This is Africa, although not quite as you may know it. For luxury travellers, the iconic Indian Ocean destination of Mauritius has been a perennial no-brainer for several decades, owing to its full complement of magnificent hotels, picture-perfect beaches and enticing tropical climes. One of the underrated draws, however, is the radiance and warmth of the local population, some of whom made the meaningful difference at the newly renovated Constance Belle Mare Plage.
It’s far too difficult to choose the more endearing aspect of the veteran 40-year-old resort; the pristine, reimagined aesthetic, or the beaming faces that appear throughout my stay. The smiles were always there, no doubt, but they now have a refreshed backdrop, unveiled just a few months ago. While the resort remains true to its original essence, maintaining natural stone and wood elements throughout, the addition of bold blues, plush fabrics and newly acquired art pieces, from the lobby to each of the nine dining venues, has had a revitalising effect. Incidentally that’s the same effect you’ll feel after just a few days at one of Belle Mare Plage’s remarkable suites. I check into one of the 96 sea-facing Junior Suites, which make up the bulk of the full roster of 259 keys, including the Deluxe category but not including the collection of pool villas, beach pool villas and the lone Presidential Villa, located on a private stretch of the resort’s two-kilometre beach with its own tropical garden and redesigned interiors.
That same beach is just as accessible from the array of Junior Suites and it’s quickly apparent how it inspired the Belle Mare Plage name. “Beautiful beach” is a little on the nose when it comes to a hotel moniker but why not put your best asset forward? The powdery-white sands are lapped by relatively tame waves thanks to the tidal soothing effect of the nearby reef. Almost as soothing as the king-size marshmallow that was mistakenly left where my bed was supposed to be. It’s said that the rule of thirds is the most aesthetically pleasing way to compose an image, so perhaps the interior designer was also a keen photographer, owing to the neat sequence of bathroom and storage, “bedroom” and lounge area, which leads to a small patio. What the ground-floor sanctuary lacks in architectural dynamism, the roomy rectangle more than makes up for with cosy appeal – and pool proximity. Equipped with a desk, large flat screen TV, sofa and soaking tub, the blue-and-white haven is a home away from home.
One of the resort’s seven pools is a squirt of sunblock from my particular patio, with its partially submerged loungers and ocean views, decorated by tall, swaying palms, I’m momentarily unsure of whether to don a robe and sink back into my pillows for an afternoon siesta, or stroll to the beach for a kayaking session along the coast. I opt for both. I also find time to venture a little further to sample the nearby 18-hole championship golf course, The Legend, located right across the street. The Hugh Baiocchi-designed course has seen its own updates after 22 years, with five remodelled holes, revamped irrigation and a touch up to the open-sided Deer Hunter clubhouse restaurant, which no doubt stole the show at last month’s MCB Tour Championship golf tournament. All of the resort’s refectories offer a fabulous range of cuisine and service, but the à la carte wine cellar, Blue Penny, is the pièce de résistance. The haute-cuisine venue boasts the largest collection of wine in the entire island nation, many of which can be sampled in the company of the sommelier at the Wine Flight Bar, but the 21-day matured Galice beef rib will be the enduring memory – mostly because it was supposed to be for two. Thankfully it isn’t a long walk back to my abode.
The resort has a long-standing gourmet tradition as the recurring host of the annual Festival Culinaire Bernard Loiseau (March 25 to April 2), where Michelin-starred chefs from across the world team up with local island chefs to produce spectacular feasts. But if you’re itching for Indian Ocean bliss, there’s no reason to delay. Even at full occupancy, the 15-hectare resort and lush tropical grounds still have a breezy sense of space. Do bear in mind, though, that Mauritius for millennials this is not. With a recurring clientele of the silver-haired variety and a natural proclivity for older generations to be drawn to golfing escapes, don’t expect to hear any recent hits on the dance floor. But if you want a vast range fine dining, nautical niceties, a pristine gym and spa facilities and access to world-class rounds of golf – all moments away from the seemingly magnetic pull of your suite – then you’ll be constantly satisfied with Constance.
WHAT: Junior Suite
WHERE: Constance Belle Mare Plage, Mauritius
PRICE: Up to €840 / night (HB/peak)
TEL: +230 402 2600