Multicultural, friendly and relaxed. Post card-perfect. That’s how things are on laidback Mauritius, a tiny island-nation in the Indian Ocean off the African coast. With a storied past and charming Creole architecture, this welcoming place is a tropical-paradise, true. It’s got the steep, volcanic velvety-green mountains jutting up from the swaying palms, the crystalline sea, sugar cane fields and coral islets. Mauritius is also home to some of the world’s most rare plants and animals, including the extinct Dodo bird. But it’s also a bit out of the way—exactly why you’ll like it.
You and the kids can wiggle your toes in the white sand, hunt for giant tortoises and swim in the warm water while clown fish dart around you. You can land a big one (marlin, shark, tuna, bonito and barracuda) from a deep-sea vessel or zip through the jungle like monkeys on a zipline. About 45 minutes from the airport, Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita is flanked by 64 acres of tropical gardens. This former sugar plantation has a kids’ club* and Kids’ Golf Academy, under perpetually sunny skies.
• World-class snorkeling, diving, fishing and golf.
• Diverse and tolerant: The Republic of Mauritius is a happy melting pot of folks from India, Africa, France, England and China. While English is the official language, you’ll hear French spoken widely, as well as the local Creole.
• The beaches. So gorgeous, it’s almost a cliché.
• Warm but not too hot, temperatures year-round hover around 80 degrees F.
• The cuisine. Creole, Indian, Chinese, African? Yes, sample all that. And seafood, of course.
• The open-air village markets: in most towns, including Port Louis and Centre de Flacq. The heady aroma of local herbs, colorful spices and exotic fruit and vegetables, and the lively haggling locals.
• The island’s famed rainbow sand dunes: naturally occurring swirls and stripes of vibrant reds, browns, greens, indigos, yellows and violets. The most spectacular is the Seven Coloured Earths in Chamarel, also home to the 400-foot-high Chameral Falls.
• Free kids’ cooking classes: new (seasonal) teens-only dessert classes—classic macarons, decadent chocolate moelleux, Banana-Vanilla Tart (recipe below) plus pizza-making sessions at the kid-friendly kitchen at the kids’ club Hobbit Village with its own pizza oven.
• Four Seasons’ resident Giant Aladabra Tortoises: four of these big guys live behind the tennis courts; another two next to the golf course’s 9th hole green. One grandpa is 100 in people years. It’s just fine for kids to climb into their den and pet the tortoises’ heads and shells—these are gentle creatures. (Bring a banana to share: their favorite snack.)
• Biking or wandering and playing a bazillion make-believe games on the jungley interconnected trails of the property’s gardens.
• The Kids’ Golf Academy for the five to 12 year old set. Lessons from one of the pros, tours of the oceanfront course. Kids get outfitted in golf attire, eat lunch in the clubhouse and test out the video swing analysis software.
• Ocean fun: deep-sea fishing, diving, windsurfing… you get the picture.
• The resort’s complimentary Kids For all Seasons* kids’ club. Drop the kids off at 9 and head out for a day of scuba or sailing with your man.
• Golf: unlimited, complimentary. Ocean vistas from the 18-hole course designed by Ernie Els; six lagoon-side holes.
• Mini Cooper tour: Zoom up and down Mauritius’s varied terrain in a convertible Mini Cooper. Your custom itinerary is programmed into the on-board navigation system.
• Spa bliss: Take an hour—or three—for a restorative treatment, like the Jet Lag Refresher or the Sugar Body Purifying Polish, an exfoliation using local sugar.
Sugar cane fields. The undulating green fields, which border most roads, are an essential part of Mauritius’ history.
Dine in—(For the family) The resort’s Beau Champ serves an amazing Mauritian fish cake with Capsicum Rémoulade. Also recommended: grilled babonne with saffron and papaya chutney, lemongrass foam and roasted cherry tomato.
At Bambou restaurant, sample a traditional Mauritian dish called Bol Renversé, rice served with local shellfish, lobster and prawns in oyster sauce. Bambou also whips up a popular non-alcoholic Bambou Shooter, made with a combo of sugar cane syrup, passion fruit juice, passion fruit purée, lime and soda water.
(For kids) Kid-approved homemade pizzas and pastas at Acquapazza.
Head to Trou d’Eau Douce, a small fishing village about a 15-minute drive north along the coast, to Chez Tino. Authentic local fare (seafood—especially the seafood paella) on a charming outdoor terrace with beautiful views of Trou d’Eau Douce Bay. Kids will like the crispy calamari and fresh crab.
1. Swiss Family Robinson for a day: Claim your own beach. Take a complimentary boat shuttle to Ile aux Cerfs, a 15-minute ride across the lagoon. Pretend you are marooned. Bury each other in the sand. Play ball and tag on the shore (the beach is huge!) or cross over to the eastern side of the island for sweeping views of the Indian Ocean and a shoreline dotted with unusual shells and starfish.
2. Dance the Sega: Known for its chaotic movements, colorful garb and traditional instruments, a live Sega performance (weekly) at Four Seasons’ Bambou is a must-see. Don’t be surprised if your toddler spontaneously joins the show. This traditional island dance was originally introduced by African slaves as a form of self-expression.
