‘Gentle-living’ is the mantra in Mauritius, touting itself as the pearl of the Indian Ocean. The small island (65km from top to bottom) located 2400km off the South East Coast of Africa has abundant sugarcane fields, lagoons, white sandy beaches and coral reefs. Discovered by the Dutch in 1598 then colonised by the French and British, Mauritian culture is based on a diversity that sees Hindus, Tamils, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and others cohabiting in mutual respect. It is also a culinary heaven with a melange of seafood, exotic vegetables and tropical fruit. No trip to Mauritius is complete without trying a seafood Creole curry, dholl puri or roti chaud (flat Indian breads served with chutneys, pickles and curries), and Chinese ‘mines frire’ fried noodles, ideally washed down with a rum cocktail or the local lager, Phoenix.
Air travel with young people sure has its challenges, yet these are forgotten moments after we arrive at The Albion Villas. It could be because of the private transfer from the airport filled with local insider tips from our friendly driver, the resort manager Laura welcoming us at the front door of our assigned private villa, and the freshly squeezed juice and champagne in hand when given a tour of our new lodgings (which has my husband and I gratefully exchanging ‘this is perfect, perfect indeed’ looks).
For 6 nights we stay in a three-bedroom villa (in total there are 35 villas) at Club Med La Plantation D’Albion, the more upmarket option of the 5 Trident Club Med stays. Surrounded by tropical vegetation each plantation style abode comes with soaring high ceilings, climate control air conditioning, lounge and dining room. Each bedroom, an en-suite, indoor and outdoor rain showers and inviting king sized beds that beckon us to rest. The master bedroom also offers a very useful walk-in-wardrobe which makes it easy to instantly feel at home.
A fully equipped kitchen and laundry is available, though you won’t find yourself in there much, if at all. And that’s because you have your own private butler! Ours is the capable and courteous Jeffrey, a.k.a whiz conjurer of culinary treats at all times of the day, ninja caretaker and housekeeper, go-to for special requests. Whatever we consume from the fridge seems to magically replenish itself by the next morning, and where you swear you left a bit of a mess the night before, when morning comes, all is back in perfect order.
Another part of the villa privileges is an anytime private buggy and driver for transfers on the 33 hectares resort. One call, and within minutes we move from our villa to restaurant, from bar to beach, to the spa and other parts of the village.
To relax in the villa is not too difficult but to completely unwind, we’re drawn outdoors to The Albion Villas day bed (an oasis within an oasis). Sitting suspended under a massive Mauritian Veranda made of dark teak and topped with a palm thatched roof, this day bed is carefully constructed for optimum zen. The overflow pool to the front entices you to do nothing but chill, as do the palm tree lined established gardens encircling the pool. It’s roomy, even for a family of three including a rather active 1.y.o who happily bounces and sprawls about.
It’s no wonder we find ourselves gravitating here at all times of the day. In the morning it’s for (choose our preferred time) breakfasts prepared by Jeffrey; delicious mini feasts of tropical fruits, salad, fresh-baked breads and eggs how we like them. With a selection of locally sourced condiments served with crepes each day, I soon discover a fondness for a combination of banana jam and crispy bacon. Just try it!
Throughout the day it’s for catching up on reading and impromptu dips in the pool, with warm weather and an enthusiastic ‘water baby’, these happen thick and often. And in the afternoon, it’s for vanilla cardamom tea served with petit cakes, friandes and meringues served from the on-site bakery.
Whilst we could stay amply gratified within the villa, our family loves to seek out local experiences, and conveniently we’re introduced to the knowledgeable excursions director to organise our holiday fun. We whittle down our top picks to include wandering through the symbolic sites of the capital Port-Louis to get a glimpse of the islander lifestyle, swimming in the company of dolphins, and taking a speed boat trip to discover turquoise lagoons and paradisiac beaches of the island. Even staying within the resort’s tropical oasis you’re never short of options. We opt for all inclusive sport activities such as snorkelling, Pilates, flying trapeze and archery and add some optional scuba diving (PADI certified) and spa treatments for good measure.
Club Med La Plantation D’Albion has several restaurants charged with ensuring that you never go hungry (it’s impossible!). And at every mealtime, be warned, you can get a little carried away with the abundance of excellent, freshly prepared cuisine on offer. At the village’s main restaurant, La Distillerie, a number of pop up kitchens serving African, Asian and European influenced dishes vie for our vote. At each station is a huge variety of rather good fare ranging from caught-that-day sushi, ceviche and grilled steak spreads, to curries and laksas, delicate salads and custom-designed pastas. Tip – the gelati bar is a must, and whilst our son enjoyed a great variety of food from our plate he also had options from a dedicated baby food section.
Whilst at restaurant La Phare, perched on the rock face of a lagoon, a la carte local specialities like smoked Marlin and palm heart salad, drizzled with a bit of lemon and olive oil or coconut lobster curry are served. Here, beautiful sunsets and a more personalised dining experience is the norm. It’s when we most appreciate Club Med’s nanny services (yes, check in the kids and enjoy your dinner in peace).
When talking to some of the guests, one thing that sets Club Med apart is that so many of them are return holidaymakers. Besides the all-inclusive factor (not having to worry about additional costs for flights, transfers, accommodation, meals, snacks, beverages, entertainment, child minding, sports or activity) you can be as sociable as you like. Some prefer to party till the early hours at the long bar, whilst others retreat to their private villa for champagne. There are Beach parties and White parties, (tip: remember to pack whites and cocktail attire), especially themed soirees like ‘lunch by the sea’ and ‘dinner under the stars’, and shows to keep things interesting.
You soon realise that the staff here, whether a driver, a G.O (Gentil Organisateur or Gentle Organiser charged to make first timers feel extra welcome), a butler, or a wait staff) all invest their time with you as a genuine friend would. We feel so at ease during our stay and always as if nothing is too much to ask of them. What sets this holiday apart is that the people working here genuinely want you to enjoy your stay.
Club Med is a place that tenaciously urges you to find moments of happiness – and we find one of our fondest one afternoon, after swimming with our gleeful son, playing tip and then watching two finches make their nest amongst a bright pink bougainvillea tree. Another happy moment finds us during an afternoon walk along the resort’s southern lagoon whilst watching local Mauritian children play, jumping off the jetty with shrieks of laughter. With a light south-east trade wind breeze and ‘sundowner’ (local cocktail) in hand, courtesy of a particularly cheerful Le Banian barman, the smile on my face returns whenever I recall these memories. No doubt you’ll find your happy emoji moments here too.
Call Club Med on 1800 258 263 or visit www.clubmed.com.au for more information.
Club Med La Plantation D’Albion in Mauritius invited our Editor Carrie and her family to a stay as guests at The Albion Villas flying courtesy of Air Mauritius. All views are entirely of Carrie’s own.