To state that Mauritius is an island of exceptional beauty and holiday destination par excellence goes without saying. Yet to really get under the skin of what the island has to offer you must look beyond the superb beaches, exceptional hotels and the glistening waters of the Indian Ocean. Do this and you will be rewarded.
A mélange of French, Creole, Indian and African influences permeate Mauritius, most noticeably in its delectable cuisine. A verdant interior backdrop of jagged peaks, colonial sugar plantations and fields makes for a striking dichotomy. And then there's the rum. The sweet, smooth and dangerously moreish rum - just one of the many things that will make you fall a little bit in love with this beautiful island.
As if you needed another reason to be utterly beguiled by this jewel in the Indian Ocean, Shangri-La's signature service, gastronomy and style have now arrived in Mauritius. Known for some of the premier luxury hotels in the world, the established competition is being challenged - proof that there is no room for complacency on the island.
Le Touessrok is already a hotel firmly entrenched in the hearts of long-standing Mauritius faithfuls and Shangri-La's fusion of Western modernity with Eastern traditions is certain to complement the already outstanding offering when it re-opens as Shangri-La's Le Touessrok Resort & Spa in November 2015. Shangri-La means "a secluded hideaway of great beauty" and the name is spot-on.
Take a boat to one of two nearby idyllic islands - both very different yet equally as striking. Ile aux Cerfs is home to an 18-hole par 72 championship golf course, restaurants, craft stalls and a watersports centre. Exclusive to guests, castaway-chic is more the vibe to be found on the private island of Ilot Mangénie. The only one of its kind in Mauritius, with hammocks suspended between palm trees and its own sophisticated beach club accessible to hotel guests.
The rooms are being given a Shangri-La facelift - the design is being crafted by the renowned P49 Deesign, whose impressive portfolio includes Six Senses Laamu, Maldives and projects for Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons and Conrad. Expect an earthy colour palette and natural materials that reflect the rich tapestry of colour found outside the rooms amongst the verdant gardens.
Shangri-La's cuisine is also eagerly anticipated. Four restaurants showcase diverse international fare, with Indian favourite Safran remaining part of the offering - guests will love the traditional Hindu blessing at the door. Unique to Mauritius, enjoy sashimi prepared by the most skilled master sushi chef to be found on the island at Kushi, international fare at the hotel's all-day dining restaurant, Le Bazar and Mediterranean cuisine and barbecue grills at Republik Beach Club & Grill.
Indulgent, yet down-to-earth, Shangri-La's popular CHI Spa concept based on traditional Eastern healing philosophies, will also make a welcome appearance. The focus is on Chinese and Ayurvedic treatments which are designed to allow the universal life force or 'chi' to flow freely within the body. Invigorating scrubs, refreshing facials and soothing massages with ingredients sourced from its own garde.
Shangri-La may be throwing down the gauntlet, but the hotel considered by many to be the grande dame of luxury resorts in Mauritius - One&Only Le Saint Géran - need not be concerned. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the hotel is somewhat of a Mauritian institution. What really entices guests to return is the exceptional service and intimate setting on the Belle Mare Peninsula. Bounded on one side by a cove and on the other by a coral-sheltered bay, it is the ideal spot for the hotel's unlimited watersports. Happily, some of the original staff are still on hand to welcome back loyal clientele who return year after year, now accompanied by their children and even grandchildren; the perfect place for a true multi-generational holiday in Mauritius.
RUM'S THE WORD...
Of the many different types of rum available thanks to the island's colonial history as a hub for sugar cane production, Pink Pigeon is perhaps one of the better known. Named after the once-endangered bird that is now thriving in Mauritius, the subtle flavours of vanilla, citrus and orchid combine to make the signature taste. For every bottle purchased, a donation is made to the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF).
OUT AND ABOUT…
The island's capital Port Louis makes for an ideal day trip. To get a feel for the historic city it is well worth trekking up to the citadel for the sensational views. From here, you may spot the racecourse of Port Louis - still a popular attraction - and the port from which sugar and fish are exported across the world. Alternatively, visit the open air markets and boutiques at Central Flacq, the heart of local life and traditions, with its myriad of colours, fabrics, arts, crafts, fruit, spices and local delicacies.
Mauritius and Four Seasons are already two words synonymous with luxury and relaxation but the latest additions to Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita give new meaning to this association. Already boasting picturesque stand-alone accommodation dotted around the mangroves, along the shore and amongst the bougainvillea-clad gardens, six new and exclusive Sanctuary Pool Villas are sure to further increase the appeal.
Offering panoramic lagoon or beach views, these one bedroom villas are designed so that you can be as private or sociable as you wish, and feature extended heated infinity pools with outdoor salas. Centrally located and great for families, the spacious suites boast generous sofa beds - perfect for little ones who are sure to love saying hello to the resort's giant aladabra tortoises Ceasar and Neptune.
The recently renovated three bedroom Presidential Suite Sanctuary is also worthy of note. Perched majestically on the tip of the resort's private island - a prime location - this hideaway boasts a new master bedroom that looks out onto an infinity pool - perfect for watching the sun rise. Larger parties can extend this space into a five bedroom sanctuary by connecting to the two neighbouring Ocean Pool Villas via an outside corridor.
A minute's stroll away you'll find Bambou, the beachside restaurant. Here you can watch traditional Sega dancing - part opera, part group dance that increases in tempo, the women dance in vibrant, colourful ruffled skirts. Warning: some audience participation may be required.