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Yachts & Yachting: Island of Adventures

This article was originally published in Yachts & Yachting (December 2014)

Claire and Rich Thoroughgood escape to Wildwind’s new all-year-round beach resort on the idyllic island of Mauritius, the perfect antidote to a British winter.

As the nights are starting to draw in and the water is getting cooler, club bar talk turns to where you can go to escape the winter blues – and where can you combine that with your love of sailing. Now Wildwind Holidays provide an alternative to grey British winter sailing at their new resort on the island of Mauritius. Located deep in the Indian Ocean and far from the sheltered waters of Vassiliki (Greece) where Wildwind have operated for over 25 years, the geography of Mauritius is as diverse as its inhabitants. Sugar cane fields and deserted villages sit next to luscious green forests surrounded by stretching white beaches, whose shores are lapped with crystal blue waters, and transformed into a sailor’s paradise by the ever-consistent south-easterly trade winds. The 12-hour flight is made all the better by the option of travelling with British Airways which gives slightly more legroom than a standard short-haul journey, has great inflight entertainment and complimentary drinks/snacks throught the flight.

Tropical base

Wildwind’s island base is right on the beach of the Coral Azur resort in Mont Choisy, in the north of Mauritius. The hotel itself is predominantly open-air with ample lounging spots around the pool and a number of bar areas within easy reach of your sun lounger. Coconut palms and tropical greenery separatew the hotel from its beach and the dinghy park.
The hotel has all the amenities you need for a thoroughly relaxing holiday: a pool with the best view you could ask for, tennis courts, and spa facilities across the road. There is a main bar within the hotel where you can buy drinks and snacks throughout the day, it’s also the location for the evening entertainment which the hotel provides every night, ranging from the local Sega dancing to some good old-fashioned karaoke! The Coral Azur resort also includes the Pirate Bar across the road, which does the best pizzas and cocktails around, making a nice alternative for lunch and also gets livelier in the evening – thanks to the ever-smiling bar manager Vish, who always has a plethora of facts to tell you on virtually any subject!
The Wildwind package is on a half-board basis with a substantial buffet style breakfast and dinner included, the hotel are very amenable and with 24hrs notice you can swap your dinner for lunch if you fancy trying the local restaurants instead, which are recommended for amazing fish or authentic local curry.

Busy beach

As with much of the Mauritian coastline the centre’s sailing waters is surrounded by a natural reef, splitting the area in two and providing a calmer flatter sea for beginner and intermediate sailors within the reef, and stronger winds and larger waves outside for the more experienced sailors and windsurfers.
The RYA-recognised centre offers a range of monohulls and multihulls, as well as stand-up paddleboards which are easily converted in to windsurf/wind-SUP boards. To use any of the kit on offer you simply have a chat with one of the highly qualified and friendly staff and let them know what you would like to take out. They will ready it, provide you with a quick dry familiarisation session (should you wish), pop the boat in the water and even hold it for you whilst you climb aboard. During our stay we decided to test beach manager (Ash) and his team and take out as much of the kit as possible in one day with a wind-SUP after breakfast, Hobie 16 sailing until lunch, RS500 sailing after lunch followed by a lengthy Laser blasting session, finally finishing off with another wind-SUP before retiring to the bar. The staff lapped up the challenge rigging boats and boards and carting them around the beach, joking with us as they went about their business. Having the ability to chop and change boats has the distinct benefit of improving your sailing skills, pushing yourself a little harder than sailing around in the same boat that you use at home.

Whilst all of the boats are freely available for use throughout your stay there are longer sail-away days scheduled which can be a great way to enjoy time on the water whilst seeing a little more of the local area. The standard route is a sail out of the reef, along the coast to Grand Baie, then pulling the boats ashore at a local beach cafe for lunch. The sail to Grand Baie takes approximately 90 minutes if you head straight to the cafe, or you can sail around outside of the bay with safety cover if you want to take advantage of the glorious conditions for longer. The beach cafe offers good value pub-grub along with some more local offerings. Either way, the scenery remains the same brilliant blue water dotted with yachts, disturbed only by the occasional water taxi or the splash of a passer-by diving in to cool off. The return trip is generally a reverse of the upwind sail, providing a downwind sleigh ride on rolling waves to surf all the way back to the reef entrance at the Wildwind centre.

Robinson Crusoe

When booking with Wildwind you are provided with two package options: Adventures and Adventures Plus. Adventures Plus includes the standard use of kit and instruction but with the addition of a scuba diving session, a guided trip around the island to view the tropical rainforest and waterfalls, as well as entry to the local rum factory and its complimentary tasting session. It also includes a large catamaran trip to one of the many islands dotted around the coast. The trip starts at 0815hrs ‘rest of the world’ time, which turns out to be approximately half an hour late in Mauritian time. You are greeted by a small crew of smiling Mauritians, and before you can draw breath, a rum or beer (or soft drink!) is thrust in front of you and you are on your way. Flat Island is a nature reserve off the northern tip of Mauritius. Essentially there is nothing on the island other than a lighthouse, a cemetery, and a few holidaymakers once you have arrived. But the water between the neighbouring islands is some of the clearest you will ever see, thanks to the protection of the reefs on either side. You are ferried ashore by tender, after which the time is yours to do with as you wish on your very own tropical island paradise. The boat crew provide an array of snorkelling gear (fins, masks etc) as well as preparing a vast barbecue consisting of local produce and of course, more rum.

The verdict

The choice of winter destinations is not as abundant as the usual summer options but Wildwind has found a gem in Mauritius, a year-round destination which is perfect for a winter escape. They’ve combined some of the best kit and technical knowledge on the island with the professionalism and fun of their Greek base, in such a beautiful tropical setting it’s worth a visit!

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