Singapore & Silk – Slip Starting?

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FOXTROTS

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

March 29 2014

Singapore & Silk – Slip Starting?

Whoops. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The core Singapore Airlines group (SIAG – SIA plus Silk) sold only 1.4% more seats over January-February.

 

In an interview published in the Travel Business Analyst newsletter last December, SIAG explained that SIA might be growing at ‘mature’ rates but that Silk would grow faster. Also that neither Emirates nor SIAG’s own Scoot nor others would slow growth at the core-SIAG.

 

I might enumerate those ‘mature airline’ rates at 4-5%, but closer to 10% for new-model Silk.

 

We still think SIAG has made a strategy mistake. Briefly:

 

-Scoot should not have been created; instead, Tiger should have been expanded.

 

-Silk Air should be SIAG’s ‘low-cost-airline’ (not the same as what we call ‘no-frills-airline, such as Tiger; see below), and operate on SIA routes and others where the full-SIA model is not needed.

 

-SIA remains a ‘full-service-airline’ but operate on shorter routes and with narrow-body aircraft if needed to fill the market demand. Or what we say, to “intelligently mis-use” bigger aircraft on shorter routes.

 

 

My definitions:

FSA = full-service-airline. Offering first/business/economy, travel agency bookings, meals/bookings/baggage/cancellations included, etc. As its name indicates – full service.

 

-LCA = low-cost-airline. (Not a low-fare-airline; see next.) An FSA but with lower operating costs (cheaper longer-hours flight-deck crew, younger/new longer-hours cabin crew, tighter cost control (twinned 3-star hotel rooms, for instance), fewer fare types, which may have first and business cabins, and which allows bookings through travel agencies etc. Usually similar to the parent airline, but a different name, and competition against parent airline allowed.)

 

NFA = no-frills-airline. I believe that among the many essential elements that make a successful NFA are: market freedom in terms of routes and aircraft choice; single aircraft type; where relevant, competition against parent airline allowed; fares that are extremely low when booked at least three months in advance, say US$25; one fare at one time (no wholesale rates, travel agency commissions, etc); no refunds; no service frills; single economy-class cabin; no seat selection; two toilets for 150-seat aircraft; 25-minute turnaround time; cabin crew do daytime cabin cleaning; name and flight change charged at least US$25 each; no trade shows; plenty of consumer advertising and promotion; and much more.

 

 

 

The Fox

Remember, I’ll be famous after I’m dead.

 

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Etihad does mini-Etihad.

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FOXTROTS

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

March 28 2014

Etihad does mini-Etihad.

OK, I get it now. Next week, Switzerland-based Etihad Regional* starts flights Toulouse-Geneva. Connecting with Etihad’s flights which go off to everywhere via Abu Dhabi.

 

This indicates that Etihad is doing a mini-Etihad with ER. In other words, feeding passengers into Etihad points in Europe (or just one, Geneva?). That way, for instance, passengers from little places in Europe such as Toulouse (for example Genoa in Italy, Cardiff in UK, even Lisbon) get easy – marketing people would say ‘seamless’, although it might not be that – access to far away points in Asia Pacific and Africa.

 

Slight problem though if Etihad has chosen Geneva. Because the Swiss decided in a referendum last month to cancel an agreement with the European Union concerning immigration.

 

If this decision is implemented (there is a maximum 3-year wait), all the other (eight) agreements that Switzerland has with the EU can be cancelled if the EU so decides.

 

One of those other agreements covers aviation, whereby airlines in Switzerland can operate into EU destinations as if they are EU airlines – which means almost no commercial limitations.

 

 

*ER’s name was the (silly) ‘Darwin Airline’ until this January. The new one, Etihad Regional (owned 33% by Etihad), is slightly better, although the name should be simply ‘Etihad’. After all, Etihad is just as meaningless in Europe as Darwin.

 

Or, as ER expands into other small routes in Europe, even better to have a name something like EuropeAir. Or, as the word ‘etihad’ comes from the Arabic for ‘union’, how about UnionAir?

