BEACH & GOLF – BELLE MARE PLAGE

March 10, 2011 in MAURITIUS | Comments (0)

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Fabulous beach and lagoon

Wonderful setting on a long dazzling white beach. The fringing lagoon within the sheltering coral reef was a heady turquoise, a little ruffled by wind. The depth seemed perfect for bathing – it was the only lagoon in fact where I saw people really ACTIVELY  swimming.

This is quite a big resort (235 rooms and 20 villas), so there is a sense of buzz and action. Here you have a choice of 4 pools with sunloungers, 7 restaurants, shopping arcade, plenty of watersports of course and TWO golf courses. A shuttle goes every hour to and from Le Prince Maurice via the golf courses. For those who want to get away to delicious privacy I suggest the villas. I was shown an attractive two bedroom villa with pool, elegant bedrooms, roomy lounge with plenty of sofa space, small kitchenette. That is for the butler that comes with the villa.

 

View of the pool from upstairs bedroom

I also saw a deluxe suite with lounge and bedroom. Bedroom below. This suite can be connected to a prestige room.

Belle Mare Plage has of course a spa, fitness centre and, most important for a family resort – a kid’s club with pool.

HOW TO GET TO BELLE MARE PLAGE

1 house by car from Mauritius International Airport 


TROPICAL HIDEAWAY – FOUR SEASONS AT ANAHITA

March 7, 2011 in MAURITIUS | Comments (1)

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Four Seasons from the bridge linking island and resort

If the rainbow people are the ultimate wealth of Mauritius, Four Seasons has tapped its gold. This resort is an island unto itself of calm and happy faces, and friendly intuitive service. Everywhere you feel pampered in the most warm and delicate way. This is due to careful policies to keep staff happy, I was told by everyone I asked for the secret formula.

The site chosen for Four Seasons Mauritius at Anahita made many on the island raise eyebrows when construction began as there was no natural beach. Human ingenuity has created sandy beaches round a private island, paved banks, running pools and a deliciously tropical feel. Another twitch of the eyebrow was directed at the architecture as it seemed unMauritian, with its dark gleaming marble in open corridors. Of course it is very Four Seasons with its striving for perfection and a gentle corporate touch. But when you stay there you also feel it is very Mauritian. Because of the staff, the food, and the exquisite villas you are brought closer to the island’s “earth”.

There are a total of 133 villas and residences (latter with one or two bedrooms). Most of the villas are along the beaches of the island or facing the lagoon mangroves. A big team of golf buggies wends along the curving roads between villas.

Even the garden villas are hard to leave. Garden category here doesn’t mean absence of something better, it means colourful tropical garden and pristine private plunge pool with romantic double sunbed. It means a huge sofa on the patio where you can gaze at a small lake and a hill covered with banana palms. It means a table for dining outside, and an outdoor warming oven. Inside you are enfolded in warm but earthy colour, and all the usual comforts. Dressing room is ample. The inside shower faces the back garden and outdoor shower.

On my first morning I dashed out happily to look at the new day rising over the pool. A wind smashed the door closed behind me. I had no choice but to walk barefoot to the main building through a shower of summer rain, where the first person I found was the usher at breakfast. She was amused in a mild sweet way. Fortunately I was in my Four Seasons dressing gown and a new key was found for me quickly.

So now I returned to breakfast. Even though it was raining, it was a spiritual experience thanks to the tones of Vivaldi, the warm service, open windows and a perfect choice of things to eat.  Happiness included fresh pastries from a separate glass room, tropical fruit, café latte, and a table in a nook that jutted out into an ornamental pool. The warm rain drummed on the pool, fish could be seen swimming past, yellow coconuts ripened on an islet. And then of course the sun came.

There are four restaurants altogether, one at the golf course, the French restaurant (where I ate breakfast), a 2nd Asian restaurant poolside and beachside, and Aquapazza, Italian restaurant over the canal, reached by bridge. Ate at the pool & beach restaurant in the balmy evening with Melinda from the sales department. All perfect. Then alone at Aquapazza, a stylish place with bar looking over the channel.

The spa is also on the island, with treatment rooms overwater with views of mangroves. The waiting area is a platform with water views. Several bridges cross the water including a mini Bridge of Sighs, with upmarket shops. The golf course designed by Ernie Els, Four Seasons Golf Club at Anahita, is an 18-hole, par-72 championship course with large fairways.

