Luxury ayurveda & good food on Mauritius
The Quick Read: Maradiva Villas Resort & Spa is a plush yet warm and friendly ’boutique’ retreat set on a generous stretch of white sand beach and turquoise lagoon in Tamarin Bay on the west coast of Mauritius. It was the first hotel to introduce ayurveda to the island, bringing experts in from Kerala, a tradition it continues today. It’s also the only all-villa hotel on the island – its 65 private pool villas are beautiful havens of peaceful solitude. Their spacious spa offers ayurveda detoxification retreats and excellent, organic gourmet cuisine. There’s also a Mauritian cookery school run by the Executive Chef Ravi Gokoolah. Find out all about Ayurveda.
More on the treatments: The six treatment rooms (two for couples and one purely for ayurveda) are decorated with Indian artefacts – Buddhas and Indian Hindu figurines, gourds etc – and have generous, very private gardens for relaxing after treatments. The pretty couples’ treatment room, has beds draped with beautiful Indian golden brocade and a romantic rose petal bath. The spa is renowned for its ayurveda treatments, which range from ‘leisure’ ayurveda to ‘holistic’ ayurvedic journeys, with the Upakarma ayurvedic journeys being less extreme than the purgative Panchakarma treatments.
Maradiva’s Ayurvedic Detox Retreat is a seven day tailor-made programme, which combines therapeutic ayurvedic treatments with dynamic yoga, meditation (Yoga Nidrā) and a cleansing food menu. Treatments include Udvartana – a blend of fragrant herbal powders and rich almond oil are massaged into the body – to improve circulation, reduce cellulite, and firm the skin and the medicated herbal oil application, Abhyanga. Sattivica incorporates meditation, massage and chakra therapy, and Pavani is a detoxifying treatment that includes lymphatic drainage and a traditional Indian herbal wrap. Read a word from the queen on her ayurvedic experience.
It isn’t all ayurveda and we also recommend the aromatherapy massage, a powerful deep tissue massage used on wrestlers from Southern India. The spa also offers cupping, foot massage, Thai massage and Indian Head Massage as well as crystal healing and Reiki. With only six treatment rooms, book treatments a day in advance in peak season.
More on the yoga: There’s complimentary yoga three times a week, offered on the beach or in the yoga/meditation studio at the spa which has rich polished wooden floors, and a statue of a Vishnu, with garlands of flowers, looking on. The studio is also used for private yoga sessions (chargeable). Their style of hatha yoga focuses on the physical rather than the more esoteric side. The beginners in our class found it a bit dry – although the yoga teacher was personable, flexible and gave individual assistance. It may be appreciated most by those who have done some yoga before.
More on the wellbeing activities: Waterskiing, sailing and windsurfing, diving, fishing, world class golf and tennis are all on offer at Maradiva. Idling by bicycle or on foot spotting deer in the gently undulating Wolmar ‘domaine’ or estate is a lovely way to spend a half or full day (the hotel can provide a gourmet picnic) or, for a really special experience, get up early to swim with a dolphin pod in Tamarin Bay.
For nature lovers, the Black River Gorges National Park, the only national park on the island, in the southwest isn’t far away and is criss-crossed with nature trails. One of the island’s biggest attractions, Casela Nature and Leisure Park can easily take up a day with activities from hiking, ziplining and Segwaying to walking with lions in the wild (book ahead).
The Mauritian cookery school runs at various dates during the year and includes a trip to the colourful markets of the capital, Port Louis. A half hour walk along the beach will bring you to Flic en Flac, where a strip of shops and inexpensive restaurants, bars and snack stalls line the beach-side road. It has a lively mix of tourists and locals – you may hear live sega music played on the beach.
More on the inside: Inspired by the residences of Mauritius’ sugar barons, Maradiva is an architectural melting pot, reflecting French colonial, Indian and African heritage. The hotel is elegant without being showy. Earthy pale yellow and ochre walls combine with basalt and rich polished Madagascan Rosewood floors and teak furniture under cathedral ceilings with turreted slate roofs. The hotel sports an eclectic mix of Mauritian and Indian art.
More on the villas: Pool villas are either garden or sea view and differ in levels of privacy depending on their location. Some nearer the beach are mini fortresses with hedges of flowers around the pool, others are more open. Number 406, tucked away in the garden, was private enough to go skinny dipping in the plunge pool – about 2.5 crawl strokes long – yet still had a stunning view of pretty Tamarin Mountain across the bay. They’re very spacious (from 163 to 345 square metres) with a veranda – plunge pool and lounge – equal in space to the bedroom which is simple but lovely – king size bed, coffee table piled with fruit, African orange sofa and wide screen TV and wifi.
