A small group of riders cantered by along the sand at the water's edge with a spectacular sunset as their backdrop. Within moments of the sun disappearing into the ocean, flames from a bonfire shot up and Sega Dancers appeared in colourful costumes moving to the beat of the local music, their spectacular performance illuminated only by the light of the fire.
The island of Mauritius lies in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar, approximately 6000km west of Perth. Mauritius is only 65km long and 45km wide with 160 km of coastline, surrounded by coral reefs, sparkling waters and pristine white sands. The lush tropical forests have a backdrop of picturesque mountain ranges.
The Mauritian people, a blend of French, Creole, British, Indian and Chinese, are very warm, lots of fun and fantastic with children making this a very special place for families.
Accommodation ranges from budget hotels to world-class resorts. One of the best ways to see the island is to hire a car and drive yourselves around. It is safe to drive here and easy as they also drive on the left side of the road.
Flying there from Australia, Air Mauritius provided exceptional service even in economy. Twelve hours is quite a long flight for children but this seemed to pass quite quickly. Lisa and Cara had a backpack with them containing travel-sized games, Game Boy, exercise books and coloured pens, and had plenty to keep them amused. The children's meals were a delight and the aircrew looked after us all very well.
Our plan was to stay with Sun International Resorts and we were lucky enough to enjoy the experience of two very different properties. Arriving in the early evening we were met at the airport and transferred by coach to the elegant Sugar Beach Resort. On the west coast of Mauritius, Sugar Beach is set in 20 acres of tropical gardens with 500m of white sand beach and crystal clear waters.
On arrival there the children were very tired after the long flight and ready for bed so we ordered room-service meals and a babysitter. Once they were asleep we headed to the restaurant and enjoyed a sumptuous meal and were entertained by a high-energy show of local talent. The choreography and glamorous costumes were exceptional and the fantastic blend of Mauritian cultures kept us riveted to our seats, enjoying the sheer rhythm of these people with voices to die for. As tired as we were with plans to simply eat and go to bed, we were unable to leave until the show had finished.
Wonderful way with kids
Next morning at breakfast the staff from the kid's club came around to all the tables with children to encourage them to go along to the kid's club where they were going to show them what FUN really meant.
They hit the right note as my girls were anxious to head off with them instantly. The Mauritian people really do have an amazing way with children.
The kid's club was a gingerbread cottage with giant licorice allsorts guarding the entrance. Inside was a fully-equipped, child-sized kitchen and pizza oven set up so the kids were able to be involved in preparing and cooking their own lunch!
The pace here seemed to move quite fast from one thing to another keeping the kids fully occupied.
First thing on the agenda was heading off in a boat to see the dolphins then learning or brushing up on windsurfing skills. Then they headed back to cook lunch and afterwards to learn to dance the Sega, fully dressed in authentic costumes!
All the kids really loved the dance and enjoyed wearing the brightly-coloured costumes. Parents were invited along in the afternoon, once the skills had been mastered, to see their children all dressed up and dancing away with really big smiles on their faces.
At sunset we went to watch the real Sega dancers on the beach - Cara and Lisa had borrowed the costumes from the kid's club and were looking very glamorous. Towards the end of the beach performance the dancers invited the girls up to dance with them. After the performance ended, two of the Sega dancers came and asked if they would both stay in their costumes and come down to the main entertainment area at 9.30pm to join them in their performance on the main stage later that evening.
The girls were very excited at the thought of being stars for the night but, after an action-packed day at the kid's club, were unfortunately falling asleep at the table by 9pm. They weren't going to be little starlets after all!
The next day we decided to explore the south of the island, renowned for its spectacular scenery. We hired a taxi for the day which was quite inexpensive and a good way to see the island. One word of warning on this - make sure you are very clear with the driver on where you want to go and the time you intend to get back to the hotel and make sure your driver can speak good English. The taxis are great as long as everything is understood before you set out.
Colour at Le Coco Beach
After a few days at Sugar Beach Resort we crossed to the east coast to stay at Le Coco Beach, a truly amazing world of vibrant colours.
From the moment you step into the foyer your world is filled with colour, even down to the garbage cans! The colour schemes here are some of the most amazing you may ever see - it really is stunningly different!
The whole ambience makes this an enchanting place for children. The rooms have castle-like towers and the playful colours extend to the bedding and through to the bathrooms.
The kid's club operates different programmes for different age groups and also caters for teenagers. There was so much to do at this resort - taking out the bikes, horse riding, using the fantastic equipment at the water sports center and the kid's club - that we could have just stayed there and been totally content without seeing any more of the island.
However, we did decide to tear ourselves away and hired a jeep to see the north of the island, which actually turned out to be our favourite for the beaches, restaurants, shopping and the sunsets!
The jeep was fun and charges can be negotiated, it seems that it is cheaper to rent the same vehicle from independent operators other than through your hotel.
On our way north we went via Port Louis to see the Cauden Waterfront and the famous Central Markets - you haven't been harassed by vendors until you have been here - they are really persistent. If you want to buy anything here you need to bargain, NEVER pay what they are asking.