So who will love Four Seasons at Anahita?

Definitely a resort of interest to golfers and families, AND those wanting delicious privacy, tropical charm and Four Seasons Mauritian-style food and service.

HOW TO GET TO FOUR SEASONS MAURITIUS AT ANAHITA

40 minutes by car, 15 minutes by helicopter.


RODRIGUES – BACK IN TIME

March 6, 2011 in MAURITIUS | Comments (1)

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Rodrigues - kitesurfing adventure

The island of Rodrigues is like Mauritius 20 or 30 years ago – or so they say. In spirit it feels faraway and free – with little traffic and only a few hotels on natural sandy beaches with Casuarina trees. Few palm trees. No five star hotels. Yet some of the world’s true Royals frequent the island, seeking barefoot chic.

Rodrigues is a self governing island of the Republic of Mauritius. It is actually only 1 hr 30 minutes hop with Air Mauritius (or 2 days by boat). Just a teeny price supplement on your MK ticket to Mauritius will give you this refreshing experience.

Like Mauritius it is ringed by coral reef and turquoise lagoons, and most of the people speak Creole (French patois). But the people are different. Also a rainbow, but more to the burnt sienna end, as 85% of the population have come from African slaves brought to the island by white colonists.  

There is something African about the island too. Signs and shops favour giddy sun colours. People seem more languid and laid back than the people of the main island. Service is a problem concept I understand for the budding tourism industry, as the work ethic is something that obviously needs to grow for generations after annihilation with slavery.

Rodrigues has an interesting mountainous interior with rainforest, and areas of acacias in the rainshadow. Here are all the cows, as on Mauritius the cow is considered holy by the majority – who are Hindu. Cows are everywhere on Rodrigues  – along with the pigs and chickens people keep around their homes.

For us the sky was blue and as we drove up the steep hills the world was a ring of blue and turquoise. In the sky were kites flitting adding to the fantasy of freedom. Rodrigues is famous for kite surfing.

In our short visit our activity included looking out the car window, and visiting the market at Port Mathurin and a snack bar that actually served espresso.

We also took a peep into a lava tube (tunnel in the lava rock), Then of course – we inspected three hotels.

Three 3-star hotels.

Pointe Venus – Rodrigues

4-5 Feb overnight, dinner with management (from Mauri Tours), breakfast, hotel inspection

Pointe Venus sits on the hill above Port Mathurin with a big swimming pool, bar and restaurant, and partial views of the lagoon. Here we enjoyed a fascinating show of music and dancing in Rodrigues style. The dance is colonial in inspiration, with bursts of Africa still in slavery, and strange shuffles that reminded of legs in chains.  It filled the heart. For that it was worthwhile staying there.

Though Pointe Venus claims to be four star, it has been severely slashed down to two stars by many observers (trip advisor) (and our party).

On the plus side it does have a nice pool with sunloungers. But it is 10 minutes walk down the hill to Port Mathurin and the sea.  There is a shuttle once a day.

The dinner was a buffet, but not the kind of buffet that lifts the concept of buffet. A lot of perhaps overcooked stews. (But then I do not eat meat.) Breakfast was acceptable, but hardly four star.

The room was small but quite pleasant in a separate wing. It did seem much smaller coming after our spacious accommodation at Le Touessrok, and two near strangers had to share it. One of us slept on the small sofa. The bathroom did not have cockroaches, and the reason why was evident. It smelt of cockroach poison emitting from the plug hole.

I sympathise. The cockroach presents a poison versus complaints dilemma.

This little animal problem coloured the usual spa visit. It was closed at the time, so there were none of the fragrances of ylang ylang permeating the air. Then as we entered a very large cockroach came out to greet us (flying cockroach). It was stamped on and was still lying there as we filed in.

The service was as predicted not very hands on. You got rather vague looks when you tried to order things.

Nevertheless I felt that there was goodwill and good nature at work, and that it will all come right in time.

Les Cocotiers – Rodrigues

 

Feb hotel inspection

Three star. Same owner as Pointe Venus. Very Caribbean in feel, with its brightly painted metal roof, and happy turquoise theme. Our welcome drinks in coconut set a pleasant tone. The rooms were cute, with pastel covers and balconies with turquoise striped wicker furniture.