3. Pilgrimage to Grand Bassin: Overseen by the giant statue of Lord Shiva, this lake is high in a secluded mountain area in the heart of Mauritius. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva visited from India and carried water droplets from the holy River Ganges, which fell into lake, forging a sacred connection between the two sites. Every year, local Hindus make a pilgrimage on foot to the lake, walking three days to celebrate the festival of Maha Shivaratree.
4. Wild Kingdom: Scoot around on a Segway—it’s a fun way to get around Casela Nature and Leisure Park, maybe even come face to face with a zebra, ostrich, kangaroo or exotic bird (1,500 species). The park is habitat to lions, tigers and monkeys. Quad biking and ziplining. La Vanille Reserve des Mascareignes has one of the world’s largest insectariums: 23,000 different kinds, plus guided treks past some 2,000 crocodiles and 1,000 tortoises.
5. Sail the lagoon: On your family’s own Hobie cat sailboat. Request a picnic lunch to-go from the resort.
*Babies: Splashing about in the relaxed and colorful kids’ pool. Scooping up sand at the adjacent sandpit. Catching glimpses of bright birds. The beach. Stroller rides on the resort paths through the tropical gardens. (On-site babysitting available.) The resort has just about any baby paraphernalia and equipment you might need.
*Toddlers: Meeting and feeding deer, zebras and birds at the petting zoo at Casela Nature and Leisure Park. Building sandcastles and chasing birds on the beach. A ride in a bike seat behind mom or dad. Munching on Dodo cookies. A live Sega dance performance (details above).
*Kids 5-10: The wide-open spaces, beautiful trees and flowers at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanic Garden at Pamplemousses. Learning all about the Giant Amazonian Water Lilies in a special children’s video. Spotting (and catching) fish and crabs from a footbridge. Searching for items on a kids’ club scavenger hunt or making locally inspired crafts, such as a bright wicker bag. Paddleboating and kayaking. All day at the beach. The Kids For All Seasons* club; daily programming. Golf lessons.
*Tweens & teens: Sailing. Snorkelling in the crystal-clear lagoon and the brightly colored sealife. Ziplining through the treetops in the forested valleys (with a guide) at Casela Nature and Leisure Park. Making new friends at their own resort club, Karokan. Golf lessons. Day trips to nearby villages. Dessert baking classes (seasonal) with the pastry chef Bruno Ayadee. “Baking is a great hands-on activity for teens,” says the chef. “They can learn new skills while sampling the delicious results of their efforts!”
*Kids For All Seasons (KFAS) is a Four Seasons complimentary recreational and educational program for children of resort guests. Most KFAS clubs are designed for youth four to 12 years old, and open daily from 9 to 5. (Younger children can often join KFAS with a nanny or parent, or resorts can arrange for babysitting.) But details vary from property to property, so check the resort’s website for more information.
Kids can go all day or just for an hour or two. Activities inside and out include games, sports, music, treasure hunts, swimming, arts and crafts, cultural education, environmental preservation work and yoga. Not your average camp, the VIP offerings are pretty extraordinary—for example, at Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, following an educational talk by a diving instructor, kids get to make their own aquarium featuring the exotic creatures of the Red Sea, such as flying fish and parrot fish.
Says Chef Bruno: “Banana trees are found everywhere in Mauritius—even around the resort we have many. The fruit’s natural tangy-sweet flavor pairs well with vanilla, making this a very popular dish. I like this recipe because it’s easy to prepare, and with only a few pastry techniques, it will come out looking fantastic. It’s the perfect after-feast dessert: light and refreshing.”
3 cups mashed banana
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 whole vanilla bean
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter, plus butter to grease the tart tray
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk, beaten
1. Cut the vanilla bean in half and mix it with the mashed banana and sugar. Pour this mixture into a pan and cook till caramelized. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Once cool, remove the vanilla bean and discard.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl, then add the egg and flour. Combine. Mix until you have a smooth dough. Cover with a dish cloth and let the dough rest for one hour.
3. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about ½-inch thick. Using a circular cookie cutter (approximately 3 inches diameter) cut the round discs for the tart crust.
4. Grease a tart tray with a small amount of butter and add the pastry. Use a knife to cut away any excess dough around the edges.
5. Add the banana filling to each tart pastry.
6. Using the leftover dough, cut small strips and form into creative shapes such as leaves or hearts to decorate the top of the tart.
7. Lightly brush one beaten egg yolk over the top of the tart before placing in the oven.
8. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees F for approximately 25 minutes until crust is golden brown. Top with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream. Serves 15.
Read more about Mauritius in Four Seasons Magazine.
Read our “Concierge Recommendations” for Mauritius in Four Seasons Magazine.
A Four Seasons contributor, Bonnie Schiedel is a freelance writer and editor for print and web, specializing in parenting, health, nutrition, fitness and the outdoors. She lives with her husband and young daughter in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, on the shores of Lake Superior. Bonnie looks forward to introducing her daughter to some of her favorite destinations, such as St. Lucia, Costa Rica, Britain and Canada’s east coast—in particular, the tantalizing variety of food and beaches! You can read her work at North Star Writing.
View all posts from Bonnie
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