Mauritius – The land of Sugar Cane
Our trip was courtesy of Air Mauritius and the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority
Mauritius is a small island nation in the Indian Ocean. It is 65kms long and 43kms wide with a coastline of 323km – most of which is coral reef. The population is approximately 1.3m made up of a mixture of people namely Indian, Chinese and Madagascan. The food is diverse owing to the different cultures and religion is mainly Hindu, Catholic, Islam and Buddhism. The official administration language is English and local creole, which is derived from a mixture of Mozambique, French, Indian and Madagascan.
The country’s main sources of revenue are tourism, agriculture, financial investment and sugar cane products. Sugar cane plantations take up 40% of the farm land while tea and fruit fields take up the rest. Rain is the country’s main source of water – it is harvested, filtered and distributed.
Unlike many other countries around the world, approximately 90% of the population own their homes. Mortgage rates are very reasonable ranging from 4 – 11% depending on one’s individual capability / income and there is therefore no extreme poverty in Mauritius. Primary and secondary education is provided free of charge as well as medical services. Public transportation is free of charge for students and the elderly.
Port Louis is the business and administrative capital city and is well known for its diversity of ethnic people all living in acceptance and tolerance of each other. It bears a lot of French influence going back to the days of French colonization.
Tuesday 26th November 2013
We departed on Air Mauritius’s non-smoking flight to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport. The 03hrs 40mins flight was very comfortable with pleasant service on board.
We received a warm welcome from Solis Indian Ocean Ltd – our hosts on ground for the next three days – and were transferred to our hotel – Heritage Le Telfair – 50 minutes’ drive away.
Wednesday 27th November
Heritage Le Telfair is a 5* Deluxe Hotel with a colonial concept opened in December 2004. It is a member of the Heritage Resorts in Mauritius and is located in the south west region of Bel Ombre. There are a 158 rooms divided into 04 categories – deluxe rooms (which consist of river view, ocean view and beach front), junior suites, senior suites and ocean suites.
The hotel has two swimming pools – 01 heated and 01 with normal temperature – 03 restaurants serving different cuisines and free WI FI connection in public areas. There is a spa – Seven Colours – using a product brand inspired by the nature and culture of Mauritius and offering various beauty and therapy treatments.
We visited two other properties belonging to the Heritage Resorts group of hotels:
– The Heritage Villas – a 5* deluxe property comprising of 130 fully furnished and fitted 03 and 04 bedroomed villas. Each villa has 02 garages for personal vehicles, 01 electric buggy for ease of transportation, a private pool, gazebo, bar and BBQ area. Villas are booked on bed and breakfast and are inclusive of a daily cleaning service. They also have a butler service available at an extra cost. Villa guests have access to all the hotels facilities offered by Le Telfair.
– Heritage Awali – a 5* property and opened at the same time as Le Telfair – December 2004 – and located right next to it. The hotel has 160 rooms divided into 03 categories – deluxe rooms – comprising of pool view, garden view, ocean view and ocean front, beach front suites each fitted with a mini bar and a Jacuzzi and villas – with a private gazebo, kitchenette and butler services.
There are 03 swimming pools and 04 restaurants serving a variety of cuisines. The hotel also caters for the physically challenged and has a kiddies club with a wide range of activities – children from Le Telfair are welcome to use the club. They have a BOMA, where one can enjoy bonfires, nyama choma and dancing all at a supplement.
They also have a spa – Seven Colours – with the same concept as Le Telfair i.e. using a product brand inspired by the nature and culture of Mauritius and offering various beauty and therapy treatments. In addition, they have a sports centre providing table tennis, lawn tennis and various other sport activities.
We had lunch at the C Beach Club whose colour scheme is turquoise and white and based on the letter C and the Sea. The club is mainly used for relaxation, swimming and meals and is open for lunch and dinner with two disco nights in a week – Friday and Saturday. They also offer family brunches on weekends.
