Mauritius

‘Scubadooing’, Louis and Nola

The little island country of Mauritius is an island country and a very popular destination for everything related to H2O and the sea. Swimming, fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, water skiing, dolphin watching, sea food, sunset cruises are widely enjoyed by tourists and locals. Very very unfortunately, I don’t know how to swim and being a vegetarian, cannot eat seafood! So, from all the above, all I could attempt was a cruise, and that too gave me a headache! I was pretty sad that I couldn’t behold all the wonders that the sea world held below under a few hundred leagues under the sea, till technology intervened in the form of a ‘Scubadoo’ scooter that promised to take me down under without me know how to swim!

Driving along, we stopped by a little board on Scubadooing near the beach Trou aux biches where we first encountered Louis. This cheerful gentleman gave us an appointment the next day for going under the sea on the Scubadoo scooter without being able to swim.

We wore our watersuits to keep us warm in the water we were to enter in and away we went in Louis car to the beach for a little ride on a boat. The trained divers helped us on to the sea scooter and lowered us into the water. My heart rate certainly went up and I thought I would drown not being used to so much water! And once in there, it was a whole new world and the equipment let me breathe normally with the water not even going above my neck.  It was fantastic to see nature in a new setting and I marveled at the gorgeous fish that swam by. I do feel, the creative department of the Creator has crafted the most gorgeous patterns, colors and shapes in the sea world rather than on land (if one were to except butterflies). Fish with yellow polka dots, silver streaks, gold stripes and endless other unique designs flitted by as I watched in wonder and the 30 minutes went by without my realizing it.

True to his word, Louis, took us back to his home where his talented wife Nola had prepared a feast for us with delicious ‘wadas’ and samosas with chutney and coffee.  There our host started talking to us, and boy, was he entertaining and knowledgeable! Louis and Nola were originally South Africans we learnt, who had come to Mauritius when Louis quit his lucrative corporate job at an insurance company to start his own business. His love for the sea lured him to start a business around water activities. He proudly told us that he was one of the two or three service providers in the world for the Scubadoo which he had brought from Australia.  Being in the service industry for so long, he had realized that service quality was of utmost importance and that’s why the best divers, perks such as photography included in the fees, and even the snacks. He genuinely wanted to make people happy and went the extra mile to do it. In fact we were amazed to know how they customized even the snacks for their clients and even served Jain food!  There certainly were several lessons in importance of service quality learnt in our conversation with him.

Thanks to the Sunday being his weekend (Mondays being off for their service), Louis and Nola were relaxed and chatted on about their surprise that most Indians (even the migrant islanders) did not know how to swim and we had to shake our heads and mumble about bad infrastructure in India. But apparently he knew about India more than we did including histories of Manmohan Singh, the Congress party, the businesses, the culture, and problems! An islander he certainly was, but had his eyes and ears across the world.  It is rare to meet people as lovely and hospitable as Louis and Nola! I hope Nola gets to meet with her grandkids more often (again across the world in South Africa, France etc.) and Louis does really well in this business of his!

If you do visit Mauritius, do visit Louis and Nola for Scubadooing and a host of other services they provide.  I am sure you will have a great time! Check out http://www.scuba-doomauritius.com/ for more details and contact.

Louis and Nola

With the fish

Pretty fish – pic courtsey Scubadoo team

Sunset at Trou aux Biches

Categories: Mauritius, World | Tags: , , | 14 Comments

Resort experience and review – Le Meridien, Mauritius

On arrival at the hotel, we were seated on the plush chairs in the lounge welcomed by a cool drink as we waited to check in. SS being a platinum Starwood member (the hotel is a part of the Starwood chain of hotels) having spent many project nights at the Westin, was accorded a warmer welcome in the form of an upgrade to the exclusive area of the hotel to the ‘Nirvana’ wing with its exclusive restaurant, swimming pool and beach area. What was more, they upgraded our room too.

As the golf cart drove us to our room, as we entered, the hotel staff told us we were having the best in the hotel! Oh we literally whooped when the suite opened into a huge terrace balcony with beach chairs and a dining table overlooking into the swimming pool and the sea!  Ah! Bliss! I was totally torn between tearing away from the view of the ocean and the comfortable bed for a few reviving hours of sleep.

