Pictured left to right outside the new store are: Paul Hardwick, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents Director of Retail; Emma Bailey, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents; Tutti Taylor, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents; Councillor Candy Vaughan, Mayor of Eastbourne; Trevor Ridler, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents Business Development Manager; and Shirley Waters, Fred. Olsen Travel Agents..
Vicky Gladding, manager of our travel agents in Norwich‘s Jarrolds store, spent a week on the fabulous island of Mauritius. Here is what her action-packed seven days involved…
Operator/Host: Beachcomber UK
(Hotel names/Ship name): Shandrani Hotel, Trou Aux Biches, Paradis Hotel & Golf Club
Airline: Air Mauritius
Duration: 7 nights
I left Norwich for London Heathrow Airport with great excitement; whilst wondering what to expect from this very secretive trip. At that time, we had only been told what to wear and where we were staying; leaving the rest to be revealed as and when.
I parked in the long stay car park at Terminal 4, as it is on the airport grounds and transfer only takes about 5 minutes by bus (very hassle free). We were all supposed to meet at the Air Mauritius check in desk at 6pm but I was slightly eager and arrived at 5.30pm. To my delight, six members of the group were already there waiting which meant there was only another twenty-four to wait for.
Once everyone arrived, we all checked in with Jeremy Moore, Sales Manager for Air Mauritius in the South. Check-in was very easy and I was pleased to find that I had an aisle seat, although we did have to settle for economy as Air Mauritius have a no upgrade policy. Once check-in was complete, we made our way to the nearest bar to get to know each other a little better. There were two other Vickys in the group so it was easy to stick together and it helped when remembering names.
Our flight departed Heathrow at 21.00. I was very pleased to find that the plane was modern and the seats were very comfortable with seat back entertainment consisting of films, TV shows, music and games. The Air Mauritius crew were very friendly and helpful; we even got a small package with a pillow, blanket, eye mask and socks! We may have looked ridiculous but we were certainly comfortable and snug.
Our flight arrived early into Mauritius; much to the horror of Sarah Archer, Beachcomber UK Sales Manager, who was sitting at the beach bar at the Shandrani Hotel, watching our plane taxi down the runway. Sarah managed to meet us at the airport where, to our amazement, we were greeted by the flashing lights of a camera, traditional music and Sega Dancers.
Along with this, we also had some lovely tropical drinks in coconuts, nibbles and were all given a floral necklace too. I think all the other passengers must have thought we were famous or something. Even after a 12-hour flight, it was the best welcome I have ever had. Absolutely fantastic!
Transfer from the airport to Shandrani Hotel takes about 10 minutes by road, which is fantastic – paradise within 10 minutes. On arrival at our home for the next two nights, we were met with cold towels and checked into our rooms. It was all very exciting as we each had our own room (I have always shared before so this was a luxury).
Before we headed upstairs, Sarah asked us to meet at the ‘Le Sirius’ a la carte restaurant in one hour for lunch. I almost skipped down the corridors with so much excitement. We had a superior room each, which were situated in blocks of six and all set within the luscious tropical gardens and very close to the beach. The rooms were in three-storey blocks and I was surprised by the size of my second-floor room as it had reasonable sized balcony, a sitting area, and a very large bathroom with a twin sink, large bath, and separate shower.
The products were all Beachcombers’ own make called ‘Tropical Elegance’, which I thought was a nice touch.
After settling in, we went for lunch. This consisted of a buffet with a delicious choice of food. After lunch, the hotel manager had a lovely surprise waiting for us. It turned out that we were all given a back, neck and shoulder massage at the very impressive Clarins Spa. The Spa extends over two secluded areas in the gardens with 16 open-air treatment rooms, all set around the tranquil Spa pool. It was absolute heaven and totally unexpected. I was beginning to like the element of surprise on this educational trip.
