Mauritius is beautiful.
A year ago, if you’d asked me what I knew about Mauritius, I would have said the truth… very little. I knew it was in the middle of an ocean. Using a process of elimination, I would have figured out it was near Africa, and thus, utterly unaffordable to visit from New Zealand. Living in Dubai has opened up a whole world of different opportunities, particularly exploring places we never could have from the South Pacific.
We decided on Mauritius for a short break away for a few reasons. Firstly, it is the low season in Mauritius, which means pleasant, warm temperatures and fabulous hotel specials. It is only 6.5 hours away from Dubai, and the flight loads are currently pretty light. It offered a range of different accommodation options and attractions we could visit if our resort was boring or it rained the whole time. When we arrived, we weren’t disappointed.
In truth, we really spent three nights in Mauritius, and four days, but the first day basically involved us picking up our car – a Mini Cooper convertible, no less. We then drove the hour or so from Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport to our resort. For those that have visited New Caledonia, it reminded me a bit of that, with narrow little side roads and lots of villages. We arrived at our resort about 6pm, checked into our room, and had a bit of a tour around the facilities.
Our resort was amazing. Once upon a time, I would have shunned staying at a resort, thinking that more than one day on the beach would be a bore. I have definitely changed my mind on that now! We stayed at the LUX Belle Mare. As we found out later, LUX is actually a local company, with three resorts in Mauritius (and a bunch elsewhere in the world). They have built a reputation for offering a different approach to luxury, with lots of different amenities and attractions at their resorts. We managed to get a special of around 750AED per night including bed and breakfast, and it was worth every cent. As it was our honeymoon, we also got a complimentary bottle of champers, and a beautiful complimentary dinner – but more on that later. We booked the cheapest room type, but it was still massive, with a king size bed, sitting area, deck overlooking palm trees and the beach, a full wardrobe and well-appointed bathroom.
The whole area was well-kept and beautiful, with a range of bars and restaurants… most of which we sampled. MIXE Restaurant was where we had breakfast each day, and it was the BEST breakfast buffet I have ever seen. It pretty much had everything… pastries, pancakes and waffles, cereals, meats, a noodle and dumpling bar, fresh salads, fruits and vegetables, an egg station and more. It also had delicious drinks available – including a range of freshly made kombuchas – and everyday offered a tasty detox juice, of which I had several. Duck Laundry was a Chinese restaurant, where we ate delicious pork belly. At Beach Rouge I had a delicious chicken breast and Mauritian vegetable curry. There was also a food truck called Cubanos that we visited twice – I tried the pulled pork sandwich and a chicken roti wrap, both of which were generous in size and very tasty. We enjoyed free cocktails at K Bar thanks to a management event, and on our second night enjoyed live music there.
The staff really made our visit. They were extremely helpful and willing to aid in any way possible, and obviously took pride in the appearance of the resort. With my various food intolerances, they were more than happy to assist in cooking meals that would be okay for me to eat. This was particularly clear when we had our honeymoon meal. We picked the Indian restaurant, Amari by Vineet. We were able to select our own menu, with some tweaks for my allergies. My favourite by far was the blackened squid ink chicken – delicious! They were even able to whip up a coconut milk panna cotta for me. The service was impeccable, and the setting lovely, overlooking the ocean. The staff really made the occasion very special.
As well as your standard resort fare, LUX offered a few different amenities. It had an ice cream and ice block bar.. with a few dairy free options for me! All guests are able to get free coffee at Cafe LUX, which roasts its own beans locally. The Tea House does free tea sampling, or you can pay for a private tea ceremony. The resort had a specialist rum bar (Mari Kontan) located next to the pool. Outdoor movies are screened for free, and you can ring home for a few minutes for free in London style red phone booths. Most water sports are free, including boat rental, snorkeling and glass bottom boat trips. While we were there, there were free photography and painting classes. For a cost, you can arrange catamaran trips, horse riding, bicycle tours or trips to the LUX private island, Ile Des Deux Cocos. We could have spent a week there and not been bored.
Our first day was basically just spent lounging on the beach… we relished the 26 degree temperature with a slight sea breeze. Being softies now that we’ve lived in Dubai awhile, we found the ocean a bit cold for our liking… and the pool even chillier! Everyone else was enjoying it though, so the temperature was probably very pleasant. Our last swim had been at Ajman, which basically felt like you were swimming in hot soup.
The next day, it looked like the weather was going to take a turn, so we decided to drive to St Louis, the capital of Mauritius. The drive was about an hour, and took us down some interesting windy side roads. The roads actually weren’t too bad compared to New Zealand roads, but Europeans or Americans would probably find them a bit daunting! You also have to keep an eye out for the stray doggies of Mauritius. Traffic got pretty chaotic near the capital, and it was bigger than we expected – it even had a few high rises. We parked up at Le Caudan Waterfront, which had a range of restaurants and shops. We visited the Blue Penny museum, named for the famous rare Blue Penny stamp. It had a bit of history about the island, which was originally taken over by the Dutch, and then the French. We also searched in vain for the Natural History (read: Dodo museum), which turned out to be closed for renovations. Oops. I didn’t actually realise that Dodos were from Mauritius until a man tried to sell me a delightful Dodo statue. After a tasty lunch at Sunset Cafe at the waterfront, we drove back to the resort for another afternoon relaxing on the beach.
On our last day, we had grand intentions of going for a drive to a rum distillery, but actually ended up staying at the resort due to the lovely weather! After another delicious breakfast and a few hours relaxing, we took the complimentary glass bottom boat trip out with another couple. I’m glad we did this and not the snorkeling – I think the Maldives are probably a better bet for colorful fishes and coral – but I did love feeding the hungry zebra fish off the side of the boat! We enjoyed a tasty lunch at Cubanos, a quick visit to the tea house and a shower at one of several courtesy rooms before heading off to the airport. If you have Priority Pass, be sure to check out the Air Mauritius lounge – amazing free cocktails in a lovely setting, and the food was delicious too.
Overall, we loved the LUX experience, and would happily go back to Mauritius… I’m sure we will at some stage. We had a few minor issues with our room, which were fixed pretty promptly, and the service was generally fantastic. I’m keen to try LUX Le Morne, and LUX Grand Gaube is re-opening in December 2017. We wouldn’t mind trying out LUX South Ari Atoll as well. LUX are also opening a resort a lot closer to home, in Ajman in early 2019, which we will be visiting for sure!
Hotel: LUX Belle Mare Mauritius. From 700AED per night.
Transport: OLA Car Rentals and Airport Transfers.
Eat: Beach Rouge, Duck Laundry, Cubanos, MIXE and Amari by Vineet at LUX Belle Mare. Sunset Cafe at Caudan Waterfront, St Louis.
Visit: As well as the highlights of LUX Belle Mare, other popular tourist spots include the Botanic Gardens, Le Caudan Waterfront, Blue Penny Museum, Black River Gorges National Park and Rhumerie des Chamarel.
Tips: It can be rainy in Mauritius at this time of the year, so be ready with a few back up activities to keep you going if you get rained in. Platinum Card holders should email the resort directly to enquire about a discount.