Upmarket Le Sakoa Boutique Hotel, Mauritius, perfect place to be
AEROPORTS de Paris excelled themselves when they came up with the design for the new terminal at Plaisance airport (now known as Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport) in Mauritius.
Inspired by the tropical travellers palm tree and built at a cost of US$260 million, partially funded by a loan from Exim Bank of China, this eco-friendly structure welcomes ever-increasing numbers of international tourists, from Tokyo to Tamboers Kloof, from Houston to Harare.
When George and I entered the arrivals hall last November, my eyes went out on stalks, gazing at the water walls, the vertical tropical gardens and the steeply rising escalator leading to the baggage reclaim area. In no time we had retrieved our luggage, exchanged pleasantries with jovial immigration officers, and were on our way in a taxi to Trou aux Biches, a two hour drive,costing approximately US$45. Accustomed to the pot-holed roads and speeding drivers back home, I was dreading the drive. But all went well; smooth, well-marked roads, strict speed limits, roundabouts, and street lighting as bright as daylight, made the journey a pleasure.
On arrival we checked into Be Cosy, our three-star self-catering accommodation, and settled happily into holiday mode. Chez Popo, a well-stocked supermarket a ten minute walk away, had everything needed to make a gourmet meal in a small kitchen. When not cooking up a storm with frozen prawns from India, we snacked on smoked tuna, french cheeses and crackers.
On a previous visit to Mauritius several years ago, we stayed at the five star Beachcomber Trou aux Biches Hotel. Remembering the delicious Creole and French dishes prepared by the chefs at the time, we decided to drop by and see how much things had changed. We arrived on foot, and were refused access (reservations required) by two less than helpful security guards. Thoroughly miffed we turned tail, and headed, still on foot, for Le Sakoa, a four and a half star boutique hotel on Coastal Road, not far from Be Cosy Apartments.
We knocked three times, and the gate keeper opened one half of the tall, carved wooden security gates, ushering us inside with a benign smile. It was close to lunch time, and a welcoming receptionist escorted us to The Oak Restaurant, an elegant dining area surrounded by green lawns and swaying palm trees. A few metres away lay bright, white sea sand and the placid, blue Indian ocean.
The menu was written in French, with English translations. I chose pan-fried sea bream with taro leaves fricasse, tamarind sauce, sauteed garlic mussels and parmentier (potato) puree (Rs550). This was probably the best meal I ate during our ten-day stay in Mauritius. Most chefs on the island have a flair for French-style cuisine; the Creole, Indian and Chinese dishes I sampled were largely disappointing. George’s chicken and prawn curry, Creole-style (Rs475), although beautifully presented, was short on flavour and spice.
Illy coffee (Rs90) was served in the dappled shade of a palm tree. A few metres away, contented Sakoa residents were relaxing on chaises longues under shady thatched beach umbrellas, or setting off on an excursion in the glass-bottomed boat towards the coral reef with its multitudes of iridescent fish. It seemed to me that if you were in search of an upmarket resort in Mauritius, Le Sakoa was the perfect place to be.
As we walked back along the beach to Be Cosy, we saw several Hindu women dressed in red saris at the water’s edge, sending off votive offerings of food and candles on banana leaves into the ocean. It was 23 November, Narali Poornima or Coconut Full Moon, and a Hindu holiday on which to worship the Sea God, in the hope that fishermen would get a good harvest.
The multi-cultural society in Mauritius has something to offer for everyone. Colonised briefly by the Dutch, the French and then by Britain, the population is a melting pot of Indians, Africans, Chinese, French and British. In addition to being one of the top holiday spots in the world, Mauritius is fast becoming a financial centre, and a property hot spot for investors.
Aeroports de Paris, the ‘360-degree airport experts’, can claim some responsibility for making arrivals and departures to and from Mauritius, the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, a pleasurable and exciting experience. – A Matter of Taste with Charlotte Malakoff
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