Island Getaway

Text Naomi Larkin Photographs Adam Letch, supplied Any air hostess or steward who’s flown the South Africa-to-Mauritius leg will tell you the booze quota on board is higher than that of other destinations. It seems travellers are loved-up honeymooners, party animals or parents with kids planning to unwind completely, and they all want their holiday to start from takeoff. South Africans have been jetting to Mauritius for decades because it’s, quite simply, a great place to holiday. There is a plethora of package deals and different levels of accommodation in Mauritius so HL narrowed it down to three properties: Le  Touessrok, Sugar Beach and the newly opened Ambre; all three front onto beaches and are family friendly, and all are represented by  World Leisure Holidays. Once a partner in Le Touessrok, South Africa’s hotel magnate Sol Kerzner helped make it a favourite choice with South African tourists. The five-star resort looks out over Trou d’Eau Douce bay and it has two private islands, Île aux Cerfs and Îlot Mangenie, a boat ride away. Accommodation runs the gamut here, from deluxe rooms that sport a balcony or terrace, junior suites, and ocean suites through to the royal suite and three villas that can each sleep six people. The grandeur begins when you turn onto the sweeping driveway, leading to the hotel entrance, which is dominated by a giant tree decorated with pretty metal bird cages that are lit up at night. Cross the threshold and you’re in a world of stone and marble with big arches, brightly tiled stair risers and folds of hanging cloth and, beyond, a breathtaking view of the azure ocean. Everything about Le Touessrok is on a massive scale, from the tall, black concrete urns placed around the gardens and serving a purely decorative function to the cathedral-like interior and thatched cupola of on-site restaurant Safran. Everywhere is the lushness of the picture- perfect tropical island: tall palms and coconut trees, fragrant frangipani, exuberant creepers and every shade of green imaginable, broken by pops of yellow and orange flowers. Collapse on a lounger at one of the two sizeable swimming pools and relax, lifting your head occasionally to sample a scoop of complimentary raspberry sorbet. If you’re after something more active, there are yoga classes on the lawn and a state-of-the-art gym. Book into the Givenchy Spa and enjoy a top-drawer treatment. There are plenty of supervised activities for kids and teenagers, too, including education programmes, discos and excursions as well as tennis, windsurfing and swimming clinics. The Bernhard Langer-designed 18-hole championship golf course on Île aux Cerfs is a big draw card with views of the ocean at every hole. Îlot Mangenie offers 3.5km of beach that is exclusive to hotel guests so it’s definitely worth visiting. Step off the boat, and guys in powder-blue lace-up shirts with jaunty white caps and rolled up white trousers rush forward to clean sunglasses and spray flushed faces with cold water. The setting at Crusoe’s Restaurant and Robinson’s Bar (one of nine food-and-beverage setups at Le  Touessrok) is sublime. Perched beachside are cute, picnic-style wooden tables with thatch umbrellas, starched white linen napkins and the all-important ice bucket. Sugar Beach, on the  west coast, is home to weddings and equal measures of honeymooners and families. The architecture of the buildings is contemporary plantation style with a manor house and 16 villas housing rooms and suites. With more than 12ha of grounds people don’t feel crowded. In addition, guests have access to the facilities of neighbouring resort La Pirogue. Over a fortnight, 14 different cuisine themes are presented at the Mon Plaisir restaurant’s buffet so guests won’t get bored. Tides is an upmarket restaurant with a contemporary – mainly seafood – menu. Built later than the accommodation areas and in a more modern style of architecture, it’s also the chic go-to spot for socialising with live music and various shows. The kids and teens clubs offer activities for youngsters 12 hours a day.  Teenagers have their own lounge room with sport and recreational activities. Although there are two swimming pools, it’s the unbroken stretch of white sandy beach (more than half a kilometre), the absence of wind and year-round balmy coastal temperatures that pull people back with regularity. Ambre is the new kid on the block. It was revamped to the tune of €10 million (about R122 million) and relaunched late last year. Situated in the bay of Palmar on the east coast, it is mostly pitched at families. The main restaurant, Indigo, features a buffet of international fare. With 297 rooms comprising standard, superior and family units, it is surprising how spacious they are. Decor is clean, white walls and plain tiled floors with bold, solid blocks of colour on throws, cushions and art pieces. Other rooms have more muted pastels but still a sharp contrast in the space with the white walls and ceilings. Furniture is quirky with a modern-retro feel. The spa may be small (there is a hammam) but the therapists are excellent and are, much like the staff throughout Ambre, friendly and helpful. Kids and teenage clubs are central to the increasing popularity of this newcomer. The strech of sheltered beach – the resort has been opened out entirely to face the ocean – is an attraction. There’s also a great selection of water sports and access to Le Touessrok Golf Club, which is included in the packages. Such great resorts, pristine beaches, balmy weather and ample opportunities for relaxation mean Mauritius will remain a favourite with South Africans for years to come. This article was originally featured in the March 2013 issue of House and Leisure.