Writing: Mauritius: Coconut ice cream, Pina colada and birthday cake

Tropical rain clouds welcomed fourteen friends and family as we touched down on Mauritian shores after sunset. Stepping out onto the island the Frangipani scented air stuck to our skin and droplets of perfumed perspiration instantly rolled down our spines. We arrived in paradise.

Mauritius is a well-known and popular destination for newlyweds and families. It’s the perfect combination between a romantic tropical island and a fun place for children. All around the island, 120* locations provide a selection of resorts and hotels from exclusive high-end options to that of affordability and value for money.

The reason for our island holiday was that of a friend’s 40th, and we had four kids under the age of 10 to cater for, plus have enough adult recreation to keep the grown-ups happy. Usually when we(the husband and I) travel we like to explore and can hardly sit still, but due to the group and the event, a resort was the most appropriate option.

The Maritime Resort and Spa provided kids entertainment and childcare services while the multitude of water activities, golf, horse riding, restaurant options and drink-as-much-as-you-want cocktails at the two bars proved a successful combination. The hotel can accommodate more than 500 guests but the extensive beach front, large pool area and general openness of the facilities ensured that it never felt over crowded or tight.

The Maritim Resort and Spa on the edge of Turtle Bay, Mauritius. In 1973, the German chain, ‘Maritim Hotels’ became the owner of the land with the Harel family. Maritim Hotel Mauritius opened in 1990. Turtle Bay has been recognised in 1987 as the first protected Marine Park of the island. (©KH.)

Having travelled to Mauritius before, we chose to stay at the resort and enjoy what they had on offer. For the first time traveling abroad we did not have a day-by-day itinerary or a must-see-and-to-do list. We took full advantage of the sun lounges and warm tropical water. The husband took advantage of lying in as I watched the sun rise every morning on the pool deck, having coffee and checking emails before we went playing Frisbee on the beach while it was still cool.

Unforgettable moments included: a catamaran cruise from Turtle Bay to Trou aux Biches; snorkeling and swimming with sea turtles in crystal clear turquoise water; a candle lit dinner on the patio of Château Mon Désir; meeting Deepak who took us horse riding on the beach; and spending six days with friends celebrating a milestone in life.

What stood out as an overarching highlight was that we truly rested, we mostly read and took afternoon naps under palm trees. No-one rushed us through breakfast, lunch or dinner and there were no deadlines to consider when we ordered our first full-colour cocktail every day at 11am, nor did anyone care if we had coconut ice cream for starters, main and desert.

About the Maritime Resort and Spa

  • The staff are all very friendly and willing to help, but the service in the restaurants are slow.
  • The wine list is very limited and not representative of a five-star establishment. It seems they lack the expertise and passion of a good sommelier.
  • The cocktail menu has enough to choose from but it’s a bit of a hit and miss. The consistency of the drink (taste and strength) varies between the two bars and depends on the bar tender on duty at the time.
  • Various people have different responsibilities to clean the rooms which means not everything is done at once or at the same time.
  • The childcare and children’s activities were excellent. “The staff that worked at the kids club were wonderful – kind, enthusiastic, fun and caring. There was a lovely choice of activities for the children from horse riding to craft activities to boat rides and more,” said Debbie Adcock who had two little ones (aged 5 and 3) being looked after every day.
  • The spa treatments were better than expected and a jacuzzi/pool is available for hotel guests, yet upon arrival I felt unsure where to go and how it worked. They can improve on how they welcome guests at the spa.
  • The sports and events staff were all very helpful in providing assistance and lessons in the activities. The horse riding staff were exceptional.

Things to know (for South Africans)

  • The exchange rate (in March 2019) was on average 2 rupees to R1. In general things are fairly on par and affordable in comparison to what we pay at home, but food is expensive when you buy from a hotel or at the airport. Opt to buy an “all in” package. There are more than enough food and drink options to choose from. The bed and breakfast alternative will limit your freedom and you will overspend (especially when you are on a budget). For example, a margarita pizza (out of the all-in-package) will set you back R275; cocktails range between R150 and R200; mediocre (even poor) SA wines will set you back R300 a bottle and a subway sandwich and 500ml water was R200 at the airport.
  • Flights are a comfortable 4/6 hours on Air Mauritius (in association with SAA) and are direct from Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg into Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport in the south west of the island.
  • Mauritus is not large which means the longest transfer (to Grand Bai or Cap Malheureux) will take about an hour and 10 minutes via the M2 (approximately 80km to the most northern tip).
  • Most transfers for departure go from resort to resort to collect guests (departing 4 hours before the actual flight). You might want to re-consider your pick-up time, especially early in the morning and when traveling with kids. But make sure to book the transfer through the hotel. This will ensure that they are partly responsible for the on-time arrival of the transfer service. Allowing two hours at the airport is more than enough time to check in.
  • Be careful to not overindulge in sunshine on day one and keep hydrated all the time (with water, not cocktails). The heat and humidity are intense, especially if you are not used to it.
  • Take antihistamines if you are prone to hay fever. Due to the tropical weather and the dense vegetation hay fever might be a factor to keep in mind.

*Islander, Air Mauritius in-flight magazine, No 94
All photographs: © Karin Henriques

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