After our treatments, a few of us stayed by the spa pool and relaxed before heading into the sauna and steam room – when in Rome! We had the afternoon at leisure and then met in the upper lounge part of reception for pre-dinner drinks at 7.30pm and onto the ‘Le Boucanier’ restaurant for a gastronomic experience.
I have to say, it took me about 10 seconds before I smelt and then spotted the Chocolate fountain. The dinner we had was gorgeous; defiantly a taste sensation. After dinner, we were advised by Sarah to meet the next morning in reception at 10.30am and a very long day came to a close at about 11.30pm when most of us decided to go to bed.
I leapt out of bed the next morning to get ready to meet a few of the girls at reception before we went for breakfast at Porto Vecchio. This was a large-scale, hexagonal buffet restaurant with a thatched roof and open air seating, set on three levels – the first being the beach. There was absolutely everything imaginable on offer but I opted for poached eggs on toast (trying to be healthy after last night's splurge). There was so much choice if you wanted it, though. I even spotted chilli; something that I could never imagine eating at that time of the morning. The waiters also had a selection of coffees and teas to suit anyone’s tastes.
After breakfast, we met in reception and were split into 3 groups to take a look around the hotel. It was set out on three beaches; one was called the wild beach and was generally used for kite surfing, whilst the other two looked a lot calmer and more relaxed. The reception was large with a water feature joining onto the pool in the middle of the hotel; quite a breath-taking look.
The Shandrani has six different room types. I really couldn’t see much of a benefit between the leading room type, the superior rooms which also have a choice of ‘superior beachfront’, and the deluxe rooms which were supposedly the next grade up. Other than different bedding and walk-in wardrobe, I actually preferred the superior rooms on this occasion. The family apartments looked fantastic and would be great if you have children under 12 as they have an extra child’s bedroom and a bathroom with a small, child-sized, shower – how cute!! We didn’t get to see a senior or family suite as they were fully booked.
The hotel has a fantastic Bob Marlin Miniclub for 3-12-year-olds which reminded me of a pre-school. Its brightly coloured fence confined the gardens and the building in the middle and as you walk in they had little pegs for the children to hang their bags and a bench for their belongings to sit under. It’s a lovely big room with child-sized tables and chairs and lots of children’s toys. From what I could saw, I would have loved it if I was a child!
Oh and they do activities to suit bigger kids as well, whilst also allowing any group of ten or more children to eat together in the kids club – great for the parents if they want a night on their own.
The hotel boasts a wide range of facilities and does not disappoint with six floodlit tennis courts, a 9-hole pitch-and-putt golf course, mountain bikes, water-skiing, windsurfing, sailing, glass bottom boats, pedalos, kayaks and snorkelling to name but a few. The evenings at Shandrani are quite good with the resident band or show every night. I would recommend the Shandrani for an all-Inclusive family holiday with high standards and great service.
Midday arrived and so did the reveal of surprise number two; a Hell’s Kitchen style cook-off. We were split into groups of three and each group had a chef from the kitchen to help them. Basically, we were going to have a cook off against each other. The La Sirius was our kitchen with three cooking stations set out; complete with all the equipment we would need, including our own apron and chef's hat – excellent!
Our task was to create an octopus salad starter, chicken curry for the main dish and flambé bananas for dessert. All the ingredients looked so delicious and fresh. Honestly, it was so much fun and I even learned how to cut an onion like a professional. I was amazed how seriously our chef was taking the competition, then I realised we were actually being judged by the hotel manager and head chef. Unfortunately, we didn’t win but we did all get to sit down for lunch and eat everything that we had made.
I have to say that I am not surprised we didn’t win as we went down the tame route of not including too much spice. Oh well, never mind, it was still nice. The winning team won some spatulas!
Our third surprise of the trip was revealed later that afternoon when we were told that we would be taking a 20-minute coach ride to lle Aux Aigrettes wildlife sanctuary. Once there, we were able to walk through the sanctuary at our own leisure until and to my ultimate shock, we discovered the biggest tortoises I have ever seen! They were huge; I actually sat on one. Not in a cruel way, though, more of a light perch I would say.
