Mauritius is an increasingly popular holiday destination, and it’s not hard to understand why, a short 4 hour or so flight on Air Mauritius from Johannesburg and you’re in a completely different world. We had the good fortune of upgrading to Business Class on the outward leg which was a great start to the holiday. This visit was to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary so was pretty special, we chose the Radisson Blu Azuri, an alleged 5 star resort on the North Eastern part of the island. More later on why I use the term “alleged”.
We arrived in the early evening and boarded the hotel’s shuttle for the trip to the resort with a very grumpy driver who I swear took the longest route he could find. So after what seemed like an interminably long journey, but which was probably just over an hour and thirty minutes, we eventually arrived at the resort sometime after 10PM, somewhat tired and ready for bed.
Radisson Blu Azuri Resort
There is very little positive that I have to say about the Radisson Blu Azuri Resort, so if you don’t want to read anything negative then scroll down to the positive stuff, of which there is plenty. This trip, celebrating our 20th anniversary, was our 3rd visit to a Mauritius resort and definitely the most disappointing one ever. I acknowledge that the staff are friendly, accommodating and eager to please, but they have been given a sub standard product to sell, so their job is pretty much an impossible one.
The fact that the resort is remote, the beach is not one of Mauritius’ finest and that it’s located on the windy side of the island are all factors that we were aware of and they didn’t bother us. What did appeal was the quality of the accommodation and the many positive comments on Trip Advisor etc about the good food. We were disappointed on both counts.
We arrived late at night and although our room was of a very high standard, it looked over the restaurant. We paid more for an ocean view room, and while the ocean was visible, it was behind the busy and noisy pool deck and restaurant, with very little privacy. We raised it with the very helpful front office manager, who arranged an upgrade to a private suite as well as a complimentary couples massage and a dinner at one of the restaurants for our anniversary celebration. None of which was expected and all of which was much appreciated, a big thank you and thumbs up there, and sadly that’s where the positives end.
The private suite was really great, with the privacy that we wanted and our own plunge pool. It wasn’t that clean though, the cleaning staff need to spend a bit of time getting down into the corners of the showers with something to get rid of the mould that has developed. The location was better for sure but the room needed a good once over.
The food was incredibly disappointing, the same thing every day with very little variety, and I can say with absolute confidence that it was the worst resort food that I’ve experienced in any Indian Ocean Island resort from Mauritius to the Seychelles and the Maldives. It was tasteless, with little or no sauces, real backpackers stuff. We started to look at the vegetarian options for some variety but I feel very sorry for non meat eaters, it was slop that looked completely inedible.
The breakfast menu was OK, but the “fruit salad” was swimming in some kind of syrupy liquid and sausages were inedible, although having said that, the eggs were good as was the bacon, potatoes and other accompaniments. Fresh fruit was also quite disappointing, with some over-ripe bananas and apples, this is a tropical island, surely fresh bananas should be easy to come by as well as other tropical fruits!
Lunch and diner were uninspiring, meat was really tough and if you arrive towards the later part of the service most of the options were finished. If you offer a buffet that finishes at a certain time, then you should have everything available for that time. The staff stop replenishing the tables 30 minutes or so before the meal ends. Comments on some travel sites suggest that this is a deliberate policy, to force guests to go and eat at the a la carte restaurants where smaller portions come at much higher prices. I don’t know if that is true but if so it’s a terrible and dishonest policy, not to be expected of a reputable company like the Radisson.
It was a huge disappointment overall and a waste of money, I would rather have spent more to get a quality product. My advice, don’t spend your hard earned cash on this resort, there are far better options available. The fact that I spent the flight home and the next couple of days in agony with what I suspect was food poisoning, for sure doesn’t help improve my opinion. The food was shocking, sub standard and brings the entire resort down.
It’s far and away the worst resort I’ve visited, never again!