 

 

 

The Fox

Remember, I’ll be famous after I’m dead.

Tripped Up, or Bad Trips. India, (No-) Goa,Virgin, WTTC.

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FOXTROTS

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

March 23 2014

Tripped Up, or Bad Trips. India, (No-) Goa,Virgin, WTTC

 

 

India

I planned a trip to attend a travel trade exhibition in India. After enquiring about visas, not only was I confused (how long it would take to issue, whether to get a business or journalist visa or take the organiser’s advice and get a tourist visa, and how much these would cost – never quite clear). But I was shocked; the visa would cost around US$300! For a 3-day event!

 

I pulled out.

 

We estimate that India would have visitor counts 15-20% higher if it had a reasonable visa policy. You can reckon that is about US$3bn in missed visitor spend. Perhaps its revenue from visas is US$800mn max. Even China is more liberal on visas. What!? China more liberal? That is probably the best indication of how bad is India.

 

We believe the destination loses not only leisure travellers but business travellers and MICE travellers. Because some businesses would send only one person rather than two – because of the cost of visas, and the complication. And MICE visitors – probably off most maps for incentive travel (because of that visa cost), and for meetings, conferences and exhibitions, unless they are specifically India related.

 

 

Goa or, rather, No-Goa

I was invited to attend a travel trade exhibition in Goa next month. I accepted. When I discovered cost and uncertainty surrounding the visa process (see above), I backed out. We substituted another person from the editorial team – as proposed by the Goa organisers. After a 2-week run-around on visa matters, and administration support from the organisers, they withdrew the invitation!

 

Lessons. If India does not stop you visiting India, you can count on others – in this case No-Goa – to stop you.

 

 

Virgin

After some to-and-fro discussion, the airline sent me an email saying they would pay my expenses following a delayed flight. Since then (two months), silence. I have decided not to appeal to the Supreme Court, so I guess they win, I lose.

 

 

WTTC

After registering as Hosted Media, WTTC sent me details of its annual conference on Hainan island, China, “looking forward” to my attendance. After a few other messages, I received an email saying they were sorry, but the invites had gone mainly to Chinese media instead.

 

I know China is China, but doesn’t WTTC – supposedly a worldly body – know also? And fix that in advance? Or at least have a Plan B for those dis-invited journalists?

 

 

 

The Fox

Remember, I’ll be famous after I’m dead.

 

Club Med in a Muddle.

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FOXTROTS

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

March 20 2014

Club Med in a Muddle.

It is good to know there is still bad marketing.

 

Take the current Club Med ad. If you have not seen it, it is not easy to describe. But essentially it shows a show, with the end-comment being similar to “Oh that’s not how I remember Club Med”, in an approving manner.

 

Analysis:

-If the guest experience has changed, why pitch at old customers – who might not like the changes?

 

-If past customers had a good experience, will they want to go back – because it has changed.

 

-If past customers had a bad experience, nothing in the ad tells them what is better – to help them change their mind.

 

-If someone has never stayed at a Club Med, it depicts an insider-experience, so non-customers would by definition not know what was being shown/promoted/proposed.

 

 

I am equally sure that the ad will win awards and praise among peers – for “breaking the mould”. For me, the ad agency should be fired; but they won’t be, because Club Med management approved the ad.

 

Don’t buy Club Med shares. (Which, as an aside, increased 30% in 2013, albeit still 60% down on their 2007 peak.)

 

 

The Fox

Remember, I’ll be famous after I’m dead.

Asean. Annual review.

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FOXTROTS

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

March 9 2014

Asean. Annual review.

Reports on the 10 destinations of Asean, collected from the ATF-2014 in Kuching, Malaysia. Different reports on these destinations have run in the Travel Business Analyst newsletters (primarily market analysis) and on travelbusinessanalyst.com (primarily news). The reports here are more product-related.

 

Brunei.

