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DESTINATION INSIGHT

Monday, 17 August, 2015, 11 : 00 AM [IST]

Temptation Island: Mauritius

This pearl of Indian Ocean offers every visitor a unique experience. Sumit Jha takes you through a journey of Mauritius from a FAM trip, hosted by Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority
Mauritius, officially the Republic of Mauritius, known over the years as a popular wedding and honeymoon destination, is considered to be one of the world’s top Luxury Tourism destinations. Mauritius possesses a wide range of natural and man-made attractions and enjoys a sub-tropical climate with clear and warm sea waters, attractive beaches, tropical flora and fauna, complemented by a multi-ethnic and cultural population that is friendly and welcoming. The rich traditional hospitality of people makes the island nation a perfect abode for tourists. Given the positives, it is no wonder that Mauritius enjoys one of the highest rates of return visitors, in comparison to other popular destinations around the world.

The small island (with its total area of 2,040 sq km, little more than that of Delhi 1,484 sq km) has a lot on offer to keep its visitors engaged and wanting to come back for more. While an overload of activity-based options to engage in creates an unforgettable experience, the island has a lot more to offer to different segments of travellers, including families, MICE groups, adventure enthusiasts, and golfers. With a number of golf courses to choose from (including eight 18-hole golf courses) and in the past, having been awarded as the Golf Destination of the Year, Mauritius is on its path to become a popular golf destination. Mauritius is also a perfect destination for those looking for gaming, nightlife, shopping and the like.

Recreational activities in Mauritius are varied. Water sports are facilitated as the island is surrounded by coral reefs, providing relatively shallow and calm waters. Activities such as deep-sea fishing, surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, water-skiing, yachting, and submarine rides are available. Land-based leisure activities include golf, tennis, skiing, sky diving, deer hunting, quad (ATV) riding, mountain biking, abseiling, zip lining, horse riding, and trekking. One of the recent additions to the adventurous activities in Mauritius include the world’s first Seakart being operated by Fun Adventure Mauritius Ltd. The cultural diversity of Mauritius is rooted in the diverse ethnicities that make up modern Mauritius. Mauritians are a rich mix of people of African, Chinese, Indian and European descent, who together create a colourful, multicultural society. Mauritians work and play together, celebrating each other’s religious ceremonies throughout the year. Together, with a population of around 1.3 million, they form a harmonious society that spills over to create an authentic warm welcome to all visitors.

The island has the infrastructure to cater to MICE groups, not just during off seasons, but throughout the year. A significant amount of MICE movement has been recorded in Mauritius in recent years, which currently stands at 15 per cent of all tourist arrivals into Mauritius. Indian tourist arrival into Mauritius has increased by 6.5 per cent last year and in this year is expected to cross the 10 per cent growth mark. Mauritius received about 61,200 Indian tourists from among one million international tourists that visited the island last year. With current average Indian spent of about EUR 1,000, efforts are underway to increase the same to EUR 1,500. Special events like Mauritius Shopping Festival and Golf Tournaments are being organised to ensure increased inflow of tourists.

With current availability of about 12,000 hotel rooms, Mauritius is well placed to cater to large MICE and wedding events. In the current scenario, due to excess room supply, the authorities have suspended giving licences for new hotels. In addition, in order to ensure that the standards are maintained, the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA) has started officially classifying hotels.

Currently, besides actively promoting the destination in India by organising media and travel trade FAM trips to Mauritius and roadshows in prominent cities of India, the authorities of MTPA are in talks with airline authorities to increase the number of flights out of India going into Mauritius. Efforts are on to connect Ahmedabad, Kolkata, and Hyderabad through the Air Mauritius network. Even though the number of people travelling from India is encouraging for the authorities to take steps and focus more on the Indian traveller, there are not enough flights to cater to the growing demand.

As a MICE-friendly destination, Mauritius possesses all the key ingredients that are required for successful meetings, incentives, conferences, and events. The quality and variety of accommodation, the attention to detail in service delivery, state-of-the-art conferencing venues, and the vast number of additional activities on offer, guarantee genuine value for money. Mauritius has an advantage over other MICE destinations in the Indian Ocean, as it houses one of the region’s largest and most modern convention centre – the Swami Vivekananda Conference Centre in Pailles. The centre provides all the facilities needed for large international conferences and can accommodate up to 5,000 people at any given time.

Media FAM
MTPA, through Om Tourism - its India partner engaged in promotion of Mauritius, organised a six-day travel trade media FAM trip to Mauritius recently. An early morning flight operated by Air Mauritius, the official airline of the destination, was used to fly into Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport from Mumbai. Immigration process at Mauritius was smooth - there is no visa requirement for Indian passport-holders visiting Mauritius for a period of 15 days or less. Drive from airport to the Maritim Crystals Beach Hotel, located on the eastern part of the island, was scenic as we passed through fields of sugarcane with the backdrop of the famous Peter Both mountain – the second highest mountain of Mauritius named after the first Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies.

Maritim Crystals Beach Hotel, a beach-facing property nestled within a historical private estate of 25 hectares, is designed to give its residents beautiful views of the ocean. After checking into the hotel and touring the property, we ventured into the waters for adventure activities at the private beach of the hotel. As the winds were not favourable for kite surfing, we took to some quick lessons of stand-up paddling and enjoyed the balancing act, and standing tall on a board at the sea before engaging in some kayaking.

As advised by our hotel associates, we were up early next morning to watch what they describe as one of the most beautiful sunrises of the region. And true to their word, the sight was absolutely breathtaking and seemed to change with every blink of eye and recharged us for adventures in store for the day.