The sanctuary also had crocodiles, bats (cute fluffy ones) and monkeys. I would definitely recommend the sanctuary to anyone who finds themselves in this part of Mauritius but I would also recommend that you invest in a good insect repellent.
That evening was our last night at the Shandrani hotel. The Dress Code for the night was white and the hotel set up a private area at the Clarins Spa with round tables, white tablecloths, candles floating in the pool and a harpist playing on the island in the middle. This seemed to remind me of what they would do for a wedding party. The food was ‘a la carte’ and was delicious, fresh and you could see that a lot of effort went into the presentation of the whole evening. It was a very private setting with only enough room for 40 diners.
After dinner, Sarah informed us that we all had an envelope on the table and that we should open them. Inside it had the names of everyone in the group, but we were all split into 7 groups of 4. Each group was given a royal name; I was in Team Camilla. Sarah then advised us that the next day we would be taking part in a Royal Rally and that more details would follow the next morning when we met at the sports centre for a 9.30 am start. Needless to say, this created a huge buzz in the group as everyone wondered what would happen the next day.
The morning arrived and as we stood there with our bags packed, ready to move onto the next hotel, we were told we would be staying at the Trou Aux Biches for the next two nights. After breakfast, we made our way through the car park, to the sports centre at the Shandrani where we could see twelve hire cars covered in union flags and each with a royal name stuck on them. Interesting…
At the sports centre, we were all checked to see if we had any maps (including in our bags). I was starting to think that this getting serious! Each group was then given a clue which I quickly worked out was telling us to run over to where the bikes were stored, cycle to a tree, and find our car keys which were hidden in a bag hanging from one of the branches. I got the keys, cycled back and then it was off to find out which car was ours…
…..4 hours later a search party was sent to collect us! After driving around what felt like the whole island, asking every single local we could find to help us with our cryptic riddles, we were well and truly lost; much to the amusement of the camera crew who were hot on our tails. When we finally arrived at Bois Chéri Tea Estate (tea plantation) it was 2pm and the heavens opened; soaking us through. Again, much to the amusement of the Camera Crew!
The St Aubin estate in Curepipe, roughly in the middle of the island, no longer produces sugar, but there is still an anthurium and vanilla plantation that you can walk around and the colonial house also serves up a very good creole lunch.
Located only about 18kms from Curepipe is Bois Chéri Tea Estate, where visitors are taken on a guided tour of the tea-making process. You can sample the teas afterwards and even have lunch whilst looking at the panoramic views of the coast. We had an enjoyable lunch here before continuing our journey to Trou Aux Biches in convoy. We did, however, get held up in Port Louis as we arrived there at rush hour.
We finally reached Trou Aux Biches, slightly later than planned and in a state of exhaustion. The welcome refreshments were lovely and again we were all given our separate rooms. Of all the rooms I stayed in with Beachcomber, the beautiful tropical junior suite that I had the pleasure to stay in at Trou Aux Biches was the best. There was an absolutely huge bathroom and walk-in wardrobe, along with a stunning outside shower, big sliding doors to the ground floor terrace and a lovely chaise lounge and table.
We dined in the evening at Le Victoria; a hotel which was just a short drive from our accommodation. We were all in tropical dress and the staff at Le Victoria put on a great evening for us as we ate outside at the stunning L’ Horizon whilst engrossed in an amazing fire eating and fireworks display show.
The following morning we were off for a hotel inspection at Le Mauricia. The hotel was right in the heart of Grand Baie and the convenience of its central location was nicely complemented by the relaxing atmosphere that was felt all round. The rooms at Le Mauricia had a slight nautical feel and, although the standard and superior suites were fairly spacious, they were still some of the smallest I saw on the island. However, they were still nicely decorated.
