SHANGRI-LA LE TOUESSROK TROU D’EAU DOUCE BAY, MAURITIUS
BEST FOR: FAMILIES OR COUPLES WHO WANT GOOD FOOD, A TOP SPA AND EVERYTHING LAID ON NOT FOR:LOW-KEY BOUTIQUE HOTEL LOVERS – YOU HAVE TO WANT A WHAM BAM RESORT
Passing sugar cane plantations (rum is the national spirit), gentle hills and small fishing villages, the 45-minute drive from the airport to Mauritius’s east coast Trou d’Eau Douce Bay is peppered with local scenes. Pull into the Shangri-La Le Touessrok’s driveway and the scenery turns trimmed and tranquil – “Ahhh we’ve arrived” is the feeling as cold flannels and rosehip with hibiscus refreshers are handed out.
Le Touessrok has an organic look to it, with roots displayed as art works, a policy of no cut flowers – they opted for orchids instead and use the “flower money” to sponsor a programme which protects the green parakeet. Yes, this is a resort with 200 rooms, three uber villas with 24 hours butlers, chefs and private beaches (naturally, guests usually arrive by private jet and heli transfer) but it’s also a hotel with history. Le Touessrok started out in the 1970s as a restaurant that showed its guests such a good time that many were too merry to drive home. So, the owners decided to build a few bungalows and offer B&B. Not wanting to miss a good opportunity, the local sugar plantation bought Le Touessrok and went into partnership with One & Only. Then, a few years ago, along came Shangri La with plans to deliver some much-needed TLC – a $48 million overhaul no less – and here we have the new reincarnation: the Shangri-La Le Touessrok. “The rooms are unrecognisable”, says a twice-a-year South African guest, “they did such a great job.” The look is beachy with thatched roofs and lots of whitewash, set off with some wacky insets – think purple swirly glass doors. Impressive, given several changes of ownership, Le Touessrok has retained some members of staff since it first opened. As for loyal guests, there’s a small orchard in the grounds where long-standing, much-returning guests can plant a tree.
If having a Asian hospitality in the Indian Ocean sounds a little jarring, in reality it fits as well as any other nationality – this little island off Madagascar has been influenced by pretty much every culture going. This really comes to light through the food which, for obvious reasons, is mainly seafood but can easily be served with an Indian, Asian, European or an African hat on. Le Touessrok solves the fusion confusion by having separate restaurants: an Indian overlooking one of the two swimming pools, with a couple of tandoor ovens set among the tables and a mean ghee roast chicken with cashew nuts. Then, there’s the Japanese restaurant (the only one on the island with a Japanese chef, Nobu-trained no less) with wonderful decorations of hair combs hanging on strings, like a veil which brings echoes of geishas. The food here is top notch – perfect not-too-salty miso soup, seared tuna tataki and black cod to make Nobu proud. Lastly, there are a couple of toes-in-the-sand beach grills, one of which is on the hotel’s private island, Ilot Mangénie, only reachable by boat.
Now to the spa. Set in the adults-only Frangipanni wing, this is where the calm comes in. You’re given three small juices on arrival – a green detox smoothie, an energising ginger zinger and a calming camomile and banana blend – then there are big jugs of water with ginger, orange and apple, or mint and lemon, to keep those h20 levels pumped. There’s an Asian persuasion to the décor and with these caramel colours you could really be stepping into any CHI spa. The treatments are varied, some local like the Heated Mauritian Coconut Oil massage which involves being lathered all over with lovely silky oil and rubbed with two smooth coconuts. Gentle and so relaxing – ask for masseuse Tina if you can. Then there’s the two and a half hour Seven Essences of Chamarel spa-athon which starts with a coco hair treatment, then moves to a sugar cane body scrub, before an eye and face mask, aloe vera body wrap and a Tipik massage. Other options include Amazonian mud masks, seaweed and bio-plasma face masks, and banana leaf wraps to suss out those areas of energy imbalance. And, of course, in a nod to Mauritius’ best-known crop, there’s a sugar cane baton massage.
This isn’t a retreat sort of place, you have to make your own schedule – but if wellness is your aim then it’s here on a plate. Start the day with a complimentary yoga or pilates class steps from the sea, then pile a bowl high with organic granola and mango before heading out for some water skiing, wind surfing, paddle boarding or sailing. In the afternoon, take the boat over to Ilot Mangénie for grilled marlin before heading back to the mainland and bunkering into the spa. In a nutshell, you’ve got everything you need in one place and it’s all pressure-free – no personal trainer breathing down your neck, just warm, clear sea, spa treatments on tap and room overlooking the waves. There are worse ways to put that spring back in your step.
PRICE: Susie Freeman Travel offers seven nights half board in a Deluxe Ocean View Room at Shangri-La Le Touessrok Mauritius from £1500 per person including return flights in economy and return private car transfers.Tel: 01488 668821;www.susiefreemantravel.com NEAREST AIRPORT: Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport TRANSFER TIME: 45 minutes