Les Cocotiers is on the beach and has three pools (one for the kiddies). The beach is narrow but it is sandy and the lagoon is turquoise.

It shares watersports and kids club with Pointe Venus – not sure where the watersports is situated.

Cotton Bay – Rodrigues

5 Feb hotel inspection and lunch with management

Yes. Charme. At the end of the road somewhere, far away. Far back in time to innocence.

We were warmly greeted by the reservations manager and other management, shown around and hosted to the “best lunch” of the tour. Those words come from a meat eater – I had a nice enough vegetarian option but certainly nothing like the splendid meals we had been having.

The beach is natural, sandy pale gold, lined by casuarinas. The lagoon turquoise, but as with so many lagoons, dotted with bits of coral. We were told that the coral reef was alive and that snorkeling was excellent. I hope they have improved safety after a complaint I read in trip advisor. Boats on the water add a nautical atmosphere.

The rooms were rustic sweet. Their top suite nice enough on the rustic scale. You get many points for luxury when you can step out from pale cool tiles onto a bank above a beautiful beach, and feel sand between your toes. Comfy sunbeds too and palm trees have started to grow.

We heard royalty stays here. And the same personage stays also at Constance Le Prince Maurice.

The world of Rodrigues is small indeed.

Our minibus had been stopped by “the police”, and our Rod Tours guide told us “oh no – he stops us all the time”. One of our party joked that our driver might be having an affair with the policeman’s wife. When we told the joke to the reservations manager at Cotton Bay, she instantly knew the policeman involved though he was on the other side of the island.

“No that is not true!” she said. “He is a very good policeman who does his duty. He never takes a bribe.”

So who will visit Rodrigues?

Firstly someone who is posh enough not to need to be posh. Someone looking for another time, another place. Kite surfers. Romanticists. Laid back nature lovers. People who spend a few days in connection with a visit to Mauritius, out of curiosity.

I met an Englishman at the airport who goes there every year and stays with a family.

Whatever the reason, it will not be for pampering and traditional luxury. The next hotel on my list will…


ISLAND FEELING – LE TOUESSROK

March 5, 2011 in MAURITIUS | Comments (0)

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Le Touessrok pool

Island holiday feeling. Le Touessrok is built on a sandy peninsula lined with palms and extends onto an offshore islet ringed by beach and lagoon, so suites are all ocean front or beachfront. The island experience is extended to two more islands offshore, one with the spectacular Le Touessrok championship golf course, and the other an exclusive Crusoe island. You escape by the resort’s private boat to Ilot Mangénie for beach and dining.

Le Touessrok is a romantic resort, with its palms and pools. It is also a resort with a bit of fun – nightly entertainment. We saw dragon dancing on a platform by the pool celebrating Chinese new year. For guests who like to retire before 1130 pm, rooms away from the dancing and shows should be requested as one of our party was disturbed by the dance music. In my junior suite on Franjipani island, I heard nothing except some happy English people going “home” afterwards.

The beach, as is often the case in the large lagoons where rivers enter, is fine and sandy, more silver than white or gold. And the water was less dramatically turquoise as there had been a week of heavy rain before our arrival.

Complimentary snorkeling, canoes, pedalboats and ulimited waterskiing and windsurfing are offered. Scuba and catamaran sailing offered for a supplement. And of course there is golf on the island golf course designed by Bernard Langher.

Backing up the sporty life is a free fitness centre, four tennis courts and a jogging track.  For relaxation, the Givenchy spa is an elegant retreat with a motto “Beauty is no longer a ploy used in the art of seduction, it is the very essence of charm…” For dressing up and looking good, true to the resort’s sociable nature, you have a busy hair salon too.

Franjipani island is joined with the public areas by two bridges. We loved our split level Junior suite in Franjipani wing with its high quality floors and furnishings and bright touches of colour. Colours that “sing”. The desk, instead of facing the wall, lay on the higher level dividing bathroom from bedroom and mini lounge area. Sitting down at the desk (to do makeup in the lit makeup mirror) or working, you looked out through the glass doors onto the balcony, palms and beach. What a romantic view. You know you are in the tropics.

