We were a group of international travel industry professionals and media invited by Attitude Hotels, a Mauritian owned hotel chain, to experience Mauritius Like a Local, and to learn first-hand about their Positive Impact movement and their commitment to sustainability.
The beautiful island nation of Mauritius is a popular beach destination located off the east coast of Africa and surrounded by the warm tropical waters of the Indian Ocean. It is known for its stunning beaches, clear aquamarine waters, rich culture, and warm hospitality. For those looking to experience the best of an authentic Mauritian holiday, be sure to do it ‘like a local’.
Our experience began at the Ravenala Attitude, situated on the north-west coast of Mauritius, and tucked between a river and the sea and surrounded by lush tropical gardens with soaring palm trees and a massive pool. It’s a family friendly space but with enough space to escape to should the need arise. The long stretch of lagoon beach is perfect for early morning walks, sipping cocktails at sunset and about everything in between.
The rooms are spacious and well appointed with wonderfully comfortable beds – mine had a wonderful view through the lush palm fronds onto the pool, whilst others have garden or sea views. Local scenes adorn the walls giving a distinct sense of place.
One of the highlights of the Ravenala Attitude is the dining experience. With a vast selection of restaurants to choose from, each with its own unique cuisine and atmosphere, you’re certainly spoilt for choice. There are wonderful spaces and options for large groups and special occasions – as a group we enjoyed sushi at Lime, with its relaxed beachside vibe, partied the night away at Kot Nou with its classic Mauritian cuisine, reimagined as an event space with local musicians to entertain, and enjoyed the challenge of a fun cooking competition to see which group could make and present the best samosa, all under the watchful eye of exec chef Ravi Aukhaj.
A highlight from a previous visit was the invitation to dine with a local and enjoy an Otentik Dinner (authentic) in the home of one of their Family Members (the staff, almost all of whom are Mauritian, are very much part of the Attitude family). We were warmly welcomed the home of Ved Bhujun, one of the Ravenala Attitude bartenders, and his family to share a home cooked traditional meal with them and to learn about their traditions – read about my experience HERE. An experience I would definitely recommend!
For the adventurous amongst us the Ravenala had plenty of activities to keep them entertained, with a range of water sports, including kayaking, snorkelling, and paddleboarding. Most however opted for relaxing at the sparkling pool or at the beach, cocktail in hand.
But for those of us who chose to just relax and unwind, the Ravenala Attitude spa, POZ offered the perfect ambiance with its tropical gardens and flowing waterfalls, and wonderful fragranced space – and resident cat. From the lemon grass fragranced cloth and deliciously cool lemon water to the Gran Mama massage with Moringa oil, geranium and neem, and tranquil relaxation space with healthy nibbles that followed, I felt as though all cares of the world had just vanished. The treatments, which include massages, body treatments and facials, are all designed to rejuvenate both body and soul done by highly trained therapists using locally made products and sporting the Made in Moris label.
Conservation is high on the priority list for Attitude Hotels so a visit to the Marine Discovery Centre located at the Lagoon Attitude was for me, essential. Nina Svensson Dubois, the scientific programme manager, shows us around and explains that in addition to being a valuable research centre and a resource for educating local kids about the importance of protecting the environment, it is also there to educate guests about their impact on the natural environment – and to experience the wonders of the ocean, which we get to experience first-hand.
We head to the dive centre with resident marine biologist Marine Malen to get kitted out with snorkel and fins before heading to the glass-bottom boat and out into the ocean. We slip into the warm water and head down, follow her on the snorkelling trail to discover the marine life beneath us. She points out the markers of the trail, the various species of fish, coral, and other marine organisms as well as the threats facing the lagoon, such as overfishing, pollution, and climate change. Guests can also pick up a blue net bag before heading out to pick up the rubbish they find in the ocean and on the beaches – a small way to help keep Mauritius clean and our oceans garbage free.
In 2019, the newly renovated, Lagoon Attitude, became the first eco-committed hotel in the brand by going 100% plastic free – something they have subsequently rolled out in their other hotels. Located on the shores of the beautiful Anse la Raie lagoon in the north of Mauritius, the adults only Lagoon Attitude offers guests not only an idyllic beachside location but the knowledge that all the environmental and social responsibility boxes have been ticked.
After a morning of snorkelling what could be better than some time relaxing in the sea and the sun, with a little barbeque lunch on the side. After exploring the fabulous Zilwa Attitude we made our way to the jetty for a quick ride across to the exclusive island of Gran Zil. The smoky aroma of seafood, fish and chicken cooking over the coals greeted us on arrival, and a quick inspection indicated that there would be time for some sun and a quick dip in the ocean.
