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Travel: Creole Cooking, Diving & Dancing with the Locals in Mauritius

There’s more to Mauritius than white beaches and postcard perfect coastlines… If it’s action, adventure and unforgettable experiences you’re after, you can have that too

According to data from TripAdvisor, 67% more travellers chose to book an outdoor activity in 2018 than in 2017. Cooking classes and immersive activities in subjects also rose by 61%, and 59% more travellers look for cultural excursions.

And it’s not all about jetting off with only a backpack and ‘discovering yourself’. Even the luxury travel market, which used to be as simple as five star hotels and fine dining, has evolved into something more experiential.

But can you really have the best of both worlds? The relaxing resort break and the chance to experience something new?

You'd be forgiven for expecting nothing more than white beaches and blue seas from Mauritius, but its diverse landscape offers endless opportunities for adventure

You’d be forgiven for expecting nothing more than white beaches and blue seas from Mauritius, but its diverse landscape offers endless opportunities for adventure

Brands such as Beachcomber know what the modern traveller wants and will go out of their way to provide it. If you don’t come away from a visit to a Beachcomber resort in Mauritius feeling as though you have discovered something new, I’d be very surprised.

With properties on both the north and south side of Mauritius, you’re already off to a great start. Having visited both, I was struck by how different each side is. We arrived first to Victoria Beachcomber, situated on the protected north west coast of the island, and around a one-hour drive from the airport. The resort has both large family rooms and exclusive adults-only areas.

‘It’s no surprise that the diving here is so sought after, and I’d highly recommend it – there’s a good chance you’ll be joined by dolphins and turtles’

This side of the island, with the focal point being its calm white beaches and clear water, was exactly what I had in mind for Mauritius. It’s no surprise that the diving here is so sought after, and I’d highly recommend it. This was my first experience of learning to dive and it’s beautiful under there, with a good chance you’ll be joined by dolphins and turtles. But it was the enthusiastic, inspiring staff who made this experience what it was.

Family focus is a central element to the rise of experiential travel. Of course, family travel has always been popular, but idyllic Instagram posts have led to the rise of the #FamilySabbatical, where travellers seek to immerse their children in authentic life experiences too (check out @thebucketlistfamily).

Victoria Beachcomber is one of the more popular family resorts and it’s not hard to see why. There are extensive sports and activities set aside for children, and their Beautiful Neighbours concept encourages kids to meet youngsters of similar ages from the local neighbourhood.

One of our group joined in an ‘everyone welcome’ volleyball game on the beach for what he thought would be 10 minutes or so, but ended up playing for a good few hours alongside people of all different nationalities. The experience couldn’t sum up the atmosphere at Victoria Beachcomber more – it’s luxury, sure, but certainly not overly exclusive or stuffy.

‘Stop at the Grand Bassin, a beautiful sacred crater lake, located in the mountainous district of Savanne. The shoreline is dotted with shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva and monkeys hop around your feet’

But peel yourself away from the sandy shores of the resort, and you can take a tour of the island with Mautourco to discover what it’s all about. We stopped at the Grand Bassin, a beautiful sacred crater lake, located in the mountainous district of Savanne. The shoreline is dotted with shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva and monkeys hop around your feet.

From here we visited the incredible view over Plaine Champagne Indigenous Forests and the Black River Gorges, which haven’t been set foot in for over 25 years. Finally, we took a trip to the Chamarel Coloured Earths, a natural phenomenon of seven coloured types of sand created by the different geological reactions of lava to clay minerals. Other tour options range from adventure trails to craft experiences and zip-lining.

Our second stop for the trip was the incredibly beautiful five-star Dinarobin Beachcomber resort on the south west in Le Morne. The last part of the drive to the south is stunningly lush and diverse (although, take note, the winding roads are a little tough for those with travel sickness).

Once settled on the beach, I took in the impressive sight of Le Morne Cultural Landscape, a rugged mountain that stands guard over the hotel and juts into the Indian Ocean. Used as a shelter by runaway slaves through the 18th century, who formed small settlements in the caves, it is now a UNESCO heritage site and a symbol of the slaves fight for freedom. In fact, Mauritius, which was an important stopover in the eastern slave trade, came to be known as the Maroon Republic because of the number of escaped slaves who lived on Le Morne.

The Dinarobin Beachcomber resort is another level. The suites are set in rustic beach houses facing the sea and the tropical gardens are beautiful. But for more of a beach-club vibe, the new villas at Paradis Beachcomber – the sister property and golf resort next to Dinarobin – are exquisite.

‘Le Morne Cultural Landscape, a rugged mountain that stands guard over the hotel and juts into the Indian Ocean, was used as a shelter by runaway slaves through the 18th century and is now a UNESCO heritage site’

What stood out for me though, perhaps because I’m a surfer, was the abundance of sporting activities on offer. While most resorts charge through the roof for motorised watersports, most of them are included in your stay at Beachcomber, so you can wakeboard, waterski or windsurf till your heart’s content.

Beachcomber’s food offerings are extensive and authentic. The Creole restaurant at La Ravanne on Paradis was my favourite, with dishes such as wild boar civet served traditionally. You can even start the evening with a short boat ride in a traditional pirogue – a kind of native canoe – welcomed onto the jetty by the sound of the traditional sega beat.

Our final evening on Mauritius was spent dancing away to two local musicians at La Ravanne, where we had learned about the local cuisine and customs, and it couldn’t have been more apt.

The Mauritians are enthusiastic, infectiously friendly and eager to welcome you into their culture. From the untouched and wild east coast to the sugar cane plantations and rich art movement on the island, it’s well worth exploring.

As Mark Twain wrote in his travel book Following the Equator – A Journey Around the World: ‘Mauritius was made first and then heaven; and heaven was copied after Mauritius.’ Well, I’m inclined to agree.

TRIP NOTES

A seven night stay full board in a Junior Suite at Dinarobin Beachcomber Golf Resort & Spa, for two adults starts from £1,795 per person. Price includes return economy flights with Air Mauritius, various complimentary land and water sports, and private transfers in Mauritius. Departs 13 September, price subject to availability.

Seven nights all-inclusive in a Superior First Floor Room at Victoria Beachcomber Resort & Spa, for two adults starts from £1,845 per person. Price includes return economy flights with Air Mauritius, various complimentary land and water sports, and airport transfers in Mauritius. Departs 6 December, price subject to availability.

Air Mauritius have brand new A330 aircrafts that fly three times a week direct from London Heathrow to Mauritius.

Call Beachcomber Tours on 01483 445 610 or see beachcombertours.uk



 

 

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