-New products: Floating Jetty to Bangar in Temburong district, due early this year, costing US$188k (B$236k); 500-ha Agro-Technology Park (free entry); War/Heritage Trail; River Cruise; Islamic Tours; Kampong Kiudang (jungle trekking, cultural and heritage trails).

-Improvements at the Jerudong pleasure park (mini water park, ferris wheel, 21-mini hole golf-course, junior coaster ride), due by mid-year.

-New/changed hotels: V Plaza (Kuala Belait) 82R, Stoneville 36R, Star Lodge (was Holiday Lodge) 107R, Park Garden (was Goodview) 68R, NSEY Hotel (Kuala Belait) 18R.

 

 

Cambodia. No information given.

 

 

Indonesia.

-DMO plans more effort in China, including B-to-C promotions in six secondary cities, such as Chongqing, Suzhou. It did three cities in 2013. It will be helped by new flights, such as Hainan-Bali by Hainan Airlines.

-New policy is to promote ‘Bali Beyond’. Helping will be new Garuda ATR flights from Bali to east Indonesia, such as Komodo and Papua.

-Garuda plans to restart London flights this year.

-DMO now using trade-term coined by Travel Business Analyst – VoB, for Visa-on-Board. The service has been available on flights from Australia and Japan, and has now been started on flights from Shanghai.

 

 

Laos.

-Applied for world heritage status for the Plain of Jars (which has 156 pots, of which the biggest is 3m).

-Visa free for Asean markets plus six other, and largely irrelevant, markets. Not, for instance, Australia, China, France, Germany, UK, US. The DMO says the reason is political; Luxembourg and Switzerland get visa-free because they help Laos economically.

 

 

Malaysia.

-Current opening date for the replacement second terminal at Kuala Lumpur airport (named KLIA-2, to take over from the LCCT, low-cost-carrier-terminal) is this May.

-Among new hotels due in Kuala Lumpur: St Regis due 2014, Regent 2015, W 2016, Four Seasons 2017, Harrods 2018.

-The Iskandar development in Johore Bahru opened a retail village last September, including 80 upmarket shops. The Legoland theme park, also opened September, counted a high 2mn visitors by year-end.

-23,000 people approved for second-home visas – ostensibly for retirement, but also used by businessmen from other countries.

 

 

Sarawak, host of ATF-2014.

-Has Mulu as world heritage site and the DMO is considering a link with Cambodia’s Siem Reap and Komodo in Indonesia for a culture circuit.

-The state still has control over immigration (even intra-Malaysia travellers go through immigration control). That was the deal the Sarawak state arranged when it joined the Malaysia federation.

-Product changes: pedestrian bridge over the river in Kuching, but date not finalised.

-Kuching product update due this year:

-Borneo Samariang Resort City. A 200ha satellite township north of Kuching, to be developed over 10 years including theme parks, resort accommodation, and what is called a ‘dedicated MICE Center’ – although there cannot be such a thing for the ‘I’ part of ‘MICE’.

-KTS Garden, comprising a main hall with restaurants – general Chinese with 60 tables and a Cantonese one with 20.

-Imperial Hotel. 325R, ballroom (1500 banquet-style), nine meeting rooms 40-60 banquet-style). Due this month.

 

 

Myanmar.

-Visitors can now arrive through one border crossing (including land crossings), and depart through another.

-A new airport is being built for capacity-peaked Yangon, due in 2017, perhaps 2016. Existing airport will remain open. Mandalay airport to be expanded; details unclear.

-DMO still encourages new airlines into Yangon, but looks more carefully at existing airlines wanting to increase their capacity.

-Sofitel due to open this year.

 

 

Philippines.

-Now diversifying its product.

-The DMO is now seeking educational tourism.

-A problem is air access. The DMO hopes Terminal-3 will open this year. A new airport is planned for the south of Luzon island.

-Following an executive order from the president, all foreign airlines have unlimited access to airports other than Manila.

-In 2013 Philippine Airlines restarted Europe flights, to London, and this year it plans to add Paris.

-Charter flights from China to Legaspi are planned for this year.