We checked out the suite, with a spacious living room and a bedroom that even had a private Jacuzzi! Other perks were the complimentary wifi, free drinks and exclusive access to their beach facing restaurant for a complimentary breakfast.  I certainly could not stop exulting and smirking about how we got all this for Free, thanks to Starwoods fabulous loyalty program.

Had we not got upgraded, I guess, we would have been just as happy seeing that most of the rooms were ocean facing, were beautiful too and that is all that mattered!

Features

The resort was beautiful with a lovely 1000 meters private beach to start with. It had several amenities that included a well-equipped gym, a spa and beauty salon.  It also had a kids club for activities, tennis courts, two large swimming pools, Table tennis, beach volleyboll, and water sport facilities.

Water Sports

The hotel also offered several complimentary water activities to all its guests. These included kayaking, paddle boating, water skiing, wind surfing, glass bottom boat ride, and snorkeling.  Additionally, they also offered other paid services of dolphin and catarmaran (Sailboat) cruises, fishing, discovering islands, private cruises, lessons in water sports etc.

Dining

Dining was sumptuous at Le Meridian with being spoilt for choice in several of its restaurants offering a variety of delicious cuisines ranging from Mediterranean, Indian, and European in distinct settings. The staff told us that this being winter, this was the lean season, and hence we were able to get tables for breakfast and dinner as easily as we did. In summers, the resort is usually more crowded and advance booking necessary at all the restaurants. The restaurants also had a dress code that did not permit shorts and slippers for dinner.

Like all good things come to an end, so did our points and the stay but I am glad, the last we used them was the best we have ever stayed in for a lovely time at Mauritius.

You can know more on this hotel on their website http://www.lemeridien-mauritius.com/.  Rest assured, we had a fabulous experience and I would highly recommend it.

View from Balcony

Infinity poolBreakfast on the beach

Chill by the beach

Resort area

Categories: Mauritius, World | Tags: , , | 16 Comments

Mauritius Ahoy!

Blue, green, moving, dynamic, awe-inspiring, dark, rocky, fishy, slimy, pebbly, black, beautiful, scenic, moving, exciting, dangerous, calm, soothing, vast, ceaseless. If there is anything that is truly awe-inspring, and reaffirms my faith that there has to be a supreme power to create something like it, it’s the Sea. The Sky, the mountains, the desert, are no doubt vast, and imposing, but the sea is different. It moves. It contains life, it has moods of its own, it is alive.

After a long hiatus, I finally took off to that dream foreign junket to Mauritius. Exceedingly happy to escape the monsoon traffic in Mumbai and the humdrum work and chores, I eagerly awaited that Air Mauritius flight that would take me away from chaos to the tranquility and excitement of a lovely beach!

Why did we choose Mauritius?–
– A destination where most honeymooners go, although, I wasn’t on my honeymoon, Mauritius was certainly a place we decided that would be the one to relax and rejuvenate.
– Fantastic pictures from other travellers, made us sit up and want to go there
– The falling rupee made Europe very expensive
– South east Asia being at the equator, was way too hot for my liking at this time
– We only wanted to relax and rejuvenate and a beach at an exotic locale sounded like a great idea
– Hubby SS had accumulated plenty of Starwood hotel points which we needed to finish off this year
– Visa on arrival for Indian citizens allowed for one less time-consuming hassle for a visit!

The Flight
The Air Mauritius flight in the wee hours of the morning (4 am) in the middle of the week, saw me fighting to the finish to send off that last email and then rush to the airport at midnight. The visa being on arrival was one less hassle and we were relieved to have chosen this destination. The flight was full (of honeymooners as expected) with girls in huge red bangles, green bangles, and there were hardly any girls without the mehendi on their hand and feet! How easy it is to tell newly weds in India I realized than anywhere else where they only have a tiny hardly visible ring to indicate they are married!

