Mauritius’s legendary five-star hotel, Le Saint Géran, is back after a $55m renovation, offering the inimitable cocktail of past glory and present luxury
Mauritius’s 1.3 million inhabitants trace their roots to Africa, Europe and Asia; its vibrant diversity is reflected in its language, religions and – particularly – its food. At the One&only Le Saint Géran – the island’s original five-star hotel, which was voted the Indian Ocean’s Leading Resort at the World Travel Awards in 2018 – each of three onsite restaurants celebrates a different aspect of the island’s cuisine, sometimes all at once.
Tapasake, located on a pier along the water’s edge with views of the hotel’s private lagoon, features pan-asian cuisine. Prime, the island’s first steakhouse, offers a five-course meal – including Australian Angus Wagyu beef – in a sleek and chic setting where even the origami-like menus are a work of art. And finally La Terrasse, the main restaurant that surrounds the pool and overlooks the ocean, is ideal for healthy breakfasts with a wide selection of tropical fruits – mangoes, papayas, pineapples, litchis etc. – and fresh juices.
“I get to create Mauritian cuisine but include all of the wonderful influences – fried food from Asia, chutney from India and a Creolestyle stew where the sauce is spicy and colourful yet has a hint of coconut-milk sweetness,” says chef Vikash Coonjan. “I’m lucky, as there are local markets in Mauritius that I visit to get fresh produce. It’s here that I see what’s new and where I get a lot of inspiration for new menu dishes and recipes.”
To justify all the indulgences, many in our group chose to stay active. There was talk of a hike slightly less strenuous than the two-hour climb to the top of Piton de la Rivière Noire, the island’s highest peak (828m), but we decided to pass on that and sample some of the wealth of activities offered by the hotel itself.
With more than 1.7km of white sandy beaches and its own private peninsula, Le Saint Géran is ideal for watersports: stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, kite surfing, windsurfing, parasailing, diving, waterskiing, undersea walking and something called a ‘donut’, which isn’t as yummy as it sounds.
There are also a range of land-based activities, including tennis lessons with a professional champion, rounds of golf on a Gary Player course, bicycles for the one person in our group brave enough to go out in the traffic, and a sunset jog with the resort manager, Jerome, who runs ultra-marathons in his spare time.
I tried my hand at the fitness centre, only to indulge in a snack on the way out that must have undone all my exertions on the rowing machine. But at least this
token effort gave me the excuse to spend the rest of my time at the spa.
Like the cuisine at the hotel, the signature treatments in the spa take inspiration from their surroundings. The Chakra Balancing body treatment, for example, uses warmed volcanic stones, while another uses coconut, infused honey and sugar to give you a full-body tropical scrub.
I went with the Ylang Ylang Ritual: foot cleansing with Ylang Ylang flowers followed by a rich, nourishing body wrap and a relaxing scalp massage. After the treatment, where the soothing and calming skincare products triggered what felt like an out-of-body experience, I lingered on the loungers and enjoyed some fruit-infused water. Like the in-room scent menus, each water blend is designed to elevate (mint tea and fresh mint leaves), restore (ginger with fresh lemon juice) or help you unwind (citronella, Mauritian honey and Mauritian green tea).
Le Saint Géran – a legendary hotel that dates back to 1975 – recently underwent extensive renovations, including to Villa One, the island home that once accommodated Nelson Mandela.
Measuring 622m², with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, lounges, a spacious terrace overlooking the azure Indian Ocean and a private pool, the villa has its own dedicated host team and personal chef, with bottles of vintage champagne and XO Mauritian rum at the ready to welcome you to the island paradise.
Should you choose to venture out, the resort offers private dining under the stars in the One&only Tipi. Designed by British fashion designer Alice Temperley and situated on the scenic peninsula, its bohemian chic exterior is hand-stitched with jewels that sparkle in the sunshine. In the evening, a Murano chandelier illuminates the wooden floor and floating fabric that acts as a golden white frame. Expect fireworks, local music and a magical night under the tropical sky.
How else can you relax at Le Saint Géran? You can take a stroll through the resort’s gardens, which contain around 4,000 palm trees, many of them planted by the caddy master. He is one of around a dozen employees who still works at the hotel 40 years after it opened.
Or you could do as I did and chill out in a hammock. As writer Sandy Gingras said: “At the beach, life is different. Time doesn’t move hour to hour but mood to moment. We live by the currents, plan by the tides, and follow the sun.”
Left: Sweet snacks tempt in L’artisan café. Below: Architectural elegance. Right: What could be more romantic than dinner on your own pontoon? Bottom row: Beachside pool, island flavours and palm trees galore