First on the agenda was a submarine ride. However, we were informed that due to extreme weather conditions at sea, the same could not be done on that day. Our enthusiasm of experiencing the submarine experience took us to the office of Luc Billard, Director of Blue Safari Submarine, who was happy to reschedule our appointment to another day. From there, we headed to the SSR Botanical Garden, commonly known as the Pamplemousses Botanical Garden, the oldest botanical garden in the Southern Hemisphere. This popular tourist destination, located near Port Louis, covering an area of around 37 hectares, was first constructed by Pierre Poivre in 1770 and is famous for its giant water lilies. World leaders who have visited Mauritius over the years have planted trees at the botanical garden. Our next stop was at L’Adventure du Sucre, popularly known as Sugar World, that features three independent entities – the Museum, the Village Boutik, and the restaurant (Le Fangourin).

The Museum, which is an exhibition inside a real sugar factory, which stopped its industrial activity in 1999, pays tribute to the men and women of all communities who devoted their labour and their lives to the only livelihood of their country of that time – sugar. The Village Boutik, which looks up to a magnificent chimney, offers a vast variety of by-products and sugar-related souvenirs on the themes of the museum. Exclusively available at the Sugar World are tasting of 12 unique and different types of unrefined sugar and various types of local rum. This was followed by lunch at Le Fangourin restaurant under its shaded veranda, facing the plush garden of Beau Plan. Our next stop was the InterContinental Mauritius Resort Balaclava Fort, located on the northern part of the island, where we checked in for the next two days. The resort, with well appointed rooms overseeing the beach, was buzzing with activities and is popular for holding conferences and weddings with its state-of-theart convention facilities. We were informed by Neekesh Seetaram, Revenue Manager at the hotel, that they recently concluded a large Indian wedding with the bigwigs of the Indian industry like Mukesh Ambani in attendance.

The next morning was scheduled for Undersea Walk at Grand Baie, located in the north part of the island, for a solar sea walk. The activity, which can be completed in an hour, is a must try for tourists. Discovering sea, live interaction with colourful fishes, three mtr deep inside the sea, and guidance of qualified guides and instructors make this a memorable experience.

Our next stop was the Blue Safari Submarine, which was rescheduled from the first day. We experienced the submarine, which took us 35 mtr under the sea to explore the coral reef, a ship wreck and other marine life activities. A diving certificate is provided on completion of s submarine experience. Blus Safari is the only company in the Indian Ocean that offers two unique activities – The Submarine (the most spectacular way of deep sea diving on board a real submarine) and The Subscooter (a unique way to experience vibrant and opulent marine life through the world’s first subscooter).

Our experiential journey to Mauritius was even more elating the next day when we visited the Casela Nature & Leisure Park. Our tour of Casela started with a Segway ride into the rough terrains of the park where we got close to the ostriches, wild bucks, zebra, and giraffe – under proper supervision of course. Next on the ad Pamplemousses Botanical Garden venture trail was an interaction with the Lions where one was able to touch the wild cat and also pose with it for a photograph. The park, rightly called the world of adventures, has something for every age group. Before checking into our next hotel - Blumarine Attitude, we stopped at the Tamarina golf club to see one of the many popular golf courses of Mauritius. With its typical Mauritian architecture and contemporary seaside decoration, the Blumarine Attitude is situated along the north coast of Mauritius and is nestled in a tropical garden overlooking the very wide lagoon of Anse la Raie and the northern islands. Our rooms were located in The Boutique section, which holds 41 of the 182 rooms.

Next day our first activity was Seakarting, another unique water sport – a first in the world. This exclusively designed seakart is unsinkable and the ride to say the least is sure to give everyone an adrenaline rush. A ride starts from the Grande Riviere Noire (the Black River) and takes one across the famous Crystal Rock and other famous locations visible from the magnificent colours of the sea.

On our way to Rhumerie we went to discover the seven-coloured earths of Chamarel that is the result of a volcanic eruption. From there we moved to Rhumerie de Chamarel, in the southwest part of Mauritius, which is surrounded by vast sugarcane plantations growing in harmony with the pineapples and other tropical fruits. The distillery is famous for its rum tasting, which we did after lunch at their famous restaurant l’Alchimiste. Our next stop, before retiring for the day, was at the Curious Corner of Chamarel, a showcase of artistic illusions.

Our last day, we checked out of the Blumarine to head to Chateau de Labourdonnais to discover the art of living in Mauritius in the 19th century. This heritage site, built by Christian Wiehe between 1856 and 1859, is surrounded by lush trees, endemic plants and fruit orchards, besides housing a boutique, rum tasting bar, and a restaurant.

Before heading out of Mauritius, we drove to Le Caudan Waterfront – a commercial hub with many malls and entertainment options, to indulge in some local shopping experience.

The next stop was at the Outrigger Mauritius Beach Resort for a hotel visit, followed by lunch. It is located at the village of Bel Ombre, houses 181 sea-facing rooms, offers its guests multiple dining options and a relaxing treatment at the Navasana spa. Outrigger Mauritius Beach Resort offers its guests a chance to experience all the beauty of the region coupled with world-class dining and conferencing options. With an 18- hole championship golf course located only five minutes away, it is an ideal incentive destination and a meeting location.

Our last stop, before heading to the airport, was at the Crocodile and Giant Tortoise Park. Here one gets an opportunity to get close to a baby crocodile, and feed and play with the tortoise. A must-see here are the butterflies and other brightly-coloured insects (about 23,000 species), collected over a period of 40 years.
 
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