Heaven is a place on earth.
Turquoise blue sea, white sand, warm sea breeze and all you could hear is nothing but the soothing sound of waves crashing on the beach. Sounds like an idyllic place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city? You bet. Paradise does exist in this world and Mauritius is definitely a piece of heaven on earth.
When it comes to holidaying in tropical destinations like Mauritius, Maldives, Cancun or Caribbean, I always think of Club Med. Having said that, I’ve actually never been to any of their resorts. In fact, I know very little about Club Med except they are nice exclusive resorts perfect for couples, honeymooners or whoever wants some peace and quiet on a tropical island.
Club Med was born out of the vision of two men, Gilbert Trigano and Gérard Blitz, a new form of shared experience holiday concept to reinvent the alchemy of happiness since 1950 after world wars. Club Med is an ‘all-inclusive’ holidays and resorts in the world’s most beautiful locations where guests can recharge and rejuvenate through contact with nature, sports and like-minded people.
When I was approached by Club Med who asked me to be one of their “Happiness Testers” so that I could have my first experience of Club Med La Plantation d’Albion resort at the beautiful tropical Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, for me to say ‘no’ was not an option.
“You’ll see, you just have to have an open mind.” That’s the advice I received before hopping on Air Mauritius and not knowing what to expect. 14 hours later, I find myself on a tiny island in the Indian Ocean.
The highly enthusiastic “happiness” greetings from the hotel crew as soon as our shuttle bus pulls up at the driveway outside of the resort have me in awe. We are welcomed by a mob of hotel staffs waving their hands in the air right along to a chirpy ‘Happy’ theme tune echoing through the lobby. It was odd at first but soon I get used to it with the song comes on the speakers regularly whenever there are new guests arrive at the resort.
The most important thing as a Club Med’s guest is the branded trident wrist band. Each Club Med resort has a different colour wrist band, it gains you access to the resort and entitles you to all the facilities including all-you-can-eat buffet but we will talk about that later. 🙂
The staff gives us a short brief about the resort but I highly recommend anyone to join the hotel staff who will take you on a walking tour around the whole complex and show you where everything are. My jaws dropped a few times during the walking tour, the scenery around the resort is simply stunning like snapshots out of a postcard.
Everywhere you look is white sand beach against the black volcanic basalt rocks, light turquoise blue sea that stretches as far as the eyes can see.
In 2004, Club Med has reinvented a new luxury way of holidaying, the 5 Trident experience, or 5T, a concept welcomes guests to a world of luxury accommodation for top comfort, service and relaxation. La Plantation d’Albion Club Med is one of the many Club Med 5T resorts around the world.
There are 266 Rooms and Suites in the resort, some with terraces and balconies direct access to the pristine beach. Did I mention the whole complex is massive? Because I got lost quite a number of times and couldn’t find my room. Good thing is there are golf buggies circling the whole resort regularly to take guests to wherever they want to go.
Can’t say I am into bird watching, but you will find a lot of native birds building bird nests in the resort which somehow fascinates me. Love the name of these yellow birds – ‘Village Weavers’. Another kind of bird spotted at the resort with a black mohawk and red face (pic above) is called – ‘Red whiskered bulbul’. Seems like all birds in Mauritius come with cool names.
I am assigned to a deluxe room on the top floor with a balcony overlooking the lush garden. The 50-square-metre room is spacious, tastefully decorated in a rich earthy tone of fuchsia red and dark brown. I love a king size bed with good posture support but yet soft enough to a good slumber. I seldom use the bathtub in a hotel, but I simply can’t ignore the gorgeous “claw foot” pedestals rose bath tub and I am determined to use it at least once on this trip.
But I think is time to go and grab some food!
Eat (and drink) till you drop.
When they say all food and drinks are inclusive (except the high end wine list), they are not kidding. And I guarantee you will never go hungry here at the resort. La Distillerie is the main restaurant in the resort that caters for all your meals. It is an all-you-can-eat International Buffet with many live cooking stations serving up delectable cuisines from all around the world. There are also theme nights like Mauritian Night or Seafood Extravaganza where the whole restaurant really gone all out to indulge the guests with an amazing feast.
If you are a Club Med virgin like me, then first thing you need to learn is the secret handshake. Just kidding, but they do have their own references for everyone in the resort by using specific abbreviations:
G.O – Gentil Organisateur, the founding pillar of Club Med. The G.O is the ambassador of the Club Med spirit and upholds the company’s values. There are around 78 G.Os from all around the world working at the resort. Most of them can speak multiple languages and their duties are to make sure all guests are attended to and well looked after.
G.E – Gentil Employé is also a Club Med employee native to the country where the village is located. G.E can be the room keepers, chefs, waitstaffs, cleaners, etc. They are the hard workers to keep the whole resort running smoothly.
G.M – Gentil Membre is the customer of Club Med. That’s me.
