Travel – Mindful in Mauritius

2013-05-25 10:00

While boarding the plane at OR Tambo International Airport to soak up the sun, sea and sand of an Indian Ocean island, one’s mind is inevitably taken hostage by one word: Paradise.

Why wouldn’t it? If you think that the Mediterranean Sea once evaporated completely more than 5 million years ago, we pretty much hit the jackpot as the 21st-century custodians of our fragile 4.5 billion-year-old pale blue dot.

So after landing at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport at Plaine Magnien, I was determined to soak up the sights, sounds and scents of a truly colourful island nation just east of Madagascar.

“It’s a small island after all, hey,” a friend I hadn’t seen in years quipped the next day after trying to run me down in the parking lot of a shopping mall in the bustling seaside village of Grand Baie.

I don’t usually recommend running into fellow South Africans while on a foreign trip, but clearly there are exceptions.

I feel the same way about my trip to Mauritius. I don’t usually recommend “a cheap holiday in other people’s misery”, as the controversial Johnny Rotten opined in the opening line to Holiday In The Sun, but clearly there are exceptions, not to mention surprises.

First surprise? According to the World Bank, Mauritius, with a population of 1.3 million, is classified as an upper middle-income nation.

In fact, it’s considered an economic success story. Surely that’s not holiday making “in other people’s misery”? And that’s the second surprise about Mauritius. It’s more than just holiday making; it’s a state of mind.

The waves either crash against the shore, or they caress it. It’s all up to you.

I’m travelling with a few media types and a representative from Club Méditerranée, commonly known as Club Med. We’re in Grand Baie for the day to assault our senses and squander a few Mauritian rupees.

Most of mine were used up later that day at the mesmerising Central Market not far from the Le Caudan Waterfront in the capital city of Port Louis.

We’re staying 10 minutes away at Club Med’s La Plantation d’Albion, a luxury resort tailor-made for couples and families, and situated about 6km from the historic town of Albion.

If Mauritius is an island, the 21 hectare La Plantation d’Albion is an island within an island. Launched in 2008, this five-trident (that’s five-star in Club Med-speak) tourist haven is one of the French corporation’s two luxury resorts on the island.

The other is the four-trident La Pointe aux Canonniers, which is 5km from Grand Baie. Redesigned in 2007, it is located in the heart of a 19 hectare tropical garden and boasts mind-blowing vistas, charming colonial-style bungalows, two beaches and succulent green lawns peppered with hibiscus shrubs.

When we visited La Pointe to gorge on the buffet lunches – a smorgasbord of Asian, European and fusion cuisine – I was taken aback by the genuinely friendly staff. One of them even politely asked to join our table for lunch, where we sat comfortably shooting the breeze. Coming from a socially dismissive Johannesburg, even the cynic in me was touched.

I felt the same way during our sunset catamaran trip at the end of the day, where the skipper treated us to a dazzling display of hospitality.

After a fish braai on the meditative seas, it was back to La Plantation d’Albion. Strategically located on one of the last remote creeks on the island, La Plantation d’Albion percolates supreme luxury and sweet serenity.

The French influence is everywhere, from the main languages spoken – Mauritian Creole and French – to the names of the chalets and the villas.

But the visual style of the resort is uniquely Mauritian. It’s all thanks to the décor and design of Marc Hertrich and Nicolas Adnet, who were obviously inspired by the cultural melting pot – India, Africa and Asia – that is Mauritius.

You can tell by their inventive use of the two primary Creole signatures of turquoise and crimson pink throughout the chalets and villas.

If you’re a financial success story, I highly recommend investing in one of the private villas. Each villa comes with a lush garden and swimming pool, an extravagant entertainment area, spacious interiors and a dedicated butler.

My room at one of the perfectly agreeable chalets was immaculate – from the colossal bed to the free Wi-Fi to the crispy-white clawfoot tub.

Environmentally friendly efforts, such as the water recycling programme and an electricity-saving mind-set, go without saying. The turquoise and emerald beach, accessible via a little footbridge over the Belle Eau River, is a stone’s throw away.

So is the main bar, restaurant and infinity pool, where the food and drinks are free, and the night-time beach parties a true revelation.

So is the food. The dining is decadent at either of the two restaurants.

La Distillerie is for family fun and Le Phare will bowl you over with its striking architecture, zen state of mind and fine dining.

It’s hands down my favourite spot on the resort, mainly because there’s not a rug rat in sight (Mini Club Med will baby-sit for you) and one never has to entertain the sordid topic of coin or gesture for a bill during your entire stay.

I don’t know how Club Med has managed to successfully reinvent itself over the years – and it will be interesting to see how it does so in light of the growing number of “modern families” – but the poise and brio of its staff, the laid-back, mellow vibe at the resorts and the infectious camaraderie among holiday makers are bound to keep the 50-year-old brand a success story.

What I do know, however, is that the six-hour flight to Mauritius literally flew fly, but the three-hour return flight to Johannesburg felt like forever. Someone has got to invent one word to describe that curious anomaly.

» Krash King was a guest of Club Med

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» Getting there

SAA and Air Mauritius operate daily flights to and from Mauritius.

Before you land, flight attendants will hand out forms needed by the immigration service. To save time at the immigration desk, make sure to fill out your forms on the plane.

You will land at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport at Plaine Magnien. Remember to set your watch two hours ahead of South African time on your arrival.

It’s about a 45-minute drive from the airport to the La Plantation d’Albion resort.

» What to bring

Your passport. South African passport holders enjoy visa exemptions for certain countries. Mauritius is one such country. However, make sure your passport is valid for six months after your date of departure.

Crates of sun block

Mauritian rupees

A UK plug adapter

Camera and video camera


Resort wear apparel

Comfortable shoes

» What to do

The Cinq Mondes spa experience

Golf Academy

Sailing Academy

Tennis Academy

Scuba Diving Academy

Mini Club Med will baby-sit and keep your kids entertained

Flying trapeze lessons


Archery lessons

Club Med Gym


Big game fishing

Sunset catamaran trips

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