Mauritius has seen many changes to its golf offering since my last visit only three years ago, so a return trip was well overdue, writes Mark Marais, managing director of golf specialists Chaka Travel.
As recent empty nesters, it was great to be accompanied by better half Marcella on this ‘work trip’.
After a comfortable, stress-free journey from Dublin via Dubai with Emirates, we arrived into a sunny, warm Mauritius morning.
We were driven along the south coast by our charming concierge Clifford from Emotions passing a noisy, colourful Tamil religious festival, the bright bold colours of the silks and exotic flowers immediately transporting us a long way from the hustle, bustle and stresses of the office.
Keen to get on with business, within an hour of arrival at the African themed Heritage Awali Golf and Spa Resort I was out on the Heritage Golf Course.
Above:Heritage Le Telfair
It was great to be back out on one of my favourite courses. I remember seeing the course when it was under construction and had the pleasure of watching it blossom into maturity when attending its official opening. Over the years, it has just got better and better.
I enjoyed playing with the South African golf director Jonathan Menteath and his friend Nico from another favourite resort of mine, Legends Golf and Safari Resort in SA.
That made three of us Southern Africans playing together but unfortunately only two good golfers! I used every excuse in the book about our eight-month winter in Europe to try and justify my wayward golf.
No excuses with the weather here, at 28˚C it was absolutely perfect with a lovely soft breeze and clear blue skies. I was pleased to hear that they are soon starting the second course and I look forward to playing it in the future.
Above: Mark and Ryan Dodds at Avalon GC
After the obligatory post game Phoenix beer sundowners, we enjoyed dinner at Infinity Blue restaurant alongside the beach. Sitting outside with your feet in the sand at this relaxed restaurant was a perfect end to our first day back in Mauritius.
Another day in paradise: beach, massage, food, beer and a tough lunchtime meeting with my old friend Michael Geerdharry at the stunning Heritage Le Telfair Resort.
Michael has been involved in golf on the island since day one and I’ve known him for over 20 years! It was great chatting about how golf has developed on the island and I’m pleased to say more courses are in the pipeline including the second Heritage golf course.
We headed up to
Avalon Golf Club where we were met by the estate manager Ryan Dodds, who I remembered from Heritage GC just down the hill.
We really enjoyed this superb Peter Matkovitch course, he’s a great designer and a fellow Zimbabwean. The course has spectacular views of the ocean from virtually every hole, surrounding tea plantations and nearby mountains with wide forgiving fairways as it winds through rivers, ravines and indigenous forests.
Above: Anahita GC
After a fairly busy start to our trip we treated ourselves to a down day relaxing around the pool at the top-class Anahita Golf an Spa Resort, set in beautiful gardens with a superb golf course.
With another sunny morning, I was up early and the first out on the Anahita Golf Course. As always, the course was in fantastic condition.
With the construction of several new villas alongside the course, there was some background noise and the normally picturesque fourth hole had fencing most of the way down the fairway. Fortunately, the stunningly located green with wonderful views of the turquoise ocean was unaffected.
The course is very forgiving off the tee, which suits me, and to score well you need a good short game as designer Ernie Els made sure scoring wasn’t easy with well protected, tricky greens.
After lunch, we moved around the bay to Shangri La's Le Touessrok, below, where we would be spending a couple of days. Having been taken over by Shangri La, I was interested to see the changes, knowing the standard would be high.
Overall, the biggest difference we found was that the resort had a more relaxed and informal feel having previously been very elegant and chic. I particularly enjoyed the late afternoon sundowner session they now have daily on the beach, which brought people together with music in the background creating a lively and fun atmosphere.
Throughout our stay, we were looked after like royalty by the affable marketing director Peter Donlevy. We joined him for dinner in the Japanese restaurant where both the company and the food were of the highest order!
Marcella and I spent a magical day playing on the iconic Ile Aux Cerfs course. Everything was perfect, from the boat ride out to the island, to playing the immaculately maintained course and enjoying lunch in the lovely clubhouse. It is truly an experience to remember.
The course was in tip top condition and with just a gentle cooling breeze, conditions were once again ideal. I have played it many times and enjoy it a lot more now that it is easier to play - when it was first opened it was ridiculously tough! Hats off to the director of golf Marc Amelot and his team, who do an amazing job in keeping the course at a consistently high standard!
We spent an idyllic day at Shangri La’s Le Touessrok’s private island Ilot Mangenie - truly paradise. Just a short boat ride from the resort, you find yourself in heaven, nothing more than a few sun loungers dotted along the stunning beaches plus an excellent beach restaurant providing world-class food.
We moved back around the bay to the Four Seasons Mauritius where we were lucky enough to be given a beachfront villa with a private pool. These outstanding villas are the absolute epitome of luxury as one would expect from Four Seasons.
Below: Mark on the Ile Aux Cerfs course
Next, onto the superb Constance Prince Maurice Resort. In my opinion, it's the finest resort on an island famous for its world-class hotels.
