“You are the first guests to use our new snorkelling equipment,” says our boat driver, proudly. Brilliant, no scratches or leaks is my first thought, closely followed by the realisation that I’ve shared all of my previous snorkel gear with countless strangers!
Shaking the image from my head I secure the goggles and jump in. The water is warm and glassy-clear and I can feel the sun on my back. I have to remind myself that it’s the middle of November.
I hear a rhythmic crunching noise and see flashes of silver fish darting from one reef to the next as they cautiously skirt by a starfish basking in the sun’s rays.
I’m here for the opening of the LUX* Grand Baie resort on the northern tip of Mauritius. It’s one of five LUX* properties on the island and sits on a sweeping white-sand lagoon, dotted with palm trees and day beds.
While the rest of the UK hibernates, the sunkissed guests of this stylish resort enjoy leisurely days in glass-bottom kayaks, daily snorkel trips and sip cocktails to the sound of the waves.
And at the end of each day, we all migrate to Bisou, the rooftop infinity pool, to watch the crimson sun melt into the sea, safe in the knowledge that it will return tomorrow to spoil us all over again.
Since reopening its borders a year ago, Mauritius has welcomed 500,000 tourists and is expecting to grow this figure ahead of an unrestricted winter season (Mauritius relaxed all testing requirements in July).
With year-round sun, dreamy beaches, luxurious oceanfront resorts and direct flights with British Airways and Air Mauritius, this tropical island in the Indian Ocean has become a firm favourite for winter sun.
”We’ve had a very encouraging response from the UK market looking to return to Mauritius this year,” said Arvind Bundhun, Director of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority.
“Mauritius has a rich offering for UK travellers looking for winter sun and historically this has been one of the most popular times to visit. This looks set to continue as we head towards winter 2022/23.”
An increase in seasonal airlift reflects rising demand, with Air Mauritius adding direct daily flights and Emirates launching a third daily flight to the island from October 1. Air France, which flies via Paris, recently named Mauritius as its most popular luxury destination to visit in 2022, with passenger numbers up by 337% compared to pre-pandemic travel.
But what is it that sets Mauritius apart? Bundhun adds: “From exploring our national parks, beaches and clear waters to the amazing culinary offering and meeting locals. Adventure seekers, families and couples can enjoy a range of activities from hiking, kayaking with dolphins, catamaran cruises and e-bike tours exploring the island – in addition to relaxing and spending time in hotels.”
James Bell, Turquoise Holidays, says that the scrapping of pre-departure testing is turbo-boosting winter bookings. “Mauritius has long been a Turquoise favourite, historically representing over 35% of our business,” Bell says. “No more testing will give couples and families alike further certainty and we look forward to seeing the island regain its top spot with our guests.”
Bell agrees that there’s plenty to satisfy active clients, saying: “Islands don’t come much more perfect than this pocket-sized tropical paradise, with its ruggedly beautiful volcanic peaks and blue lagoons. Beyond its beaches, there is mountain biking, zip-lining, trekking and dining.”
Island hop: Take a day-trip to the Outer Islands courtesy of Le Meridien Ile Maurice. Located 20 minutes from the coast of Mauritius, guests will jet off on a motor boat across to Coin de Mire, Flat Island and Gabriel Island for a real Robinson Crusoe experience. These tiny islands are perfect for snorkeling, enjoying a romantic picnic or trying some light tackle fishing. marriott.co.uk
Southern charm: Mauritian DMC Emotions offers an excursion exploring ‘The South and Its Charms’, taking in panoramic views of Trou aux Cerfs’ dormant volcano, cooling off at the sacred Grand Bassin lake and Black River Gorges before ending the day at the Coloured Earth and waterfalls of Chamarel. Highlights include a stop at Takamaka winery and lunch at the Avalon Golf Estate. emotionsdmc.com
Where’s the rum? Part of LUX* Resort’s Collectable Experiences, A Mauritian Rum Adventure explores the island’s local rum-making process. The day starts with an early morning bicycle ride to a sugarcane field for a pop-up breakfast, next is a behind-the-scenes tasting at GRAY’S distillery before a spiced rum making class, finished with a rum pairing dinner. luxresorts.com
Smell the flowers: Take a stroll around the lively Caudan Waterfront in the capital of Port Louis, before stepping back in time at the beautiful Château de Labourdonnais, a 19th-century mansion set amidst tropical orchards. At the nearby L’Aventure du Sucre museum, learn about Mauritius’ sugar-growing history, then drop in to the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden to sit amongst the giant lily ponds and meet the resident giant tortoises.
Mauritian DMC Hello Islands has launched IslandsB2B, a real-time booking platform which enables agents to book hotels, excursions and transfers all in one place. Sidonie Antoine, Head of Commercial Business at Hello Islands, says: “Over the past few months demand for Mauritius has continued to grow, and with bookings bouncing back we know agents need fast, efficient systems to make their lives easier.
“We already have 15 of the most-booked hotels in the system alongside a range of experiences and add-on services. Plus, we are constantly developing the portal and will be adding new features in the future, such as exclusive offers and incentive programmes.”
In May 2022, Mauritian company Rogers Group announced its intention to launch the Bel Ombre region as a territorial brand and mecca for ecotourism. This protected environment is home to rare, endemic fauna and flora.
Agents can take advantage of a 30% discount when they book Le Méridien Ile Maurice, The Westin Turtle Bay Resort & Spa or JW Marriott Mauritius Resort before September 30 for stays from November 1, 2022 to October 31, 2023.
The Westin Turtle Bay Resort & Spa is offering 50% off a second room for the kids. The family deal is valid for stays up until January 2023 and for children under 16.
The rebranded JW Marriott Mauritius offers Marriott’s biggest villa in the Indian Ocean, the Grand Beachfront Villa, with four bedrooms and four heated private pools, a curated complimentary weekly wellness schedule and Butler Service for all guests.
Heritage Le Telfair is introducing a new photo safari experience from December 3-5, led by photographer Richard James Taylor. Participants will work alongside Taylor to develop their photography skills, enjoy an exclusive sunrise excursion to Charmarel Falls and the Seven Coloured Geopark as well as a guided hike through the Bel Ombre Nature Reserve. The photos will be displayed around the hotel for guests to enjoy.
Shangri-La Touessrok has added a private helicopter and picnic experience to its range of excursions. Guests will be transported by helicopter to a private island to enjoy a romantic picnic for two, complete with a private butler and Champagne.
Where to book it
Travelbag offers a six night stay at the five-star Le Meridien Ile Maurice on a half board basis from £1,653pp. The price includes return flights with Emirates and an ocean view room. Call on 020 3944 2201