With a staff that deserves Olympic Gold for the amount of attention they lavish on you, and an organisation that will ensure your stay will be special, it's very hard to beat. But that's Long Beach Mauritius for you.
This break was thanks to yours truly winning a prize - namely two Business Class return tickets: Cape Town-Mauritius, courtesy Air Mauritius; and five nights at Long Beach. This lead to one of my workmates to observe that I was not only very lucky, but also my parents had never married.
Now, first of all, how can I describe the flight to Mauritius... Ah! Interesting... that basically sums it up.
We travelled on an Airbus 319. Unfortunately, our allocated seats were 1A and 1C, which were up against the bulkhead. It certainly felt like less legroom than economy class and I was a bit cramped, as I could not stretch my legs out at all. The other seats seemed to have far more legroom.
Very few kids were on board, particularly in Business Class, but the in-flight movie was Rio
and that, coupled with a woman behind me who talked to herself throughout the whole flight becoming more animated with the more whisky she consumed, did not make for pleasant viewing. She sounded a bit like Sybil, from Fawlty Towers
, but not as quiet. My problem was that there was no movie choice - only Rio
and one other after it - which left me somewhat underwhelmed, and only a small overhead screen, necessitating the head to be cranked up at an angle of about 45°. Hence, I spent the entire flight with a posture as though I was watching an air show, yawning because the movie bored me to tears, and trying not to hear the fellow passenger chatting away and, sometimes it seemed, having arguments with herself... and losing them.
And on the return trip - same seats but better movies - but the wife's console did not work. Not happy!
However, the food in Business Class was really good and the cabin crew were most attentive during both flights, so that was great.
The coloured sands of Chamarel.
We even had steel cutlery (that sort of puzzles me... economy class gets plastic, we get steel... Does this mean we up the sharp end can be trusted but that lot back in economy are a right shifty-looking bunch?).
Anyhow, we eventually landed and were picked up by SummerTimes, courtesy of the hotel and, after a journey of not much more than an hour, reached Long Beach.Those marvellous mohitas
Try the mohitas with curry leaves - you are given one on arrival, and believe me, they are worth the wait.
Then 'may waif end aye' repaired to our suite, which was really comfortable and had bags of room - and a complementary bottle of rum, as the hotel staff knew we were celebrating 36 years of me being ordered about.
We travel a lot and we both put a lot of stock in comfort, the main requisites being: comfortable bed, comfortable pillows, and great shower. Our Long Beach suite scored 10/10 on all three - and more. Add to that great service, a range of restaurants to suit just about every palate and a range of activities (most able to be booked through Long Beach) and you have no excuse for not having a great break.
The large flat screen TV came with some DStv channels and the local channels as well. I soon gave up on the local French channel as that language is Greek to me, but I was able to keep up with events in Libya and the rest of the world and - somewhat more depressingly - SA.
Watching the BBC and CNN is, of course, like being in Groundhog Day
... turn on at any time and you are sure to see exactly what you watched 12...10...8...6...4...2... and 1 hour ago, and possibly even a few minutes back. So you can pretty much guess what the correspondent in Tripoli or wherever is going to say next. I ended up virtually lip-synching.
So we didn't spend TOO much watching the goggle-box; besides, one of the reasons for travelling is to get away from the depressing world - not take it with you.
Long Beach, most efficiently managed by MD Nicolas Chalain, our consummate host, had laid on a spa treatment for myself and my boss (aka may waif).I must admit spa treatments are not really my scene, but after a good workout from a slim young lady who could not have weighed much more than 50kg but seemed to have fingers and hands strong enough to crush walnuts, I floated out feeling much better.3000mm Under The Sea
The next day Long Beach excelled itself yet again as, an additional part of our prize, we were able to take a slow amble on the seabed. And now I know why people get hooked on snorkelling and scuba diving.
You do not have to be Jacque Cousteau to dive the depths here, however, because the depths are only 3m. We were taken out to the floating platform - essentially a large boat with an open square about 1.5m by 1.5m cut out the bottom - and given a quick rundown of what was going to happen.
