Bel Ombre, Mauritius: A corner of paradise in the Indian Ocean
It’s home to the bluest of skies, the sandiest of beaches and clearest of waters. But there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the beauty of Mauritius.
Steeped in history, this small but vibrant island in the Indian Ocean is home to a fantastic blend of cultures from across the world.
After a rocky period from the end of the 16th century to the early 1900s, when control of Mauritius changed hands between the Dutch, French and United Kingdom, the island gained its independence in the 1960s.
But it embraces its heritage and, as a result, its population continues to be multilingual and multi-ethnic. You’ll hear French and English as well as Mauritian Creole – a local language blending African and South Asian words.
Everything in Mauritius seems to have a warm glow to it, from the moment you step foot off the plane at the airport.
We’re staying at the Outrigger Mauritius Beach Resort in Bel Ombre, a designated nature reserve in the south-west.
It’s roughly a 45-minute journey from the airport and the ride itself is an experience.
You soon come to realise why this part of Mauritius it widely referred to as “The Authentic South-West” – paying homage to its fantastic views, open fields and glorious landscape.
It’s a large resort (181 sea-facing rooms, in total), connected by winding paved pathways. We’re staying in a beach-front villa, with our veranda/patio less than 100-metres from the sea.
The view is breathtaking.
It’s a lush green setting here and I cannot stress that enough. There’s vegetation everywhere you look.
At the resort, size really is key. We’re away in mid-June, which is slightly off-season in Mauritius. The weather is still good, averaging 25C most days but there is a wind and the odd patch of drizzle.
Nevertheless, it’s warm and humid so a chance to cool off is obviously welcome.
There are four different pools – including a quieter, adults-only one.
The hotel aims its appeal at both families and couples and there’s a healthy mix of young couples, those on honeymoon, older people enjoying retirement and travelling, as well as families and small children.
The main pool is just metres from the beach, where the resort boasts a beach house that offers free watersports and activities.
As Mauritius is protected largely by a coral reef, the island is surrounded almost entirely by a lagoon before you reach the sea, and Outrigger was no exception. The lovely colours of the lagoon glisten in the sunshine as the waves ripple in the wind in June, captivating visitors.
On the food front, Outrigger does restaurants very well. The brand, first founded in Hawaii, boasts resorts across the world and its chefs are well-versed when it comes to international cuisine.
There are four restaurants, including one beach-side that offers barbecue-style and seafood, the Mercado (a large hall with rotating buffet nights every evening) and finally, The Plantation Club.
The club offers finer dining and themed nights such as a lobster-tasting menu and Mauritius’s Creole cuisine.
During the day, the club, based around a colonial-style building, has a pool and bar, and serves as a private ‘members-only’ area, offered to guests in villas.
Owing to its size, there are dozens of members of staff working here – from gardeners raking the sandy pathways to the chefs toiling in the kitchen. Each and everyone greets you with a smile, “bonjour” or “hello” as you walk by and will ensure you are well looked after.
Protected by grand walls resembling a castle is the hotel’s Navasana Spa. We opt for a couples full back massage, which was relaxing after a day in the sun.
While Mauritius offers a luxurious beach holiday, contrary to popular belief there is also a surprising wealth of adventure to be had for those who don’t just want to lounge in the sun.
Outrigger organises a range of what it calls ‘Signature Experiences’ ranging from electric-powered bike tours to glass-bottom boat trips and hiking.
We go for hiking at Le Morne – a stunning, 490-metre peak and World Heritage site, close to Bel Ombre.
The views, even from just midway up the mountain, are incredible. The peak offers an almost complete panoramic of the entire island.
We also have a go at the E-Bike Discovery Tour to Souillac – a village close to the southernmost part of the island.
This is a half-day tour with a knowledgeable guide, who whisks the group around various heritage sites. The views are breathtaking along this coast.
We’re also taken to visit a local family, who serve lunch and teach visitors how to make traditional Creole food.
We weren’t just confined to the South during our visit and took the opportunity to explore almost every corner as Mauritius is a gem with pockets of activity scattered everywhere.
Key points we visited included the island’s capital Port Louis, an extremely busy port city.
We also took in the fantastic Black River Gorges – panoramic forest views and picturesque waterfalls – and nearby Chamarel, famous for its “seven-coloured earth” soil that changes in the sunlight from pinks to shades of blue and purple.
Our trip also covered Mahebourg just a short drive from the airport. It’s a much more local feel here but visitors are still made to feel very welcome at its small port.
Whether it’s a sandy paradise with majestically stunning ocean views, a romantic celebration or an activity-filled trip, Mauritius has something for everyone.