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Catherine Beattie discovers sugar cane fields, spectacular scenery and a tropical French spa on her first visit to Mauritius.  The paradise island of Mauritius is a tiny dot in the Indian Ocean, some 1200 miles from the coast of mainland Africa. Blessed with white sandy beaches, warm seas and...

Lost in Translation

Catherine Beattie discovers sugar cane fields, spectacular scenery and a tropical French spa on her first visit to Mauritius. 

The paradise island of Mauritius is a tiny dot in the Indian Ocean, some 1200 miles from the coast of mainland Africa. Blessed with white sandy beaches, warm seas and a generous sprinkling of superlative resorts, it offers a safe and welcoming environment with dramatic landscapes and a vibrant mix of cultures and nationalities. 

The Mövenpick Resort & Spa is located on the quieter south west coast. Built on the site of a former sugar plantation, the surrounding area is still covered in fields of swaying sugar cane. The beachside resort covers 22 acres and is designed like a 17th century sugar estate mansion, with colourful tropical gardens, 181 spacious rooms and suites and a great choice of sporting, leisure and excursion opportunities as well as an excellent spa. With four swimming pools, three quality restaurants and a water sports centre, there is much to enjoy. You can play tennis, test your golfing skills on an adjacent course, ride a mountain bike or simply chill out by the pool or in the spa. 

On my first day, everything was surpassing my expectations. Glorious weather, friendly staff, an ocean-view room with its own garden and fragrant frangipani tree. I‘d enjoyed a delicious lunch beside one of the turquoise pools and was looking forward to the Reiki treatment I’d booked in the spa to help shed my jet lag.

As one of the world’s oldest healing therapies, Reiki uses the energy all around to restore balance and support the body’s ability to heal itself. During a session, healing energy (reiki) is channelled to the recipient by the therapist placing his/her hands non-intrusively over the recipient’s body, so that the reiki flows to areas of need. My treatment was scheduled after lunch and I was anticipating an afternoon of total relaxation. 

The Aldana Spa (named after the finest pearl found in the Arabian Sea) is a gem in its own right. A Zen-inspired oasis, built from the stones of an old sugar factory, it nestles in a tropical garden and outdoor aquarium. Colourful fish glide through shallow streams of flowing water that splash and tumble into pools filled with exotic plants. 

The spa menu offers a delicious concoction of wellbeing packages, individual body treatments and massages using fragrant products from Madagascar. The ‘wet ‘pavilion – an attractive open air courtyard area – has saunas, a hammam and a Jacuzzi as well as treatment rooms for body scrubs, wraps and Vichy showers. Dry treatments and massages are performed in individual wooden pavilions surrounded by water and accessed by stepping-stones. You can chill out afterwards in one of the oversized armchairs in the spa garden or catch some rays in the solarium on top of the adjoining tower, which has its own secluded pool with all round views of the ocean and distant hills. Treatments and massages can also be taken on the beach in a specially equipped straw cabin.

After being welcomed to the spa, where the therapists spoke French with just a smattering of English, I was told that Reiki was not available but that I could have a Shiatsu massage instead. Slightly disappointed, I agreed to the change and was taken to one of the individual spa pavilions. 

Shiatsu (from the Japanese shi – meaning finger and atsu, meaning pressure) is an ancient Japanese massage therapy to promote balance and healing. As in Reiki, you wear loose comfortable clothing and lie on a mat on the floor while the therapist uses their fingers, thumbs, palms, hands, elbows, knees and feet to massage and stimulate the body’s pressure points. My therapist was a smiling Mauritian called Jeeten, who spoke good English. Once the treatment started, I couldn’t tell whether he was using his arms/hands or knees/feet to iron out my tensed muscles and joints – I was too relaxed to work it out! Occasionally I felt a twinge of discomfort as a deep-rooted ache or stiffness was exorcised, but overall it was an enjoyable experience.

Sipping water afterwards, I mentioned about the Reiki. Jeeten explained that Reiki should never be taken immediately after a meal because food creates a blockage in the energy flow making the laying on of hands less effective. As my appointment had been booked shortly after lunch, the spa had cancelled it and offered the Shiatsu massage instead. Their explanation and my understanding had been ‘lost in translation’!

During my week on Mauritius, White Sand Tours, a friendly local tour company showed me around the island. They were excellent guides and we shared many a laugh as we drove the length and breadth of the island. From the rare plants and giant water lilies of the Pamplemousse Botanical Gardens in the north – to the wonders of Chamarel in the south, where there is a spectacular waterfall and a unique landscape of coloured earth created by volcanic rocks. We spent an afternoon in the Port Louis, the island’s vibrant capital, exploring the shops and colourful market where sellers peddle everything from fake designer T-shirts to boxes of spices and tea. Another afternoon we cruised in a small boat along the west coast and marvelled at the antics of wild dolphins. 

I was also drawn back to the peace of the Aldana Spa though I never did try the Reiki. My favourite treat was relaxing with a book beside the circular pool at the top of the tower. Best of all, I always had it entirely to myself. 

Mövenpick Resort & Spa, Bel Ombre, Mauritius
Tel: +230 623 5000 
Check the Mövenpick website for special offers throughout the year.
Spa entry is 29 euros for half day, 48 euros for full day.
Free spa entry when having a treatment.
Guests staying in Clubrooms and suites have free spa access (treatments extra).
1-hour Shiatsu Massage – 44 euros
90-min Reiki – 77 euros
3-day spa packages from 250 euros
Overall impression: A laid back friendly resort offering great cuisine and facilities. The only disappointment is the beach – lovely sand but too much rock and coral for really carefree bathing.
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