Being recently betrothed, it was an easy sell. To mark Valentine’s Day, we pack Tom Bangay off to a paradise island in the Indian Ocean. As if white beaches and palm trees weren’t enough, at Heritage Resorts they were setting up a ‘wedding package’…
The conventions of marriage proposal don’t lead to reasoned decisions. Partner A springs the split-second decision on partner B; she/he has to decide right then what to do. So if someone asks you to marry them, then think deeply about it – do you want the same things? Are you ready to commit? Do you get on with their family? And so on and so forth. Be careful.
However, if someone asks you to marry them in Mauritius, just say yes. Say yes and work out the kinks later. Never mind their prospects, personality, behaviour, all that stuff. What’s the worst that could happen? Say yes, get on a plane, have a G and T, read some Danielle Steel and snooze until you wake up in Mauritius. I was in Mauritius for five days and I’m pretty sure I didn’t get married, but not because I didn’t want to. Pretty sure, because it’s hard to be 100 per cent of anything after another boat cruise in the lagoon, serenely insulated from the open ocean’s chop by the third-largest coral reef in the world, dolphins gliding past on the right, sunset on the left, champagne flute in hand. If anyone’s reading this in Mauritius and is married to me, send me a DM?
Heritage Le Telfair sits within the sprawling monument to relaxation that is Heritage Resorts: 2,500 hectares of bliss on an ex-sugar plantation called Domaine de Bel Ombre. Resorts live or die by whether you find yourself itching to leave, and those worries are put to bed on arrival when we take a quick tour. There’s a nature reserve, an immaculate golf course, a frankly bewildering array of watersports, several pools (one of which looks 40m plus) and enough restaurants for me to have lunch and dinner in a different establishment every meal until I leave. There’s even a slightly mad tribal bonfire area hidden behind some hemp curtains. Boredom probably not an issue then.
Palpable relief washes over me and I settle into my suite. They’re set in period-style buildings that fan out along the slow-moving waterway that joins the sea at the beach club. My new home has an elegant four-poster centre stage, with french doors opening out to a palm-fringed sun deck. I have a bureau for writing, a chaise longue for entertaining, and shutters opening into my bathroom. The freestanding bath and sizeable shower impress, but what’s this? Step through the shower’s side door and find yourself a private outside shower! No more sand in the suite for me, suckers. I watch the air con power up from subtle to industrial strength but I turn that off and let the ceiling fan spin lazily while I power up with Nespresso.
Now, should you find yourself on a foreign matrimonial retreat, you may ask – why Mauritius? Of all the seductive love-nests, why pick this little corner of the world? It turns out there’s an objective and unarguable answer to this and I can summarise it in two words: sea karting. Perhaps you weren’t planning for watersports at your wedding. Perhaps you were … either way you can only go sea karting in one place, on one island, on Planet Earth and it’s a short drive from Heritage le Telfair. A sea kart is kind of like a two-man jetski-cum-go-kart that you can’t flip, which sucks in water and spits it out of the back. They’re exceptionally safe but deliciously fast. After a short, jargon-light briefing we’re roaring out into the lagoon, hopping over wakes and skipping across the water. As much as my co-pilot and I try to throw each other out, we don’t quite manage it, but it’s an exhilarating experience, only punctuated by a stop for a picturesque swim amongst the little fish in the calm, green waters. Our instructor team also managed to take some vibrant action shots, and we all revel in our Bond film aesthetics before heading back to le Telfair for a cocktail.
Your Mauritius wedding will probably involve some serious over-consumption, and to that end we check out various restaurants. Gin’Ja is dramatically located at the tip of the beach, which creates its own mood lighting and background noise, to accompany some fairly adventurous Asian cuisine. You can have a torch-lit private table on the sand itself, should you feel the need. Le Chateau Bel Ombre is the largest and most elegant option – a 19th century mansion, set in the greenery of the gardens and golf course, and sitting in the shadow of a gigantic ancient tree. My favourite eatery didn’t have the view of Gin’Ja or the grandeur of le Chateau, but Zafarani (saffron in Swahili) has significant charms in other areas. Zafarani is the resort’s North Indian-focused restaurant and it doesn’t have much room, or a view, but it does have a superb young chef with a marvellous sense for balanced spiciness. There are no children allowed and by kicking-out time we were all well on the way to alcohol-enhanced food comas.
Wedding parties would also take more than a passing interest in the Seven Colours spa village, over at Heritage Awali. There are some 20 treatment rooms hiding amongst the tropical foliage, with a bridal party availing themselves of a couple of the private doubles to get ready for the big day. There are male-specific treatments too, for grooms worried about looking like sunburnt hangovers on legs. I snap up an exceptional massage and retire to the Amafrooty bar nearby (another favourite, this time because of its day-long commitment to strong poolside cocktails, with occasional live music). We sneak out onto the beach to see the secluded spot where today’s happy couple will tie the knot – a simple, shuttered and curtained hut facing out to the Indian ocean. The romantics amongst us are admiring it wistfully when a soft voice starts serenading us with a guitar: Shane is the resort’s crooner-in-chief and can provide a subtle soundtrack to your sun-drenched union.
I checked out a small sample of the coached and independent watersports available at the beach club – the kite-surfing is some of the best in the world. but everything from snorkelling up to sailing, via canoes and scuba diving, is taken care of. Away from the resort, we check out Casela, a 14-hectare nature park packed with flora and fauna. We aren’t quite brave enough to walk with lions – though this is available to those comfortable with it – but we do muster up the courage for ziplining. Before long I’m hanging upside down, flying at serious speed across some yawning canyons. My lunch stays down and my spirits go up; other activities on offer include canyoning, quad bikes, pony trekking and the safari.
All good things must come to an end and my brideless Mauritian wedding is no different, but it’s been a wonderful experience at Heritage le Telfair, enhanced by the unfussy warmth of its relaxed, sunkissed staff. Tying the knot never felt so tempting.
Heritage Le Telfair is an elegant five-star hotel designed in colonial style, with three gourmet restaurants including award-winning Annabella’s and Gin’Ja, a Pan-Asian teppanyaki restaurant. Luxury rooms come complete with sea views, French windows and private balconies. Suites additionally have personal butlers.
A deluxe room at Heritage Le Telfair starts from £260 per night (two sharing) on a B&B basis. For more information, visit www.heritageresorts.mu.
Heritage Resorts, on the southern coast of Mauritius, is set on an ex-sugar plantation estate known as the Domaine de Bel Ombre. Spread over 2,500 hectares, Heritage Resorts offers superbly-appointed accommodation at three of its charming properties – Heritage Le Telfair, Heritage Awali and Heritage The Villas. The resort features 12 restaurants, the Frederica Nature Reserve (complete with its own activities), the C Beach Club, a kids clubs, a babies corner and one teens club, a championship 18-hole golf course, a kitesurfing school, two spas, fitness centres and the romantic Chateau de Bel Ombre, an 1800’s colonial French mansion.
For more information about Mauritius, including what to see and do on the island, visit www.tourism-mauritius.mu.