Travel Review: Christmas in Mauritius
PUBLISHED: 08:05 16 November 2015 | UPDATED: 08:05 16 November 2015
Many of us will spend the festive period playing a surreptitious Downton Abbey drinking game while dreaming of the Sherlock special on New Year's Day.
But last year an estimated four million Brits set the record button on the tellybox and chased the sun — with hoteliers around the globe coming up with ever more ingenious plans to tempt the turkey-dodgers.
Mauritius was named 2015’s best long-haul destination for families by Family Traveller magazine, so no surprise that Santa may have to pack his sun cream to visit some UK families this year.
At the high-end of the market, the Oberoi, Mauritius, always plans a themed celebration for its guests.
General manager Dhiren Pereira is almost child-like with excitement as he outlines his plans: “Last year our theme was ‘Festive Mascareenes and we portrayed the history of Mauritius. This year we are calling it ‘Festive in White’ and there’s a shabby chic beach-decor theme coming through.”
The plan is to build a bridge across the hotel’s landscaped pond into the Gunpowder Room, a restored 18th century stone armoury which is part of Mauritian heritage and one of three historic monuments dotted around the hotel’s lush gardens. Cornucopias of canapés disguised as clouds will hang from the ceiling and the beach will be recreated indoors with shells and candles so guests can mingle while they eat.
With “beach” indoors, the real beach will feature live counters — a hog roast, a goat on a spit “and a pasta station because our chef is Italian and he has to have one”, says Mr Pereira. As the evening progresses fire throwers, angels, and a white-costumed sega show are promised.
“And of course Santa will be in white rather than red. It’s going to be so much fun,” says Mr Pereira.
And although Christmas is family time, there’s a chance to spend some quality adult time together too. Oberoi has concerted one of its ocean view villas into a kids club, The Hub, which offers a tailor-made service. “When families arrive we ask the adults at the start how much time they want to spend as a family and how much apart. Then we design a programme specifically around that. We will take them to the local aquarium, we will take them bowling into Grand Baie or organise activities on site, ” he said.
There is no danger of guests of any age feeling bored. Waterski, kayaking, snorkel trips and glass bottom boat rides are among the complimentary on-site activities for guests. There’s also a ‘Touching Senses’ programme, also complimentary, with activities which vary from yoga and tai chi to rum tasting and star gazing. One of the not to be missed activities is a nature walk along winding paths through the hotel’s tropical gardens. It’s difficult to overstate just how beautiful the gardens are: not a leaf out of place and 150 different species –bright red euphorbia and yellow golden trumpet flowers tumbling over giant carved statues.
At the end of our stay we were presented with a card which plays on Mark Twain’s famous remark about “Mauritius was made first, and then heaven, heaven being copied after Mauritius.” The card expresses the hope that “the turquoise waters an jade mountains thrilled your senses and the sunlight refreshed your being.” Oh yes, it certainly did — so much more than a purple Quality Street and a repeat of Morecombe and Wise.
*We stayed in a pool villa at The Oberoi, Baie aux Tortues, Balaclava, from October 8 to 15 and paid a media rate. For information about room rates go to http://www.oberoihotels.com
* At time of writing, flights to Mauritius, which is three hours ahead of UK time, were available over the Christmas period. British Airways and Air Mauritius fly direct from London to Mauritius. Emirates fly with a connection in Dubai. (We got a lucky upgrade from Dubai to Mauritius on Emirates and their business class knocks the socks off BA.)
*At time of writing, http://www.beachcombertours.co.uk/christmas/ had all inclusive family packages available at a range of mid-high priced hotels in Mauritius. http://www.expedia.co.uk or booking.com are sites I have used to find available hotels but I usually compare price with hotel directly or with a travel agent before making a booking.