Women are shoving thick bunches of herbs into bags, wooden crates overflowing with sour green papaya are being wheeled through the market’s crowds and little girls in colourful saris sit on towers of textiles playing on their phones.

Nearby, a man with a machete is slicing coconut on a tree stump, his foot swathed in plaster and a plastic bag — clearly recovering from a recent machete-coconut injury.

The scents are evident even under our masks. As we stroll through the endless stalls, we inhale the sweet aromas of sweet basil leaves, bright red tomatoes and fresh mint to the sound of shopkeepers shouting at each other in a French-African accent.

Tropical temptations: The highly photogenic pool at One&Only Le Saint Geran

Tropical temptations: The highly photogenic pool at One&Only Le Saint Geran

Irresistible: Flacq Market, where Harriet takes in wafts of fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs

Flacq Market is irresistible, where Harriet enjoys wafts fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs 

We’re spending the morning at the exotic Flacq Market on the eastern coast of Mauritius, the Indian Ocean island which opened to fully vaccinated international travellers on October 1.

My fiancé, Dan, and I arrive here two days later and already the island is buzzing with British holidaymakers who are making up for lost time.

And I’m about to see why. Yes, Mauritius requires a 12-hour flight from the UK (British Airways is flying direct six times a week this winter), compared with eight or nine hours to the Caribbean, but it’s an entirely different price point once you’re here.

Eat out in Barbados and you can pay London prices; go for a feast in a local restaurant in Mauritius and you’re looking at £30 for three courses and a bottle of wine.

While most people come to the beaches, the best thing about the country is the food. Thanks to the country’s multi-cultural heritage, it’s a unique blend of French, African, Indian and Chinese influences. We enjoy croissants for breakfast, spicy biriyanis at lunch, and sushi for dinner on some days. 

A room at the One&Only. The hotel reopened just days before Harriet and her fiance check in for their stay

A room at the One&Only. Harriet and her fiancé Harriet checked in at the One&Only just days before it reopened. 

Shangri-La Le Touessrok resort (pictured) boasts five beaches and a private island retreat

Shangri-La Le Touessrok resort is pictured. It has five beaches, and a private islands retreat.


  • Mauritius is 28 miles wide by 40 miles long and is roughly the same size as Surrey.
  • The island’s closest major neighbour is Madagascar, 600 miles away.
  • Mauritius, with its 1.3 million inhabitants, is the most densely populated African country.
  • This country was the last known habitat for the dodo. It became extinct in 17th century. It took Dutch sailors only 30 years to hunt them down to extinction.
  • There is no formal official language and many people are trilingual, speaking French, English and the island’s native Creole.
  • The country is known for its flavoured Rum, which is made from sugarcane syrup.
  • The island is home of the endangered pink pigeon, which is protected and rare.

 This blend is entirely to be expected, given that the Dutch arrived in 1598 before the next rulers, the French, brought sugar cane-cutting slaves over from Africa and Madagascar to tend the fields. 

British rule began in 1810. Africans immigrated to the island, while the Chinese arrived as merchants. In 1968, Mauritius became independent. It adopted a constitution that was based on the British system. The Prime Minister and Cabinet held the political power and elections were held every five years.

The culture is one that values tolerance. Mosques, churches, and colorful temples coexist harmoniously. The government and economy are stable and strong.

Mauritius is an Indian Ocean success story. All over the island, Coronavirus precautions have been taken. 

Even at the local open-sided marketplace, masks are worn everywhere. Yellow arrows guide shoppers in one direction.

Weekly testing for those working in the tourism industry has become the norm, and the island — which for the past 18 months has lain as dead as the dodo that once roamed its shores — has so far fully vaccinated 66 per cent of its residents.

With the help of tour operator Elegant Resorts, we’re spending the week on the east coast, where the trade wind blows wild and the seafood is at its best.

This glorious stretch of coastline is also home to many of the island’s best resorts, including our first stop, One&Only Le Saint Geran, which recently celebrated its 46th birthday. 

The hotel is situated on a private peninsular, with more than a mile’s worth of white-sand beach and 60 acres of lush, mature trees. The hotel reopened only two days before we arrived, but is still in full swing.

After check-in, we’re whisked in to see the hotel doctor for a rapid antigen test. 

It takes just a few minutes and then we’re in full holiday mode.

‘Many of our customers are repeat. We see children grow up and they become like family,’ our ‘butler’, Sobron, tells us as he shows us around our impressive suite.

I can see how. The room is just steps from the turquoise waters and champagne sands. It features chic cream furnishings, parquet flooring and coral artwork.

I’m told one current British guest, aged 28, has been coming here every year since he was two (the current record holders are a Belgian couple who have returned 86 times). 

The hotel may have the best beach on the island but it’s the outstanding service that sets it apart. Many of the staff have been with the hotel for decades. Sobron, who joined the hotel right out of college, is one of them. 

Harriet finds 'British travellers are everywhere' at the Shangri-La Le Touessrok (pictured above)

Harriet says that British travellers are all around the Shangri-La Le Touessrok (pictured below).

Pictured is the Mauritian island Ile aux Cerfs, which features a world-class 18-hole golf course

Pictured is the Mauritian Island Ile aux Cerfs which boasts a world-class 18 hole golf course


With proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure, fully-vaccinated travelers can enter Mauritius unassisted.

Covid travel insurance must be provided by the traveller.

