| Michael Zehender |
Chamarel, Mauritius (dpa) – “Come on, come on,” urges instructor Didier as he drives the group across the lawn on all fours, demanding squat thrusts and push-ups, until arms give way and chests heave.
Then they trot down to the beach at a brisk tempo until they really have nothing left, apart from some new muscle aches to look forward to the next day. And that’s supposed to be a dream holiday?
For holidaymakers looking to unwind it is the antithesis. But for those seeking an affordable low-season fitness challenge in stunning settings, Mauritius, now gaining a name as the “ultimate outdoor gym”, has it all, with ideal weather to match.
In the balmy Mauritian “winter”, when it is high summer in Europe, temperatures seldom rise above 25 degrees Celsius or fall below 20.
While local children might wear a bobble hat to school, the tourists ride mountain bikes in shorts, ascending the volcanic heights for a reward of spectacular views.
A group of six bikers first pedals comfortable gradients into the Chamarel mountains to see its waterfall and main attraction, the Seven Coloured Earth, the remains of a volcanic eruption which now gleam in seven different colours.
Then comes the first real mountain slope, the pace slows, the gears drop and the cars start to overtake. Eventually the cyclists crest the peak and it’s downhill again towards the shimmering sea.
The coastal road runs to Le Morne beach and on to the Unesco World Heritage mountain of the same name, where a glorious sunset offsets the hard slog up. The highest mountain, Piton de la Petite Rivière Noire, stands 828 metres above sea level.
Less dauntingly, the 526-metre Piton Canot offers superb views of the southwest of the island after an hour-long climb to the peak through bush. Two days and three different sports in and the chorus of howling muscles is building steadily.
Holidaymaker Mayeta soothes her aching limbs with some yoga, serenely stretching in the early morning silence of the Lakaz Chamarel eco-lodge’s garden, her palms facing the climbing sun.
“I’ve been doing yoga for two years and lost 13 kilogrammes,” she says later.
If fitness is the firm focus of your trip, the island’s many hotel resorts and restaurants are best avoided. Visitors should also opt for a quad bike tour through the Domaine de L’Etoile nature park the following day.
After a practice round on a muddy field, the group sets off at full throttle through the sugar cane plantations and then rides in tight switchbacks up to another prime viewing point. Engines are switched off for some minutes of contemplation and photos before the return sprint across green plains and past curious stag and deer.
A quieter option is target archery, but one that will also tug some more at those aching muscles. But the fun is in roaming the open unspoiled terrain with a bow and arrow in search of the bull’s eye.
Water skiing then works arms and legs together, with the inevitable accompanying water dunks for novices.
“Keep hold at arm’s length” is the instructor’s mantra before the skier is swamped again. The next attempt lasts a satisfying good 100 metres – but the inevitable splash-down becomes all the harder for it.
Another big plus of Mauritius is the reverse pricing pattern for travellers from the northern hemisphere. European summer is low season here, which pushes down accommodation prices by as much as half.