Tourism: Mauritius the irresistibleNovember 28, 2017
Who could resist a red telephone box from which you can call an international landline at no charge? Not me. I surprise my friend at her desk in Melbourne. “I think this is the only time in my life I’ll get a call from Mauritius,” she says, in a rare gush.
I get it. Even in the 21st century, Mauritius is as exotic as a whiff of vanilla. To me, its name is a blend of “more” and “delicious”, and when I say it out loud, it’s as soothing as the breeze jiggling palm fronds or saltwater licking the sand. There are countries further from Australia and others more difficult to reach but few emanate the romance of this multicultural Indian Ocean island nation. No wonder honeymooners flock in droves.
I can’t wait to drink it in, this unknown land, but enlightenment is delayed as darkness shrouds the outpost when my plane lands. It’s an hour’s drive to Le Morne in the island’s southwest and the headlights illuminate little, maintaining the mystique until morning. My driver says Mauritians are more about family life than nightlife; his words roll out the window and bounce down empty streets. Mauritians, I discover, are delighted to be asked about their families but they’re also interested in you. The country’s economy has long revolved around tourism and I can see why visitors would want to return for an extra helping of Mauritian warmth and charm. Upon arrival at LUX Le Morne, bug-eyed after travelling from Australia’s east coast, I’m swiftly ushered to my suite so I can recover from the journey.
Sunrise reveals the 149-room resort is snuggled at the foot of Le Morne mountain, a dramatic monolith that looms large in the island’s history as a refuge for runaway slaves who settled in its caves and on the summit. You can hike the 556m nub but I cycle past the World Heritage-listed landmark with Laurent Marrier d’Unienville from Electro Bike Discovery. We cruise along the south coast, admiring the acrobatics of kite-surfers taking advantage of the steady trade winds and inspecting the Matthew Flinders commemorative sculpture (Laurent’s ancestors have a Flinders connection). For lunch, we stop at a photogenic pink and aqua-painted roadside stall for roti chaud (warm Indian flatbread) wrapped around vegetable curry, a snack that costs only a few rupees. It’s such a delightful peek into village life that I vow to return for a cycling holiday one day.
There’s no shortage of things to do in this corner of the island. A five-minute stroll from the resort is the Slave Route Monument, a collection of poignant sculptures illuminating the tragic history of the mountain from which fugitive slaves leapt to their death rather than face capture. I venture up to Rhumerie de Chamarel, 14km from LUX Le Morne. As I admire the distillery’s manicured gardens and pops of pink bougainvillea, I taste-test its rums (bottles of the gold and spice varieties accompany me home).
Katrina Lobley was a guest of LUX Resorts & Hotels.
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