Mark Twain once said: "You get the idea that Mauritius was made first and then heaven, and that heaven was copied after Mauritius."
The famous writer visited this Indian Ocean jewel some six years before golf arrived here – 1902's Gymkhana GC layout is the oldest in the Southern Hemisphere, and the island now boasts nine 18-hole courses.
But given the utter beauty of the place, it's hard to believe even a man who considered the game a good walk spoiled would feel any differently today.
Though known for its blissful climate and beaches, Mauritius is increasingly demanding the attention of the travelling golfer. Ernie Els and Bernhard Langer are among the course creators here, and there are more layouts on the way; one is due for completion at the end of this year and the other in 2018.
Nowadays Mauritius is a regular European Tour stopping-off point: the Legend course at Constance Belle Mare Plage (above), the only venue currently offering two 18-hole courses, has hosted the European Senior Tour's big end-of season MCB Tour Championship finale since 2011.
Recently, the island has also enjoyed a taste of the main Tour with the Mauritius Open taking place at two other outstanding venues, The Heritage and Anahita. A trip to Mauritius means experiencing some of the world's best beaches, a range of watersport activities, wonderful spas and cuisine and unbelievably friendly service within a safe and secure destination. But it also means playing golf in paradise, and as propositions go - that ain't bad!
Mauritius: The Courses
Mauritius has been recognised as the best golf destination for the Africa, Gulf States and Indian Ocean region by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO). The golfing revolution in this corner of the Indian Ocean was kickstarted at Constance Belle Mare Plage.
Hugh Baiocchi's Legend course opened 23 years ago, followed by the lovely neighbouring Links layout in 2002. Both the Legend and Links have been significantly refurbished and improved recently, making them a joy to play.
Considered the no.1, The Legend annually provides the climax to the European Senior Tour season and guarantees a good test for both the pros and holidaying golfers alike. It's tighter and longer than the Links, boasting a terrific variety of holes though there's no doubt about the stand-out – the magical par-3 17th with its green tantalisingly perched beyond the lagoon. Just make sure the coast is clear as far as unwary water-skiers are concerned! A memorable round finishes in style with a scintillating par 5 with water scarily hugging the right side of the fairway.
The Rodney Wright-designed Links provides plenty of golfing fun too while posing plenty of questions with water featuring on several holes, most notably the thrilling par-4 13th and the tricky following par 3. There's a potential sting in the tail too with the final green sitting beyond more water. So best to ensure you go out with plenty of ammunition!
Both courses were in superb condition on TG's visit and have their own clubhouses as well as outstanding practice facilities – providing to-die-for views – including an academy run by popular French former European Tour star Marc Farry. The Deer Hunter restaurant and bar is a great spot to chill out after a game on the Legend. And if you're staying at either the Belle Mare Plage or sister Constance property Le Prince Maurice, you'll receive free golf and bus shuttles.
You can also expect immaculate conditioning at the other two European Tour venues. The Heritage has a wonderful combination of holes, including the driveable risk-reward par-4 9th, and the Ernie Els- designed Anahita delivers lightning fast sloping greens and deep, penal strategically- placed bunkers. Anahita is right on the coast and close to Ile Aux Cerfs (formerly Le Touessrok - pictured above) which is spectacularly plotted on an island and uniquely reached by a boat taxi.
Bernhard Langer's somewhat quirky layout has undergone major changes in recent times and to be honest has bene ted as a result, being more fun and playable – previously many an unsuspecting golfer's ball supply had dried up well before the turn! For holidaying golfers it was too tricked up and frustrating but now a lot of the trouble straddling the fairways has been cleared, giving golfers a fair crack of the whip when before it seemed like mission impossible. Now there's even two greens at the stroke index-1, 18th to aim at! As a result, it's a treat to play and you'll find it in great nick too. After playing you can even enjoy a barbecue or unwind on the beachside sun beds.
Paradis and Tamarina (pictured below)– the stunning former sits under the iconic Mourne Mountain beside the crystal clear lagoon of the Morne Peninsula while the latter has more of a country club/parkland feel to it – are well worth playing too.
A new inland course, Avalon, opened last year while Mont Choisy, in an old sugar cane plantation near Grand Baie in the north, is expected to open at the end of this year. Also, a second Heritage course is on the way at Domaine de Bel Ombre while there is talk of a third course at Belle Mare Plage with Colin Montgomerie possibly involved. Mauritian golf is simply getting bigger and better.
Off-Course Travel Guide
When to go, how to get there, off-course options and two amazing deals...
