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The barefoot bliss Mauritian lifestyle will leave you not having a care in the world

Mirror logo Mirror 16/12/2016 Suzi Loxton
<p>Suzi Loxton Mauritius travel feature</p> © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc

Suzi Loxton Mauritius travel feature

The sand is between my toes and a shot of rum is in my hand just moments after ­stepping out of a taxi, and I have wi-fi... Mauritius is Instagram heaven!

My base on the Indian Ocean island is the Veranda Pointe Aux Biches hotel which prides itself on its “barefoot bliss” concept, allowing you to discard your shoes and head straight into the Mauritian way of life.

Of course, as with many islands, the ocean is the star turn in this little slice of paradise.

And it wasn’t long before I was exploring what the water had to offer – starting with cruising through the picture-perfect turquoise seas.

<p>Suzi settles into her chilled holiday</p> © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc

Suzi settles into her chilled holiday

And it wasn’t long before I was exploring what the water had to offer – starting with cruising through the picture-perfect turquoise seas.

Snorkelling by a reef just offshore was first on my agenda, and spotting a group of dolphins somersaulting and playing in the boat’s waves as we headed out was a welcome bonus and something to tick off the bucket list.

Sticking with boats, the hotel also offers a catamaran day trip, which starts at around £30 per person in a group, which goes up to £300 for a private trip.

Starting at Grand-Gaube, we made several stops for more snorkelling before arriving at Bernache Island. Here, the catamaran anchors a few yards from the shore and it’s so shallow, you can walk from the boat, doing your best Ursula Andress impression on the way, of course.

With a stunning beach on the south coast and as little as four other people on the island at a time, I was ­overwhelmed by the space, fresh air and beauty of nature surrounding me. Consequently the theme tune for Desert Island Discs did pop into my head, too.

There was no chance of being deserted here, though, because after an hour of exploring, I was welcomed back onto the boat by the smells of a BBQ that the crew had been preparing.

<p>Mauritius</p> © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc

Mauritius

Music and dance is a big part of Mauritian culture and the local sound is called Sega, which is said to ­originate from the slave population. Now the dance is used to express the Mauritian way of life, which is joy and liveliness.

I got to experience this several times in my trip – one of those was with a Sega dance lesson on the beach, which is run by the hotel for free. I’d recommend having a rum before giving it a go though – they make it look a lot easier than it is.

As well as dance lessons, you can also join cocktail making and cookery lessons on the beach.

Standing proud at my cooking station with a chef’s hat on and armed with a spoon, I managed to rustle up a lobster stew with the guidance of the hotel chef. The price for this varies from £20-£30, depending on the meat used. Mauritian cuisine is largely based on fresh local fish which meant I got to try lots I’d never tasted before, mainly in curries and stews.

Make sure you try smoked marlin, caught daily just off the coast of Grand Baie.

This seaside village is where boats depart around 4am for deep sea fishing trips, returning to crowds waiting to see the size of marlin that have been caught.

My guide was also very proud to show me a wall of photographs that illustrated their fishing victories over the years.

Grand Baie is one of Mauritius’s most popular holiday destinations – its liveliness both day and night is the defining quality.

Home to a bazaar, food market and colourful Buddhist temples, you become immersed in beautiful smells and sights.

A 15-minute drive south of Grand Baie takes you to the village of Mapou, where you will find the Chateau de Labourdonnais (chateaulabourdonnais.com).

The Chateau de Labourdonnais © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc The Chateau de Labourdonnais

This grand colonial house has been restored to show the lifestyle of the families who lived there in the 19th century and the impressive tree-lined driveway leading up to the house is the starting point for your tour.

Once inside you see the English and French inspiration within its furniture and decor, and the surrounding verandas overlook the estate’s garden and orchard with 50 varieties of 100-year-old mango trees, spice trees such as nutmeg and clove, as well as several exotic fruit trees.

The giant Aldabra tortoises are not to be missed either, but they aren’t going anywhere too fast.

For more flora, head to the Sir Seewoosagur Botanic Garden in Pamplemousse (ssrbg.govmu.org), which is populated with more than 650 ­varieties of plants, among which are the famous baobab trees, bottle palms and giant water lilies, plus dozens of medicinal plants and a large spice garden.

<p>Giant water lilies</p> © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc

Giant water lilies

I would fully recommend using the guides (around £1), not only to avoid testing your map skills, but because they are full of interesting facts and amusing anecdotes, even for the less green-fingered among us.

On the subject of greenery, you’ll have gathered there’s a lot in Mauritius, not least the fields of tall sugar cane which line most of the roads. With sugar being one of the island’s most historic exports, it’s not surprising they have a museum dedicated to the stuff.

L’Aventure du Sucre (aventuredusucre.com) near the Botanic Garden not only tells the story of the sweet stuff in ­fascinating detail, but also along the way covers the history of Mauritius, slavery and the rum trade.

The museum is housed in the converted Beau Plan mill, which only stopped being in active use in 1999 and the original machinery is still on site.

Admission includes a tasting with 12 varieties of sugar and three of rum – and, if you are not bouncing off the walls by then, a perfect ending to your visit is their Le Fangourin restaurant.

Sitting under a shaded veranda, facing the beautiful gardens of Beau Plan, you can enjoy the delicate local cuisine. Inevitably, be prepared for a vast choice of sugar with your coffee.

If you still fancy some more rum, then Mauritius is definitely the place for you. Each hotel in the group that owns the Veranda Pointe Aux Biches has its own home-made flavour, ranging from coffee to passion fruit, and it seems rude not to try at least one.

Leaving the island with a souvenir bottle of rum in my luggage and an abundance of Instagram posts sent, I remained barefoot right until the bitter end. Bliss in Mauritius? It’s a shoo in...

<p>Barefoot Bliss</p> © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc

Barefoot Bliss

GET THERE

  • Superior rooms at the 4* Veranda Pointe Aux Biches hotel in Mauritius start at £287pn on h/b based on 2 sharing in March 2017. veranda-resorts.com
  • Air Mauritius flies from Heathrow to Mauritius in March 2017 from £940 return. airmauritius.com
  • Tourist info: tourism-mauritius.mu

TIME ZONE GMT +4hrs

CURRENCY Rupee £1 = 45

BEST TIME TO GO Maur the merrier all-year round.

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