Mid-December, in the depths of a cold, grey, miserable english winter, when the whole family has become part of a national statistic – the 150% increase on the previous year’s flu’ sufferers – what better time to take off for tropical climes?
This trip, to celebrate (albeit a month late) our 40th Wedding anniversary, with our children, grandchildren and dearest friends in tow, was planned months in advance, and although the prospect of sneezing and wheezing throughout the 10 hour flight with heavy chests and head colds was possibly foolhardy, as soon as we arrived and felt the warm sun on our backs, we knew we’d made the right decision. Almost instantly our symptoms improved and by the time we reached our resort; the fabulous, newly refurbished “One & Only’ St. Geran, 40 minutes later, they’d all but disappeared.
Our friendly and very chatty driver of the hotel courtesy car took us along the scenic coastal route, winding through the pretty, colourful villages, with the Indian Ocean not 5 feet away, throughout.
He entertained us, clearly swelling with nationalistic pride, with so many facts and figures about the island that the drive seemed to take no time at all!
From him, we learned much about the island’s history; how, the Dutch, French, and finally the British had colonised it in turn, until independence was peacefully won in 1968 and it became a republic in 1992. How the sugar plantations that cover most of the island – grow and refine the high quality cane sugar that’s still the island’s biggest source of income; 100% of it being exported to Europe (and how an inferior quality of sugar has to be bought in for local consumption)
We were assured that the development of Tourism, the island’s second largest economy, is strictly controlled, hence the abundance of untouched natural beauty (although, we later learned, things are in fact changing and beautiful public beaches are today, worryingly, coming under threat from foreign investors with fat cheque books).
It seems however that, in general, the multi-ethnic and multi-lingual Mauritians are a happy lot. Although their standard of living may not be considered particularly high compared to the western world (materially speaking) it is more than sufficient to sustain a happy healthy life; a result of everyone having a) regular employment, b) more than enough healthy and natural food to eat and c) a beautiful, healthy environment in which to raise their families and contentedly live out their days.
Mauritius is made up of people from very different backgrounds namely, Indian, African, French Creole and British, all of whom live happily side by side . In fully accepting and embracing the rich diversity of their communities, by openly celebrating their marked cultural differences; their religious beliefs, traditions, festivals, dress etc……and in living as one with a deep shared respect for the outstandingly beautiful natural flora and fauna, a sense of harmony presides. There’s a lesson or two for us all, perhaps, to be learned from such hard-working, tolerant, generous, gentle, passionate and kind spiritual folk……
The approach to our hotel, lined by an avenue of ‘Flamboyant’ or ‘Flame trees’ (Delonix Regis or Royal Poinciana) laden with scarlet flowers, was a glorious sight to behold:
and merely a taste of what was to come. We had truly arrived in Paradise.
For the next 8 days we simply wound down and completely relaxed.
Mornings began with a healthy buffet breakfast serving up any and everything one could possibly imagine – and more!
(though I did try to be healthy and stick mostly to the huge array of exotic fresh fruits) and were then spent lounging at the beach, soaking up the sun and occasionally dipping into in the warm, shallow clear waters:
Afternoons were spent lazing by the pool, with our every whim catered for by an army of discreet attendants by merely lifting a ‘service’ flag:
Just what the doctor ordered!
There was the occasional leisurely walk along the beach:
or, for those of us who felt the need to be active, there were a host of water sports such as kayaking, paddle boarding and waterskiing, on offer.
Not for me though, I was content just to find the shade of a gently swaying palm tree, dig my toes into the soft white powdery sand and, for hours on end, stare vacantly out into the blue….
Or I’d enjoy wandering around the tropical gardens of the hotel that were teeming with lush exotic plants and wildlife.
The gardens were beautifully maintained by a team of statuesque lady gardeners. I found them so fascinating, in their regulation green Hunter wellies, polo shirts, orange marigolds and colourful headgear and I managed this quick sketch, in preparation for a larger painting:
A gold crested crane was a regular visitor
as was the cheeky red Madagascar Fody who brazenly visited our balcony each morning
There were several parakeets and even a few red whiskered Bulbuls (passerine songbirds) darting between the banana palms but they were too quick and elusive for me to capture.
