Tom Laing is a freelance travel writer currently based in Santiago, Chile. He grew up in Sussex, spending his summers jumping in freezing rivers in the Scottish Highlands and trying to light fires in the drizzle. A self-confessed travelaholic who has visited close to 80 countries (and counting), he now focuses on passing on his wanderlust to his 18 month old son, Joshua. He writes about his recent trip to the the Shangri-La Le Touessrok Resort & Spa in Mauritius and why it mustn’t be missed when planning family holidays.
It’s hard not to be wowed by the arrival at the Shangri-La Le Touessrok Resort & Spa in Mauritius. A long driveway winds through palm trees before opening out to reveal the cobalt ocean beyond the onsite helipad. Pulling up at the entrance, a beaming porter hands you a damp towel to scrub off the journey before escorting you along a walkway over a fish-filled pool, which sweeps you into the cool, airy lobby.
Unfortunately my entrance wasn’t quite this smooth, disrupted somewhat as we crossed the pool. Our 18 month old son Joshua, still holding the plastic spade that he’d carried with him from the UK, picked his moment and lobbed it at a passing carp. The spade ricocheted off the floor and disappeared under the walkway, agonisingly out of my reach even whilst sprawled sheepishly on my tummy, arm reaching into the slimy depths below whilst Josh peered over the edge above me, chattering excitedly at the fish. The damp-towel porter got a bit damper in the retrieval, handing the spade back to Josh with an extravagant bow before departing to change his trousers.
We make a beeline for Le Touessrok’s main beach, a stretch of white powdery sand facing a little island and a sheltered lagoon of clear blue water. A waiter patrols the beach on a Segway, delivering fruit and cocktails to scattered sunbathers. The flight seems an age away as we stretch out on towels, Josh industriously shifting sand between buckets as the waves lap at his feet. Just above the beach, the main pool is as warm as a bath and one end is just as shallow – ideal for little ones to splash around in whilst Mum and Dad sprawl in the sun. The other pool, over at the Frangipanni wing, is adults-only for those looking for a more sedate experience.
The hotel has a children’s centre known as the T-Club, which puts on children’s activities every day if they want a change from the bucket and spade; line them up for a table tennis competition or let them loose on the climbing frame. There are even giant tortoises to hunt in the garden.
Children’s meals can be organised for lunch and supper – T-Club staff accompany the children to the main restaurant leaving Mum and Dad to sample the smarter options elsewhere. Try Saffron, an Indian restaurant that serves up Southern Indian dishes such as tandoori salmon or Mauritian classics (there’s a strong Indian influence on the island) such as chicken and prawn curry, or Kushi, a Japanese restaurant with its own sushi chef.
We wander in to the T-Club late our first evening, disorientated after the flight and looking for some pasta and cheese sauce for Josh. Supper duly delivered, we stick around, trading jokes with the older kids whilst Josh throws penne on the floor. There’s nothing to make you feel old like being asked to tell a joke to a 6 year old and receiving a withering “I’ve heard that one before” when you deliver your killer punchline.
“What do you call a round apple?” our new friend Milly asks, launching into a joke of her own. “A face!”
I confess I didn’t get it, and Milly must have seen it in my expression.
“Because a face is round, like an apple!” Milly explains, knowingly. Perhaps you had to be there, I mumble in response.
The next morning, my wife and I go in search of the spa – we might as well take advantage of the babysitting on offer, after all. The 90 minute couples’ massage draws our attention, so Josh is safely deposited, making the most of the special rate on the 4-hour block so as not to rush that blissful post-spa feeling. If weary parents start wondering why they brought the terrors on holiday in the first place, there’s even an 8-hour option.
Alternatively, you can take them along with you and make the most of the children’s spa menu – how about a family body painting session to introduce the little nippers to the joys of holistic wellness? Inspired by body painting traditions of the rainforest and involving a body scrub, mud painting and a soothing body balm massage to finish, it’ll be sure to raise expectations for all future family holidays.
After a couple of days spent digging up the various beaches, we venture further afield, catching a boat from the hotel’s jetty to the hotel’s private island of Ilot Mangénie just off the coast. Ringed by soft white sand, we spend an afternoon exploring this forested islet before tucking into some lobster and shellfish under the trees.