I was soon helping myself to all the deliciousness of an island barbeque accompanied by salads, bread, and a glass of chilled litchi wine – yep, you read correctly, Takamaka Boutique Winery create a range of beautiful wines suitable for any occasion. Their off-dry lychee Aquarel wine paring wonderfully with barbequed seafood. Sitting at wooden tables under shelter while a brief shower cooled the air, eating off enamelware with my wine in a tin mug, felt ever so authentic. It’s what one would do on the beach as a local.
Zilwa Attitude, also located on the north coast of Mauritius, is the only Attitude hotel to be built from scratch and was designed by award winning Mauritian architect Jean-Marc Eynaud. Zilwa (Creole for ‘islander’) is inspired by traditional Mauritian homes and seaside bungalows – there are even Creole riddles on the bedroom walls, and it offers a relaxed, rustic chic style that fits perfectly with its beach location. In addition to offering guests a fabulous beach destination, it offers unique ways to experience the island’s traditional way of life with a range of cultural activities and experiences, including the opportunity to explore local fishing villages and markets.
From lunch on a secluded island it was breakfast at the romantic adults only Paradise Cove Boutique Hotel – its secluded location and intimate atmosphere, perfect for a romantic getaway. Whilst not owned by Attitude Hotels, they manage it so it has the same attention to sustainable detail that one would expect from the brand.
Walking beneath towering palms, past a picturesque lagoon and along a wooden walkway lined with bougainvillea we head towards a beautiful peninsula jutting out into the ocean. The restaurant, aptly named Peninsula, with its stunning ocean views and elegant decor, was the perfect place to enjoy brunch, the buffet featuring an array of freshly prepared dishes, including a selection of tropical fruit, pastries, cold cuts, cheeses, and a variety of hot dishes. All washed down with a glass of bubbly or a tropical cocktail while taking in the stunning ocean views and being serenaded by the rich, mellow sound of a saxophone.
Attitude Hotels’ ethos of good for the environment, the local economy and good for the local community is epitomised with our visit a bit later to MP Green Life, a market gardening venture owned and run by Mayaven Poinen and his lovely wife.
He has always loved growing vegetables he tells us, but wasn’t always a farmer, instead for decades he worked as a bus driver. But all that changed with a new government scheme to aid small businesses – the problem was that he needed to already have a market. A conversation with Attitude Hotels has, seven years later, resulted in a successful family business supplying them fresh fruit and vegetables. A business that not only enables him to employ a team of ten but now includes a network of other farmers that he sources from – and when there is an excess of a particular fruit, say pineapples, he chats to the chefs and see if they can adjust their menus to suit. A win-win for all.
We are privileged to lunch at the privately owned historic Chateau de la Villebague, built in 1740 in the French colonial architecture, on the very first sugar estate in Mauritius – the ruins of one of the first sugar mills can be seen nearby. Walking through the traditional sugar plantation residence its architecture and heritage clearly evident with its traditional furniture and décor – complete with a rear staircase for the ‘staff,’ I am grateful that times have changed, and social justice and democracy is no longer something we have to fight for quite as fervently.
From rum tasting on arrival, and an elegant picnic under the trees to delightful conversations and the lyrical sound of a violin, followed by a stroll through the expansive garden that’s a wonderful showcase of Mauritian biodiversity.
The rolling hills of sugar cane fields are testament to its importance for the growth of this island nation, and witness to its cultural diversity by way of the thousands of indentured labourers that arrived from India to work in the plantations – in addition to those brought in as slaves, thankfully slavery in Mauritius was abolished in 1835. We drive through quaint little villages, past volcanic stone walls adorned with the purple blooms of bougainvillea, avenues of flamboyant trees heaving under the weight of their bright orange blossoms and roadside traders selling watermelons and litchis. I smile as I see the name of a street-side restaurant – Roti Dholl Puri Chez Nous, the cultural diversity of this wonderful country summed up in a name.
We drive along the quiet beach road separating the stunning Belle Mare beach, said to one of the most beautiful in Mauritius, and the Sunrise Attitude, our home for a couple of nights. I loved its contemporary design and lush tropical gardens, my lovely room overlooking the pool and lagoon on one side and fields and hills on the other, offering a gorgeous sunset view.
A beach party beckoned and tossing my shoes aside I delight in the feel of soft sand between my toes, and the chilled bubbly in my glass. As one would expect, it was a beach party Mauritius style, with local band and Sega dancers, a bonfire and traditional savoury snacks, my favourite being the bhajas, vegetable fritters made with chickpea flour. As the evening progressed the beach party became a pool party, with more Mauritian deliciousness.