(photo courtesy of Juzaphoto)
This chappie however ‘froze’ just long enough for me to snap him though (not sure who was the more scared!)
One indulgence was a fabulous relaxing full body massage in the soothing sanctuary of the pristine Spa and then, suitably pummelled and pampered and with glass of bubbly in hand, watching the sun go down over the lagoon:
Evenings were pure indulgence and a culinary delight (not to mention a real exercise in restraint!) with the sumptuous buffet offering every type of food imaginable from Sushi to exotic curries and everything in-between:
Not forgetting the ever-changing array of desserts which were simply to die for!
After Dinner there was live entertainment, including local bands and mesmerising performances from the fast and furious Sega dancers:
We did venture out of the hotel a couple of times. Once for a day’s sailing, on a catamaran which took us from Trou d’Eau Douce, firstly to the Ile aux Cerfs:
where my husband (someone notoriously terrified of heights!) only took himself off, along with our son, for a spot of para-gliding!!
With feet once again on Terra Firma (thankfully!) from there it was on to our next port of call; the beautiful inland Grand River Waterfall:
then back out to sea for some snorkelling in the fabulously clear turquoise waters:
The final event of a most memorable day was a delicious barbecue of fresh crayfish and lobster cooked on board by our charming crew:
Our second excursion was to the colourful market at the nearby town of Flacq where the heady aromas, the cacophony of sounds, the hustle and bustle and vibrant colours of the exotic fresh produce on offer was matched by the glorious saris and sun parasols of the local inhabitants who arrived by the bus load for this twice weekly event:
There was of course so much of the island still to see and do; wild life parks, a sugar factory and museums to visit, but we barely skimmed the surface! This holiday was all about relaxing, celebrating a milestone and getting ourselves fit and well once again in time for Christmas (less than a week away) and, with only one week, time simply didn’t allow for us to venture very far this time, unfortunately. Neither did it allow time, sadly, to meet up with a dear old friend from our Saudi days (over 35 years ago!) yoga teacher and fellow artist: Brigitte Haberland.
I’d dearly hoped to see her but she had a busy schedule of classes at the other end of the island so that too will have to wait for another visit. Meanwhile, do enjoy her wonderfully vibrant artwork:
Brigitte is also a passionate and active campaigner against the gradual destruction of the natural beauty of her beloved homeland. Pomponette Beach, situated in a ‘protected’ heritage site of outstanding natural beauty, a designated public beach, is currently under threat of commercial development. If you would like to help, please take a moment to sign this petition to prevent it: https://www.change.org/p/aret-kokin-nu-laplaz-protection-for-south-coast-heritage-zone-pomponette-beach?recruiter=60757998
Given time, we would also have loved to experience her son Patrick’s “Yemayah Adventures” He offers kayaking, mountain biking and more, exploring more of the unspoilt interior and fabulous coastline of this beautiful island.
I did however, manage to catch up with another English artist/sculptor friend, Lynn Smith. I’d first met Lynn through a mutual friend, the artist Gail Stathakis in Skiathos, a few years ago. In passing, Lynn told me she’d just bought a cottage in Mauritius and I mentioned my friend Brigitte. Well, talk about coincidence! It only turned out that the very person who sold their cottage to Lynn was none other than Brigitte herself! What a small world! Lynn has now made Mauritius her permanent home for several months a year and she very kindly drove the 40 minutes or so to visit me at the hotel. It was really lovely seeing her again and I was so excited to hear all about her exciting new venture; she has a fabulous studio now, ‘Artspace’ in Calodyne, in the north of the island and brings renowned art tutors, from around the world to teach workshops. Definitely something to consider…. I wish her every success!
As I mentioned, this was a very special trip, to mark our Ruby Wedding anniversary and we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect place to celebrate it in, surrounded by family and our dear friends, along with the faultless, attentive service of the entire staff of the ‘One & Only’ St Geran, all of whom made the occasion so special for us. Thank you all!
Mauritius is truly a paradise on earth and its gentle people are so warm and welcoming….it was very hard to leave….
Au Revoir, Ile de Maurice……One of these days, God willing, we will be back, to discover and enjoy even more of the wonderful experiences and delights you have to offer…..(and, hopefully, to find you not too much changed!)