There are three basic signals: first finger and thumb making a circle means 'OK'; index finger jabbing upwards means 'I want to go up' and a horizontal wave some what reminiscent of John Travolta dancing in Staying Alive
means 'I don't understand' or possibly 'Is that large grey shape over there what I think it is?' (Only kidding, the lagoon is fully protected and home only to small - and very beautiful fish... thousands of them). The only sharks you need worry about are any you might find on dry land trying to sell you curios.
The first thing that goes on is your weight belt, to keep you down. Then you step on to the ladder and after a large helmet, not out of place on the moon, is lowered over your head you begin your descent. (It - the helmet - weighs about 30-40kg, but once you are underwater, it's very comfortable since it's full of air and your head.)
Keep a firm grip on the ladder. As your feet feel around for the last rung, and find you're on it, let yourself down to the seabed. Make sure you wear sandals as you are walking on coral and bare feet are a no-no.
Stay upright, and go walkabout; if any water comes into your helmet use the handle to push it back slightly, and the air pressure pushes all the water out - I didn't even get my chin damp. Oh, you can also chat to yourself - but I didn't; I didn't want to sound like my fellow passenger on the flight out.
The diver who goes down before you, and guides you off the ladder, takes shots of you underwater and then gives you bread to feed the fish - which go wild... scores of them flash in and eat from your hands. Occasionally you feel a little nibble on your fingers, but there are no teeth, so no worries.'Hello pinhead'
A word about the pictures... we bought the disk afterwards - Rs900 - which works out at about R275 or so - and money very well spent, but bear in mind that the shape of your helmet distorts the size of your head. I have been described as a pinhead a couple of times in my life, but in the pictures of me and the boss under water, I at last live up to the insult.
You stay down for about 15-20 minutes or so, which I reckon is about 5 hours too short as I enjoyed it so much, in a world that can only be described as one to remember.
After a time that was too short - but well worth what is charged, believe me - the diver gestured to us to return to the ladder and we ended what is a truly memorable experience.
Thanks to the guys at Aquaventure (www.underseawalkmauritius.com
- the site seems to be down, temporarily) - and of course to Long Beach, for the experience.
High anxiety... Panic! The writer in a barely controlled state of high anxiety on hearing the news his wife has toilet trouble.
The next day we spent chilling - or tanning - and the only excitement was when the boss went off to the loo. She went and I dozed, but I was awoken by an attractive young lady who startled me with 'Are you Rod?' and before I could get my hopes up, then went on to tell me that Heather was locked in the loo, but hotel maintenance had been called and she would be out in a few minutes.
My chances of a holiday romance... doomed!
Anyway, she (Heather, that is) returned a short while later just slightly aggrieved that I had not been worried about her absence and was still horizontal, but I thought she'd gone walkabout for a while, and there had been no point in me getting involved since the maintenance guy was already on to it.
On the Tuesday we relaxed, - it being 30 August and our anniversary - being waited on hand and food by the ever attentive staff and then went for dinner.'Oh kyk! Cake!'
Long Beach treated us to champagne, thank you very much, and congrats were handed out from all sides to us for making 36 years (though Heather feels she deserves a medal), and the customary carrying of loaded plates back to our table.
At the end of dinner, we were presented with a chocolate cake to die for and which we got on the outside of in short order - with some slices going to the children of the young lady who had come to give me the news of my wife's incarceration. Returning to our room, we found our bed festooned with flowers as well as towels artfully folded to represent two kissing swans forming a heart. Very romantic - and a night I am going to have to duplicate or better next year. Thank you Long Beach!
Then on the last day of our five-night stay we did a tour of the island, one of many exclusions and cruises offered by SummerTimes who has an office at the hotel.