Immigration formalities completed, the flight left in time for our destination as we tried to get a few winks in the 6 hour flight. However, dear reader, the flight was frightfully uncomfortable with cramped seats and little leg room. A snack was served immediately after take-off and before they dimmed the lights. Thankfully, they served an Indian vegetarian breakfast consisting of upma, sambaar and dosa in the morning which was the only redeeming factor in the whole journey! I would have recommended booking an Air India flight if it were not for the striking pilots, but then, Air Mauritius also has a tie-up with Air India, so one might end up in the Air Mauritius plane after all, so unless you are flying business, expect an uncomfortable flight!

On Arrival
We arrived in the morning bleary eyed and tired but looking forward to the long day that stretched ahead. As I entered the Mauritius airport, I noticed all the Mauritians looking no different than Indians! Infact, they even dressed like Indians – The women wore salwar kameezes, bindis and sindur! That was my first brush with the Indianness in Mauritius and I went on to discover more that I will describe in my next blog.
Several money-changing personnel assailed us as we got off, not unlike the vegetable market style of yelling their exchange rates perceiving which countries tourists arrived from. We changed some of the Indian Rupees for Mauritian Rupees (yes, their currency is Rupee too) and then looked for the next step – transport to take us to the hotel. Unlike us, most tourists, had booked package tours which are usually inclusive of accommodation, transfers, and sightseeing. But well, we have never enjoyed that form of tourism where everything is mostly tailored for you and there is less chance of discovery and self-exploration. As the crowd disappeared we ambled to taxi counter and bargained for a taxi . The taxi charges were around Rs 1700 Mauritian for a 1.5 hour ride to the hotel – this is around 3,400 Indian Rupees.

First Impressions
The first impressions imprinted in my mind on the road are the breezy heads of crops billowing in the wind, lush green sugarcane crops spread over long stretches, peeks of the blue ocean and green stretches on both the sides of the ‘motorable road’ as we were to call it later. Ten minutes down the road, the taxiwallah asked us if we wanted a car on rent. Well, we did, and he took us to a private car dealer outside the airport where we got a shiny red car after plenty more haggling and a tattered map to get to our hotel. Thankfully, driving on an Indian license was permitted, and we got our means to roam around without worrying about the high taxi fares. Petrol was pretty expensive at nearly Rs 100 (Indian) for a litre and for once, we didn’t grumble about high petrol costs in India!

Quite a large chunk of Mauritius’ coastline is lined by hotels, and our hotel, Le Meridian was situated in the northwestern part of the little island in a place called Pointe Aux Piments. Most of the names in Mauritius are French and utterly unpronounceable for the ones like me uninitiated with the silent letters in French language! After passing the main city of Port Louis with its picturesque harbor and office buildings, and many twists and turns later, we finally made it to our hotel a couple of hours later.

A magnificent view from the hotel room beckoned us to stay awake and the exceedingly plush room beckoned us to recover from the long flight, but well, the hotel stay is worth another blog.

Stay tuned for more on Mauritius.

Tips and lessons learnt
– The best time to visit Mauritius is in their Summer – October – February. We visited in their winter (July). Although it wasn’t very cold, and got mildly chilly in the evenings, you might not be able to get into the water as many times as you would like to.
– Air Mauritius is not a comfortable flight. Carry an extra cushion, wear socks. Get those few hours of sleep. It will help.
– Check out foreign currency rates in your home country and try to get the best possible rate. If it works, withdraw in dollars if you have a dollar account somewhere.
– If you are comfortable with group tours, go for it, they usually turn out cheaper and hassle free
– If you like to discover things on your own, book only your flights and hotels in advance and also find out the best modes of transport available.
– Mauritius allows driving on an Indian driving license. You can rent a car here. Check out options before arriving here since airport rentals might be a bit more expensive. We got a car for Rs Mauritian 1000 a day whereas at the airport they charged nearly Rs 1400-1500 for a day. Public transport is quite weak and I wouldn’t recommend taking the few buses available there. Taxis cost about Rs Mauritian 500-600 (Rs 1000-1200 Indian) for even short distances of 5-6 kms.

Categories: Mauritius, World | Tags: , , | 11 Comments

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