I fancied diving in the Indian Ocean and Mandy, incredibly, decided she really wanted to go to Dubai (despite hating heat!)
In 2013, we ended up heading to Mauritius for a week, with a short stop over (3 days) in Dubai on the way home.
It was July when we went, so winter in Mauritius and Ramadan in Dubai!
Our flight out, from Gatwick, via Dubai to Mauritius on Emirates was very comfortable and enjoyable, putting them at the top of airlines I like to fly with. The stopover in Dubai was very short and we were in Mauritius pretty much on time (as I recall) and picked up by a taxi who took us along the coast, by now in twilight to our hotel, the Ambre, at Trou d'Eau Douce, on the east coast of Mauritius.
Writing with some distance in time, the hotel was lovely and peaceful, the restaurants were very good.
We were all-inclusive, which was only slightly tainted by a need to pay full price for some drinks and a few ‘premium’ meals. It would have been nice to just pay a ‘top-up’ to get these, but it wasn’t a big problem and we ate and drank well from the all-inclusive menu.
Our time in the hotel was mostly spent relaxing around the pool and on the beach.
The Ambre hotel's pool
The beach - The weather was not often very sunny, but rarely wet and always pleasantly warm
Lauren and I did some diving on 3 days, with Lauren completing her PADI Open Water certification at the nearby, but much grander, Tousserok hotel that was associated with the Ambre. (You can read about that here.
Our rooms were good sized doubles facing the garden. Many people recommend paying extra for a sea view, but we found the garden facing rooms were very quiet, which might be a consideration.
That said, the hotel was quiet at this time of year, only being, at most, half full. Most fellow guests seemed to be French, with a few locals spending a few nights and there was a big influx for a party of some sort one evening.
A local's bike on the reef edge by our hotel
One of the restaurants from the beach
There were facilities for water sport, windsurfers and small boats, but we never used them. There was a regular snorkel outing, but the local reef was bleached to death and smashed to bits, whether by weather or fishing practices we never really got to the bottom of.
We travelled out of the hotel a bit. We rented bikes from reception on our first morning and cycled up the coast to the local town and public beach.
Later in the week, we booked a taxi for the day and toured around the island, stopping at the volcano caldera (Trou aux Cerfs near Curepipe), at a large Hindu temple and took a short walk in the Black River Gorges national park to see some of unspoilt Mauritius, although it’s certainly not a massively overdeveloped island and you get the feeling, certainty in their winter, that the island’s residents (outside Port Louis, at least) move at a gentler pace than we do in the UK.
Exploring in Black River Gorges
The Hindu temple we visited
View over the Black River Gorges park
We also stopped to visit the giant tortoises at theSeven Coloured Earths, where sands of various hues from volcanic rock form dunes.
Seven Coloured Sands park
Giant Tortoises at Seven Coloured Sands park
Trou aux Cerfs spotted on our 'round the island' tour
Lauren and Mandy took a taxi to a botanical garden near Port Louis, the capital, too, but mostly we relaxed.
We were quite sad to leave Mauritius, I recall, as it was an extremely calm and relaxing week. Dubai proved to be a little more hectic!
We arrived in Dubai quite late and didn’t reach our hotel until nearly midnight.
Our hotel, the Asiana (perfectly comfortable and the rooms were quite stylish, although the staff in the breakfast room were unusually surly to everyone, not just us!) was near Saladin metro station and we made use of the service quite a lot as it
was cheap and air conditioned, keeping us out of the 45+C temperature at least some of the time.
Heading back to our hotel, The Asiana
Our 2.5 days in Dubai were, inevitably, rushed, but we visited the big shopping malls, the Atlantis hotel with its aquarium and travelled on the monorail that travels up ‘The Palm’.
Cooling off at the Atlantis aquarium (great look Mandy!)
Two of the many impressive towers in Dubai even make Ryan look short!
Divers in the Atlantis aquarium
The best parts of the trip to Dubai were going up the Burj Khalifa (although were were a little disappointed that the viewing deck is only about half way up) to watch the sun set (Book in advance as it’s both cheaper and easier to get a time to suit), a night ride across the creek on one of the one dirham ferries, with out feet just inches above the water (well, I thought it a highlight, no-one else seemed as impressed) and skiing in the indoor slope in one of the malls (The novelty of skiing in Dubai whilst it was 45-50C outside was something we enjoyed and, actually, as indoor slopes go, it’s pretty good, although take a jumper as the overall provided are really quite thin and you’ll probably be dressed for hot weather on arrival!).
Burj Khalifa from the Metro
Enjoying the indoor ski slope - Skiing in the Desert!
Crossing the Creek
We also got to visit the Penguins associated with the ski slope and to stroke some penguins. This is the sort of attraction you can’t really imagine in Western Europe these days, but the animals looked in excellent condition and well cared for and their handlers were knowledgable and seemed to have their welfare as a priority, as much as a ‘petting zoo’ for Penguins can.
25 years ago I’d have had no guilt about enjoying it, but nowadays I felt a little, but I will still admit it was an interesting experience and I’d say that penguins don’t feel how you’d expect at all!
Dusk from the Burj Khalifa
As it was Ramadan during our stay, eating and drinking was very difficult and we struggled a bit. This probably tainted our view, but none of us feel any great urge to return, although, like Las Vegas, it’s somewhere to see, if only to marvel at human ingenuity!
Atlantis from the Monorail
On the way back to the airport in a large luxury SUV, we chatted to our driver and he agreed it was quite warm for the time of year… it was 52C according to the temperature readout on his dashboard!
We’d loved Mauritius (although I’m writing this 3 years later, so the memories are a little dimmed) and found Dubai an experience, but not one we’d rush to repeat.