International, Travel

Cool Runnings

Aubrey Jonsson



From the very first time I got to experience Mauritian island life, I was swept up by the endless beauty and mystery it offered. These islanders have such a different outlook on life. They seem to have mastered the art of simple living, which translates into the kind of unhurried, easy-going attitude that is the drug of choice for holidaymakers longing for an idyllic setting, free from the cares and hustle of the rest of the world. After all, what more do you need when you can spend balmy days on pale, sandy beaches surrounded by turquoise waters?

Since my last visit to Mauritius a few years ago, it seems that this island escape has done some catching up. The changes are noticeable from the moment you enter the new airport. It’s looking world-class, and there’s instant free Wi-Fi. Throughout the island, I notice dramatic improvements in infrastructure, such as a new highway as well as small, yet significant, changes to roads and public areas.

A long, scenic evening drive from the airport to my first destination in Palmar on the eastern part of the island reveals that the improvements have not affected the island’s charm and character. While I’ll be staying at two of Mauritius’ most desirable resorts – the newly rebranded Ambre on the east coast and La Pirogue on the west coast, both renowned for gorgeous beaches and surrounds – I am determined not to miss out on what other island regions offer – lush mountainous landscapes, cascading waterfalls, fascinating heritage and superfriendly locals.

AMBRE MAURITIUS

This contemporary four-star oasis of modern white spaces surrounded by verdant manicured gardens is beyond luxurious without losing the casual tropical ambience of island life. There is an age restriction (16 and up) making it ideal for honeymooners and those of us in the mood for pure silence. The uninterrupted peace and quiet here takes you to another sensory level entirely.

Ambre has an exquisite 700-metre white sandy beach and its pools are enormous so the temptation to lounge around and flop into crystal-clear water occasionally is huge. There are four restaurants to choose from, each with a unique look and feel, and catering for all tastes and appetites. I was happy with all the delicious and healthy options on the menu, such as just-caught fish and a selection of fruit on offer all day, complemented by fresh coconut water or a cold local beer. ambremauritius.com

EXPLORING THE ISLAND

I stick to my intention to combine long, lazy days of luxury resort life with some active venturing to see what more Mauritius has to offer. Making my way to the southern side of the island in a snappy little rental car – which is, incidentally, the best way to get around if, like me, you screech to a halt whenever something catches your eye – I am delighted to discover a strip of inviting little shops on Black River Road in Tamarin. A much-needed snack at Moustache Bistro is followed by a browse in the 1952 wine store – both recommended stops for foodies and wine fundis.

LA PIROGUE

Family-friendly La Pirogue, set on a vast 14-hectare coconut plantation, immediately makes you feel welcome with its traditional atmosphere. Old-world hospitality and charm served beneath mountainous landscapes and surrounded by ancient, massive palm trees make this a special place.

Settled in a hammock, drink in hand, looking out over the crystal blue ocean from my private bungalow, I marvel at the spectacular sunset, while local women in floaty white attire dance on the beach as the sun dips down, completing the romance and magic of the island.

La Pirogue has a number of restaurants and bars to choose from overlooking beautiful gardens, the pools and, of course, the Indian Ocean, with local musicians livening up nights under the stars. Island holidays are intoxicating and I’ll be back.

lapirogue.com

Travel tips

  • The airline of choice is Air Mauritius. It has added more direct flights to its weekly schedule and earlier flights from Johannesburg so you can arrive in time for sundowners. airmauritius.com
  • Tour operators SummerTimes and MTPA give advice on exploring the island plus land and water activities. summer-times.com, tourism-mauritius.mu
  • If you love watching the sunset over the ocean while sipping a piña colada, stay on the western side of the island at La Pirogue and Sugar Beach.
  • World Leisure Holidays (WLH) offers stays in a variety of hotels and expert advice on the Mauritius experience. wlh.co.za

This article originally featured in the December issue of House and Leisure.