Most beautiful though is the large, light bathroom with floor-to-ceiling glass enclosing an indoor rainforest shower. There’s also a garden shower with chute (for a shower-massage!), enclosed by a high wall so no one can peer in. An egg-shaped bath, ‘his and hers’ washbasins, and separate dressing room complete the pretty picture. The bedroom and most of the bathroom also have Madagascan rosewood polished wooden floors, perfect for barefoot living. Thought has been put into the colours and the open lounge and the plunge pool are designed to reflect the colour tones of the ocean and gardens, perhaps explaining the peaceful tranquillity found there. Arrangements of locally-grown flowers on the dresser are a lovely touch, cream cushions on basket chairs give a tropical feel, and a traditional Indian filigree lantern illuminates the pool at night, tempting you in for a midnight swim. If you want to splash out, two huge Presidential Suite villas on the crescent beach lagoon have a large infinity pool overlooking the ocean, chef and 24 hour butler.
More on the outside: Maradiva sits at the end of a strip of hotels on Tamarin Bay, famous for its dolphin pod, yet it feels quite private, with a great view over Tamarin Mountain. The west coast has the best sunset and Maradiva has plenty of places to watch it: alfresco –poolside (the main, infinity swimming pool with daybeds on wooden decking, lies beside the beach), at Breakers bar, Coast 2 Coast or in Raj-style dining tents set on the beach. A peaceful place to sit at night is under the lanterns hanging from trees at the beach edge.
65 private pool villas are mainly discreetly hidden from view, nestled in 27 acres of beautiful, mature tropical gardens –spacious grounds for a ’boutique hotel’. The villas are conveniently arranged on avenues, radiating from the lobby towards the generous 750-metre stretch of white sand beach, so you never have to walk far. Golf carts are on call, if you don’t fancy walking at all. It’s the only island hotel to offer each guest a private villa. The lobby has Mount Rempart – known locally as ‘the Gorilla’ (takes a wide stretch of the imagination) – as a backdrop.
Food and drink: Maradiva is renowned for its gourmet fresh and organic cuisine served in three a la carte restaurants. The Mauritian owners of Maradiva also own Bon Marmite, a restaurant with an elegant colonial style ambience, and the first restaurant in Port Louis to serve Mauritian cuisine – an exotic fusion of flavours drawn from Arab, Indian, African, French and Chinese traditions.
Taste sea bass sashimi carpaccio with a passion fruit dressing, fish nigiri and tom yum soup starter at the Japanese Teppanyaki bar or dine on melt in your mouth baby kebabs – ajwaini fish tikka, harabhara kebab and tandori grilled chicken tikka – at Cilantro, the hotel’s Indian fine dining restaurant under romantic paper lanterns hanging from the trees or breakfast by the beach at the all-day brasserie, Coast 2 Coast. Private in-villa dining, which comes with all the frills such as bread, pickles and salad, is perfect when you just want to sink into your own space after treatments.
The hotel grows many of its own vegetables, herbs and spices in its large organic kitchen garden, and it only employs retired people, who otherwise have little income, to work there. Fresh and organic wild boar and free range venison are sourced from the nearby Wolmar ‘domaine’ or estate, locally-grown Chamarel coffee is served, and the weak and refreshing Mauritian vanilla tea.
Alcoholic drinks are available in restaurants and from the mini-bar and in-villa tea-making facilities and a nespresso machine are tempting with the delivery of afternoon tea cakes and morsels – inspired by a different exotic fruit each day.
Fellow guests: As one of the quieter, more private, properties on the island, Maradiva attracts mainly couples, of all ages – some on honeymoon. We hung out with a chilled and friendly honeymoon couple, both geologists in their early 30s. It’s also a relaxing place for singles, drawn mainly by its ayurveda programmes. Families appreciate the day and evening mini kids club – all ages are catered for. Most guests are from the UK, with a smattering of French, German, Russian and Indians. Twelve percent of guests return.
Costs: Prices for a stay at Maradiva Villas Resort & Spa start from £550 per person per day, based on 2 sharing a garden suite villa on half board between April and September, including taxes. Ayurvedic spa packages for 3, 5, 7 and a maximum 14 days cost extra. An Ayurvedic spa experience which costs from £390 per person, including a 90 minute Abhyanga ayurvedic treatment. A 7 day Ayurvedic Detox Retreat including treatments, meditation and yoga is priced at £1080, and a 14 day Ayurvedic experience costs £2,165 per person.
What’s lowly: Workmen floating around the spa grounds compromised privacy, although this is unlikely to happen in peak season. Wifi can be unreliable – though that could be a good thing. The plunge pools could alarm parents of toddlers.
Getting there: Maradiva is under an hour’s drive from Mauritius airport. Transfers can be arranged by the resort.
Reviewed by Louisa Carter
© Queen of Retreats