Tuesday, March 15, 2011

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO MAURITIUS, part 10, new resorts

Constantly keeping an eye out for gems for our Select Collection of top resorts worldwide, we visited a few new resorts on Mauritius in February. Too early to say whether they suit our new portfolio for 2012-2014, but interesting in their innovative daring nevertheless...

Sofitel SO Mauritius

Down on the southern coast of Mauritius there is a wilder feel. The winds bring in fresh air, and the coral is alive. On a soft natural beach with colourful corals and sponges in the turquoise lagoon, you find a new highly contemporary resort – Sofitel SO Mauritius.

Indeed it is so Mauritius, and yet it is different and quite daring. Still too early to tell whether this daring will pay off. For those in love with traditional Mauritian architecture, they will miss the plantation house lobby with its tall V-shape looking through to infinity pool and lagoon. They will miss the timbers and the marble bathrooms…

Here concrete and tadelac have made contemporary shapes, in moulded bathrooms, urban design. The 92 villas/suites are like overturned split barrels, spread out village style, the colours of furnishings bold and crisp. The main swimming pool an extraordinary shape and curves round into a long arm that is a paddling pool parallel to the beach.

There are six villas on the beach (two for families) – and here the contrast between Mauritian nature and international urbanity is strongest. The concrete villa we saw had a wide red rim to the bed, and matching floral cushion, startlingly modern in fantasy. But when you step out to your plunge pool you are right there, intimately, close to the sounds of waves on the reef, a couple of metres from soft sands and casuarina trees. It feels entirely close to nature.

Our villa suite opened out into its own little curved garden with an outdoor bathtub. The sunbed was placed at the bottom of the curved garden with some view of the distant sea. At this stage, before the vegetation takes off, you could see your neighbour’s sunbed. The theme inside incorporated a wide green frame on my bed (Sofitel My Bed), in an urbane material somewhere between plastic and leather.

Matching floral pillow as nice complement. The floors were tadelac at a guess, pale and perhaps high maintenance. The bathroom had both indoor and outdoor shower, interesting design with walkin cupboard area. Our little outdoor garden was struggling a bit with the drought, as was the whole complex with its newly planted palms and flowers.

We had own butler and the checkin was done in our villa. Guest relations were eager that he made an espresso in the villa – but as this was the end of our trip rather than the beginning, we felt like getting out to explore and preferred a cafĂ© latte at the bar.

Vegetable tempura, light as a feather...at the beach restaurant.

There are two restaurants – the main one and a beach restaurant on the other side of the little river. Down at the main restaurant and lobby by the beach, there is a Mauritian style shaggy roof – made from cane leaves – the new solution instead of coconut fronds. The designs of the furnishings are otherwise SO Sofitel, so bold and contemporary, quite attractive. Nice touch: When they turned down the music you could hear the crashing of waves on the reef…nature’s own symphony, watching the sunset off towards the west.

The small spa too has made its own interesting combination of old tradition and contemporary slant in its garden of “keyholes”. Enjoyed a good back massage by very professional masseur.

There are four tennis courts, bikes for loan, and a small kids club. Watersports are on offer – including a free glass bottom boat ride where we saw some bright colours after moving away from the mooring place just off the beach. All the corals on the bottom of the lagoon do limit wading possibilities, but is it heart warming to know they are alive when so threatened worldwide.

Service? Well we had a willing butler – which was great. He arranged the glass bottom boat ride and proactively requested our plane tickets to do seating etc.
There seemed to be a lot of staff, all truly Mauritian in their friendliness. But one did feel the newness still. Time will tell...

40 minutes by car from Mauritius International Airport

Long Beach

Former Coco Beach, now Long Beach, an ambitious new urban style resort by Sun Resorts on an endless beach, to be completed by 2 April this year. The site on 3 February 2011 was still very much under construction, but we saw two mockup rooms and a 3d model of the coming new holiday destination. Definitely a place where fun is intended, centred on a piazza with shopping, dining, nightlife, and plenty of sport. Spa too on a free form lagoon…and a football field!

There will be 255 rooms in two crescents, and the contemporary urban design has allowed all a sea-view. We saw a mockup of a superior beachfront room and a family room, both with outdoor living. Colours blue, green and coral, and the simple furniture child-friendly in a matter of fact way. Family rooms have an additional room with two sofas that become beds for the kids.

Quite different from anything else on the island. But it will have palms, and they are introducing some fringed thatch roofs. At the moment the beach is still completely natural and the lagoon glittering turquoise, bounded by the coral reef that defines Mauritius. Hope they can keep it that way…

Model of the new Long Beach resort above, with its fabulous sporting facilities, piazza, spa, ornamental lagoons and views for all thanks to its innovative design.

1 hour by car from Mauritius International Airport

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