Sunday 11 December 2016

Mauritius: Heaven is breakfast at sea off paradise island

Lapped by the Indian Ocean, the island of Mauritius is romantic, magical, and where Andrea Smith had one of the most heart-warming experiences of her life

Published 04/10/2011 | 05:00

Andrea Smith
catches up with Big Daddy,
Andrea Smith catches up with Big Daddy,

Lapped by the Indian Ocean, the island of Mauritius is romantic, magical, and where Andrea Smith had one of the most heart-warming experiences of her life

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They say you should try everything once in life, and for me, having breakfast in the sea was definitely a first! Thankfully this was no chilly dip in the Forty Foot -- I was on the tiny tropical island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, and our table and chairs had been set up under a canopy in the warm, aquamarine water. The water came to about mid-calf level and it was certainly a novel experience to dine in the sea, while fully dressed! Things took a comic turn when the water levels began to rise towards the end of the meal, and we found ourselves sitting with soggy bottoms, which added to the general merriment. When I returned home, I regaled everyone with tales of my toast floating off on the crest of a wave. I may or may not have been exaggerating on that front!

Even from the perspective of this old spinster, visiting Mauritius was one of the most romantic, magical and heart-warming experiences I've ever had. It's got constant sunshine, blindingly white sands, crystal-clear green waters and gorgeous people. The place has healing qualities.

We flew by Air Mauritius and stayed at two amazing resorts while we were there. The first, Beau Rivage, is a five-star Naiade resort, and it offers everything from water sports, golf, diving and a range of family activities.

After that, it was a choice between lying on the beach or participating in one of the many recreational activities the resort has to offer. The news that the weather was diabolical back home immeasurably enhanced my sunbathing pleasure, and I idly cast my eye over a game of beach volleyball while some of my more adventurous pals went off to play tennis.

That evening, we followed the prettiest candlelit trail along the beach to sample some local cocktails, prior to dining al fresco again in the moonlight. Funny how everything tastes so much better outdoors on a balmy tropical evening.

There are also six restaurants and bars at the resort, and accommodation is offered on a half-board to an all-inclusive basis. The staff do everything they can to make your experience special. You would often see couples enjoying a candlelit dinner by themselves on the beach, but the resort also caters for families and children. With the vast range of activities it offers, you would be hard-pressed to find yourself at a loose end, but it is also the perfect place to unwind and do nothing.

We took a day-trip to Port Louis, the capital of the 42- mile long and 46-mile wide island, where some of us enjoyed the markets and the shopping. Others took in a few of the historical sights. One of these was the Unesco heritage site of Aapravasi Ghat, the first site chosen by the British government in 1834 for the "great experiment" in the use of indentured, rather than slave labour.

Port Louis is busy and bustling, and if the peace and tranquility of the holiday resorts become too much for you, a trip to the capital provides a nice contrast. We then transferred to our second destination, the stunning five-star, all-inclusive Beachcomber resort of Shandrani. It is paradise on earth and has loads of lovely touches that make it a most luxurious experience, from the little van that drives around the beach at regular intervals, dispensing drinks, fruit and salads -- at no extra charge as board is all-inclusive -- to the buggies that are permanently available to drive you to wherever you want to go in the resort. And its beautiful spa is to die for!

We dined alfresco on the beach one night, while a trio of in-house musicians serenaded us in the background, and on another evening we sampled the delights of the gorgeous Thai restaurant, the Teak Elephant, which opens out onto the golf course. There are five restaurants and two bars at the resort, all of which were fantastic, and you can enjoy every kind of sports and relaxation activity.

Some of our group went on a cycling trip, which I eschewed in favour of lounging on the golden sands. When they came back perspiring and exhausted, I knew I had made the right decision.

While some people don't like the idea of all-inclusive deals, you would never get bored eating at Shandrani, as there is every type of cuisine available from Italian to Mediterranean. We took a trip out into the ocean, where we all went snorkelling. Not having done it before, I half-drowned before I got the hang of it, although I was never in any danger as we were under the watchful eyes of our supervisors. Once I stopped panicking and followed the instructions properly, it was a great experience. From the gorgeous coral reef beneath, to the shoals of tiny multi-coloured tropical fish, it was simply breathtaking to experience the magic of life under the ocean. Highly recommended, and swimming in the clear, bright green ocean dispels any real-life worries you might be harbouring.

On another occasion we took the hotel's speedboat off to a tiny island near to Shandrani, which is populated by giant tortoises. We were very impressed by these enormous, gentle creatures, including 80-year-old Big Daddy, the biggest of them all. It was fascinating to see them ambling around the island, and we also cooed over the babies, who live at the Tortoise Nursery to protect them from predators until they are five years old. We had a picnic on the beach that day, which was prepared by the hotel staff, for whom nothing is too much trouble.

Actually, the Mauritian people were simply the warmest, most accommodating people I have ever met, and they will do anything to make your stay enjoyable. Nothing would deter me from returning to Mauritius, and I am determined to find myself back there sooner rather than later! In the meantime, when the grey skies of our supposed summer threaten to depress me, I just cast my mind back to that beautiful little island off the south-east coast of Africa and all is well again.

GETTING THERE

Andrea travelled courtesy of Air Mauritius, www.airmauritius.com. The Beachcomber Shandrani Resort & Spa costs from €1,899 per person sharing a superior room on an all-inclusive basis for seven nights. The Naiade Beau Rivage Resort costs from €1,585 per person sharing a junior suite on a half-board basis for seven nights. Prices include flights from Ireland, transfers and taxes. Contact WeTravel2 on 01-240 1788 or go to website www.wetravel2.com

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