The bathroom was roomy with its own symmetry – central bath, a vanity on each side, and separate shower and toilet hidden behind two glass doors at the back. So well hidden I should add, that I was quite desperate to find them, and wrenched at the connecting door believing it must be the way to the loo. Should add we were not the only ones in our party to be confounded by the elegantly hidden facility.

Later on during a hotel inspection we saw other suites including the ocean suite. This has a separate living and dining area, and the special feature of two balconies coming off the master bedroom.  It has direct beach access.

One of the nice surprises was the deluxe room in the Coral wing (not on one of the islets but on the beach of the mainland). Very fresh and tastefully bright, also on two levels like a mini junior suite, with balcony with view. The Hibiscus wing is for families and I gather is not for the deluxe honeymoon customers.

Altogether there are 125 junior suites, 6 ocean suites and 68 deluxe rooms.

There are also three private villas. We saw one which was very spacious, with a happy holiday feeling for all its exclusivity. Comes with a butler and a kitchenette (his preserve).

The hotel offers 5 restaurants and 3 bars. We joined other guests at the manager’s cocktail party under the palms by the beach. There is nothing quite like a tropical evening when balmy breezes blow ozone off the water and coconut fronds rustle.

HOW TO GET TO LE TOUESSEROK

50 minutes by car from Mauritius International Airport.

PROS

Island holiday feeling as described above. You really feel you are on an island. Plenty of palms, sea and sand. Great for those who like something to be going on in the evening, who want to play golf, get fit, do watersports, go to the spa ….

CONS

Not for the ultra-quiet types (music and dancing)

I found some little creatures running round my nécessaire/vanity case. Either they came from Le Victoria where I did see ants on the hotel floor, or came out of the plumbing at Le Touessrok. Par for the course in the tropics – they live here. Its their habitat. Only way not to have them is poison.

I had trouble with my air conditioning. I heard others in my party did too. I finally switched mine off and left the door open, using mossie repellant to get a great sleep.

Beach and water colours not radiant white and turquoise – applies to most hotels in big lagoons on the east coast. Might be because they had a week of heavy rain before our arrival.

3-4 Feb overnight, cocktail party with management, dinner, breakfast, inspection


FUN URBAN VILLAGE – LONG BEACH

March 3, 2011 in MAURITIUS | Comments (1)

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A truly loooong beach

Former Coco Beach, now Long Beach, an ambitious new urban style resort on an endless beach, to be completed by 2 April this year. The site on 3 February 2011 was still very much under construction, but we saw two mockup rooms and a 3d model of the coming new holiday destination. Definitely a place where fun is intended, centred on a piazza with shopping, dining, nightlife, and plenty of sport. Spa too on a free form lagoon…and a football field!

There will be 255 rooms in two crescents, and the contemporary urban design has allowed all a sea-view. We saw a mockup of a superior beachfront room and a family room, both with outdoor living. Colours blue, green and coral, and the simple furniture reminds somewhat of one’s first apartment. Family rooms have an additional room with two sofas that become beds for the kids.

Quite different from anything else on the island. But it will have palms, and they are introducing some fringed thatch roofs. At the moment the beach is still completely natural and the lagoon pale turquoise, bounded by the coral reef that defines Mauritius. I hope they keep it that way…

HOW TO GET TO LONG BEACH

1 hour by car from Mauritius International Airport


GOT-IT-ALL THE RESIDENCE

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Beach forever and turquoise lagoon

Distinctive and elegant, built along a dazzling white beach and turquoise lagoon, The Residence lingers long in the memory. Most of all for the purity of colour and the friendliness of the people who work there.

The design and architecture hark back to plantation houses from 100 years ago, but with plenty of contemporary liberty. In the Residence, what might once have been dark and ponderous in the old sugar plantation days is instead rather light and white. White walls, white drapes round the bed in the Colonial Oceanfront suite, white sofas.

Small attractive items of furniture and art. As for contemporary – note the laptop in the image of Mary Joyce (click thru’ image gallery above).

Note: not all rooms have drapes. Most are without including the attractive ocean front room (GALLERY).

Rooms are built in crescents along the beach, all with sea view at the hoop of the crescent, garden view along the sides, and ocean front at the ends with lovely views the radiant lagoon. There are 163 rooms and suites in all.

