In October I took my family to Mauritius on holiday, and whilst inevitably I was planning on doing some work whilst I was out there, we were very much on a ‘special’ family trip. Our boys are 7 and 5 and both love swimming and going to the beach (which child of this age doesn’t?). Jane, my wife, was looking forward to a ‘everything done for you’ hotel environment, and after a very busy summer I was ready for a little bit of ‘barefoot’ relaxation, as well as some quality family time. This was in fact our longest holiday ever together (the long-haul flights making it seem sensible to stay 10 days) but the time flew by and we had a great time.
We spent five nights each in two hotels, chosen for their suitability as family hotels and their locations on the western side of the island. First up was Trou aux Biches on the north-west coast, a huge hotel which has recently been refurbished to a very high standard. A key attraction here was that rooms are grouped in horse-shoe enclaves surrounding quiet swimming pools, so you enjoy a fairly exclusive pool experience. Our room led out onto lawns just 20 yards from the pool, and then it was only a 100 yards to the beach. This was a great set up. The main restaurant in central areas of the hotel felt busy at breakfast and lunchtime, but in the evening, there were four or five suitable restaurants to choose, and overall the hotel , despite its size, did not feel too hectic.
The second half of the holiday as down in the south-west coast, on Le Morne Peninsula. This is my favourite location in Mauritius, with very exclusive beaches and the towering back drop of Le Morne Brabant in the background. Le Paradis is a well-known resort with a good reputation, and it seemed a logical choice. It would also be a very interesting comparison to Trou aux Biches. The hotel itself was very well run, and whilst the rooms are slightly old fashioned in style, the food and service was excellent, and perhaps even a little better than Trou aux Biches in the main buffet restaurant. The drawback of Le Paradis is that there is only one main swimming pool, which is always busy (but the kids loved it), but we got around this in part by spending a couple of days at the next door Dina Robin, a hotel run by the same company with which it has ‘reciprocal rights’. Dina Robin has several small pools, a larger pool which was much quieter than Le Paradis’, and a more exclusive beach. For couples seeking tranquillity, the Dina Robin would definitely suit better than Le Paradis. However, we enjoyed the Le Paradis vibe, and with Dina Robin next door, it was the perfect balance for us.
It goes without saying that beach holidays work best when all members of the group really ‘want’ to go on a beach holiday. Typically a day in Mauritius involves choosing where to swim and relax (swimming pool or beach), what time to take meals and whether to undertake any water sports or activities. I loved walking barefoot out of my room to the beach or pool, and I loved the fact that the kids didn’t get cold when they got wet, even after spending hours swimming. I loved the palm trees swaying and the waves crashing on the reef – it made me feel I was somewhere genuinely exotic and beautiful. From a parental relaxation perspective, there was no obvious safety concerns beyond ensuring they didn’t get into trouble swimming. Our young boys had no interest in separating from us on holiday so we didn’t explore the kids club in any great depth, but there were clearly many options for children of all ages. We enjoyed a game of tennis, two boat trips to go snorkelling (once to snorkel with dolphins), a glass bottom boat trip, a pedalo excursion, sea kayaking, and an exciting high speed inflatable raft ride. When our boys are older I can imagine activities would become even more prevalent – we didn’t do water-skiing, though lessons were available at both hotels, as we just didn’t get around to it (something for next time).
I spent a couple of days working, touring the various hotels on the island that I had not previously visited or that I wanted to re-visit. I was pleased to reaffirm that the industry offers many varied options, with several boutique hotels ranging from a 3 star to 5 star level, and of course a wide choice of the larger properties.
Mauritius is not going to appeal greatly to those wanting great cultural or scenic diversity, though of course there are some beautiful parts and a number of historical places of interest. I feel that the island is best suited to people seeking beach relaxation where they can put their feet up, spend quality time with loved ones, and enjoy the exotic location and weather. For families, it is a safe, special, very practical and even ‘awesome’ destination (assuming you don’t spend half your lives between the Caribbean, Seychelles and Maldives). The flying time can be off-putting (11.5 hours) but we flew overnight in both directions and the journey was far less painful than our car journey to Dorset last year!