After spending what seemed like eternity in the cold, rainy polar vortex, I escaped. Once completing my first red-eye to London from Vancouver, I refreshed myself for another long flight ahead. Periodically, on the direct Air Mauritius journey from London, I would consult our map on our exact location. I finally located the small island in the vast, beautiful turquoise Indian Ocean. Mauritius, is approximately 1865 km2 or 470,000 acres and is volcanic in origin, thanks to the now dormant volcano on neighboring Réunion Island.
The morning Mauritian sun was ready to greet us, as we emerged from our plane and conveniently remained throughout our stay. There are only two seasons in Mauritius: Summer (October to April) and Winter (May to September). There is a mild climate all year round with an average temperature of 25ºC, which makes Mauritius the perfect year round destination. Our group had the unique experience of sampling a few Marriott properties on the island. While common denominators included the warm and inviting Mauritian hospitality and direct access to the tepid Indian Ocean; they each had their own unique vibe.
Our adventure started at the JW Marriott Mauritius, which is located in the southwest Rivière Noire District. It lies on the Le Morne Peninsula. The sheltered lagoon, coupled with the large waves, makes Le Morne Peninsula ideal for both beginner and advanced kite surfers from around the globe. Mauritius hosts several international kite surfing competitions each year, such as Kiteival and Kite Jam. Stock photos of Mauritius often showcase Le Morne Brabant – a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is nearby the JW Marriott.
Fresh from our journey (although not feeling very fresh at the moment), we were whisked away by golf cart to our suites by our butlers. In fact, there are only suites (172 in total) at the JW. From the king-sized bed to the oval bathtub, it would be easy to vegetate in your room. But why stay indoors, when the beach and the Indian Ocean are right outside your door?
Settling into island life was only a time adjustment – never a quality adjustment. The turn down service and service button located at each beach lounge umbrella, made assistance both accessible and attentive. There was a delicate dance between being helpful (A mosquito repellent cream magically appeared on my night stand, after I had a short casual conversation about bug bites) and not feeling overpowering or uncomfortable. The JW Marriott Mauritius staff seemed to know exactly what we needed. Case in point, when we arrived back to our rooms at the end of our first night’s dinner at the elegant South Asian fusion Floating Market restaurant, a warm bath was already drawn with the perfect water temperature.
The next morning, we toured the island on e-bike. It was a fabulous way to see Mauritius, and I welcomed the physical activity after the long journey. Not to mention, biking along a triathlon route in the heat was a humbling experience.
The serenity of the result was all encompassing. It was busy, but I did not feel busy. At the time, it was 80% full, yet it never seemed to be over crowded with people. The most people I saw at any given point was during common meal times.
The morning of our last day at the JW, we had breakfast in one of the largest private villas in the Indian Ocean. The sprawling, Grand Beachfront Villa sleeps up to eight adults and eight children across four luxuriously designed villas (three of which have their own private pool). Spread over an impressive 17,870 sq. ft (1,660 square meters), there is secluded beach and a dedicated 24-hour butler, as well as an array of in-villa facilities such as a bar, games room, fitness center, infinity pool and more. Available by private booking only, it fits those with the most discerning of tastes.
As we entered the lobby of the Le Méridien Ile Maurice, from our day of sightseeing in Chamarel (Seven Coloured Earth Geopark, Chamarel Waterfall, Rivière Noire Gorges), we were transported to a sun-filled palace. Accents of black, cream and gold marble adorn the entryway. It was posh, without the pretension. We were thankful for the refreshing, cool facial towels and a welcome drink that greeted us at the door.
The $60 million dollar renovation transformed the Le Méridien Ile Maurice to the place where friends and family can gather in the northwest Pamplemousses region. The property boasts 261 newly designed guestrooms and suites, an adults-only Nirvana wing, world-class spa and fitness center, three pools and a choice of four restaurants and three bars.
Before having a wonderful Mauritian meal at the beachfront Zoli Mamzel restaurant, I learned the art of sabrage. Sabrage is opening a champagne bottle with a saber. To our delight, everyone tried their hand at Sabrage throughout our stay, which kept the bubbles flowing. The Zoli Mamzel deck and restaurant was my favorite. Set on the beachfront, it has a wonderful unobstructed view of the sunset.
Not that we needed an excuse to relax, the next day we spent the afternoon indulging in the redesigned Explore Spa. Paul Bishop was at the helm of the renovation and transformed the space into a peaceful oasis with five treatment rooms. Besides the standard massages and facials, the spa offers hot-cold therapy as well. It was invigorating to try Mauritius’ very first and only snow room after sweating it out in the steam and sauna room. A must do for your visit to Le Méridien Ile Maurice.
We closed out our trip with a night at the Westin Turtle Bay Resort & Spa. Located in the northwest Pamplemousses region and on 800 meters (10 hectares) of beachfront within the tranquil and protected Turtle Bay Marine Park. With 190 spacious guest rooms and suites, each with its own private balcony or terrace, an adult-only Whisper Zone, a state-of-the-art spa and 24-hour fitness center, two outdoor pools and 5 restaurants and 2 bars. The property is a combination of the best of the two resorts mentioned prior, in one idyllic location.
Like the JW Marriott Mauritius, the Westin Turtle Bay Resort & Spa’s layout is spread out along the beachfront. Every guest room and suite overlooks a stunning ocean view and either has an outside terrace or balcony. My room was a Deluxe Family room, complete with a Heavenly® king-sized bed with a double Heavenly® day bed tucked in the corner. The massive marble bathroom has a separate shower room, soaker tub, and topped off with White Tea by WestinTM bath amenities.
The property, like the Le Méridien Ile Maurice, has a world-class spa. The Heavenly Spa by WestinTM, has a large focus on wellbeing. The spa offers a Be Well/Ness Sunday package providing guests with a holistic mind and body experience consisting of a private consultation with one of the resort’s wellness experts, a rejuvenating 60-minute massage, access to the Eat Well Buffet, serving fresh and organic dishes. Taking a short break from the sun and maintaining our relaxed mood, we participated in a Mandala art therapy class.
Is it a lengthy journey to Mauritius? Yes. Yet, having visited, I can attest that the charm of the island goes beyond the cliché of a “hidden gem.” The island is not hidden and is well worth the journey. Once you arrive, you will truly experience an island full of magic and marvel, paired with hospitality of the Mauritian people, that wraps guests in the warmth of the Indian Ocean.