Mauritius • Siren of the Indian Ocean
"Heaven was copied after Mauritius," wrote Mark Twain after his visit more than a hundred years ago to this remote volcanic island, which sits in the Indian Ocean some twelve hundred miles off the coast of southern Africa. Its tropical beauty embraces towering mountains, stunning waterfalls and sugarcane plantations—all ringed by colorful coral reefs and white sand beaches. Mauritius has developed a seductively cosmopolitan culture thanks to its diverse history of Dutch, French and British rule in the four centuries before independence in 1968. The exotic influence of today’s mainly Hindu, Creole and Chinese population is evident in everything from Mauritian art and cuisine to the styling of the island’s luxurious beachside hotels. English is the official language, although French is more commonly spoken and Creole is the lingua franca. Golf has been played here since 1902, when the British Royal Navy founded the Gymkhana Club, near the capital of Port Louis, the first of the island’s six eighteen-hole courses.
Where to Play
One&Only Le Touessrok Golf Course * * * * 1/2
This golf hideaway resides discretely on its own tiny island across a lagoon from the east coast of Mauritius and can be reached by a five-minute trip in a private water taxi from its parent resort. Mangrove swamps give way to carpets of emerald fairway carved through a forest of banyan trees, bamboo and bougainvillea in a former nature preserve that remains a haven for rabbits, herons, pheasants and Mauritian parakeets. Despite limited acreage, Bernhard Langer conjured a supremely atmospheric challenge involving breathtaking drives over plunging ravines, clever elevation changes and sublime approaches to precarious plateau greens bolstered by outcroppings of volcanic rock. It’s a stern but beautiful test.
Ile Aux Cerfs, Trou d’Eau Douce; 011-230/402-7400, oneandonlyletousserokgolf.com. YARDAGE: 7,082. PAR: 72. GREENS FEE: $192. Architect: Bernhard Langer, 2003.
Best of the Rest
Almost as dramatic as Le Touessrok is Paradis Hotel & Golf Club (paradis-hotel.com), set on a peninsula in the shadow of La Morne Mountain in the southwest corner of the island. The club offers free group lessons to hotel guests. The thirty-six hole Belle Mare Plage Golf Club (bellemareplagehotel.com) regularly hosts the Mauritius Open. Its Legend course snakes through menacing mangroves, while the Links, designed by Peter Alliss, is an American-style parkland layout, albeit with tropical flourishes.
Where to Stay
Elevating Mauritius’s renowned standards of luxury and service to their highest levels, the Moorish-themed One&Only Le Touessrok (rooms from $769; oneandonlyresorts.com) occupies a prime beachside setting and offers comprehensive amenties, including state-of-the-art gyms and a sumptuous Givenchy spa. The resort is a lavish complex designed around a private beach and two free-form infinity pools. The property was refurbished several years ago to include a miniature Venetian network of modern ocean-view suites on a gorgeous headland. Twenty minutes up the coast, its sister hotel, the One&Only Le Saint Géran (rooms from $897), nestles privately in the palms beside its own beautiful beach. The place radiates colonial elegance, with traditional local furnishings and a blissfully calm, romantic ambience.
Where to Eat
The One&Only resorts boast two of Mauritius’s finest restaurants: Safran at Le Touessrok, offering contemporary Indian cuisine under the guidance of Michelin-acclaimed chef Vineet Bhatia; and Le Saint Géran’s Spoon Des Isles, a venture of legendary Alain Ducasse. Also try La Ravane (011-230/401-5050), reached by boat from the Paradis Hotel. You can feast under the stars on such specialities as lobster curry and Tandoori rack of lamb before a show of Sega, the national song and dance.
Flying from New York to Mauritius requires a stopover in either London or Paris before connecting with a nonstop Air Mauritius (airmauritius.com) or Air France (airfrance.com) flight. Total flight time is about nineteen hours.
If you can drag yourself away from castaway beaches such as Ilot Mangénie at Le Touessrok, be sure to venture to the Black River Gorges National Park, where mountain roads border spectacular reservoirs, waterfalls and plunging valleys of ebony trees. Grand Baie on the northern tip is a shopping and leisure paradise where you can board the famous Blue Safari submarine for a close-up of Mauritius’s Technicolor coral beds and sea life of tropical fish and Moray eels. Port Louis, the capital, provides another essential excursion with its colonial architecture, bustling markets and posh complex of shops and restaurants at Le Caudan Waterfront.