The honeymoon suites were absolutely fabulous, though. They were situated on the top floor of the hotel and were decorated entirely in white; something which was reminiscent of a chic Miami beach shack, with a luxury feel, private plunge pool and outside shower. I would highly recommend these especially if you would like to be in a busier area. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to look around the loft or villa rooms as these were fully booked.
After the hotel inspection, we met everyone outside and were split into groups of four again. This time, we were advised we needed to make our own way to the next hotel, Le Canonnier, in a task called the ‘Dodo Hunt’. It was not a race, however, the team who travelled via the best mode of transport would be declared the winners. We were given 400 Mauritian Rupee, about £8, between four of us (we were not allowed to use the money for transport) and a memory card to put in our camera as proof of the transport.
Our team managed to beg the water sports team at Le Mauricia to take us across the bay to the shops where we had a list of challenges to do and take photos of. Our little speedboat man promised to wait for us, but when we got back to the beach he had disappeared. We trotted along the beach to the local harbour where we spotted some yachts; one of which was in the process of being cleaned by the crew.
We seized the opportunity and begged them to take us the 20-minute journey across the water to Le Canonnier. Sadly, they couldn’t take us on the yacht as the owners were ashore and may notice their vessel going missing. However, they did show us immense kindness by offering to take us in their motorised rubber dinghy.
Forty minutes later we arrived at the shore of Le Canonnier, soaked through and looking like drowned rats. Our mood was soon improved, though, as we enjoyed a delicious lunch in ‘Le Navigator’ restaurant.
The day after, our penultimate day in Mauritius, we were off to Casela Nature & Leisure Park. Set in the district of Black River, the park stretches over 35 acres and looks after more than 140 varieties of birds from five different continents (one of which is the exotic and rare Mauritian pink pigeon) as well as many other animals. Animals aside, you can also take part in adventurous activities such as quad biking, Segways and zip lining. It was so exciting; I had done quad biking before but never through a nature reserve, with ostriches running alongside me.
We had a lovely traditional lunch at the park and the total cost for everything was only around £125.00 per person. It was a really great, full day out including lunch as well and I would recommend this to anyone travelling to Mauritius.
Later that afternoon we arrived at Paradis Hotel & Golf Club, had time for a quick change and then met at the pier for a sunset catamaran sailing and BBQ. This was so amazing. The sunset was beautiful and it was very relaxing after such a busy day playing.
The next day was the last of our trip and, after such a busy time the day before, I finally got to notice how fabulous my Junior Suite was at this, our third hotel of the holiday. I never got used to the elegance of each property that we stayed in and constantly had to pinch myself to remind me that I am actually here in this amazing resort. I am almost sure the balcony was just as large as my room; out of all the hotels, this is by far my favourite.
The final day was spent on the 18-hole championship golf course which had a backdrop like nothing I have ever seen – it almost made me want to take up the sport (and I am not a fan). The golf facilities here were incredible and they even had a golf academy if you want to learn or improve.
To end the afternoon we were taken up in the private Air Mauritius helicopters. The Paradis and Royal Palm are the only two hotels to have their own helipad and so this was a great opportunity for us to enjoy such an exclusive activity. We were given a tour of the local area from the sky, complete with breath-taking views and a daredevil pilot. I must say this was the total highlight of the trip for me…
Home time came far too soon for my liking, but I am so pleased that I got to enjoy such an amazing experience.
I would like to say a very big thank you to Louise & Karen for giving me such a fantastic opportunity and all the team at Jarrolds for covering for me in my absence.
Finally, an extra special thanks goes to Sarah Archer from Beachcomber and Jeremy Moore from Air Mauritius/Delicious for the best educational I have ever known.
Must see? The view of the island from above
Must do? Spend a day at Casela Nature & Leisure Park
Must try? Some of the local teas
Mauritius is the perfect destination for a luxury holiday or even a romantic honeymoon. Speak to one of our specialists in store today to start planning your dream break.