Mooring in Mauritius - Review
When a country runs at a winter temperature of 24°C you know that its hospitality is also going to be warm. In Mauritius, the hospitality fair sizzles whatever the season, as Sat Bal discovered.
Mark Twain got it right, as usual, when he alluded to the island as “colour mad: grey moss, green foliage, blue sky, the pearl of the dawn, the purple shadows on the mountain, the golden islands floating in crimson seas at sunset..”
What Mr Twain could not have imagined is the extraordinary advances in guest cosseting and luxury spearheaded by the exclusive hotels and villas in Mauritius. Red Carpet indulged at these 5-star palaces…
One&Only Le Saint Géran
“The UK remains our source market..” Jonathan Ami tells me - before we’re engulfed in a water wave from the adjacent pool where kids splash and dive with wild abandon. The family-friendly credentials of Le Saint Géran clearly proven, we merrily depart to a quieter (and drier) corner of the terrace.
Jonathan’s expounding the marketing plan behind Le Saint Géran and cites heavy advertising as one reason that Brits and Europeans have flocked here. Looking around, the lure is obvious. Le Saint Géran lies in its own private white-beach peninsula and its sheltered lagoon encourages complimentary water sports for all. Rich green gardens abound and the Gary Player 9-hole golf course is a big draw for guests as is the One&Only spa.
One&Only Le Saint Géran also has something else in its favour - an elusive ‘cool’ celebrated by high-end glossy media. Part of this emerges from the exclusivity of the One&Only brand which offers luxury resorts in locations such as Nassau (Ocean Club) and the Maldives (Reethi Rai). A big change this year saw One&Only founder Sol Kerzner sell his holding company to the Investment Corp. of Dubai. However, Jonathan Ami insists “One&Only will stay the same in essence and continue to maintain and develop luxury properties in exclusive locations. The change is simply in the status of ownership.”
Rooms at Le Saint Géran range from Junior Suites for couples and families to the Ocean Front Villa Residence which can occupy up to four adults and two children up to 12 years of age. This ‘classical island home’ looks out onto the Indian Ocean and offers every type of home comfort that guests need.
The Prime Contemporary Grill serves succulent beef, fresh seafood and organic produce. Do pay a visit to the Indian Kitchen on the jetty. Enhance fabulous Rasoi dining along the water's edge with views of the green mountains and the private lagoon.
Location Poste de Flacq - one hour from airport. Helicopter transfers available.
Gain The signature style that pervades the brand's boutique luxury ethic in a superb location
Lack Just one villa available- and it's in heavy demand! But plans are afoot to launch new villas.
The lagoon setting is superb but heavy rainfall can discolour the ocean front.
What’s Next? Look out for One&Only Montenegro expected next year and a China launch in 2016
The Residence Mauritius
If hospitality is about anticipating needs and desires then The Residence is master of its craft. Here, you experience that rare and imperceptible degree of goodwill which elevates efficient service to visceral warmth.
This is due, in great part, to the outlook of Pierrot Barbe, resident manager of the hotel. ‘Mr Barbe’ (as he is addressed by colleagues) started out as a waiter at Le Saint Géran, aged 18 and later left for The Residence. Over Citronella ginger tea in the sun-lit terrace, we reflect at how far he has come since then.
Like most intelligent minds that engage easily with complexity Mr Barbe shows no signs of the pressures associated with coordinating the energies of a vast staff. Instead his Zen-like serenity sets the mood. While the goal is to be the best the attitude is engagingly humble and, in many ways, personifies the success-humility conflation of Mauritius itself. Each time staff members pass our table their boss clasps his hands together, prayer-like, as acknowledgement pivots to recognition.
The dividend of the service ethic lies in the return visits that customers make each year. Rave guest reviews saw The Residence Mauritius and Zanzibar win top honours on TripAdvisor this year and, by any measure The Residence continues to be a firm favourite. But the competition is stiff and the pan-European market and Asia-Pacific have made their effects felt. “We had a lot of Europeans visit and Spain was our second biggest market,” says Pierrot Barbe. “But guest numbers from Spain and Italy dwindled when the financial crisis took hold in quarter four of 2008 and we realised that we were relying on Europe too much. Things changed in 2009 when we saw an increase in bookings from the emerging markets such as Asia and Brazil.”
It’s easy to see why they come. The Residence is blessed by a topography that sports a superb powdery white beach which curves into the horizon; one of the best on the east coast. It’s also shielded from the sharper winds that can afflict the island in winter.
The Sanctuary spa relaxation space
Inside, the hotel takes its design cue from turn-of-the-century colonial mansions, giving it a timeless feel. There’s a deep sense that The Residence is quite assured of itself and doesn’t need to succumb to the design fads and refurbs that regularly appear on other hotels’ ‘to-do’ lists. Regular customers like it this way.
