By: Natalie Whittell
Mauritius has always ranked high on my list of dream destinations, and after two years of travelling to and from England for multiple weddings, or snatching short breaks around Asia, I decided it was finally time to visit the island that, according to Mark Twain, heaven used as its blueprint.
It didn’t take much research to discover that one of the gems of Mauritius is Club Med’s La Plantation d’Albion. Although there are two Club Meds on the island, this is the grander twin with five “tridents” (Club Med’s personal star rating). I easily silenced the apprehensive voice that was whispering “Club Meds have organised fun” with images of the picturesque private beaches, amazing pools and incredible rooms, and so I packed my bags and set off.
After a seven-hour flight, and an hour’s car journey in the dark, we pulled up to the resort. Bleary-eyed, I couldn’t help but stare blankly at the team of excitable GOs (a Club Med term for staff – from the French, gentils organisateurs, meaning “kind organisers”) dancing around before me. That apprehensive voice came back momentarily, and I imagined being forced on stage to perform the Macarena.
Happily, when I quizzed the staff about what I would have to get involved with at Club Med, I was told that I could make my holiday whatever I wanted: a solitary, relaxing affair, or a dancing-till-dawn vacay. Reassured, I loped off to check in to my beautiful, rustic Club Room.
In the morning light, it was clear that the resort was every inch the paradise I had been promised, and more. My spacious room and huge balcony overlooked a lush garden, and at breakfast I was awed by the restaurant views over the blue Indian Ocean and sweeping white private beaches. As I began to explore the resort, I could see that this really was a resort to suit any style of holiday.
La Plantation d’Albion Club Med boasts two pools: a main pool where there are games, classes and general frivolity throughout the day, and the Tranquility Infinity Pool, which caters strictly to adults and is an absolute haven of silence, a silence only broken by waves gently lapping on the rocks below.
The adult pool is positioned away from the main building but next door to the spa, and has a variety of villa rooms that cater solely for honeymooners and guests without children. A stunning restaurant area next to the pool also means there is no need for those honeymooning types to step outside their peaceful section of the resort – and there’s not a hint of organised fun in sight!
The main pool, on the other hand, is the perfect place to entertain the kids all day, and while the GOs bounce around keeping the music and competitions coming, they also leave in peace those who would just prefer to watch, only bothering them with the occasional fruit platter from time to time.
Apart from the pools, the resort offers some spectacular activities to keep children and anyone who can’t sit still entertained. The most popular activity is the flying trapeze, where three scantily clad professionals run regular classes. Archery and golf are also popular sports; I felt my inner Jennifer Lawrence, à la Hunger Games, emerge as I walked onto the archery field. There is also tennis, sailing, kayaking, paddleboarding and a range of day trips to enjoy. You certainly won’t get bored.
Perhaps stating the obvious, La Plantation d’Albion Club Med is perfect for families and kids. In addition to all the fantastic activities for young ones, there are great children’s clubs that cater for ages two to 17; the GOs are available to take the children straight after breakfast and can drop them off just before dinner. It makes for a genuine holiday for children and parents alike.
With all these resort activities, you’re probably wondering if I had time to eat. Don’t worry, I did – and I ate a lot. And then I ate some more! Being at an all-inclusive resort makes you feel as if you should in some way try and eat an elephant’s weight in food just because it’s free. It’s not hard when the spectacular buffets at breakfast, lunch and dinner cater for every food whim imaginable and for even the fussiest of eaters; there’s a theme each night with a focus on one cuisine, though a whole host of other cuisines are always available.
In between buffet hours, there are always snacks available around the pool, and as I left for the airport, I found myself frantically shovelling pancakes into my mouth from the portable pancake bar by the pool.
Away from the resort
Aside from the variety of activities at the hotel, there are several must-see sights around the island. Keen to cram in some culture, I headed off to the City Centre, Port Louis, just under an hour away. En route we made a quick detour to Fort Adelaide, an abandoned fort that offers spectacular views over the city and its harbour, as well as the second-oldest horse-racing track in the world, Champ de Mars.
Once down in Port Louis, I ambled around the numerous streets that perfectly reflect the country’s rich and diverse history, soaking up the seamless combination of religions and assortments of architecture, while also picking up several bottles of the island’s specialty, vanilla rum.
If you’re aiming to escape the urban jungle, the Black River Gorges National Park is the perfect destination. This incredible expanse of rolling hills and thick forest is a protected reserve that looks like something from The Land Before Time. If you only make one day-trip from the beach (well, the sunbed), make it this. There is the option to hike through this amazing park, but be sure to get yourself a professional guide, as you wouldn’t want to get lost in the forest!
No trip to Mauritius would really be complete without a trip to the spectacular geological formation of the Seven Coloured Earths in Chameral. These impressive sand dunes consist of seven distinct striped colours of earth, deposited in layers to create a rainbow effect. They are a marvel to stare at and quite worth the hour’s journey from the hotel.
If none of this appeals, you can always head off to one of the dozen impressive golf courses on the island; they’re all preened to championship standards, or so I’m told.
All in all, Mauritius is a spectacular little island – full of life, history, incredible beaches, crystal-clear seas, vanilla rum and gorgeous weather. It completely lived up to my dreams. La Plantation d’Albion Club Med was the ideal resort to showcase the best features of the place – as well as having a flying trapeze! No matter how you like to holiday, this is a perfect destination and resort.
This story first appeared in Expat Living’s March 2015 issue.