Last week, finally K and I managed to get away from South Africa and explore another African country. Well, not much exploring happened but at least we visited a new country! We spent all of last week on the sandy shores of Mauritius, amidst turquoise waters and colorful coral. The reason I say that not much exploring happened is not because of dearth of things to see but because anyone who visit this tropical paradise, does so with the sole aim of relaxing and sun soaking. Surrounded with abundant sun and pristine blue waters, not to mention the unending stream of cocktails – there is little else anyone would ask for.
Before settling on Mauritius, there were two other places that I was keen on visiting – Egypt and Madagascar. However, Mauritius was the final choice base on several factors. The primary one being the visa norms. As Indians, no visa is required by us when visiting this island. Although Madagascar offers visa on arrival to all tourists, costs of visiting this adventurous island can be quite prohibitive. Given that tourism is still developing here, facilities are at best rustic. Now Egypt, laden with its rich history and architectural splendour, which should have been enough to woo any tourist, did not work for us (read K!) as it would mean a very hectic week of travelling if we wanted to cover all the important sights. So in the end – Mauritius it was.
Now I had never spent an entire week just lazing on the beach. Never. So the very thought seemed rather daunting to me. I was worried I would be bored in a day! Nevertheless, doubts aside, I set to doing what I do best – planning. You would think that being a small island, planning a trip to this tropical paradise would be easy. Heck no!
First, one needs to decide which part of the island to visit – the east, west, north or south. Thankfully for the Tripadvisor forums and some travel blogs, I decided that either the north or the west would be best as the east and the south tend to get very windy this time of the year i.e. August. This is also winter time in Mauritius but since the climate is more or less tropical, it does not get very cold, unless its windy.
I didn’t bother much with the beaches – whether Flic en Flac or Grand Baie or any other, as most of them are equally pretty. If not, then they seem to be located very close to one that is! So next came the resorts. There are hundreds of them to choose from, depending on the budget. Each search threw up so many options that it was mind numbing. While most offered similar facilities in terms of water sports, access to beach, restaurants, spas, etc., you paid more for exclusivity, five star amenities and world class cuisine.
Having spent hours trawling on booking.com and other hotel booking sites and looking at various flight options, I realised that it might be worthwhile to contact a few travel companies in order to get quotes for a comprehensive package – one including hotels, food and flights. This was another first for me. Until now, I had always planned and booked every holiday myself – hotels, flights, trains, buses, entertainment, everything. However, this time, travel agents seemed to make more economical sense.
I contacted no less that 6 companies and gave them my budget and requirements. I found Just Mauritius to be the most efficient and cheapest. Flight Centre was also very helpful but their quotes for the same resorts were much higher. Having painstakingly corresponded with all the agents, read and re-read reviews of at least 30 resorts, I finally settled on a small, three star resort called Veranda Pointe aux Biches (pronounced as ‘Beeshes’)!
The resort was perfect. Located in the north west of the island, close to the buzz of Grand Baie, a touristy town with tons of shops, restaurants and clubs, and yet not close enough to be a bother. Another attraction was the idea of a barefoot holiday that the resort promotes. You are encouraged to walk anywhere without footwear! While most resorts insist on formal attire at dinner time, this resort is equally happy whether you walk in wearing beach shorts or trousers.
Another point to which K and I gave a lot of thought was whether to take a half-board option – which includes breakfast and dinner, or go with full board – which includes all the meals and drinks as well. Most resorts tend to push you towards full board. The difference between both options can be substantial, depending on the resort you choose. However, full board works well for people who are looking at spending most of the days, if not all, at their resort. Also, drinks tend to be expensive when ordered separately. So if you plan to consume a lot, go with full board.
We opted for the full board but ended up not having lunch at the resort on most days. Hopefully we made up for it by drinking. At least K seems to think so!
As usual, we had left the planning and bookings for the very end. Less than two weeks to go, and I was still making the final changes with my travel agent. But finally, everything fell into place with the bookings confirmed and paid for. A week of total bliss was not far……
In my forthcoming posts I will be talking more about Mauritius, the food and things to see and do. Until then, some pictures from our trip!