April, 2012

Apr 12

Magical Mauritius: Shanti Maurice

This week I’m exploring another peaceful celebrity hideaway in the Indian Ocean, the beautiful fantasy-land that is Mauritius. Famous faces seen on the island include royalty – Prince Harry and Princess Caroline, celebrities – Kylie Minogue, Russell Brand, Ewan McGregor, Joseph Fiennes and Catherine Deneuve, and sports personalities Rafael Nadal, Michael Schumacher and Zinedine Zidane to name just a few. It’s not difficult to see why the A-list adore this island with its other-worldly beauty, spellbinding sense of spirituality and  stunning five-star hotels – it certainly didn’t take me long to fall head-over-heels in love with the place. Here’s a snapshot of my time at the wonderful Shanti Maurice. 

Quite possibly the prettiest swimming pool I have ever seen.

The Lowdown

The first thing that struck me on my arrival at Shanti Maurice was what a special place it was. Sitting in a plum position on the South coast with a travel brochure beautiful beach surrounded by 35 acres of colourful tropical gardens, it was impossible not to be immediately won over. The hotel originally started life as an Ayurvedic spa retreat and has evolved over the years to become a tres chic luxury boutique where the spa experience now comes with a delicious side order of sunshine and champagne. The 61 oceanfront villas and suites are dotted around the resort and are kitted out in cool, comfortable shades of cream with local hardwood furnishings and cavernous spa bathrooms. The 17 villas also come with their own private pools affording celebrity guests like Thandi Newton and Liz Hurley the utmost privacy.

Plenty of Wow-factor at the two-bedroom villas with private pool

Then there’s the rest of the hotel, which I have to say, had me swooning at every turn. At its centre is a shimmering slate infinity pool (where I found myself spending every spare moment swimming like a contented Koi carp around its pretty fish fountains and floating gardens). Fanning out from this focal point are a series of handsome thatched pavilions which house the reception and lounge area and two wonderful restaurants; Stars and Pebbles. There’s also a cracking kid’s club on site (although it’s tucked away so you never hear a peep) and,of course, the star of the show, the Nira Spa.


The Highlights

My experience of the Nira Spa went well beyond the usual holiday massage and without veering into dodgy “Eat, Pray, Love” territory, I really did find it to be a truly inspirational experience. The Nira Spa is the biggest (and arguably the best) spa in the Indian Ocean and takes the holistic approach to health and well-being to a whole new level. I eased myself in with my first ever Qi Gong class where  we performed a series of gentle movements in the spa gardens while the sun set over swaying fields of sugarcane and magical mountain vistas. Sheer bliss.

The Nira Spa Yoga Pavilion


After such a lovely start, I dedicated the next day to the full Shanti experience with a morning yoga class, steam, sauna and swim (there’s another beautiful serene pool within the spa grounds) followed by a healthy lunch. Physical needs attended to, it was now time to see to my spiritual side with a consultation with the the resident Ayurvedic doctor.


I didn’t know much Ayurvedic philosophies beforehand and wasn’t entirely sure what to expect – and I certainly didn’t anticipate bursting into tears halfway through the appointment!  Cringe. Thankfully though this it turned out to be a perfectly normal and fairly common reaction. Ayurveda is all about treating the mind, body and soul and although my Glaswegian sensibilities initially rallied against it, after getting over my intense sense of embarrassment, it actually felt pretty amazing to get it all out and reflect on my seriously-neglected spiritual side. I left my consultation feeling intensely uplifted and by the time I had finished my sixty-minute Africology massage I had reached a Zen-like state of tranquillity. For a few days at least, life felt a little bit less complicated.

The relaxation pavilion at the Nira Spa which is surrounded by a pretty lily pond which is most probably filled with the tears of guests!