-Budget terminal is due to open at Clark airport by 2015.

-VPY, Visit Philippines Year, planned for 2015.

 

 

Singapore.

-14k hotel rooms due in next few years. Those this year include Holiday Inn Express.

-New products: River Safari, opened April 2013, part of which is the Amazon River Quest (only 480m long), opened December 2013; Marine Life Park, getting about 18k visitors/day; Satay by the Bay in Gardens by the Bay; Chinatown Food Street due to reopen Q1 this year; Madame Tussauds due to open on Sentosa island some time this year; Sports Hub, with a retractable roof, due to open first half of this year, with the first event scheduled to be a women’s tennis event, which has been signed on for eight years; National Art Gallery, due in 2015, housed in refurbished building; Singapore Botanic Gardens has applied for Unesco heritage site designation.

-There are plans to expand the city’s metro-rail system into Johore Bahru in neighbouring Malaysia.

 

 

Thailand.

-4th bridge into Laos opened in 2013. By 2016 the so-called ‘Asian Highway’ is due to open from Bangkok though Myanmar to northeast India.

-The DMO has set up a call centre to inform visitors about the current socio-political problems. And its website even provides video coverage of trouble-spots.

-This year it plans to focus on promoting the north and south – presumably to avoid problems if they continue to be centred on Bangkok.

 

 

Vietnam.

-New hotels/resorts: Novotel Danang, Laguna Lang Co, Muang Thanh.

-New airport is planned for HCMC. And Hanoi plans a new terminal.

-New rules introduced in 2013 to make it easier for visitors to bring in their own vehicles.

-Has seven world heritage sites.

-Visa-free access to Phu Quoc island (in the southwest actually closer to Cambodia, only 12km away). Its airport is served from Ho Chi Minh City, and there is a hydrofoil service to the mainland 115km away.

 

*Different reports on these destinations have run in this month’s Travel Business Analyst newsletters and on travelbusinessanalyst.com.

 

 

The Fox

Remember, I’ll be famous after I’m dead.

 

Research & Markets: UK puzzles.

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FOXTROTS

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

March 8 2014

Research & Markets: UK puzzles.

Sometimes, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at some analyses by Research & Markets, a company. A recent example (not the most extreme):

 

-“The UK travel…market is comprised of two main sectors: outbound [and domestic]”.

I would have thought the ‘inbound’ sector would warrant a note; after all, numerically it is half outbound. (I have not seen domestic numbers.)

 

-Outbound represents “57.4% of all [spend] in 2012.”

1, Yes, this March 2014 report is analysing 2012 figures; we have data already for all-2013. 2, Er, is that 57% excluding inbound?

 

-“With depressed consumer expenditure in recent years, the gap between the two sectors has shrunk.”

Er, if ‘depressed’ (does that mean ‘falling’?) then both have fallen, so the gap is the same. Or is my maths logic wrong somewhere?

 

-“In 2012, air travel activities by European airlines were brought under the scope of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, a cap-and-trade scheme on carbon emissions.”

Sorry, this plan to include airlines (all, not just European) was not implemented, and was abandoned in 2013. Europe’s parliament is coming up with a similar plan.

 

-“Over the short term, both domestic and outbound tourism is expected to be subdued, with weak volume growth between 2013 and 2015. However, as economic conditions improve and consumer confidence builds in the medium to long term, both in the UK and overseas, tourism volumes are expected to experience increasingly significant growth.”

Well, outbound numbers increased 1% in 2013; perhaps that fits R&M’s (unprofessional) ‘subdued’? As for ‘increasingly significant growth’, your guess is as good as mine.

 

The Fox

Remember, I’ll be famous after I’m dead.

 

Trottings: Magical Mauritius – Sun, Sea, Serenity.

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox’s Friends.

 

 

March 4 2014

Trottings: Magical Mauritius – Sun, Sea, Serenity.