The resort has three restaurants. Exception to the white and bright story is the main restaurant which has darker timbers in its plantation nostalgia. Up the beach is the elegant Plantation Restaurant, and there is another beach restaurant.

First calling with the MK fam group on 3 Feb, short of time, we rushed though the rooms. But I returned on my own private fam on 7 February and was shown round again by Mary Joyce at more leisurely pace.

I also had a fabulous lunch with the very special Ivan, who was about to leave for a new job.

The menu:

Lunch in honour of Mrs Gillian 

Amuse Bouche

Heart of palm salad with lemongrass

Flavoured shrimp skewer

Panfried ruby snapper fish fillet

Crunchy vegetables & saffron sauce

Banana milkshake with cocoa sherbet

It didn’t just taste good, it looked too good to eat. Like an art work. So I had to photograph it to make it last.

Should add a codicil. The Residence is remembered not only for the friendly people, long white beach, and dazzling pure colours, but for the food…

HOW TO GET TO THE RESIDENCE

1 hour by car from Mauritius International Airport, 15 minutes by helicopter


SERENE CHIC – LE PRINCE MAURICE

March 2, 2011 in MAURITIUS | Comments (2)

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Mauritian style around the pool

Treasured Mauritian chic.

On a peninsula jutting into a big lagoon, Constance Le Prince Maurice is surrounded by white sand beaches lined with palms. Its heart is an attractive lobby with view over serene pool and pale turquoise lagoon, surrounded by the quaint and shaggy roofs of restaurants and bars. Quality, style and romance are the keywords at Le Prince Maurice, with carefully chosen furnishings, antiques and objet d’art.

This intimate resort is remarkably peaceful. No buzz, no loud music. No sense of crowds. My only argument would be the starlings and sparrows that make such a lot of noise at breakfast time.

The beaches sweep in curves and round points. Very well attended with sunbeds, fresh towels and water – and romantically lined with palms. The lagoon is shallow but further out there is a floating platform from which swimming is easier. After the heavy rains the water was less blue than usual the towel attendant explained. But further out on the other side near the reef there was a channel of brilliant turquoise. In the balmy air of evening it was a very quiet and romantic place.

The resort is actually quite small – only  89 suites of which most are spacious  junior suites (70 sqm) each graced with patio featuring a sofa, table and chairs. Some of the junior suites have a fantastic position, facing the fish reserve or on poles in the lagoon –  and 4 of them are on a private beach.I had the good fortune to have one of those. Other junior suites are set back from the beach a little with nice sea views (see snap of suites hiding behind palms, taken from the beach), but a few appeared not to have such advantages. The beachfront and sea-view junior  suites can only be requested.

Our suite opened onto the grass that lead down to a private beach with our own sunbeds. Image taken in the early morning.

The 12 senior suites or villas are extensive (130 sqm) and have prime beachfront positions and pools (9 of them) or are over water (3, without pools). We saw the Princely suite, comprising  senior suite, and junior suite. This is definitely a place you might place your Royalty. Not that it is so grand – it is just stylish and comfortable. And it has a lobby like a miniature Mauritian resort opening in typical way out to the (private) infinity pool. The beach is only fairly private, with some bushes to divide it somewhat from the continuing public beach. But it is lovely white sand with pale turquoise lagoon, just as it should be in Mauritius.

I visited Le Prince Maurice twice. Once on the MK fam for inspections on 3 Feb. Then again on my own fam for two nights 7-9 February.

Dining was splendid. First night I dined at the main restaurant with front row seats viewing beach and lagoon, very content with magical life.  The next dinner was even more special.

Walking out of the main building onto a path, past suites on stilts over the lagoon, we came to a board walk lit here and there with lanterns. The board walk crosses an island, continues over mangroves and water,  turns the corner through the dark and …. Suddenly there you are at the floating restaurant. A small number of pontoons float there, magically lit…

Here you dine well, with a sense of being far away on an adventure.

Lunch was at Constance Belle Mare Plage on the brilliant white beach and deep turquoise lagoon – only 15-20 minutes by hourly shuttle via the golf course.