The wonderful thing about Shanti Maurice though is that you can dip in and out of the whole wellness thing as and when you like. Another not-to-be-missed, and slightly naughtier, option is the  the twice-weekly Fish and Rhum Shack, where a remote stretch of beach is transformed with tiki torches and driftwood furniture into a hedonistic sea-side hangout. On the menu is a selection of ridiculously large lobster, giant prawns and juicy organic meats, all of which can be washed down with a rum punch while the wild Indian Ocean crashes in the background and a squillion million stars shimmer above.

The Fish and Rhum Shack – Not to be missed


There are plenty of hotels around the world that have fabulous facilities, stunning views and sublime service but it’s a pretty rare thing to find one that has character to match, a hotel where you just can’t imagine being anywhere else. Luckily for me this was one of them.


Star Style




Long-haul flights, air-conditioning, blazing sunshine and ice-cold air-conditioning all conspire to reek havoc on my skin so to prevent dry patches, I like to use a super-moisturiser on top of my regular skincare products. Always in my in-flight bag (and Emma Watson’s apparently) is Comfort Zone’s Hydramemory 24h Cream Gel.


£30 50ml





Go There

Shanti Maurice, Mauritius:Tel: +230 603 7200; www.shantimaurice.com; Junior Suites start from €555, including breakfast and 15% VAT, per room per night. Air Mauritius flies non-stop from Heathrow to Mauritius 5 times per week. Call 0207-434-4375 for more information or visit www.airmauritius.com. HolidayExtras.com offers Meet and Greet car parking at London Heathrow from just £66.20 for 8 days. To book visit to www.holidayextras.com  or call 0800 1313 777.

Apr 12

The Maldives: Hollywood’s Favourite Hideaway

Next stop, the Maldives. After three non-stop days and nights in Dubai it was time to leave the Middle Eastern metropolis for the swaying palm trees and tranquillity of this most beautiful of island nations. I had been to the Maldives before with my husband to celebrate our first anniversary – the Maldives is of course one of the world’s most popular honeymoon destinations for A-list lovers – Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon, and Fergie and Josh Duhamel have all jetted in Male before slinking off across the bright blue waters of the Indian Ocean to the seclusion of private islands, far from the prying eyes of the Paparazzi – but this time I’m here with my friend, Shelley so would these private isles turn out to be blissful or boring with only the bright blue sea and each other for company…

The Velassaru, Maldives

The Lowdown

The answer was no, it wasn’t boring in the least! Shades on, wind in our hair, turquoise seas twinkling all around us, our arrival at the Velassaru Resort on the back of a gleaming white speedboat couldn’t have been more glamorous. Just a four-hour flight down from Dubai and a thrilling twenty-five minute whirl across the Indian Ocean and we were setting foot on our own little slice of island paradise. Despite our adrenaline-filled arrival as soon as we stepped onto the chic sun-weathered pier and felt the warm afternoon sun on our back, it was time to relax. Cold towels and cocktails were on hand, as were warm smiles and friendly chat, and after a seamless check-in it was apparent that this little resort had more to offer than just being another romantic bolthole.

Beach Perfect

Swaying palm trees, shimmering silver-white sands and picture perfect coral reef cradled a sleek infinity pool, restaurants, bars, a library and spa. We had seven different room types to choose from; some on the beach, some with private gardens and some stilted over the sea. A Water Villa was our haven. As the name suggests, it’s built hovering over the sea, a wooden walkway curling across glimmering fish-filled water leading to the door. But that wasn’t the only means of entry, as soon as we set our bags down it was time for a Wonder Woman-style quick change into our bikinis and we were off down our private snorkel staircase for a quick dip before the sun went down.

Back in the room, the overall feel was spacious and simple with bright flashes of Missoni-esque brilliant orange and cobalt blue adding an edge to the decor. Under its cavernous thatched roof, there were comfy sofas, a vast bed, a dressing room and bar area so we never felt we were crowding each other. Sliding doors revealed a monster-big bathroom with a tub big enough for two (although we didn’t test that theory!) while a vast wall of window could be manoeuvred open to reveal a huge deck and the real star of the show – an uninterrupted view of the iridescent Indian Ocean.

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