As the Air Mauritius plane descends, after flying over the vast expanses of the Indian Ocean, peering out of the window, I see an emerald gem of an island, ringed by necklaces of coral reefs in crystalline lagoons. Bathed in the crimson orange glow of sunset, it is a breathtaking first glimpse of Mauritius.

 

It even smells different here; the air seems infused with the oceanic breeze, sensual scents of lush foliage, fresh blooms of sugar cane and mist.

 

Located 2000km from the south-eastern coast of the African continent and 800km from the island of Madagascar, Mauritius island, protected by the world’s third-largest coral reef, nestles a few degrees from the Tropic of Capricorn and the Equator. 2.8 times larger than Singapore, with a total land area of 2040sqkm, it is difficult to imagine such a serene island was borne from gigantic underwater volcanic explosions. Long after the volcanoes became inactive, the lava flows solidified to form rugged jagged mountain ridges and plateaus soaring from the green coastal plains.

 

Imagine Van Gogh artistically conspiring with Nature’s crazy landscaper to create a visually stunning masterpiece reflecting it’s ancient past.

 

Mauritius’s topography is unique. Gigantic volcanic structures carpeted in luxuriant vegetation, one resembling a Lion’s Head and others, various creatures forming a skyline of unusual silhouettes. If there is a Nature’s Geological Disneyland, without the artifice and roller coasters, this is it.

 

 

History

The Portuguese explorer, Fernando Pereira was the first European to discover the island in 1507. Captivated by precious spices and silk in the 15th century, the Portuguese pioneer sailors explored and charted maritime routes to India and opened up the world to the East. However, these Portuguese were not keen to settle as their main focus was in trade and in replenishing their ships.

 

In 1715, Mauritius became a French colony. Mahe de LaBourdannais, the dynamic French governor transformed Port Louis into a thriving capital, developing shipbuilding, infrastructure, road networks, agriculture, and sugar mills.

 

A grand statute of the Governor LaBourdannais now stands tall in Port Louis city square, a reminder of his important legacy in Mauritian history.

 

In 1810, the French surrendered to the British. In the post battle treaty terms, the English magnanimously

 

allowed the settlers to retain their land, properties, traditions, customs, civil code and the French language, which till today, defines Mauritius.

 

Monuments, cannons, churches, grand colonial plantation houses on the island remain reminders of the historic legacies and skirmishes amongst the various competing colonialist forces.

 

Climbing up to La Citadelle, a historic fortress built in 1834, standing next to the fortress’ cannons with the panorama view of Port Louis, sprawled between the harbour and the mountain range, one can envision why the Portuguese, Dutch, French and English forces battled for control.

 

 

Economy

Mauritius, with a population of 1.3mn, ranks third in Africa in the Human Development Index and 87th amongst 187 countries worldwide. Its EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) spans 1.2mn sqkm across the Indian Ocean. Economically and politically stable, Mauritius has since diversified from its low income agriculture-based to textiles, luxury tourism, property, banking, and technology.

 

The establishment of Ebene Cybercity in 2001, with its striking unusual buildings, is part of the country’s strategic plan to fast-track the economy to an information technology and commercial hub and as a link between Asian and African markets.

 

 

People & Culture

To us urbanites, Mauritians seem to live an enviable relaxed life, relative to our frenetic pace in the city. There are few visible signs of poverty. We did not see street hustlers, beggars, or kids harassing tourists. Education is compulsory and free in primary and secondary schools. Everywhere, we met smiling curious locals who asked where we came from and if we are enjoying ourselves on their island.

 

 

Sugar Cane

The 300+ years of the sugar cane industry’s history is closely tied to the developments of the country’s economy, politics and the ethnic patchwork of cultural diversity. Sugar production formed the backbone of the agriculture-based economy and dominated the life, population and economy of the island since the French colonial period.

 

Large numbers of slaves from the African continent were shipped in to provide the labour in the sugar plantations.

 

When slavery was abolished in 1835, indentured labourers were brought in from India. Indo-Mauritians now comprise 68% of the population, Creoles, a quarter, with Hakka, Cantonese, Franco-Mauritians making up the rest.