Our next stop is Trou aux Biches, on Mauritius’ North West tip. The beach villas stretch along the length of the hotel’s long coastline, each with its own private plunge pool. They’re well equipped for youngsters – we find a cot pre-made in the spacious room, and a baby bath and children’s loo seat and potty ready in the bathroom, whilst a highchair can be delivered by room service.
Across the hotel, other swimming pools and gardens offer plenty of little areas for Josh to chase birds and hunt lizards in the shade. The beach, of course, is only metres away – ideal for toddler tumbles although as I discovered the soft fine sand is structurally unsound from a sandcastle-building perspective. Josh seems unperturbed, more inclined to collect pieces of coral from the water’s edge whilst I work on my Caernarfon replica undisturbed.
Behind the beach, a palm-thronged promenade winds its way through the trees in front of the villas. A golf buggy laden with drinks and snacks patrols up and down, stocking up thirsty sunbathers with refreshments and met, on each lap, by an excited “Ice cream!” by Josh.
Having developed a taste for it at the Shangri-La, we go to check out the Bob Marlin kids’ club, planning another pampering in the spa sans-child. A big paddling pool and playground quickly catch Josh’s eye, and various activities, ranging from collage-making and face-painting to cooking classes and treasure hunts promise to keep the little ones distracted for hours.
The place really comes into its own after dark. Thousands of lights illuminate the walkways and line the pools, connecting the clusters of villas to the hotel’s 6 restaurants and bars. With Josh safely tucked up in bed, we venture out one evening to the Thai restaurant Blue Ginger for a civilised supper of pad thai and prawn skewers – meals with Josh invariably descend into a food fight or hunger strike, depending on his mood. The meal is interspersed with quick dashes towards our room as the range of our brand new baby monitor doesn’t quite reach our table. Heaven’s knows what our fellow diners think, seeing us sporadically leave the restaurant only to pause halfway across the lawn, peering at a screen and nodding to ourselves with satisfaction before returning to the table. Still, it’s a small price to pay to enjoy a glass of wine without fear of small hands hurling it across the room.
Our final stop takes us back to the East coast, just up the shoreline from Le Touessrok to the Lux* Belle Mare. Boasting the largest pool in Mauritius, a grand sweep of water overlooked by the main restaurant and bar on one side and sun-loungers on the other, the Belle Mare is one of three Lux* properties on the island.
By this stage Josh is an expert, heading directly for the pool and not breaking a stride as he calls for his buckets over his shoulder. Mummy and Daddy follow obediently with towels, hats, and suncream, and all the other paraphernalia that accompany a little person on holiday.
The next morning they lay on a special breakfast on the beach. The tide slowly crawls up the sand towards our feet as we eat fresh fruit, and eggs and bacon under the cover of a big umbrella, the warm breeze hinting at another hot day to come. Josh slurps on mango juice and tucks into a huge plate of watermelon, whilst waiters fuss around bringing him crayons and paper, and an extra bucket and spade. After a week in Mauritius, he’s certainly made himself at home.
Our last evening we book a babysitter for an uninterrupted supper at the Indian restaurant Amari by Vineet, run by Michelin star chef Vineet Bhatia. We start with the chicken tikka trilogy – 3 different flavours of chicken tikka, one coated in malai-pine nuts, another marinated in chili-lime and the third covered in black spices, followed by lobster with a macadamia chili crust and a lentil sauce; absolutely delicious.
Exhausted by a day paddling in the sea, and not much of a curry fan at 18 months, Josh is bathed and sleeping long before our supper time. The babysitter arrives once he’s already down, so we leave her to sit in a dark room for 3 hours whilst we pop out.
Mauritius is made for family holidays, and it seems a shame to tear Josh away from the beach to head home. The only downside is that he seems to have grown a little too accustomed to the service – I haven’t delivered the watermelon he just ordered and he appears to be calling for the manager.
Susie Freeman Travel offers the following packages:
Seven nights half board in a Deluxe Ocean View Room at Shangri-La Le Touessrok Mauritius from £1500 per person including return flights in economy and return private car transfers.
Seven nights half board in a Junior Suite at Trou aux Biches Beachcomber Resort and Spa from £1825 per person including return flights in economy and return private car transfers.
Seven nights half board in a Junior Suite at Lux* Belle Mare from £1500 per person including return flights in economy and return private car transfers.
Tel: 01488 668821