Eagle-eyed readers of this blog will have noticed a bit of tumble-weed blowing through its environs recently. No I haven’t given up altogether (although exciting ventures elsewhere have been keeping me busy) but one of the reasons things have been so quiet is that we have been on holiday.
On holiday, I hear you cry. Isn’t life as an expat in South Africa one long holiday? Well yes you have a point, we do get to travel a lot while we live here – and hell, if you lived in the most beautiful country in the world (trademark) wouldn’t you do your best to see as much of it as possible?
However, travelling and holidaying are two different concepts and what we really needed was a proper break. A time to be able to do nothing, to not move an inch from the sunbed should we chose, to totally re-charge our batteries. Unfortunately we do of course have two very active pre-teens so this total relaxation was never going to happen. But all the same, we wanted to get away somewhere really beautiful and life-enhancing for a fantastic fun-filled family vacation and Mauritius fits the bill completely. It’s also only 4.5 hours flight from Johannesburg, which of course helps!
Mauritius is one of those countries that most people simply associate with holidays and little else – a bit like one of the many Caribbean islands dominated by resorts geared up to doing nothing more than sipping rum and dipping the occastional toe in a pool. However, just like many of those Caribbean islands, dig a little deeper and there is actually a fascinating history to this island involving pirates, runaway slaves, a mish-mash of cultures which altogether add up to a very unique identity, a famous now-extinct bird (the dodo) and a man called Peter Pepper (yes, really!). But we weren’t really here for the history and culture, fascinating as it was – we were here for the sea, sun, sand and (remember, kids involved) snorkelling!
It is hard to chose a resort on an island like Mauritius because there are so many of them and most of them looked fantastic. I know people who have gone rogue and stayed in self-catering houses on the island and this also looks like a lovely option for some real rest and relaxation. However for this, our official “breather break” from South Africa, we wanted to stay somewhere where we really didn’t have to lift a finger. In the end we settled on the Ravenala Attitude, part of the Attitude chain and a newly refurbished hotel.
The Ravenala is not paying me for this review (unless they wish to do so retrospectively….contact me tab above….) so I can say anything I like but in all honesty it was a fabulous resort. There were issues and you can read my review on TripAdvisor, but the pluses far out-weighed the minuses and I would both recommend it and return to it. In particular, the staff were outstanding and made us all (especially the children) feel as welcome as it is possible to feel. Clientele were a little mixed – we were out of season so there weren’t many families, with honeymooning couples taking up most of the room on the sun-loungers. But this mattered not a jot, we were still treated like royalty by waiters, bar-staff, room cleaners, the dive crew and sports guys as well as pretty well everyone else we met.
The main reason we picked Ravenala was because it offered us as a family what we wanted – a family suite so we didn’t have to book two rooms (which would have racked the cost up considerably), lots of activities, and good choices of restaurants. As well as snorkelling, we spent the week on the sea on various vessels including a glass-bottom boat, kayaks, pedaloes, stand-up paddle boards, water-skies and lasers (small sailing boats which capsize easily….). On the land we played badminton, beach tennis, petanque and table-tennis (ish). When we fancied a dip we had both the ocean and several large pools to chose from. And of course there was plenty of choice when it came to needing a drink to quench that thirst – although this being a sugar island, that choice mostly revolved around rum for the grown-ups.
Our favourite activity though was under the sea. I learnt to dive more than 15 years ago and reached over 100 dives before our five year break in the UK (where diving was off the menu thanks to a non-tropical climate). Having completed a refresher course here in Pretoria a couple of weeks before our holiday, dusted down our wetsuits and polished our masks we were ready to go. The hotel has a new dive centre attached so it was super easy to book a package of six dives shared between me and my husband, plus a couple of try-dives in the pool for the kids. Which turned out to be a great success because our 10-year-old daughter went on to do not only one but two dives in the sea and loved it!
The reason this was such a huge success for us was because, despite living on a Caribbean island as a child, she has never liked beaches or salt water which has been a bit of a struggle for the rest of our sea-loving family (my younger daughter, at eight, is still too young for a sea dive but snorkels like a pro and enjoyed her dive in the pool).
Diving, for anyone who hasn’t tried it, seems like a faff while you are above water but as soon as you get below the surface can be one of the most relaxing things you can do. I liken it to a session of yoga or meditiation – you drift around looking at beautiful things with just your thoughts for company (you do of course dive in a group or with a buddy but as you can’t talk it can feel very peaceful). On some dives the excitement does rack up with sightings of sharks, large rays or other “big things” but the coral reef diving we did around Mauritius wasn’t that sort of dive. Lots of fish life and plenty to look at but it was never going to be one of those “Top Ten” dives. Just very relaxing, very beautiful and very de-stressing.
Sadly all good things come to an end and after a week of indulgence we settled in for one last evening on the beach, rum cocktails in hand. And luckily for us, the island decided we deserved a fabulous sunset on our final day – watching this spectacular show was a wonderful way to end our week away and will stay in our memories for years to come.
So now we’re back in South Africa and I am trying to catch up with everything, I hope to be able to get back to some sort of blogging routine soon. Which, if everything goes to plan, will include a new link-up for expat bloggers in Africa – so watch this space!