 

 

Multi-Cultural, Multi-Lingual

English and French are the official languages. In informal settings, Mauritian Creole, a pidgin language spoken by 90% of the locals, is the language of communication. Interestingly, Creole evolved linguistically so the slaves could communicate with each other and with the French masters as they were forbidden to speak their own dialects and languages.

 

The diversity of the European, African, Asian ethnicities and cultures, different dialects, languages, traditions, religions is reflected in their everyday life. In the markets there is a cacophony of Bhojpuri, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telegu, and in Chinatown, Cantonese and Hakka.

 

The different ethnic cultures continue to practice their respective ancestral customs and traditions harmoniously in this small island. It is not unusual to find an Indian temple, a mosque and church in the same vicinity, testimony to the Mauritians’ religious tolerance and diversity.

 

 

Climate  

Mauritius ranks second in the World’s Cleanest Air Index of the WHO (World Health Organization) For those seeking respite from haze-polluted cities, the island is indeed therapeutic.

 

Winter is from May to October with temperatures from 15-25C. Summer November-April temperatures are 27-33C. With such a climate, the tourist season is year-round, although there is more rain and occasional cyclones in January and February.

 

 

Transport

It is best to hire a guide and taxi or rent a car with a driver.  Driving is on the left. If you like adventurous travel, drive yourself and if time is no constraint, take the public buses.  Students, seniors, and disabled travel free on public transport. We rarely saw traffic jams apart from peak hours in Port Louis.

 

 

Shopping

The textile industry was a mainstay of the economy till the 1980s. Mauritius produces many brand labels for the world fashion market.

 

You can bargain with street vendors in most stores and markets but prices are fixed in the malls, usually closed from 1930 and most closed on Sundays. I was delighted to find a Burberry coat at bargain price 10 minutes’ drive from where we stayed, in the Long Beach Resort.

 

The boisterous markets are packed with colourful local farm vegetables, herbs, fresh fruits, all seemingly cheap in our price relativity.

 

On our crew-fashion photoshoot in the bustling covered market in Port Louis, continuing to Caudan Waterfront and the public beaches, curious locals gathered around and posed jauntily with our models. They made funny commentaries in Creole about our models, outfits and the intensity of our crew at work. Being a Francophile, I understood their comments and had amusing repartees with the locals.

 

Different flavoured rums from the rum factory, local coffee, colourful beach sarongs, organic soaps and jams and local handicrafts are cool gifts to bring home.

 

 

Activities

There is wide variety of activities for honeymooners, families, divers, adventurers, eco explorers, botanists, rock-climbers, trekkers, surfers. For the more adventurous, there are hiking trails, treks up to the amazing volcanic crater in Trou de Cerfs. Mountain biking, kayaking in the mangrove mazes in Amber island.

 

If you wish to go on a Robinson Crusoe adventure, try Rodrigues and the outer islands.

 

Walking in 3m-deep water on the sandy bottom of a lagoon, in a diving helmet receiving compressed air, is an original fun way to discover marine life. Experience the most spectacular way of diving on board a real submarine, in 35m-deep sea. Drive yourself or as a couple in a subscooter, your own submarine accompanied by expert divers.

 

Beach lovers are in heaven here. Stroll in bare feet, swim or snorkel in the protected lagoons in warm sea.

 

Mauritius’ 177km stunning coastline, some parts with fine sand beaches stretch for kilometres. Adventurers can spend weeks exploring wild nature, tropical rainforest, steep river banks, inland valleys, lush foliage, scenic routes and spectacular beaches. This island is a honeymooner, tourist and photographers’ dream. The island’s sunsets seem spectacularly painted with Nature’s palette of dramatic colours.

 

In the harvest season, the endless sugar cane plantations are carpeted with lilac-coloured flowers in full bloom. Driving on the country roads, one cannot help but be awed by the landscape, dotted with profusions of crimson red flowers of the flame trees contrasting with luscious verdant green.