Those Mauritian Beaches
It is possible to get a car and driver if the mood takes you to get out and see some of the island, but it’s expensive and you are somewhat limited in terms of what to see, it’s very much going along with the driver’s agenda. Hiring a car is a better option, at least that’s been our experience, and it’s not that expensive if you shop around.
We hired a car for 3 days and simply drove wherever the mood took us. You can download Google Maps to your mobile device which allows you to navigate offline, without requiring data, so no roaming fees are incurred, go Google.
As far as beaches go, Mauritius has them in abundance, the Eastern side of the island is a bit less developed in terms of big resorts, with plenty of small villages and public beaches. The downside is that it’s more exposed to the prevailing winds that come off the open ocean, especially so in October, when we were there, but they are awesomely beautiful nonetheless. The Northern and Western coasts are more developed and “touristy” but the beaches are protected from the wind and are stunning, if more crowded at times, but there’s always space for one more.
We found great swimming beaches from Pereybere, through Grande Baie and on to Trou Aux Biches in the North and North West of the island. Having said that, although we didn’t make there it this time, the area around Black River, Tarmarin and Flic en Flac also have awesome beaches. In the South at Le Morne the beach stretches for miles, it’s a bit more windy and thus is popular with kite surfers.
Port Louis and Grande Baie
When the urge to go shopping strikes chances are that you’ll find yourself in either Grande Baie in the North, or in the Capital, Port Louis. Grande Baie is pretty tourist oriented, with a mall, bars, restaurants and gift shops. It’s definitely worth a couple of hours.
Port Louis is apparently the wealthiest city in Africa, even though it’s not actually in Africa. It’s a city of contrasts, with tall, shiny new buildings alongside less developed outlying areas, the city centre is more like that of an African city than anything, with loads of street vendors and informal traders plying their trade. Places to put on your list of places to visit are the Caudan Waterfront, which is very much the sophisticated end of town. Not far from the waterfront, a 5 minute or so walk towards the city centre is the Central Market which is the complete opposite of where you just came from.
The market is noisy, colourful, brash and vibrant with vendors selling pretty much anything that you need, or don’t need but just want. Be warned though, that if you show even the smallest interest in something that’s for sale, the stall owner will follow you around the market trying to persuade you to buy it. Everything is negotiable, so bring your best bargaining skills with you. It’s quite an experience and not one that I’d want to repeat any time soon, but totally recommended at least once during a visit to Mauritius.
Mauritius North to South
The island of Mauritius is approximately 65 km North to South and 40km East to West, so it’s not huge, but it’s quite densely populated with a lot of traffic in the urban areas. There are some highways, most notably between Port Louis and Grande Baie and Port Louis and the airport (which is on the Eastern side of the island), but much of the road network runs through built up areas. So getting anywhere can take some time, driving from North to South and back again is pretty much a full day’s excursion.
We did it on a rainy day, stopping whenever the mood took us for a photo opportunity, lunch, or just to admire the view. There’s a big difference in the landscape, and even weather between the 2 extremities, while it was raining in the North, at Le Morne in the South it was a beautiful sunny day.
The North is flatter and there seems to be more agriculture, with vast fields of sugar cane, while the South is more mountainous with lush tropical forests, passes and waterfalls. Worth a visit is the Black River Gorges National Park, although don’t hold your breath for the much hyped Alexandra Falls, which are actually somewhat under inspiring. But there are some stunning walks and hikes through the shady forest, and the higher altitude is cooler and less humid, just what is needed on a hot tropical day.
Visiting Mauritius Soon?
Have a look at these great value deals on accommodation on the North cost of Mauritius from Booking.com.
Bottom line then, Mauritius is an island that is fast developing into a sophisticated economy, it has a well educated, hard working population and a Government that is focused on improving the lives of Mauritians. The big resorts are increasing and expanding all the time, in not too many years the old island ways will probably have all but disappeared. So my advice is go, but do it sooner rather than later, it’s a beautiful and special place. I love it!