Antigen tests must taken upon arrival at the hotel (day 0, day 5, and day 0).

All travellers must fill out and print five health forms available at mauritiustravelform.com before travel.

The exemption for under-18s is not mandatory, but they must follow the same testing requirements. Children younger than six years can receive an oropharyngeal sweep.

For more information, visit mauritiusnow.com

Even during peak season, there is an average of 3.5 members of staff per guest, and each one knows every guest’s name. I’m delightfully greeted as ‘Miss Sim’ everywhere I go, with a hand to the heart and bowed head. Every door is open; every glass is filled.

Our days are spent being pruned and pummelled in the chic spa; swimming, sailing and snorkelling in the glittering waters, which flicker between a kaleidoscope of blues; sipping white wine and rum cocktails from our squidgy sun loungers; and feasting on some of the finest food I’ve ever tasted in the five excellent restaurants.

Shangri-La Le Touessrok will be our second stop. It is located about 20 minutes south. It’s a sprawling resort with five beaches, a private island retreat and a world-class 18-hole golf course, situated on nearby island Ile aux Cerfs, where you take a ten-minute boat to hit the first tee.

My favourite time here is quickly dusk, when bulbs strung between palm tree branches dance in the wind, giant fruit flies flutter from tree-to-tree, their furry faces like little monkeys, and the sky glows pastel pink and blue.

British travellers are everywhere. They travel solo, with their families, as well as in large groups. My favourites are the three elderly, over 100-year-old, people I sit with every day.

They’re huge, with gummy smiles and crinkly necks, and barely move during our stay, reflecting the unhurried pace of Mauritian life. I’m talking, of course, about the hotel’s very own Aldabra tortoises.

Mauritius rewards even the smallest exploration attempt. 

One afternoon, we use the hotel’s e-bikes to investigate the fishing village of Trou d’eau Douce, tucked away in a valley among sugar cane and banana plantations. 

It is remarkable that it has managed to retain its authenticity despite being sandwiched between large resorts.

Cockerels cluck around back yards, stray dogs sleep on the heat of the Tarmac, locals hang out of windows yelling ‘hellos’ at those who drive by beeping, fisherman unload their catch and colourful corrugated iron huts sell local delicacies such as dholl puri, a thin pancake-like bread made with gram flour, lentils and cumin seeds.

The village’s literal translation is ‘sweet waterhole’, and water is at the heart of everything, including its three restaurants, which serve plates of locally caught fish. 

According to Harriet, the fishing village of Trou d’eau Douce, pictured above, has 'kept its authenticity, despite being sandwiched between large resorts'

According to Harriet, the fishing village of Trou d’eau Douce, pictured above, has ‘kept its authenticity, despite being sandwiched between large resorts’

Most famous is La Case Poisson, whose proprietor Mois distributes seafood from the local fishermen to nearby restaurants, while keeping the best for his restaurant.

We manage to nab a table on our final night through the Shangri-La’s resort manager, Naji, who dines here several times a week — despite being a vegan — as he enjoys the atmosphere so much. 

Customers are seated in the modest terrace with whitewashed walls and a little wooden shack before being presented with the day’s catch on a giant silver platter. 

While we are chatting with the waiter, giant prawns, mussels and octopus are balanced on our table.

Pictured is Mauritius' Le Morne Brabant peninsula and the island's spectacular underwater 'waterfall'

Pictured are the spectacular underwater ‘waterfalls’ of Mauritius’ Le Morne Brabant Peninsula.

The rare pink pigeon (pictured) is endemic to the island

The island’s endemic pink pigeon is the rarest. 

We eventually go for the signature salad, a tangy tomato salsa with chunks of fresh octopus and red snapper, grilled in the courtyard’s open fire and served with buttery garlic bread and a simple coleslaw which tastes as if it’s come straight from the wicker baskets of Flacq Market.

Our fellow guests are an eclectic bunch; we’re seated alongside a local family of 25 or so and are told the First Lady of Mauritius had dined here the night before, as had a former Miss Universe.

They all came for what is a delightfully simple affair. I order a glass white wine, and the waitress brings me two bottles. ‘This one or this one?’ she asks. I go for the Chablis as I don’t recognise the second bottle. Dan asks for beer. ‘Big or small?’ ‘Big’, he says, and she smiles and walks away.

The next day, we head to Lolita’s Rum Shack, along one of the backroads of Trou d’eau Douce. Lolita, who’s been flavouring rum for 18 years after learning the trade from her father and grandfather, welcomes us with a wide smile and a fist-pump before leading us into her recently converted garage.

She’s tiny, and is forced to go on her tiptoes to scoop out ladles of rum from the sticky plastic tubs. Coconut, coffee, ginger, chilli, banana, cinnamon, almond, passionfruit — every flavour imaginable seems to be here. We try them all, and the chilli is the best. It immediately tingles the tongue and then hits the back.

It’s sweet, warm and unforgettable — quite like our whole experience of Mauritius.


Elegant Resorts (elegantresorts.co.uk) offers three nights B&B at Shangri-La Le Touessrok Mauritius followed by four nights B&B at One&Only Le Saint Geran from £3,645pp, including flights, private transfers and lounge passes. British Airways (ba.com) return flights Gatwick or Heathrow to Mauritius start from £529.87 in December 2021. For more information, visit mauritiusnow.com. Express Test offers PCR travel tests from £59 (expresstest.co.uk).