In the afternoon, we visited Le Souffleur where the view of the sea is breath taking from the high cliff. Created by the force of volcanoes and the power of sea waves – the sea has a very strong current. It is natural, rough and dangerous! There is no swimming or venturing to the sea on this part of the island and there are also no hotels due to the rocky ground.
We then visited Gris Gris – another breath taking view of the ocean with a rock shaped as a praying nun and lying between the cliffs and the barrier reef. Most of Mauritius is protected from the stormy Indian Ocean by a barrier reef. The Gris Gris area is the only place where the barrier reef is absent and the power of the ocean can reach the shore. There is a large open space from where you can see the ocean and walk down to a non-swimming beach to feel the spray from the surf.
And finally Ilot Sancho – a coral island said to have been a treasure hide away for pirates in days gone by.
Thursday 28th November
We left Le Telfair at 1030h and headed south west via the mountains – a very scenic drive. The mountains are very popular for deer hunting for both locals and tourists. The season begins in June and ends in December and is under government control. One requires a permit which can be renewed on a yearly basis.
We drove via the bamboo plantation – used to make traditional brooms – and continued to the rum factory in Chamarel – Rhumerie Chamarel. The area of Charmarel is well known for sugar cane and coffee growing – both Arabica and Robust – exporting about 11 tonnes of coffee annually.
The Rum factory was opened as a diversification from sugar export to rum export and the rum is made from red and white sugar cane. We enjoyed the history, tasting of the different types of rum and lunch in the restaurant.
After lunch, we continued to Port Louis arriving at Veranda Paul and Virginie Hotel for a site visit. This is a 3* property and sister to Heritage Le Telfair. The hotel has 81 rooms divided into 03 categories – comfort, superior and privilege. The clientele is mainly couples and honeymooners.
They do weddings and have a gazebo used for private dinning for those who may wish to enjoy this. They also have an ala carte restaurant by the sea with theme nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays – advance booking is required. In addition to the amenities available, they have a spa offering various body treatments.
Thereafter we left for Zilwa Attitude, a brand new hotel opened in October 2013. It is a 4* property whose name means ‘The Islander’ and therefore the theme of the hotel – promoting life on the island.
There are 214 rooms all sea facing and divided into 03 categories – superior, family deluxe and couples. There are 05 restaurants to choose from all serving different cuisines and 05 swimming pools – 04 for adults and 01 for children. They have a kiddies club for children aged between 03 and 12 years offering a variety of activities, a gym, a sports centre, a dive centre and a spa.
They do weddings and have two designated islands for this as well as for other activities like couples massage and kiddie’s treasure hunt. We enjoyed dinner at the Indonesian Restaurant.
Friday 29th November
After breakfast we had a presentation from White Sand Tours – our hosts on ground for the next two days – giving us details of their services and available activities on the island.
We then departed for a lunch appointment with Mr Neel Ram, the guest relations officer of the Mauritius Tourism Promotions Authority (MTPA). Thereafter we visited the local market and the water front before departing for Paradise Cove.
Paradise Cove is a 5* hotel with 67 rooms in 04 categories – all sea facing – deluxe, deluxe premium, club junior suites and club senior suites. There are 04 restaurants offering a variety of cuisines, a gym, 02 swimming pools, 02 tennis courts, a spa – with its own private swimming pool for couples though one at a time with prior reservation and offering a variety of body treatments.
Saturday 30th November
After a sumptuous breakfast, we departed for a site visit of Grand Bay self-catering apartments. These comprise of 25 one bedroomed units each able to comfortably accommodate 02 adults and 02 children under 12 years, or 03 adults. Each unit has a fully equipped kitchen, an iron, a safety deposit box and an umbrella with daily cleaning and laundry service provided free of charge. Baby cots are also available on request. WIFI is provided free of charge and the apartments are located close to a shopping area for ease of grocery shopping and restaurants. The apartments are 300 meters away from the beach and can be booked for both long and short stays.