Where to stay
The MCB Tour Championship finalists stayed on the east-coast resorts of Constance Belle Mare Plage and Le Prince Maurice, as did we. BMP is on a 2km stretch of beach and has a range of luxury accommodation options, from suites to villas. There are seven restaurants, six bars, four swimming pools and a variety of activities on offer with most being complimentary – and that includes golf! There's also a fitness centre, tennis courts and the classiest spas. Sister hotel Le Prince Maurice opened in 1998 and is a smaller, more intimate version of Belle Mare, flanked by a turquoise lagoon and beaches of pure white sand.
Food & Drink
The Constance hotels offer 10 restaurants, along with a cluster of bars. Belle Mare boasts seven magni cent eateries with the most popular being La Citronnelle while you can taste the nest of ne dining in the wonderfully atmospheric Blue Penny Cellar. Le Prince Maurice offers three dining options but they're all pretty classy, specially Le Barachois, a oating seafood restaurant spectacularly sitting in a natural sh reserve. Main restaurant l'Archipel overlooks the beach while the idyllic Laguna Bar serves up delicious Asian dishes. The wine cellar holds 25,000 bottles.
Mauritius is a fascinating place with plenty of things to see and do beyond the resorts and below are just a small selection.
- Coloured Earths of Chamarel: Undulating and vividly contrasting layers of earth believed to result from the weathering of volcanic rocks and close to the stunning Chamarel waterfalls.
- Grand Bassin: Breathtaking scenic lake overlooked by mountains plotted 1,800ft above sea level and sacred place of pilgrimage for thousands of Hindus.
- Tamarin Falls: Not easy to reach but worth the effort for a deep, cool bath at the base of the series of seven falls.
Award-winning Air Mauritius – it has been voted the Indian Ocean's leading airline (World Travel Awards) for 10 years in a row – offers both economy and business class comfort and are the only airline to y direct non-stop from London Heathrow to Mauritius. Return economy fares start from £790pp, including all taxes and charges, but look out for special fares from time to time. Flight time is approx. 12 hours. For more information visit www.airmauritius.com or call 0207 434 4375.
- Currency: The Mauritian rupee, divided into 100 cents (approx. 45 rupees = £1).
- On the road: Driving is on the left side with priority to traf c from the right.
- Time difference: GMT +4, BST +3.
- Best time to go: Anytime of the year is good for golfers though being a tropical island, it's subject to showers throughout the year with the cyclone season Dec-Apr.
- Coastal temperatures varies between 22oC in winter (Jun-Sept) and 34oC in summer.
Deal 1: Seven nights at Constance Belle Mare Plage with unlimited golf and return flights, costs from £1,158pp (half-board) and from £1,497pp all-inclusive. To book call Destinology on 01204 823819.
Deal 2: Seven nights' full-board at Constance Prince Maurice with unlimited golf and return flights, costs from £1,653pp. To book call Kenwood Travel on 0207 7499220.
Jacob Sjoman (4 HCP), From Sweden
My Mauritian golf experience surpassed all expectations. I stayed at the lovely recently renovated Constance Hotels Belle Mare Plage which offered the key ingredients for a relaxing vacation filled with golf with a lovely private beach. Overall, I would say Mauritius is a fresh and strong golf destination combined with good food, nice beaches with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
Highlights were the two courses at Belle Mare Plage – they were in great shape, providing beautiful views. Off-course I would recommend the array of water sports available and visiting Grand-Baie, a nice coastal village in the north.
John Farrell (10 HCP), From London
From the moment we stepped off the plane, things felt great. Firstly, the people; everyone was genuinely friendly – yes, even the customs officials. Mauritius knows tourism is the key to its future yet they don't try and sell you stuff or make you feel like they're doing you a favour. The beaches are pure soft sand with turquoise water. Snorkelling, boating and water skiing are top class but it's the golf where Mauritius has triumphed.
We stayed at Anahita and enjoyed unlimited golf there but also visited Ile aux Cerfs, only 10mins by boat shuttle, and Belle Mare Plage. Crossing the lagoon to the island course is magical, though the smells of the beach barbecues may halt you in your tracks!
Sian Stonehill (12 HCP), From London
Our holiday ended in style at Constance Belle Mare Plage where we played in the European Senior Tour's Pro-Ams on both days on the Legend and Links courses. It was incredibly special, especially playing alongside Ryder Cup hero Phil Price and then having a beer and chat afterwards with the likes of Barry Lane, the eventual winner, and Colin Montgomerie.
We then returned to our Anahita base and visited 125-year-old turtle George followed by another fabulous and reasonably priced dinner with amazing (largely South African) wines!