The Residence pioneered butler service and was also the first hotel on the island to offer a spa. Massages at its Sanctuary spa really did induce an otherworldy relaxation and, best of all, these can be take in a spa pavilion in the centre of a tropical garden overlooking the lagoon, in the sea breeze. Autumn sees the launch of seven new spa treatments inspired by stones ranging from Amethyst to Jasper.
Back in your suite, private butlers attend to just about everything from unpacking bags to preparing baths strewn with rose petals. Accommodation ranges from Colonial Garden View Rooms to the majestic Colonial Ocean Front suites where you wake in a king-size four-poster to the view of the beach and ocean.
The Dining Room offers a range of international-themed fare indoors while the ocean front Plantation restaurant is just the place to experience oyster ceviche with the sea lapping ahead.
Location Coastal Road, Belle Mare - just over an hour from airport.
Gain High value compared to rates at other luxury 5-stars
Lack No villas offered. For villas fly over to The Residence Zanzibar!
Newest property The Residence Bintan has been constructed and The Residence Tunis recently opened and offers boutique hotel style two and a half hours away flying from London.
‘Shanti’ means peace in Punjabi. This sentiment runs deep at Shanti Maurice where tranquil seclusion introduces you…to you.
Our twilight arrival was accompanied by the bursts of heavy rain that characterise south Mauritius during winter, ie. our summer. It didn’t help that our (otherwise) diligent driver overshot the resort and was forced to execute a hasty U-turn.
Perhaps we shouldn’t judge the driver; Shanti Maurice gives the sense of stumbling upon a tropical country club that doesn’t particularly want to be found. But elusive soon becomes exclusive when its gates swing open to reveal striking acreage where Mango and Leitchi trees co-habit with vast lawns and an indigenous forest.
With ‘shanti’ comes privacy. This is reinforced by the relatively low number (61) of suites and villas offered. They range from the spacious ocean-facing Junior Suites to the luxurious Shanti Villa at 800sq m of interior. Villas come with private pools and gardens, assuring space from neighbours.
Villa living- Shanti-style
There’s a reason that the resort’s famous Nira Spa collected so many awards; treatments and massages are taken to an educationally seriously level here. Enter spa director Barbara Loy who heads this college of well-being. Clearly passionate about her subject she enthuses us about the properties and possibilities of the humble massage oil before we undergo the aromatherapy session. Our tip? Go for the ‘Energy’ oil; a bracing blend of rosemary, black pepper and lemon extracts. The massage seemed to go on for over a blissful hour before I emerged, infused with Energy oil and a newfound zeal. The eclectic spa menu brings together the talents of spa therapists, nutritionists, Yoga masters and Ayurvedic physicians for the ultimate ‘me’ time.
Executive chef Willibald Reinbacher leads the able team at Stars restaurant but we were lured by the resort’s new dining initiative: La Kaze Mama, an offshoot of the popular Grandma's Kitchen concept. As night fell our resident Grandma cooked fish, chappatis and succulent Mauritian lamb curry that we feasted on in the open air garden. Not to be missed!
The Rum Shed is a timber shack-style bar in the vein of the island’s traditional rum sheds. Settle down in a chair made from bike rims; sawdust without the spit. Unwind here surrounded by over 180 types of rum.
Location Chemin Grenier approx 40 minutes from airport. Helicopter transfers available.
Gain The almost scientific approach to helping you switching off
Lack Possibly too secluded for some. South Mauritius weather can be more temperamental during its winter
September 26 saw the relaunch of the spa led by the concept ‘A Journey Around the World Through Wellbeing.’ This features three themed immersion stations: The Oriental Zone, The Indian Zone and the Natural-Bio Zone.
Constance Belle Mare Plage Part of the Unique Resorts Collection the Belle Mare Plage is located in Poste de Flacq. It boasts a fantastic collection of villas culminating in the grand two-storey Presidential Villa set on the beach with its own private garden. Features seven restaurants including the wonderful La Spiaggia
Four Seasons Resort Mauritius Located at Anahita it's a big lure for seasoned Four Seasoners and new guests wishing to indulge in the global brand, Mauritius-style.
Getting there Direct flights from British Airways and Air Mauritius. It's a 12-hr flight so relax with a lounge. We tried two! BA's Terraces & First lounges at Gatwick create the right holiday mood. Or try the spacious well-appointed No.1 Lounge with fast-track security lane access irrespective of airline/class of travel www.no1traveller.com
Booking A lot of great things being said about specialist Mauritius Direct from its great rates to its seamless service. www.mauritiusholidaysdirect.co.uk
No need to pack travel plugs since the British three-pin is standard.
Travel in February for summer sizzling and July for a still warm experience.