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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.