The tour took in Curepipe, Grand Bassin, Plaine-Champagne and Chamarel.Trou-aux-Cerfs is an extinct volcano and a great viewpoint for much of the island. Then you're off to Voiliers de I'Ocean to see expert craftsmen building model sailing ships - beautiful models, but rightly not cheap - and then on to Ganga Talao, a pilgrimage site for the island's Hindus and home to a 33m statue of one of the religion's gods - sorry, can't remember which one.
From there you go up to Black River Gorges for more viewing of the island, and then lunch at Varangue-sur-Morne, for a typical Mauritian lunch (included in the tour fee, but drinks are extra).
And very tasty too! A rum time
Then it's on to Rhumerie de Chamarel, a rum distillery where you are treated to an almost endless round of samplings... it's sort of a SA wine tasting with bleeding eyeballs (not really) because you sample a range of rums that you knock back - and they each have a kick.
The result is instant warmth, an instant inner glow and, if a newly married young British woman was anything to go by, a slightly weaving two-step and side shuffle, narrowly missing a shelf full of bottles of rum, followed by a giggle. We poured ourselves back on to the minibus, feeling very right with the world.
The tour essentially ends with the waterfalls and coloured earths of Chamarel - a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, yellows and blues. It's not a large area, but well worth the visit. You can also get to scratch the heads of some very large Aldabra tortoises.
The choice offered by SummerTimes is good, - some give you a shopping experience, you can visit the capital, Port Louis, others take you to the central part of the island like the tour we were on, while others are adventure like the undersea walk, deep-sea fishing, snorkelling and even rock climbing. Something for everyone.
The statue at Ganga Talao.
If you do not want to go on an organised tour, but rather do your own thing, the hotel reception will arrange for a taxi to take you wherever you want. This is also a good way to explore the island. Even better, though the locals talk French, you drive on the left and give way to the right - just as here in SA (minibus drivers excepted).
When we first went to Long Beach, Sun Resorts' new hotel development on the Belle Mare Peninsula, on the east coast of Mauritius, in early June 2011, it was not quite complete. We were there with a media party to sample what has been designed to be a one-of-a-kind hotel for guests; it opened in April 2011.
The spa was situated in one of the suites, for example - but since early August or so, the new spa had been completed and Long Beach was deemed to be 100% up and running.
Quite frankly, I thought that it was pretty much 100% up and running back in June.To recap a bit...
Long Beach's layout has the entertainment area and restaurants clustered around, or close to the Piazza.
Le Marché the main restaurant for breakfasts and dinners, then you also have Sapori, the Italian restaurant, which also offers both indoor and outdoor seating. Then there's Shores, the cocktail and lounge bar, where you can enjoy an international selection of drinks with an accent on tropical cocktails featuring local spirits and ingredients and Hasu, the à-la-carte Japanese restaurant located on the Piazza. Hasu's mission is to offer a perfect harmony between contemporary design and authentic cuisine.
If you like an oriental flavour to your stay (over and above Hasu, that is) try Chopsticks, the modern casual Chinese restaurant from which came some rather lip-smacking aromas - but then ambling through the Piazza ends up with you being assailed from all sides by aromas that will play havoc with any diet.
For you seafood lovers, the tide's always in... at Tides, which is the centre for life during the day.
The new hotel of 255 keys, all with sea views and a beach that has been brought right up to the resort, is a contemporary tropical 5-star resort for active guests who appreciate culture and style. It is also a very "family-friendly" hotel: while we were there during this visit there were a number of young families as guests - and the kids seemed to be enjoying themselves.
We left Mauritius with a heavy heart, and a few extra kilos on the hips and the bop, after a wonderful pampering and relaxing rest.
For more information on the hotel, go to Beach Hotel Long Beach Hotel, Mauritius: a new experience in Mauritian holiday-making
Our thanks to World Leisure Holidays
, Sun resorts Ltd
, Air Mauritius
and Summer Times
; it was great, guys and girls. And special thanks to the staff at Long Beach, and mine host, GM Nicolas de Chalain.
Oh, and also to the maintenance guy - your efforts were much appreciated by my wife.