According to Club Med website, “They (the G.Os) come from all over the world looking for a little happiness in our magical villages where G.Os and G.Es work for them, without being their servants.” That’s exactly what we experienced at the resort, G.Os will ask whether they may join you for lunch or dinner. It was a new experience for me as I got to sit down and shared many meals with different hotel employees on each night, where I also gained a lot of insights into the fascinating life as a G.O.
Let’s get physical.
It can get very hot in Mauritius up to 35C in the afternoon, but it is the humidity that really zap the energy out of me. Despite there are so many sport activities including archery, trapeze that I would like to take part of, I simply can’t find the motivation to do it under the scorching heat. Instead I find myself dipping in the swimming pool most of the time.
There are two swimming pools in the resort, the main pool at the centre of the resort is suitable for families with children. They also run aqua aerobics every morning and everyone is welcomed to join in especially those who would like to burn off all the food consumed the previous nights.
After the aerobics, it is time to do the crazy signs!
A particular institution is the communal dance or commonly known as the crazy signs led by the G.Os at varying intervals during the day and evening (the frequency varies by village). The dance steps for each song are standard across the organisation with some new ones introduced each year. I learnt the dance moves pretty much after a few goes.
While it’s all happening at the main pool with lots of activities going on, I rather much enjoy the peace and quiet at the Zen pool shy away from the crowd at the back of the resort. This adults-only swimming pool provides precious moments of quiet and calm, especially during sunset – it is simply magical.
On the other side of the island.
There are actually two Club Med resorts in Mauritius. Guests of La Plantation d’Albion resort are entitled to take a day tour to La Pointe aux Canonniers, a 4T Club Med resort located on the northern tip of the island. Each morning guests can take a ferry ride to the other resort for a change of scenery and also able to enjoy the extra water sports facilities.
There are many water sport activities here to keep everyone occupied. You can go swimming, kayaking, sailing, stand-up paddle boarding and the most popular one is the water skiing.
I’ve done SUP (standup paddle boarding) once and it was at a calm lake, so I thought I will give it another go. But this time proven to be a lot more difficult as I can’t seem to be able to stand up at all; I blame the gentle waves of the ocean. As a Club Med member, we also get to enjoy the buffet lunch here at the resort before heading back.
By the time we arrive back at our resort, the locals are also here having a swim in the ocean. There is a group of kids jumping off the jetty into the water looks like they are having heaps of fun, so a couple of us also follow suits and jump into the crystal clear water for a final dip.
Le Phare Restaurant
There are only so many buffet lunches and dinners I can handle before I starting to get overwhelmed by it all. So it is a nice change to enjoy a sensible 3-course a la carte meal at the sophisticated fine dining Le Phare restaurant adjacent to the Zen Pool.
Everything is inclusive in the package of course, including the house wines; but booking is essential as this 120-seater restaurant tends to get booked out on most nights. The menu is an exquisite mix of local cuisines, typically Asian with the delicate flavours of vanilla and curry. I have tried both lunch and dinner at this restaurant and I would say the dinner menu is lot more exciting than the lunch menu.
Activities for the foodies
Club Med is not just about swimming, eating and laying on the beach, they also have a range of other activities for those who would like to put their culinary skills to the test.
The resort runs cocktail mixing class and also cooking demonstrations at the bar regularly but only be requests. During the cocktail mixing class, a G.O mixes up a few virgin cocktails for us try before shaking up a few alcoholic signature cocktails at the resort.
Initially we thought it is going to be a hands-on cooking class, but it is nice to have Chef de Partie Samuel Jean Francois to demonstrate for us on how to cook – Fish Vindave, a traditional Mauritian fish dish that you are supposedly able to keep in the fridge for a month.
The white night
Guests are encouraged to participate in the theme nights and play dress ups according to the theme each night including red & black, all black, Caribbean night, all white and also the tradition “45 & 88” theme where all guests will wear the no. 45 polo shirts (the lucky no.88 for Chinese guests) to celebrate the 45th anniversary of Club Med. Amongst all the theme nights, the White Night is possibly the most special one and all guests are also being treated to a feast of Seafood Extravaganza.
There are seafood aplenty, mounds of fresh sea urchins and pacific oysters tantalised our appetites, sashimi and sushi are neatly stacked at the Asian station, plump scallops are cooked to order, but the piece de resistance is the grilled giant gulf prawns, larger than my palm, I can’t help but keep going back for more of these juicy sweet crustacean delicacies. Don’t forget about the dessert station of course, I just love the chocolate fountain is now flowing with white chocolate for the theme night.
The night is still young
The G.Os are a multi talented bunch, they don’t just look after the guests, they even put on a spectacular show on most nights. Some of the G.Os are actually trained acrobatic performers and professional choreographers, the shows are no doubt professional and entertaining. But of course, a show is not complete without the guests’ participation – it is time to unleash the “crazy signs”!
[A Table For Two travelled to Mauritius as a guest of Club Med]