Mauritius more than just about getting away

By Helen Grange Time of article published Jul 13, 2017

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Back in the day, the idyllic island holiday was glorified in a Peter Stuyvesant advert. Today, golden beaches and palm trees could never be linked to a cigarette commercial, because today, the island holiday is not about “getting away” but “getting well”.

And there’s no better island to do that on than Mauritius.

If you’ve been to one of Mauritius’ famous beach resorts before, you’ll remember the mother-of-pearl skies, gently winding promenades stitching a tapestry of greens and blues, and the feeling of floating just above earth’s closest facsimile to paradise. It’s one of those breakaways you fantasise about in the middle of Joburg winter, so when this media junket to two Beachcomber resorts came up, I was like a horse racing home, counting the days.

My first stop was Dinarobin Beachcomber Golf Resort & Spa, on the little south-western leg of the island, a 7km of beach property at the foot of Le Morne mountain. First thing I noticed was the weather, warm but not humid, one of the drawcards of this all-year-round destination, as the west coast has the most equitable climate.

Dinarobin is one of the leading five-star Indian Ocean resorts, and its suites are built in crescents that mushroom alongside the beach, each with a swimming pool at the centre.

It has four different restaurants, including Italian and Pan-Asian, and of course an 18-hole international golf course. My mission, however, was to detox and relax, so off I wandered to the spa, which last December took a strong direction toward wellness rather than simply stroking your corpus.

Thus there is an impressive menu of massages at The Art of Beautiful spa, which can be tailor-made to your needs after a consultation with a therapist. “Some of our guests book a 20-hour spa package over the length of their stay, so they’d have a different massage or treatment every day,” said my therapist, who did the hour-and-a-half Discovery massage, a combination of massage techniques.

She focused especially on the Shiatsu massage, meaning I was in for a lot of deep tissue finger pressure all over. “You never disengage your mind, right?” she said softly, pressing the reflexology points on my feet. “This is why you are sore to my touch, even though I’m applying only gentle pressure.”

There’s something about a masseur who knows what she’s doing that renders you a helpless child, and I was happy to be one for a change, instead of cutting a swathe through the cruel world out there. I shed a few tears too, just for good measure.

Mauritius has perfected the island holiday over many decades, and Dinarobin has more than 60 years experience in this art, so there’s an easy efficiency and confidence among the staff that allows you to just give yourself over completely to hedonistic pleasure. You might not even notice there’s always an understated staffer in view, to keep this Xanadu in perfect condition and every guest happy. 

As Audrey Cunat, commercial executive at Dinarobin, explained, “we have an on-site maintenance team that works day and night, so every suite is perfect when you arrive. The first impression, especially, is critical in this business.”

There is always a choice of cuisine at Mauritian resorts, and at Dinarobin there’s four eateries, one of them right on the beach. Wifi is ubiquitous, and stretches even to the softly lapping waves, a modern miracle that makes travelling alone much more pleasurable than in the past, especially where you are never far from a honeymooning couple. In the evenings, you can decamp to the bar where there’s always a live, mellow musician crooning away. It’s not a party resort - “we decided to veer away from club nights or shows, because guests here want quiet, quality time,” said Cunat - a good decision to my mind.

More informal and vibey is the Beachcomber Trou aux Biches, up near the top of Mauritius, a watery wonderland that honeymooners and young parents, mostly from France or the UK, just love.

There’s a kids club and a teens club, so if you need a real adult break, it’s ideal. I stayed in a Junior suite (double bed) right on the beach, but there is a wide range of accommodation here from family suites to three-bedroom villas, and again, pools are abundant throughout, along with a variety of cuisine at six restaurants including Indian, Italian and Thai.

Seeking out my daily pampering, I soon found the Spa by Clarins, which is one of the most lovely I’ve seen in a tropical setting, again with an amazing menu of treatments, including for kids, who can join you afterwards in the steam baths. Programmes include arts such as yoga and Qi-Gong (like Tai Chi) classes, but if exercise is on the cards, I’d head for the main pool, where a fit young Mauritian leads aqua-aerobics sessions. Of course, there’s every sport activity you’d expect, from golf to tennis and volleyball to kayaking and waterskiing, so your boys and men are well occupied as well.

The concept at all Beachcomber spas is called “The Art of Wellness”, and the therapists undergo ongoing training at a specialised school established by the founder of Santayarea, a French professional wellness centre where the accreditation is acknowledged in Europe. So whatever treatment you decide on, you’re in good hands, and all the products are 100% natural.

After all the spoiling, my massage at Les Marianne Wellness Sanctuary, located in Pamplemousses near the famous Pamplemousses Botanical Garden, was going to be a hard act to follow, but it was a distinctly different experience as it is more geared to serious illness, addiction and stress-related problems, so its remoteness in hilly surrounds is as important to healing as the specialised treatments it offers.

A well-known retreat among patients convalescing after cancer treatments, or people going through bereavement or divorce, Les Marianne is run by Dr Siddick Maurdabocus, who qualified as a medical doctor at Dublin University and worked for several years in the UK National Health Service.

“Life is about changing trains, and this sanctuary is about coming to see which platform to go to next, to achieve happiness and peace,” he told me, adding that the site here was chosen for its strong healing energy. And I did feel it.

A great early morning excursion in Mauritius and it’s not far from Beachcomber Dinarobin, swimming with the dolphins courtesy of JP Henry boat charters at Black River on the west coast. Each morning, hundreds of dolphins are to be found at the bay, gently circling (as they are still asleep from the night’s hunting) and you can jump in and fin along with them, or just watch them meditatively from the boat.

My trip was oriented to holistic well-being, and it worked, because it’s day three back in chilly Joburg and I still feel like I’ve yet to land on earth. Thank you Mauritius!

Beachcomber packages: Five nights for a Junior suite (double): Trou aux Biches - R20 640; Dinarobin - R22 390. Includes return flights via Air Mauritius, transfers and breakfasts and dinners, as well as some water sports. Kids and teen clubs are free. Free wi-fi. Rates subject to 30 days advance purchase, availability and rates of exchange. www.beachcomber.co.za

JP Henry Charters: www.blackriver-mauritius.com

Les Mariannes Wellness Sanctuary: www.lesmariannes.com

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