On the bus I met a Frenchman who has been to Mauritius 6 times. He is delighted with Prince Maurice. He stays there and takes a shuttle to Belle Mare Plage to play on one of its two golf courses. You can also dine at one of the 7 restaurants at Belle Mare Plage using the shuttle option.

Both resorts have spas of course. And watersports….

HOW TO GET TO LE PRINCE MAURICE

1 hour by car from Mauritius International Airport or 15 minutes by helicopter

Constance Le Prince Maurice

http://binah.nu/orbit/


TOP OF THE LINE – ROYAL PALM

March 1, 2011 in MAURITIUS | Comments (0)

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Pretty beach and perfect turquoise water. Prestige and paradise.

But first the arrival took the breath away. You swing off the road from Grand Bay and there it is. A perfect avenue of palms, leading up to the entrance. Standing there were royal guards in turbans.

Yes, you are royally received. Though a compact property with rooms in a long three storey block facing the beach, Royal Palm feels spacious and serene. As a returning guest said, “it oozes luxury”. Yet, he did not find it snobbish. Even the dress code was not too restrictive he felt.

The lagoon is a glistening pastel turquoise, and the beach is soft pale golden sand, lined with palms and sunbeds. It is beautiful but not very long, with an area devoted to the best in watersports. On the beach were some guards (as the sheltered lagoon has a lot of boat traffic, they need to keep the beach free of waterborne intruders and paparazzi).

Preventing paparazzi was my own thought, because of the celebrities that stay here, politicians and captains of industry. Along with lots of ordinary people who can afford Royal Palm’s special style and impeccable service. Entranced guests come back again and again for their holidays.

Dining is strictly a la carte even on halfboard. In addition to the main restaurant with wide verandah and views, there is the exquisite Natureaty…

 

We saw two rooms – a senior suite and appropriately a royal suite. Most delicious about the royal suite was the pool with its infinity edge, open pavilion and view over the beach (above). The royal suite has two bedrooms and a large lounge. One of the bedrooms has its own hammam!

The senior suite also has a very generous lounge space – so much so that the sofa set seems far away in the corner. Items like a “creatively old” desk and sideboard were interesting and stylish. The bedroom breathes luxury with its lighting, perfect linen and contrast of white and mahogany. Guest toilet in addition to the separate toilet en suite. For families, another suite can become connecting, by closing an outer door to the porch. Neat way to take away the spooky feeling of a connecting door to strangers,

 

Bedroom senior suite

 

Spacious lounge in senior suite

The spa is impressive, built in 2007, with 18 light white treatment rooms, and a lush courtyard with pools. One couple’s treatment room has a hammam attached, and another has a sauna. Nails makeup and hair are all taken care of. There are three fitness rooms with different kinds of machines, all very up to date.

Pools at the spa

Watersports

The greeting at Royal Palm puts you in royally good mood.

HOW TO GET TO ROYAL PALM

1 hour by car from Mauritius International Airport, 20 min by helicopter


LOVABLE – O&O LE SAINT GÉRAN

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Palm lined beach

3 Feb inspection & lunch

This resort epitomizes grand old Mauritian style and hospitality. All the perfect details are there. From the turquoise lagoon, to the park with thousands of palm trees, and white beach sweeping round the peninsula. From high quality furnishings, to the hotel’s famed service and friendliness. And its Michelin-starred dining…

Guests get hooked on this style, and nothing else will do.

For all its posh reputation, the hotel feels relaxed. Maybe it’s all that space. We enjoyed the pool bar lunch restaurant, with its combination of fine dining dishes and snack favourites on the same menu. There are also two fine dining restaurants, one further along the beach. One is under Alain Ducasse and the other under Vineet Bhatia, both Michelin-starred chefs.

Sportiness is part of the hotel’s fame. It has a tennis club, plenty of watersports (free waterskiing) and a dive centre. Naturally fitness rooms and a spa, where we noted relax beds had a lovely view.

Evening entertainment is another part of the St Geran holiday experience.

The resort offers 162 suites all with terraces or balconies facing the sea. We saw a couple of rooms. Despite some new refurbishments they did feel rather old style. Not sure where the fine line goes between traditional and dated elegance.

 

Room 402

Unfortunately inspection was rather rushed and it was hard to hear what this room type was. Have not been able to find out due to their skimpy website.

Do read on – 14 more posts on Mauritius last month