy helmet on and hair whipping in the wind as we whizzed through the sugar cane plantations up the side of the mountain to a breath-taking viewpoint. We paused at the top overlooking the whole island in all its beauty- completely euphoric. The ride was both exhilarating and a workout, to which we all yelled ‘again’ when returning to base. During your stay most definitely drag yourself away from the idyllic resort for a day of adventure Mauritian style.
See the island on Fat Bikes
Just a ride away are the local Mauritian markets. The resort has introduced ‘Fat Bikes’, state of the art electric bikes with deep tread wheels and electronic speed controls (going up hill has never been easier). Available to hire from the recreation centre we followed our guide Jean Philippe out of the luscious resort gates and onto the roads that meandered through plantations and jungle. The hour of peaceful riding gazing outwards to the mountains is suddenly replaced with town roads, whizzing scooters and locals carrying produce to market- a true sensory overload. We parked up our bikes to be met with refreshing coconuts to sip on. The market is a warren of paths leading to spice stalls with locals selling embroidered fabrics and handmade trinkets- a must see for any holiday traveller to get a real sense of island life.
However you don’t need to always leave the resort to find adventure, Shangri-La Le Touessrok Resort & Spa had an abundance of activities all on our beachy doorstep. Kayaking, waterskiing, snorkelling and windsurfing are the watery offerings along with beach volleyball, archery, tennis and sunset hikes if you fancy staying dry. I started my morning with a 9am yoga class poolside, stretching my limbs out under the early rising sun before relaxing into child’s pose surrounded by lush palm trees- the dream morning routine. Later I took a peaceful paddle board out into the bay as the sun went down, looking back on the resort in all its glory as the sun melted into the water, throwing a creamy pink hue over the island.
On our first night we dined at Kushi. This sleek Japanese (dinner-only) choice offers up the best Sushi I have ever tasted. We were transported to the Far East with Geisha inspired designs and glowing red lights. After our feisty chopsticks cleared away plates of fresh teppanyaki and tempura we cooked our own food on the Yakiniku grills, BBQing chicken, pork and butterfly shrimps before dunking our winnings in sticky soy sauce. Sides to indulge in include the hot salty edamame and glazed black cod. You will be back here trust me.
Republik Beach Club & Grill
Welcome to the relaxed beach club option that became our foodie regular. Republik sits in-between the ocean and the resorts adult only pool. Serving up breakfast and lunch, this spot is the relaxing favourite for early birds. I found myself walking over the sand, rubbing my sleepy eyes only to be greeted with hot pots of tea. We sat looking out to sea whilst munching on lobster scrambled egg, fresh platters of papaya and pistachio pastries- cornflakes at home will never be the same again! Lunch offers up alfresco style Italian and Greek pastas, which I longed for each day as the clock struck twelve. While dinner called for shellfish and smoky meats cooked on the open beach grills, flames flickering against the dark ocean behind. The soundtrack of soft DJ music rippled through the air each night as we cosied up on beach sofas to star gaze post dinner.
Republik Beach Club & Grill famously host foodie pop-ups. Look out for Barrio Latino which is set to launch at the resort September.
Mauritian cuisine is truly celebrated here in the dinner-only restaurant of Safran. Signature spice blends are ground up in the open kitchen while curries, tandoori and rice dishes are all served up hot and fragrant from buzzy waiters. We visited the chef’s garden with acclaimed Chef Ramesh Bundi to see ingredients being grown a stones throw from our bedroom windows and to pick fresh curry leaves. Later, next to the copper clad ovens we had a cooking lesson in making traditional Mauritian curry which we later devoured with crunchy samosas, hot rice and buttery naan bread. Even when you are full to burst follow up with the banana flambé, which is sautéed in sticky caramel and rum.
Graceful terraces overlook the main resort quarter as breakfast and dinner are served at Le Bazar. My plate was piled high in the morning from the live cooking breakfast stations, wellness juice bar and market place pastry section. I people watched over cups of steamy coffee as suntanned guests ate in happy unison. Come dinner, look out for the dim sum trolley, noodle bar, rotisserie, seafood grills and burger station, all under one contemporary roof.
The hotel have launched a luxury floating breakfast experience. Eat your fruit and pastries in a beautiful infinity pool at one of the hotels three private Beach Villas. To book contact guest relations.
To entertain and relax
Chi The Spa
Nothing gets me to relax when on holiday like an indulgent treatment. Chi The Spa is the resorts answer, beautifully designed and instantly calming. The 8 treatment rooms offer a rainbow of options from Ayurvedic massage to Decleor radiance facials, all using historical Mauritian techniques and showcasing the best of the islands botanicals, this is a place of personal peace. I was already nearly asleep as I sat in the reception, soft music playing and sipping cucumber water in a fluffy robe. The Traditional Tipik Healing With Sega Rhythm is a treatment like no other. My body was covered in richly scented ylang-ylang oil and massaged to release tight muscles, improving my circulation and freeing those city toxins. Throughout these 60 minutes of heaven, Mauritian ‘Sega Tipik Rhythms’ were played which softly lulled me into an even deeper sense of relaxation and truly put me on island time.
Post dinner we were full but not quite ready to sleep so found solace in the Sega Bar (named after a Mauritian dance). Set in a Tiki style hut on a candlelit path over the main pool, it is the place to congregate in style. I found myself here nestled on a wicker sofa listening to a jazz singer as her voice floated out from the bar, drawing people in. It is a hub for when night falls as this bar showcases the best in local reggae and blues bands as well as nightly culture shows. You can watch all this while sipping on one of the many signature rums that are poured dark and rich over ice- we didn’t want to leave.
To book your stay visit Shangri-La Le Touessrok Resort & Spa Mauritius
November to April (summer) is considered the best time to visit, with average temperatures of around 26 degrees Celsius.
Words by Sarah Barnes