TRAVEL REVIEW: The Mauritius holiday experience
Mauritius is a multicultural mix of people, places and melodies. The language is French, the cuisine Indian and Chinese, the massages Swedish and below the turquoise waters – something totally out of this world.
There is something very special about island life. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed and there is a sense that the surrounding waters protect one from the influences of the rest of the world.
A brief history of Mauritius
Mauritius has an interesting and unique history. Originally discovered by the Portuguese and visited by the Dutch in the 16th century, the island was eventually colonised by the French. They established Port Louis as an important rest-stop when travelling to the Indian spice lands.
The British soon realised the usefulness of having a colony at Mauritius, and after a few naval battles with the French, soon took the island for themselves. Labour came in the form of Indian and Chinese immigrants, which had a major influence on Mauritian culture.
Languages of Mauritius
Mauritian school boys and girls and educated in both English and French. However, one can also happen across a few Italian and Hindi speakers. Being addressed in an accent that can only be described as a thick mixture of an Indian and French accent, can be difficult to understand, but (for me) is entirely enchanting when spoken by the female persuasion.
The Le Palmiste Resort & Spa
The beaches of Mauritius are adorned with hotels and resorts with new construction underway 24/7 – even on Sundays. I was surprises to find the holiday destination largely under-developed. However, the locals appeared to feel apprehensive towards their natural beauty becoming more of a tourist island. According to a local taxi driver, tourism is booming – with three planes arriving from South Africa alone per day.
The Le Palmiste Resort & Spa is a three star hotel that can be found on the north-western part of Mauritius. Having not experienced much hotel-life in my 26 years of existence, I found the service, amenities and food to be far better than expected.
The hotel has three swimming pools, lounge chairs aplenty, table tennis, a volley ball area and hosted a bingo night and an evening of traditional song and dance known as Sega. The average age at the Le Palmiste was about 60, but you can spot the love-birds like an overly-dressed penguin at a pigeon party.
I lazed in the biggest bed I’ve ever slept in – in an air-conditioned room with a balcony and a view. After being too fearful to touch the minibar on the first night, I was delighted to discover that everything in it was complimentary; and replenished every day! The room and en-suite bathroom were thoroughly cleaned once a day and there was a huge TV across from the bed if one wished to watch some French television. Perhaps the only thing lacking was a large bath.
Mauritian Food & Drink
I wouldn’t say that Mauritius has any traditional cuisine. Their food is a mix of Indian and Chinese and seafood; so lots of spices, fried rice and noodles and seafood of every variety. They also like their chilies!
Food at the Le Palmiste is buffet style – so all you can eat at every meal. Breakfast was a real treat and came in the form of pancakes with chocolate sauce, croissants, hams, cheeses, fruit and filter coffee.
Mauritius has just about as much sugarcane as Zululand, so the obvious bi-product is Mauritian rhum. There is vanilla rhum, coffee rhum, caramel rhum, orange or pineapple rhum and then of course the specialty – St Aubin Mauritian rhum. Every guest is offered a bottle upon arrival.
One glass resulted in a hangover.
Mauritius Ocean Life
If you are a diver, snorkeler, or just interested in marine life, you will be spoilt for choice in the waters of Mauritius. The ocean is wave-less due to a seemingly never-ending coral reef, and the water is crystal clear. Diving in just about anywhere will see you immediately immersed in a colourful underwater universe simply teaming with life!
There are options to go six feet under in a submarine, enjoy a glass-bottomed boat ride, be pulled behind a boat on tubes, parasail, windsurf, ski, just about anything a veteran beach-goer could wish for. A great experience is to take a catamaran trip to the smaller, northern islands for a full day. Food is served, the snorkling is fantastic and the complimentary cocktails go down really well.
One does need to be careful not to be taken for a financial ride however. I soon learnt to haggle prices down 50% or find another local who offered the same services for a better price. Everything for a tourist is negotiable.
The solo Mauritius holiday experience
Mauritius was my first time traveling overseas and I chose to go at it alone. There are pros and cons to the solo traveling experience, but I couldn’t have enjoyed my own company more. Being able to escape from your more real existence and do as you please, when you please, is just blissful. I never felt alone during my experience in Mauritius.
I did, however, meet an Afrikaans mother and daughter from Pretoria who had taken the same holiday package deal as I. They were more than welcoming and really made my whole experience that much more enjoyable.
It is also quite difficult to take photos that include yourself or keep an eye on your stuff when you’re on your own. More importantly, it is really great to share these sorts of experiences with someone, and I am forever grateful for having met such accommodating travelers on my trip.
This holiday was booked through Pentravel and cost R10 480 on a half-board basis (breakfast and dinner daily). The price included a return air ticket ex Durban, transport to and from the airport and seven nights in the Le Palmiste hotel in a single occupancy superior room with comprehensive travel insurance. The Afrikaans mother and daughter I met booked the same package but with twin sharing accommodation ex Johannesburg through Computicket and paid R7 499 per person sharing.
If a relaxing holiday is what you’re looking for, Mauritius is certainly a great choice. Bon Voyage!