An early morning Secret Sunrise session blew away the evening’s cobwebs with each of us donning headphones and dancing away in apparent silence – it took me out of my comfort zone, but hey, isn’t that what travel is all about? Moving on from a fun hour or so on the beach, I had the opportunity to enjoy a delicious breakfast at the main restaurant, whose offering of gluten-free crepes had me going back for more. I cheekily asked for the recipe – chef told me that it’s a regular recipe but made with rice flour, milk and egg.
No visit to the east coast of Mauritius would be complete without a visit to the popular Flacq Market, a vibrant and bustling hub of local culture and commerce, located in the heart of Flic-en-Flacq. From fresh fruit and vegetables to handmade crafts and souvenirs, the market is a one-stop-shop for everything you need to experience the local culture and flavour – the sheer diversity goods, and people, was astounding.
I walk through the crowded aisles, there are vendors of all ages and backgrounds, selling everything from locally grown spices to handmade jewellery. The stalls piled high with colourful fruits and vegetables, the air filled with the scent of exotic spices and freshly baked bread. Everywhere you turn, there’s something new and exciting to discover.
From fresh produce and handmade crafts to street food vendors selling everything from samosas, dholl puri (which I’m told is the perfect remedy for a hangover – not that I needed one), and gateaux piments, all made fresh and served piping hot, as well as vendors selling freshly made coconut water and refreshing sugarcane juice. A wonderful way to while away the morning while taking in local Mauritian culture and supporting the local economy.
Another way that Attitude supports the local economy is with their Otentik Bazars aka laboutik. They are a dedicated space for local artisans and entrepreneurs to display their wares and is also the best place to buy authentic Mauritian craft, local designer clothes and souvenirs whilst supporting the local economy – 100% of the profits go back to the local makers of the stunning products that stock the shelves. In addition to this the Spa Poz uses locally made products, the tea bar, or in local Creole, ‘Teabaz’, is stocked with local tea from Corzon, also a Made in Moris certified label.
But enough retail therapy, the beach beckoned. Sunrise Attitude has a section of beach where you can lounge on the sand and enjoy the stunning views and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Not one for sunning myself I walk along the beach… kids swim in the shallows others make sandcastles; men tend their fishing boats and young boys’ fish off the rocks.
I head to the Flight SA 295 Memorial, a monument erected by South African Airways in memory of the passengers and crew that lost their lives when the Helderberg SA 295 crashed into the ocean off Belle Mare beach on November 28, 1987. The sadness of the memorial lifted by the sound of music and families having fun beneath the casuarina trees that line this stretch of beach. The island’s volcanic origins clearly evident by a fort-like structure nearby, a crevice in its aged volcanic stone walls offering a growing space to a wild fig tree.
A variety of activities are on offer to keep guests entertained: from kayaking, paddleboarding, or snorkelling in the lagoon to opportunities to experience the local culture – download the Otentik App and explore nearby Belle Mare or join in on the weekly walk through the neighbouring fields for insight into the life of a market gardener. With a week of much exploration and activity we were pretty much ‘partied out,’ so when the offer of a day on a catamaran was offered, we jumped at the opportunity!
Costumes on and sunblock applied, we head out aboard a luxury catamaran, the sun warm, the scenery stunning and the sea an azure blue. On-tap Mauritian craft beer and soft drinks accompany the besan (also known as murukku), a deep-fried Indian snack made with gram flour. We pause to slip on fins and snorkel and slip into the warm, clear sea to go snorkelling, but in truth it was the opportunity to cool off that was most welcome. Back on-board we enjoy a traditional barbeque and salads for lunch.
Included in our ocean experience is a visit to the beautiful island Ile aux Cerfs, with its white sandy beaches, lush green vegetation, and alluring sea. I laze on the beach for a while, enjoy a cooling dip in the sea and head off to explore a little of this tiny island. It’s a popular spot with both tourists and locals so you’re never really alone – local guides offer all manner of water sports, the most popular it seems being the parasailing. As we head back to our ‘mother ship,’ I watch brightly coloured parasails fill the sky.
On our slow cruise back to mainland Mauritius I sit, sun-kissed and happy, and reflect on our wonderful week. I sip on my refillable, reusable Dopper water bottle, which we were all presented with on arrival, and consider the cumulative effect of Attitudes’ Positive Impact movement, and realise that it goes beyond what one sees on the surface – a hotel group offering a fabulous holiday experience, to one that really makes a difference in so many ways, both to the environment, to the local community and to the sustainability of the Mauritian economy. Definitely a win-win for all!
Read the story in Responsible Taveller digital mag HERE
Read our interview with Vincent Desvaux de Marginy about the Attitude Hotels Brand’s ethos of sustainability HERE