We then drove to Le Canonnier – a member of the Beachcomber properties – for a site visit of this hotel. Le Canonnier is a 4* property with 284 rooms in 05 categories – family apartments, superior sea facing rooms, standard garden rooms, duplex rooms and suites. It is a very family oriented hotel and has 03 restaurants serving various cuisines. There are various sports activities available – both land and water – a spa offering various body treatments, 02 swimming pools, a kiddies club and a very unique feature of a baby room which has a microwave and a fridge containing biscuits, milk, yogurt and fruits. There is free WIFI available in the public areas lobby and bar.
We the then visited Tarisa Resort and Spa, a 3* property with 75 rooms in 03 categories – superior, family and suites. The hotel has a theatre for evening entertainment with various theme nights, 02 restaurants, a spa, a gym and a secured WIFI connection. They have 3km of private beach accessed by a private road.
A visit of the Sugar Museum followed. This Museum was a sugar factory in the early days and became a Museum in 2002. The visit was conducted in three parts:
– The history of sugar cane
– The manufacturing of sugar
– Bio diversity
We enjoyed lunch at the restaurant before proceeding to Le Victoria Resort – another member of the Beachcomber group of hotels and our home for the night.
Sunday 01st December
We departed from the hotel at 0835h to enjoy a full day of relaxation and fun on the Catamaran Tour. Transportation was in a 13 seater mini bus with a professional English speaking driver-guide from Emotions – our hosts on ground for the next two days.
The Catamaran Tour is a cruise trip on the ocean with beautiful scenery all around, to a designated island which has a swimmable beach and where one is able to snorkel and explore the marine life. Lunch and drinks are served on board and the crew do their best to ensure that everyone is comfortable and happy.
We returned to the hotel late in the afternoon and did a site inspection tour. Le Victoria is a 4* property with 254 rooms in 06 categories – family units, superior, deluxe, junior suites, senior suites and one executive suite. Some of the superior rooms have inter-connecting doors and can be sold to families or groups of friends traveling together.
They have 03 restaurants serving different cuisines, a swimming pool with a children’s pool in it, a conference room seating 200 pax theatre style, a spa with 05 treatment rooms and a gym.
Baby-sitting services are also available at an additional charge.
Monday 02nd December
After breakfast, we left the hotel for a visit of Casela Nature and Leisure Park – home to various animals and a variety of birdlife. We also enjoyed the opportunity of interacting with the rare white lion. After lunch at the restaurant, we left for more site inspections.
We visited Pearle Beach Resort and Spa, a 4* property with 76 rooms all of one category. The hotel has one swimming pool with a children’s pool within it, one bar, one restaurant with different theme nights, a boat house offering various water activities, a gym and a spa.
The do weddings which can either be on the beach or in the gardens, they have in house entertainment every night with different theme nights and also have two conference rooms – one accommodating up to 20 pax and the other up to 200 pax.
We then visited Sugar Beach, a 5* property opened in 1996. It has 258 rooms built on 14 acres with about 500 meters of beach. It has 3 restaurants all offering different cuisines and 02 swimming pools, the main one with a children’s pool within it and a smaller private one for adults only.
They hotel was built in a colonial style and has 03 categories of rooms – standard, superior and suites both sea facing and garden view. There are also rooms for the physically challenged. It is very popular for weddings and has a sports centre, a boat house offering motorised and non-motorised water sports, a gym, a kiddies club with a wide range activities including their own swimming pool, a spa with 10 treatment rooms including the best steam room in the whole of Mauritius and a conference room that can take up to 250 pax.
We later checked in to the Hilton Hotel – a very beautiful 5* property.
The Hilton has 193 rooms in 2 categories – standard and suites all built in a crescent style to maximize sea viewing. They have 04 restaurants offering various cuisines, 03 swimming pools – 02 for adults and 01 for children – a gym, a boat house for various water activities, 03 tennis courts , a well-equipped kiddies club and a spa with 08 treatment rooms offering various body treatments.
We enjoyed a BBQ dinner by the beach before retiring to bed.
Tuesday 03rd December
After a very early breakfast – for those who could manage – we left the hotel at 0545h for an hour’s drive to the airport, for our Air Mauritius flight back to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport Nairobi.