Grand Baie is Mauritius, but not as you know it, finds Katie McGonagle
If a customer comes in asking for a fly-and-flop holiday with beautiful beaches and tropical sunshine, Mauritius should spring straight to mind.
If they go on to say they want bars and restaurants within easy walking distance of their hotel, however, you might be tempted to switch-sell them to one of the Caribbean’s livelier islands or the sunny shores of Greece.
But there’s no need, as not only can Mauritius do rest and relaxation, it can also cater to the more outgoing holidaymaker – so long as you pick the right resort.
Grand Baie, the small but lively area at the northern tip of the island, won’t leave your clients stuck in their hotel, miles away from the nearest shops or relying on taxis just to pop out for a quick drink.
That makes it a hit with younger couples who like local nightlife, as well as families who want a good-value package break with the freedom and flexibility to find their own entertainment.
Where to stay
Grand Baie lives up to its name – known by the Dutch in the 17th century as ‘the bay that never ends’, this is home to some of the island’s best (and most popular) beaches. It attracts quite a cross-section of holidaymakers, so accommodation varies from self-catering apartments and budget-friendly family hotels to uber-luxury resorts.
Of Gold Medal’s five properties here, destination expert Deborah Wadhams says: “Our best-seller is the fantastic Veranda Grand Baie (pictured below). It’s a family-friendly property with a modern and trendy vibe, surrounded by great restaurants, shops and, of course, the beach.”
With family rooms combining a king-sized bed and bunk beds, a kids’ club offering treasure hunts on the beach, and free activities including windsurfing, kayaking and glass-bottomed boat tours, it’s bound to be a hit with kids and parents alike.
If Only has begun offering the property on a B&B basis, allowing the flexibility to explore Grand Baie’s varied restaurant scene in the evenings.
At 169 rooms, Merville Beach is nearly twice the size, but will appeal to the same crossover audience. Hayes & Jarvis destination manager Zoe Betchley says: “Merville offers a spectacular stretch of beach, welcoming staff and comfortable accommodation, and with the option of the town just a 10-minute walk away, it’s a great choice for families and couples.”
Beachcomber Hotels’ Le Mauricia and Le Canonnier have a similarly broad clientele. The former is a good-value property within a five-minutes walk of the town centre and has an on-site nightclub, while the latter is a five-minute taxi ride away on a pristine stretch of beach west of Grand Baie. Guests are free to dine at either hotel, so this could make a good compromise for couples who can’t agree whether to stay near the centre or go somewhere quieter.
This is also the location for one of Club Med’s two Mauritian properties, La Pointe aux Canonniers, which boasts the brand’s usual array of inclusions – from clubs for children from the age of four months to a seemingly endless list of activities – as well as buffet and waiter-service restaurants and child-friendly accommodation across its 286 bungalows.
None of these properties is totally family focused, so child-free couples won’t feel outnumbered, especially if they travel outside school holidays. But those who want a more adult atmosphere should opt for a property such as 20 Degres Sud, which is featured by Virgin Holidays, If Only and Sunset Faraway.
This boutique property accepts children only over the age of 12, and with just 36 rooms, it has a real sense of being hidden away from the comings and goings of the resort centre.
Similarly Royal Palm, by far the most exclusive property in Beachcomber Hotels’ Mauritius portfolio, has such a tranquil atmosphere that it’s hard to believe it’s within walking distance of the town centre.
Mauritius isn’t exactly massive, so even if clients want to stay slightly outside Grand Baie – popular properties such as Recif Attitude, Maritim Resort, Paradise Cove Boutique Hotel and Lux Grand Gaube are all within a few minutes’ drive – they can still make the most of the town.
What to see
“You’ll never struggle for things to do in Grand Baie,” says Gold Medal’s Deborah Wadhams. “During the day, activities tend to centre around the glorious beaches and clear waters – snorkelling, boating trips and parasailing. But for clients looking for something different, I’d recommend a visit to Shiv Kalyan Vath Mandir, a stunning Tamil temple with a fascinating history.”
If the allure of those warm blue waters is just too tempting, Gold Medal can also arrange a boat trip to the small islands north of Grand Baie – a full-day catamaran cruise costs £43 for adults and £24 for children, including a barbecue lunch and beer, rum, wine or soft drinks.
Back on dry land, Grand Baie has a safe and friendly feel, so guests who prefer not to book an organised excursion will find a leisurely stroll through town just as rewarding.
Stop to sample some of the French-Creole cuisine sold by street vendors, or pick up a few souvenirs in some of the local craft markets – though clients should be aware the designer gear sold in some of the touristy shops is fake.
After dark, Grand Baie is just as diverse, with a restaurant scene that reflects the varied cultural heritage, and a handful of bars.
Sunset Faraway Holidays’ commercial director, Shamira Kaumaya-Hatt, says: “The Banana Bar has always been the place for a night out, beloved of both tourists and locals. The bar surrounds a towering tree and is a good place to try a local Phoenix or Blue Marlin beer, or choose from a few international cocktails while listening to live music.
“Upstairs, the Zanzibar Nightclub has DJs on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and there’s a decently priced grill, if you want to make an evening of it.
“For a beach bar, it’s hard to beat the aptly named Beach House, right on the water in Grand Baie.”
How to sell
Grand Baie will appeal to clients who aren’t sure Mauritius is for them. With its lively atmosphere and mix of family and adult-focused hotels, this diverse resort offers something different from the rest of the island, and will entice clients familiar with only the country’s fly-and-flop reputation.
Travel 2 product manager Michael Creighton says: “Grand Baie is all about the shops, restaurants and bars. It’s vibrant, with tourists and locals all enjoying the resort.
Apart from Grand Baie and the smaller resort of Flic-en-Flac on the west coast, most hotels in Mauritius don’t have this type of activity on their doorstep, so it’s ideal for those who like to experience more than just staying in the resort for the entire holiday.”
That selling point is just as attractive to an older crowd too, according to Mercury Holidays, whose clients enjoy the freedom to get out of their hotel and explore the local area.
Agency sales manager Jonathan Bugeja says: “Our market segment is 60-plus, but they are not put off by Grand Baie as it’s more of a town, so there is more to do than in other resorts.”
Hayes & Jarvis offers a week’s B&B at Merville Beach from £949. The price includes Emirates flights from Gatwick, transfers and two bonus nights, based on a June 22 departure.
Travel 2 features a week’s all-inclusive at the Veranda Grand Baie Hotel & Spa from £1,189. The price includes flights and transfers for travel between August 11 and September 30.
Seven nights’ B&B at Beachcomber Hotels’ Royal Palm starts at £2,108. The price includes flights and private transfers.
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