THERE are many tourist resort destinations that are described by various people as being paradise islands.
Well, Mauritius, with an area of some 2,040 square kilometres and located 2,000km off the southeast coast of the African continent, west of Madagascar, is just that.
It is indeed a paradise and for those not sure, or visiting for the first time, the Air Mauritius on-board crew tell you that in their arrival announcement.
“Welcome to Mauritius, our paradise island,” the lady clearly, politely and confidently declares on the runway.
After sugar and banking, tourism is next line – the third biggest contributor to the country’s GDP – largely down to the foresight and committed projects and programmes of the Mauritius Tourism Promotional Authority (MTPA).
Among the popular leaders in this sector is golf. Such is the growing stature of the sport on the island that there’s now a regular European Tour stop on the annual schedule – the Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open at the Four Seasons Golf Club at Anahita, Beau Champ.
It’s an event worth one million euros that was won last month by American Kurt Kitayama with a 20-under-par 268 total.
But that’s not all. There are several other distinguished courses that have garnered due international reckoning.
Those that spring to mind are Ile aux Cerfs Golf Club, Mont Choisy Le Golf, Tamarina Golf Club, Heritage Golf Club and Gymkhana Golf Club, the oldest course in the Southern Hemisphere, opened in 1844.
Le Aux Cerfs Golf Club is a Bernhard Langer design and is now widely regarded as among the best in the world. Formerly known as Le Touessrok, it certainly is one of the top tracts in Africa and on the European Tour.
To get to the course one has to take a short boat ride, which forms part of the experience.
This is not a resort course by any means. It has some real tough holes as it makes its way alongside white sandy beaches, through mangrove forests, past and through volcanic lava outcrops and over several water bodies.
It’s a great layout that has its par-3s as the highlights.
The 125-yard 8th hole features an elevated green which will give you a headache just as much as it will bring a smile to your if you knock it on at the first attempt.
The 14th hole is a 337-yard par-4 that at first glance encourages one to reach for the driver. A closer look and you will find a short uphill approach to a long and narrow putting surface.
Mont Choisy Le Golf is a work in progress. It’s an 18-hole championship course that will turn a year old next month.
It is located in the north of the island, has excellent mountain views and great floral and tree species that help add character.
The par-5 No 12 measures 597 yards and is a solid test of one’s ability to keep the ball on the fairway and make some impact on the scorecard.
Peter Matkovich, a former pro golfer who designed the layout, said: “Looking at this pleasant landscape covered with undulating sugar cane fields I began to dream of building an 18-hole golf course, a course that would stand out naturally.”
And that is basically what he has achieved, a standout tract.
Tamarina Golf Club has the distinction of being Mauritius’ first residential golf estate.
Generally the houses are positioned well away from the course, making it an unhindered golf experience.
The layout measures 7,524 yards and has a par-3 13th hole that is a real beauty. It’s got a drop of about 60 feet to green, and a view that is absolutely wonderful.
There are several other outstanding things about this course and among them are the tall pole (distance) markers set in the middle of the fairways.
The flag sticks have a ball attached to them that indicate they are a back pin (ball stuck high on the flag stick), centre (middle of the green) and low (for front pin).
There are a million and one things to do on the island. And on a recent visit, courtesy of Air Mauritius and the Mauritius Tourism Promotional Authority, the Maconde Viewpoint and the Slave Route Monument were also part of the itinerary.
In both instances a lot was learned about the land and its history, which one has to say is most interesting. Not in the least because there are three main languages used – English, French and Creole. Hindi and Bhojpuri are also used, as too are German, Italian and Spanish which are spoken fluently by many hotel employees across the island.
Mauritius has a multi-ethnic culture of Mauritius, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism that co-exist peacefully.