Sensory overload in Mauritius
The impressive lobby at One&Only Le Saint Geran, Mauritius.

It's 9.30am on a Monday and I'm lazing on a sun lounge on the sandy beach of a tropical Indian Ocean island. Behind me are palms in a lush tropical garden. Before me, the warm, blue waters of an inviting lagoon.

Basking in the sun's rays, the daily grind of work responsibilities quickly fades from memory. Having always dreamt of being in this place, I'm revelling in the sunshine that is Mauritius.

A beach waiter (they do exist) comes over unsolicited with a glass of water, served on ice with a twist of lemon.

Soon after, the same waiter comes back with an offer of sunscreen and, later, he brings a menu, again unrequested, before returning with a perfectly prepared Creole salad for lunch. On every occasion, the service is so precise it is as if he has read my mind.

I would come to understand this is par for the course at One&Only Le Saint Geran, a premier five-star resort. This epitome of paradise is at Pointe de Flacq, on the east coast, an hour from the airport. From its tree-lined driveway behind the secure gates to the imposing lobby, the resort is both grand and beautiful.

In my ocean-facing junior suite my eyes are drawn from the petits chocolats and champagne to the lavish bath in the marble-covered bathroom. This is where candlelit "bathing ceremonies" are prepared on request with a choice of essential oils and fragrant petals to "unwind", "restore" or "elevate". Each night my room is also "prepared for bed" with an oil burner lit with essential oils such as lavender and jasmine. The personal touches extend to a choice of pillows, from duck and goose feathers to hard, soft and in-between.

Le Saint Geran's two restaurants have Michelin-starred chefs and serve some of the island's best cuisine.

On my first night, Rhena, the resort's marketing manager, invites me to dinner at waterside restaurant Rasoi by Vineet, where I am treated to London-based chef Vineet Bhatia's modern take on Indian food. Among the dishes on offer are Bhatia's signature black spiced tandoori chicken with a tomato and cashew nut chutney as well as a smoked tandoori salmon with mustard and dill served with red onion and cucumber yoghurt.

The kitchen also features Bhatia's signature live acts, including a tak-a-tak grill, which is a type of Indian teppanyaki, and an open tandoor.

The other Michelin-starred chef is Frenchman Alain Ducasse of Spoon des Iles. The chilled veloute of local zucchini and mozzarella di bufala is divine.

At this resort, almost everything is creme de la creme. The nine-hole golf course was designed by South African legend Gary Player and the resort is home to Pedi:Mani: Cure Studio run by famed French podiatrist Bastien Gonzalez.

One of the best water ski instructors on the island, Jojo, gives lessons and sailing, kite sailing and snorkelling are all also available.

But in the spirit of a luxury holiday, the resort's One&Only Spa is a stand-out with a private garden, pool and array of treatments. For something different, the 30-minute anti-jet- lag treatment is a good option at the start of the holiday, while for couples, the tutorial offered in back and neck massage is a way to take your treatment home.

It is rumoured that Hollywood stars Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stalone are among the celebrities who visit regularly.

Mauritius has more than 100 resorts to choose from, most dotted around the coastline.

On the south coast is another gem, Heritage Le Telfair, nestled at the heart of the Domaine de Bel Ombre. While contrasting in style to Le Saint Geran (the term colonial chic was suggested by a fellow guest), it also exudes elegance.

I have a Gone with the Wind moment there when I dine at the Chateau de Bel Ombre, the restored former home of 19th century Irish botanist Charles Telfair, who once ran a sugar plantation on the property and in whose memory the resort is built.

Aside from the chateau, tributes to Telfair - who established the island's botanical garden near the capital Port Louis - are manifest in the property's colonial rooms (a butler assigned to each one) and in the restaurant, Annabella's.

The Cavendish Bar & Lounge has the decor and atmosphere of an old English smoking room complete with elegant cocktails, liqueurs and fine cigars.

But it's the location at the mouth of the Citronniers River which is the resort's best feature, for Heritage Le Telfair benefits from both its riverfront and beachside setting.

Being Mauritius, there are water sports, a beach bar and an infinity pool but the stand-out is the main pool where one can swim with views of Plaine Champagne and the Indian Ocean.

Heritage Le Telfair also encompasses the Seven Colours Spa which offers therapy based on the seven coloured chakras of Hinduism. Each chakra corresponds to the energy in different parts of your mind and body so whatever colour you choose at the beginning of your treatment ensures the light, candles and massage oils in the therapy room are all aligned to re-energise that zone.

Playwright Mark Twain once said: "From one citizen you gather the idea that Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied after Mauritius."

After experiencing two of the finest resorts on the island, who am I to disagree?


FACT FILE

• One&Only Le Saint Geran rates start from $US951 ($897) per night in a junior suite in the May to September low season. There's a 50 per cent discount for honeymooners for stays of at least five nights. For more, see www.oneandonlyresorts.com. Heritage Le Telfair rates start from 230 euro ($307) for a superior room in low season (April to October). For more, see www.heritageletelfair.mu.

• Air Mauritius flies direct from Perth to Port Louis, go to www. airmauritius.com/index_au.htm.

Beatrice Thomas travelled to Mauritius courtesy of Air Mauritius and the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority.

The West Australian

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