Mauritius: The life aquatic - Activity Holidays - Activity & Adventure - The Independent

Mauritius: The life aquatic

Rebecca Corbally skips the spa to try some more adventurous options in Mauritius

If you like your towels fluffy, your bathtubs vast and your waiters attentive - and I certainly appreciate all three - then Mauritius is the place to come. Then again, I've always been worried that there's something ever-so-slightly pathetic about rolling from your oversized bed straight onto a padded sun lounger and then, well, back again. Even spa treatments involve lying flat on your back most of the time.

I was keen to cultivate a bit more of an Action Girl persona, to try to buck the trend of lying down and to see if I couldn't have an Indian Ocean experience with a little more get-up-and-go. So I checked in at the Shandrani Resort and Spa in the south-east of the island; refuelled at the nearby La Belle Creole, a laid-back and traditional open-air restaurant on the shore (no point in embarking on this sort of thing on an empty stomach); and launched into my new regime at the Shandrani Resort dive centre.

I felt (relatively) intrepid as I joined my fellow divers aboard the boat and we cruised away from the hotel and all its floaty, silky curtains. It was refreshing to take a break from all the glamour - and as a single dive burns around 500 calories, it would help make amends for all the eating going on.

Once submerged in the Indian Ocean, I soon settled into a weightless groove. A large shoal of cuttlefish pulsed past me with their skirts waving. Hundreds of silver slides swished in unison like a giant beaded glass curtain parting to let me through. A giant, olive-green turtle cruised past at very close quarters, its black eyes shiny in the sunlight. This was an active holiday at its most beautiful.

The next morning I transferred from the cushioned comfort of the Shandrani to the Mövenpick Hotel in the south-west, an even more impressive luxury compound. Determined to keep up my action ethos and not disappear into the spa for the rest of my stay, I set up some excursions with White Sands Tours - experts at helping people see that bit further than the opulence of the hotels.

Before long I was squashed into a minivan, which crawled past fields of sugar cane and up and over wooded hills. An hour-and-a-half due north of the marbled maze of the Mövenpick, I was finally deposited at Grand Bay on the north-west coast for a submarine scooter safari experience: the dive for non-divers.

Four pastel-coloured sub scooters sat in a row on a hydraulic platform at the back of a moored boat near the Grand Bay lagoon barrier. It all looked more Mickey Mouse than James Bond, but for those not too comfortable with the idea of breathing underwater this was quite a relief. My dive buddy Sara and I climbed aboard a pearly pink version in our wetsuits. One major difference from a landlubber's scooter is the large bulbous lid which swings down over both your heads on a hinge and which, on impact with water, creates a breathing bubble - much like lowering a glass into a bath.

After a briefing which revolved, rather alarmingly, around points for "our own security", our gang was told that we would simply sit in tandem and then descend underwater using a buoyancy weight system controlled by safety divers. Soon all but our head and shoulders would be entirely submerged; we could then charge off in any old direction, albeit at a snail's pace.

For some reason, I ended up in charge of the wheel. Our heads were covered by the Perspex lid and our voices developed a frightening echo. The hydraulic lift began to send us slowly below the water and our wetsuits flooded. As the lid hit the surface, the air lock was created and filled with the compressed air for us to breathe. The platform dropped away beneath us and we bobbed back up to the surface, largely out of control.

The water slapped at the outside of our lid, forcing the horizon to dip and reappear in our line of vision, and I began to regret my four-course breakfast. After a painful few minutes the safety divers made their way over to adjust the buoyancy device keeping us afloat and we dropped down straight into a large shoal of soldier fish which darted about our legs.

After half-an-hour of pottering about at six metres deep, the divers indicated that we had gone far enough. A couple of octopuses swam past, blasting out a mist of black ink to disguise their paths, and as we slowly made our way back to the hydraulic platform, brightly coloured parrot, angel and butterfly fish mingled together, unperturbed by our ridiculous presence.

The sea isn't the only attraction. A whopping 70 per cent of Mauritius is covered in a jumbled forest of sugar cane, and the St Felix plantation in the south of the island has successfully turned the crop into a tourist attraction by setting up an intricate maze of high wires. You wear a harness and fly across deep gorges and ravines. It's still an active plantation: tractors buzz around below. It seemed a great way to get a different perspective on the island.

So, harnessed up I walked to the start of the course. At that point I was told, to my horror, that the zip-wire tour would involve three hours of high-speed flying. As I gazed down the first ravine at the near vertical drop and my eyes adjust to the twinkling wire overhead, I considered whether my fresh perspective was really necessary.

But there was no backing out now. One by one we jumped, like baby birds launching from a nest. I soon found that zipping above pillars of sugar cane was an exhilarating way to spend an afternoon. It also threw up some incredible views of a green and rolling Mauritius.

Back in my room, I lolled in a bath which had space for a comfortable if somewhat dubious party - and I realised that I was surprisingly relaxed. Try a little harder in Mauritius and you will shed your cares that much sooner.

TRAVELLER’S GUIDE

The writer travelled with Best At Travel (020-7849 4047; www.bestattravel.co.uk) which offers a week's holiday in Mauritius including three nights' fully inclusive accommodation at Beachcomber's Shandrani Resort & Spa (www.shandrani-resort.com) and three nights' half-board at the Mövenpick Resort and Spa Mauritius (www.moevenpick-mauritius.com). Prices start at £1,567 per person, including transfers and return flights with Air Mauritius (020-7434 7375; www.airmauritius.com); the national carrier flies non-stop from London Heathrow seven times a week in peak season and five times a week in low season.

Also from Heathrow, British Airways (0844 493 0787; www.ba.com) flies three times a week, and Virgin Atlantic (08705 747 747; www.virgin-atlantic.com) twice a week.

Mauritian tour operator White Sand Tours (00 230 208 5424; www.whitesandtours.com) runs a number of trips and excursions for visitors to Mauritius.

For further information visit www.tourism-mauritius.mu



The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week