For a better-value luxury break, Andrew Dent encourages families to discover Mauritius in its low-season months of May to September
Presented with a checklist of variables for a successful family holiday, you might prioritise year-round sun, safe, calm water, stunning beaches and lots of natural adventures. Add in swimming with dolphins, walking with lions and some bragging rights back home for picking out an exotic destination that the neighbours haven’t been to, and you’re well away! Without a shadow of a doubt, Mauritius should have a place high up on your bucket list. The long but direct flight delivers you jet-lag-free into the heart of an island paradise that all ages, energy levels and interest groups will love.
On arrival, head to Turtle Bay, Balaclava. This delightful enclave on the north-west coast of the Indian Ocean island, as the name suggests, has solid marine credentials. As long ago as 1998, it was declared the first national park for marine life in Mauritius – and to this day, that means there is a healthy marine ecosystem in the crystal blue waters just off the shore.
Nestled between sugarcane at the rear and a sandy beach at the front, The Westin Turtle Bay is a great place to base the family for your Mauritian adventure. Westin is not a brand we are overly familiar with in the UK, but it is part of the Starwood Group that includes better-known members such as Sheraton, W and St Regis. This particular resort has a Balinese feel to it, with lots of water features and spacious communal areas. There are two enormous pools that you might have trouble extracting your kids from. But once you do, the beach is just 50m away.
Surely nobody short of the gravely ill would want to spend much time in their room while in Mauritius, but when you do all finally collapse, exhausted from all the sun and activities, you will be met by loads of space and what must be one of the best beds we’ve ever experienced. The Heavenly Beds that are a feature of the Westin brand live up to their name.
Westin is all about wellbeing, workouts (you can even go for a run with the general manager twice a week) and rejuvenation, and now they are including the kids, too, with the launch of the dedicated Westin Family programme. Fittingly, in an abundantly lush location like Mauritius, the programme draws on nature and local activities to inspire the kids. There are all sorts of resort efforts that may wash over the youngsters, like use of responsibly sourced building materials in the kids’ club, improved air quality, increased natural light and meandering pathways (there are no straight lines in nature, we discover).
But there are also plenty of activities they will embrace – the natural garden where they can pick the herbs that will be part of their healthy diet during the stay, kids’ yoga, local activity guide, excursions and journals to complete. The family programme celebrates ‘the universal
language of play’, where there are no barriers to forming relationships and developing new skills – it’s a great concept, and one which genuinely seems to work, as evidenced by the many kids from different destinations and different mother tongues having a wonderful time under the watchful eye of club staff.
In Mauritius, the ocean is never far way, and one great way to experience this is on a hotel-organised catamaran trip that offers the chance to snorkel along the reef. Strike it lucky, like we did, and you’ll be met by a large turtle as soon as you dip your mask into the warm, clear waters. When it’s time to get out and explore the island, some of the best family activities we discovered included Casela World of Adventures – an eco-park with all the animals that you would see on an African safari – Pamplemousses Garden, the oldest botanical garden in the Southern Hemisphere, and Ile aux Cerfs, a popular island playground with pirate ship cruises and watersports.
Whatever you do, whether it’s resort-based or out on an adventure of your own making, there are few places better equipped than this Indian Ocean island nation – the perfect destination for a dose of ‘winter sun’.