No re­sort is an is­land

It’s hard to beat the ease (and price) of a pack­age hol­i­day at a re­sort, but where’s the lo­cal flavour? We’ve found a way to get the best of both worlds in Mau­ri­tius

Getaway (South Africa) - - Road Trip - WORDS & PHO­TOGRAPHS BY ME­LANIE VAN ZYL

Some­times it’s a re­lief to only worry about the kind of cock­tail you should or­der next (ex­pe­ri­ence says al­ways a piña co­lada if you’re on a trop­i­cal is­land) while the kids run wild in the beau­ti­ful and safe re­sort grounds. In fact, many re­sorts are de­signed so you don’t have to leave – ev­ery­thing is just an arm-stretch away. How­ever, if you’re like me, it’s hard to spend seven full days on the same beach lounger, on the same beach, in front of the same ho­tel. I’ve al­ways be­lieved that to get to know a place is to walk it. And eat it. You can’t re­ally do that inside a re­sort and so I’ve al­ways been scep­ti­cal of those ubiq­ui­tous one-week-in-par­adise pack­age deals.

Named as one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 places to visit this year, Mau­ri­tius is al­ready a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for South Africans – in 2017, the is­land wel­comed 112 129 tourists from this coun­try. It’s a well-known haven for hol­i­day­mak­ers seek­ing a re­laxed break in a re­sort where ev­ery­thing is laid on, but then I found a ho­tel chain that ac­tu­ally en­cour­ages you to leave the grounds and ex­plore the is­land. ‘Ev­ery­thing is or­gan­ised so that our guests’ stay is a mem­o­rable ren­dezvous with the gen­uine Mau­ri­tius,’ says the CEO of At­ti­tude Ho­tels, Jean-Michel Pi­tot. The con­cept is straight­for­ward: give guests the op­por­tu­nity to live like lo­cals dur­ing their stay on the is­land. It’s a tough thing to de­liver, as it runs the risk of com­ing across as phoney and forced. At the At­ti­tude re­sorts, the Mau­ri­tian el­e­ment is, ad­mit­tedly, cleaner and more re­fined than out on the streets, but they’ve done a re­spect­ful job of in­cor­po­rat­ing Cre­ole cul­ture by serv­ing tra­di­tional cui­sine, show­cas­ing lo­cally in­spired decor and art­works by res­i­dent artists. They also pro­vide an easy way for guests to ex­pe­ri­ence the real deal: Oten­tik Dis­cov­ery, a geo-lo­ca­tion smart­phone app that helps you ex­plore the is­land on your own. Once down­loaded, you can choose to fol­low one of 11 cu­rated itin­er­ar­ies. In Port Louis, I set off with my cam­era, my phone and 200 ru­pees (about R80) in search of lunch on the self-guided street-

food walk­ing tour. Lauded as one of the top des­ti­na­tions for street food by CNN and the UK’s Tele­graph, walk­ing the cap­i­tal is not only de­li­cious, it’s a fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory les­son. Mau­ri­tius has emerged a gleam­ing gem­stone af­ter all the pres­sures ex­erted on it over the past 500 years. The Arabs, Por­tuguese, Dutch, French and English all left their mark on this In­dian Ocean is­land, but the con­tem­po­rary hy­bridi­s­a­tion and thriv­ing Cre­ole cul­ture is largely due to slav­ery and the in­den­tured labour­ers who worked the sugar-cane fields. Start­ing at Aapravasi Ghat (the his­tor­i­cal land­ing port for the thou­sands of Chi­nese and In­dian in­den­tured work­ers), the walk­ing tour com­prises 12 stops, in­clud­ing the buzzing Vic­to­rian-era mar­ket over­flow­ing with trop­i­cal fruit and gi­ant vegeta­bles, and hole-in-the-wall Asian bak­eries serv­ing sticky sesame-stud­ded buns in the Chi­na­town district. I ended off with a flavour­some, stupidly cheap (R6) veg­gie roti from Roti Aka Vin­oda, eaten in the shade of a banyan tree in the Com­pany Gar­den. I was sur­prised at the amount of sig­nage in English and felt at ease roam­ing the streets by my­self. Be­cause it was hot and I’m a sucker for nat­u­ral sweet­ness, I also scooped up a frosty treat known as a sor­bet rapé from a mo­tor­bike ven­dor – ice crushed in a screw­driver-like press fixed to the back of his bike and flavoured with sugar-cane syrup. I sipped on this while con­tem­plat­ing the city’s abun­dant and in­tri­cate street art: an as­tro­naut perched high up on an aban­doned build­ing; a whale swoop­ing over the wall of a bus shel­ter; a colour­ful bird perched just be­hind a traf­fic light. There’s an amaz­ing blend of cul­tures in this coun­try, where French-style cheek kiss­ing meets scenes of women swim­ming fully clothed in the ocean. And if it’s beaches you want, of course they’re here in abun­dance, and no less en­tic­ing are

THIS PAGE, FROM TOP A lazy-day’s end on the west coast at The Rave­nala At­ti­tude in Tur­tle Bay; a pineap­ple snack bought from a pass­ing mo­tor­bike ven­dor; some of the old build­ings in Port Louis’ Chi­na­town re­minded me of down­town Joburg; de­spite its...

FROM TOP Happy shades in charm­ing Trou d’Eau Douce; dis­carded (un­lucky) tick­ets on the floor at Champ de Mars Race­course; beach braais are a reg­u­lar thing at the At­ti­tude re­sorts; gor­geous street art in Port Louis.

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