 

We found the yogi’s ultimate meditation spot on the top of the Chamarel Hills. Mounds of undulating compacted volcanic earth are layered since ancient times in seven unique colours. This tranquil spot overlooks the panorama view of the island majestic scenery. On the drive back to Sugar Beach Resort, we stopped at the nearby cascading waterfalls, the location a photographer’s dream. We saw local kids and villagers dangle big live crayfish in their bare hands on the roadside. They catch these giant hairy scary crustaceans in the village streams. Everywhere, one sees the abundant tropical fruits, bananas, papayas and fruit orchards lining the roads.

 

Take a leisurely drive through the sun soaked island’s uncongested country roads to the North to visit the oldest Botanic Gardens in the world, the Pamplemousses Gardens, sheltering over 500 rare plant species and giant water lilies floating in the ponds. The former governor’s mansions remain majestically intact in the gardens.

 

Due to the volcanic age, unique terrain, and no existence of terrestrial mammals prior to human habitation, the island is a mother lode of biodiversity with unique species of flora and fauna.

 

One of the highlights of our trip was the close encounter with unleashed lions, cubs and cheetahs in the Safari Park and Casela Nature Park, one of the three safari parks in the world where visitors are allowed to walk with the big cats. You can have a thrilling out-of-Africa experience here.

 

Rent a quad bike or join the safari drive in a jeep with the game wardens. You will be awed by the magnificent zebras, African antelopes, deer’s and other wildlife lazing, growling, prowling and playing in their habitat.

 

 

City life

Port Louis harbour is a buzzing busy city and Le Caudan Waterfront is postcard picturesque with distinct French style monuments and buildings, reminding us of the island country unique colonial history. Meandering through the pedestrian alleys and open bazaars, we stopped to chat with a woodcarver artist. Sporting a rastafarian outfit and a mop of wild white hair, he looked like he just stepped out of a National Geographic cover.

 

Mauritian families enjoy their beach picnics on weekends, Blue Bay, Belle Mare, Ile les Cerfs islets on the west coast and Flic en Flac beach on the East Coast are popular haunts. In Ile les Cerfs, whilst waiting to board the boat, some local kids spontaneously sang a medley of Creole songs to entertain themselves, all very charming.

 

 

Sun Resorts

This gem of an island boasts of some of the world’s most stunning resorts, properties excelling in luxury and unique architecture. Sun Resorts owns the luxury resorts Long Beach, Le Touessok, Ambre on the east coast, and Sugar Beach, La Pirogue on the west coast.

 

Long Beach Resort is a contemporary-style property sprawling over 24ha of lush landscaped gardens with the longest beach, 1.3km of powder white sand that overlooks a tropical lagoon. Nature is integrated into the resorts and reflected in its architecture and every detail of the rooms. The resort felt like an open sanctuary, infused with subtle lights, aromas, colours and music to sooth you.

 

Long Beach’s exceptional location gives it an edge over other resorts. Everywhere, there is something special – an encounter with nature’s gem on the beach, a coconut tree naturally-arched onto the sinuous pool. Snorkellers can float in the clear turquoise waters and explore its rare coral formations.

 

The resorts’ architects cleverly designed a piazza, a large central open outdoor area where guests migrate in the evenings to shop, people-watch, be entertained and debate where to eat.

 

The spacious rooms are arranged in three crescents; each has its own breathtaking ocean view and its own beach space of a minimum of 109sqm.  Everything is exquisitely and artistically designed to blend with nature. Long Beach Resort’s floating sun beds in the 1400sqm pool is the perfect de-stress therapy.

 

Everything from staff service to food is tastefully presented. Guests are spoilt for choice. An immense variety of cuisine, drawn from the different ethnic epicurean traditions, awaits the wine and food connoisseurs. Flanked with indoor and outdoor dining options, guests can chose to dine in Hasu (Japanese), Chopsticks (Chinese), Sapori (Italian) , and Le Marche, fresh farm produce offered buffet style in the open-kitchen concept.

