James Clark heads for Mauritius in the Indian Ocean to learn how to kitesurf, and samples some local rum along the way…
Lead image: Raul_Mellad / iStock / Getty Images Plus
I laughed to myself as I boarded the Air Mauritius flight from London Heathrow to Mauritius – it was only 15 months since my last visit to the Island, and it rained most of the time, but I managed to have a great time dancing the night away on local concoctions of rum.
This would be a very different (and sunnier, I’d hoped) experience, because I was off kitesurfing. Me and my fellow kitesurfing wannabes arrived at Mauritius International early in the morning and my first encounter wasn’t quite as expected…
The immigration officer was giving me the hard stare for returning so soon – this was not the laid-back island experience I remembered – but when I explained that I was here to learn to kitesurf, he gave me a great big smile and told me about some of the island hotspots for the adrenaline-based sport.
Once officially on Mauritian soil, we were met by a driver from destination management company Coquille Bonheur, which offers transfers, tours, accommodation and more, and headed to the Preskil Island Resort, just 15 minutes from the airport.
We were welcomed enthusiastically and had breakfast in the Rendez-Vous restaurant while check-in was getting sorted for us, and made our plans for the day ahead.
‘Our first day was spent walking along the beach – Insta-selfies by the dozen. As evening drew in we drank cocktails by the firepit’
At first glance, the Preskil Island Resort seemed huge. Challenging, I thought, for someone like me with no sense of direction. I vowed not to wander its snaking paths alone, and instead found my beach-facing room every night by walking along the sand.
Our first day was spent walking along the beach – Insta-selfies by the dozen – and as evening drew in we drank cocktails by the firepit before dinner at Mosaic, the Mediterranean restaurant. A perfect introduction to Preskil. The following morning was spent paddle boarding, jet skiing and snorkelling around the reef as the sound of laughter filled the air.
E-biking up and down luscious green hills was the perfect way to spend the afternoon, but we did manage to squeeze in a couple of cultural activities too, visiting the Rault family biscuit factory and Mahebourg museum.
Once back at the resort we hurried to the jetty for a sundown cruise. Alas the clouds moved in, so we didn’t get to see the dramatic colours of the sun sinking into the sea, but the guides were great fun, full of knowledge about the area – and excellent providers of rum.
‘A top tip is to let go of the kite when it feels like you’re losing control, although your instinct is to hold on to it for dear life!’
After a good night’s sleep, it was time to meet Jerome Bonieux and Dominique Fayd’herbe from Specialised Kitesurfing. Jerome bundled us on to a giant speed boat and took us to the Pointe d’Esny beach and lagoon, just 10 minutes from Preskil.
We spent the morning learning about safety, kit and how to handle the kite. A top tip is to let go of the kite when it feels like you’re losing control, although your instinct is to hold on to it for dear life! Holding the bar gently makes it easier to keep control of the kite. Grab it hard and the kite crashes into the ocean.
After lunch we returned to meet our new friends at Specialised Kitesurfing and headed out to sea to practice our newly learned skills. Dominique wouldn’t let us go it alone until we were ready and had the patience of a saint. Before the afternoon was over, we were kiteboarding novices no more.
Of course, all this talk of water is no good for kiting if there isn’t any wind. Mauritius is a seasonal destination for winds, with the trade winds blowing from May through to November. In the Mauritian “winter” you can expect constant breezes of around 20 knots most days. Incidentally, this is the perfect wind strength for both learning and improving your kitesurfing.
Mauritius is a great place to learn to kitesurf, with huge expanses of shallow water so that you can put your feet down while you’re not so confident. An expansive barrier reef around pretty much the whole of the island creates flat water lagoons where beginners can get to grips with their equipment without being knocked about by waves. For those who know what they’re doing, those same reefs can also break awesome waves.
On our final day at Preskil Island Resort, we were free to do pretty much liked. Some of the group returned to kiteboarding, while others went shopping in Mahebourg.
A select few of us opted to relax in the bar sampling the local rum which, in my book, is never a bad idea…
A 7-night holiday at Preskil Island Resort on a half-board basis, with flights from London and airport transfers, costs from £1,395pp (prices correct as of autumn 2019).
Kitesurfing lessons with Specialised Kiteboarding cost £100pp for a two-hour discovery lesson, £145pp for a two-hour board work lesson, and £140pp for a two-hour additional board work lesson. (2hrs)
If you’re not into planning, Planet Kitesurf Holidays will organise your flights, hotel and kitesurfing for you