Le Prince Maurice shares two superb golf courses, the Legend and the Links, with its sister hotel the Constance Belle Mare Plage. Le Prince Maurice is an extremely elegant resort, renowned for its exceptional service, luxurious décor, amazing cuisine and a wonderfully extensive wine list.
After a cocktail at the floating bar, we had an excellent meal at the Asian Restaurant, where the superb food is prepared by the chefs in full view of the diners.
Another day, another great golf course. This time, we played the Links Course, below
. Opened in 2002, The Links is Constance Hotels' second championship golf course. It’s a fair course that rewards good play but can be equally tricky, particularly on the back nine.
There are reasonably generous fairways leading to tricky greens, putting an emphasis on solid iron play as well as making really think about your choice of approach shot. There’s considerably less water than on the Legend Course but there are still six water hazards as well as volcanic rock features that must be avoided.
Following the golf, we relaxed on the beach before winding down even further with a relaxing massage at the superb spa. We had a wonderful evening with pre-dinner drinks at the floating bar before our ‘La Paulée’ dinner dedicated to sumptuous wine and food pairings!
After this we moved to the new C Palmar Resort. I was really looking forward to seeing our great friends from Constance Resorts' latest offering.
This is a smaller boutique style resort and on arrival we were given a typically warm Mauritian greeting. As we walked through the hotel, we took in the stunning view of the beach and sea which dipped beyond the horizon. The bright natural light as well as the airy feel to the resort really complement the colourful setting.
Our room looked onto this wonderful vista of the crystal-clear sea and sparkling white sandy beach. While the main restaurant buffet didn’t have an overwhelming selection, there was plenty to keep us happy and we were well looked after by the attentive and friendly staff.
We woke to strong winds and a cloudy sky so made sure we had waterproofs packed before heading to the north of the island to try out the new Mont Choisy golf course with our old friends Jo and Rory Kirk.
Fortunately, the rain stayed away and I really enjoyed playing a truly testing round in high winds. Living in Ireland has made me accept it as part of the challenge! The course is another excellent Peter Matkovich design - it’s built on a former sugar plantation with few mature trees and offers wonderful views of the mountains.
The 15th hole is an absolute gem. It’s a short par-3 across a wetland to an island green and is located near an old chimney. We had the pleasure of lunch and a few drinks in the stylish modern clubhouse, where we reminisced about the island and all the changes it has undergone over the last 20 years.
Our final stop was just a few minutes up the road to what is generally rated the best golf resort on the island – Constance Belle Mare Plage, above.
Having first visited the resort in 1995, I have really enjoyed seeing the resort develop from a ‘charming’ old beach resort with one golf course to the wonderful stylish current version with two excellent courses and a third in the pipeline!
Belle Mare Plage, like the island itself, really feels like a second home to me. We have had thousands of happy clients enjoy the resort and many of these return year after year and, like me, feel totally at home.
In the afternoon, I caught up with my old friends Sarran and Dinesh who have been looking after the golfers at the Belle Mare Plages two courses for many years.
It is always a highlight of my visits to Mauritius playing golf with these fun loving, charming guys, whom many of our returning clients would know and agree that they, and the rest of the staff, really enhance the golfing experience with their charm and professionalism.
Our delightful dinner in the Blue Penny restaurant at Belle Mare Plage was preceded by a tour of the very impressive wine cellar and a sumptuous wine tasting experience.
All good things must come to an end though, and our final day had arrived. However, as we were departing on an evening flight we had enough time for just nine holes on the Legend Course, below.
The changes made to the course over the last two decades have been considerable. It now plays a little easier due to wider landing areas but the abundance of water as well as dense forest and volcanic rock means you can expect to lose a ball or two. Overall, the course was in excellent condition with well-maintained tee boxes, bunkers and pure well-paced greens.
In the evening we tried out the Yu Lounge at the airport. It is in a separate building to the main terminal and is ideal for the ultimate in stress-free travel.
On arrival at the lounge, your luggage is taken away while you enjoy bubbly and excellent food; your passports are taken and returned with your boarding passes.
When it’s time to fly out you are taken to the main terminal in a Porsche Cayenne! At the terminal you are whisked through a private security route and onto the departure gate. This is one indulgence I recommend particularly for those who like to be pampered!
A warm welcome, superb golf and idyllic weather - what more could you want?!
MAURITIUS FACT FILE
Capital: Port Louis
Currency: Mauritian rupee
Population: 1.263 million
• Four Seasons Golf Club at Anahita
• Ile Aux Cerfs Golf Club
• Heritage Golf Club
• Belle Mare Plage (Legends Course)
• Belle Mare Plage (Links Course)
• Avalon Golf Club
• Mont Choisy Golf Club
• Tamarina Golf Club
• Constance Belle Mare Plage
• Constance Le Prince Maurice
• Four Seasons Mauritius
• Heritage Awali
• Heritage Le Telfair
• Long Beach Resort
• Shangri-La's Le Touessrok
For more information, visit chakatravel.com.