 

Guests sprawl on inviting daybeds, chill to lounge music in the two bars – Tides and the open-air Shores. Sip secret recipe cocktails and watch the magnificent celestial interplay of luminosity, light and space of the island.

 

A zen-like sanctuary, the unique spa features lava rock walls surrounded by tranquil waters, and an outdoors spa pavilion overlooking the lagoon. The Spa offers tailor-made treatments and massages, specially customised from an original concept spa developed around Thali- and French-based marine cosmetology and thalassotherapy.

 

Families with kids and teens have plenty of space, fun activities, such as frisbee, beach jogging, football, cycling, daily yoga on the garden lawn overlooking the beach and aerobic classes. There is even a wall-climbing and skating path.

 

For watersports enthusiasts, there is kayaking, glass-bottom boat trips, waterskiing, windsurfing, aqua gym classes, water polo, basket polo, scuba diving PADI open-water courses, parasailing, catamaran sailing, canoeing, banana rides.  For serious swimmers, there is a lap pool.

 

In the Sun Kids Club playroom in the Sports Center, kids have their own fun areas for sports activities such as swimming, windsurfing, tennis and eco excursions by trained hostesses. For more action, there is the Sungeneration Teens Club, offering special programs in sports, adventure excursions, beach barbeque around campfires and pizza nights. There is also table tennis, cyber café, electronic games pool tables.

 

Gym fanatics can work up a sweat in the 216sqm Gym & Sports Center, equipped with a full range of multimedia cardio equipment and latest Thechnogym machines with the personal trainers.

 

Never a dull moment, the nightly live shows feature local talents, musical trios playing titillating local samba-like beats. Join in the fascinating Mauritian sega dances, reflecting their unique Afro Asian heritage.

 

Long Beach guests have access to the nearby Le Touessok golf course, located on Ile de Cerfs, a gem of an islet, a short boat ride away. The 18-hole golf course has been the venue of some world-class tournaments, distinguished by its exquisite setting and landscaping.

 

On the third day, we drove from the East Coast to the West Coast to stay in Sugar Beach Resort to discover the western part of the island.

 

Stepping onto the grand sweeping entrance staircase, we felt we walked into the movie set of Gone with the Wind.

 

The elegant resort is breathtakingly beautiful, overlooking the endless ocean surf across exquisite gardens fringed with palm trees. Watching the spectacular sunsets in Sugar Beach beachfront is a spiritual experience.

 

Imagine having conversations with Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham in the genteel reading rooms overlooking the immaculate gardens, sipping fragrant tea times with buttered scones in the era where there was no internet or computers.

 

Sugar Beach is a haven for those who wish to experience the languid pace of a grand colonial mansion, be transported to a bygone era but still have access to modern amenities like wi-fi and cable TV.

 

For entertainment there is a colourful Mauritian Sega dance performance held in the weekly Festival Nights in the adjacent La Piroge Resort. The resort, sprawled out like an authentic fishing village with bungalows built in typical thatched roof Mauritian style, sits on 6ha of coconut plantation running parallel to a pristine beach. Under the starlit night sky, La Piroge hosts a weekly Seafood Supper, famed for its grilled crayfish and succulent variety of fresh fish and local seafood.

 

 

Notes

For those who are stressed by the unrelenting pace of aggressive cities, stuck in routines in sterile offices, give yourself a well-deserved treat, take a flight to Paradise Island, soak in the sun, sea, surf and sunsets of the magical island of Mauritius. Even the most jaded traveller leaves the tranquil island detoxed and reinvigorated after few days basking in the curative powers of unpolluted air, pristine earth and serenity of nature.

 

Acknowledgment to sponsors:

Air Mauritius: www.airmauritius.com

Sun Resorts: www.sunresortsmauritius.com/signature/

Mauritours: www.mauritours.net

Mauritius Tourism Promotion Board: www.tourism-mauritius.mu

 

 

 

The Fox’s Friends; Renee Chew

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