Lakaz Chamarel – what is it really like to stay at the premier eco-lodge on the island?
As travellers who enjoy exploring beyond the obvious, it was an easy decision to avoid the beach resorts in Mauritius and turn instead to the lush tropical interior in our accommodation search. It was here that we discovered the secret world of Lakaz Chamarel. A bit of an insider’s tip, the eco-lodge is hidden amongst the forested mountains of the Chamarel region in the south west of the island, and is the sort of place that gives credence to the over-used label of ‘paradise’.
Getting to Lakaz Chamarel was an adventure in itself involving steep valleys, winding roads, and the feeling of retreating further from civilisation with every mile. It was perfect. As we negotiated our way through the palm trees and exotic foliage of the private plantation, any slight regret we had about our spontaneous flight booking went clean out of the window.
If I had an eco-lodge, it would look just like this.
Abandoning our trusty hire car (which surprisingly held it’s own amongst the vehicles of the other guests) in the manicured parking lot at Lakaz Chamarel, we were at once presented with freshly squeezed orange juice and smiles at reception. Then it was a ride in a golf buggy (kinda cool or kinda naff, the jury is still out on that one) up the hill to our abode for the next few nights. We had arrived.
Despite the lure of Indian silks, a pillow menu (yes, really!) and a four poster bed, all we could think about was how inviting the pool looked in the intense sticky heat. So we flung our luggage unceremoniously into a corner, and turned our cases upside down to find our swim stuff. It was only a few bare-footed steps through the garden and the pool was all ours.
There are 5 categories of room at Lakaz Chamarel, ranging from cute and cosy standards to the exquisite Piton Canon suite with a private pool, sea views and price to match. Each room is individual in decoration, with inspiration from India, Africa and even Bali fusing elegantly throughout. With names like Tropikal, Zen and Afrika, we guessed the superior rooms would be right on the money, and weren’t disappointed with our exotic pad – Namasté.
Named after the Indian greeting, Namasté was all about feeling welcome. A Mauritian painting of sari-draped dancing ladies and a frangipani tree symbolising divinity in the bathroom gave our room a very spiritual feel. Yet it wasn’t too over the top. Hubbie wouldn’t have stood for that!
I loved the sensual drapes on the bed, thatched ceilings, the seductive Moroccan lighting and the wafts of citronella essential oils lingering in the air. The perfect recipe for a little romance.
Yet more importantly, the bathroom more than met my exacting standards, with his ‘n’ her’s sinks, bathrobes that actually fit and an OUTSIDE shower complete with it’s own little garden. There’s no better way to wake yourself up than scampering across the stepping stones butt naked in the fresh morning air, and diving under a hot shower surrounded by the sweet perfume of frangipani flowers.
We loved having our own separate entrances to the bathroom, which was tucked behind the bedroom and door-less, except for the separate toilet.
As glorious as all of this was, most of our time at Lakaz Chamarel was spent outside on our private veranda, surrounded by the cheerful reassurance of exotic birdsong, rustling palms and utter tranquillity, whilst overtones of creole cooking drifted in on the breeze. Delicious. As dusk fell each evening, staff glided unobtrusively between the bungalows, lighting candles and incense as both fragrance and mosquito deterrent. Yet whilst the citronella might have smelt divine it didn’t exactly ward off all the little buggers! They have some serious nashers on them, the blighters!
Although the Lakaz Chamarel superior rooms don’t have their own private plunge pools I think they are still probably the pick of the bunch. So here’s a few of my thoughts to help you choose the best one for you:
The standard rooms are beautifully rustic but they’re right next to the dining and communal areas, and are overlooked by people using the adjacent path as well as those using the restaurant or bar. This also means it isn’t as quiet as it could be in the evenings, not that noise is exactly a problem at Lakaz Chamarel! There is a small pool shared by these 3 rooms, but it was tiny and didn’t look half as inviting as ours.
Our superior room was perched up on a terrace in a line of 4, but each bungalow was totally private, spaced out in the garden and screened by foliage so it really did feel like we were the only ones there in our little tropical paradise. The best bit has to be the huge 16 metre pool for sole use by the superior room guests, and was by far the best of the bunch! We only had to share it once!
The Garden and Sea View Suites were of course more opulent, larger and had their own private plunge pools, but to be honest, we were glad we hadn’t splashed out on one of these. Walking up through the woods towards the viewpoint we noticed many of the plunge pools were looking a bit dirty, with lots of dead leaves and bugs (they were in a forest after all) and really didn’t fancy taking a dip in them. Not a patch on our pool at any rate. Also the Garden suites were very dark as the trees didn’t allow much natural light through the canopy. The Sea View suites were better in that respect, but weren’t as far apart as I would have expected, and it almost felt a bit like a holiday park up there with the large lodges pretty much next to each other. Undoubtedly the views were superb but I’m just not convinced that alone would be worth the hefty price difference!
So really, I’d advise that the Superior Rooms are the best value at Lakaz Chamarel, and possibly the pick of the bunch anyway! Unless you’ve won the lottery and can stay in the exclusive Piton Canon Suite of course!
We could easily have spent all our days here wandering the Lakaz Chamarel grounds, exploring the network of trails and finding secluded spots for romantic picnics. As well as the hilltop viewpoint (where we discovered pink pineapples exist!) there were water features, a maze and plenty of shady spots to hang out. The whole place is teeming with life and we even saw a mongoose scampering across our path.
It was probably a good thing we didn’t find the hammock until our last day as that would most definitely have been us for the week!
Yet we were always back in good time to enjoy the pool. There was a cool (and frankly welcoming) breeze rolling down the mountains from Piton Canot, but also just enough sun to make it perfect for swimming in November. We could see the wind swaying even the distant forest tree line, yet it was still warm.
Mornings at Lakaz Chamarel began at a leisurely pace on the outside dining terrace, slowly waking up with a glass of freshly squeezed orange whilst overlooking the lush gardens. Breakfast was a buffet affair, with both hot and cold options, and although it wasn’t anything special it was perfectly adequate for the first meal of the day. The local fruits were especially tasty.
Hubbie loved the red whiskered bulbuls which weren’t backwards in coming forwards where scavenging bacon and eggs from our plates was concerned. Some even had the audacity to perch on the edge of our glasses to help themselves to the fruit juice. Cheeky chappies!
The room rate at Lakaz Chamarel includes dinner, although I couldn’t decide whether this was a good thing or not. On the one hand, going elsewhere for an evening meal isn’t that practical unless you want to drive a fair distance, yet it felt restrictive being obliged to eat at the hotel, as actually we would have liked to have at least tried some of the restaurants in the area.
Evenings started off in a civilised fashion with pre-dinner drinks (I can recommend the local rum cocktails!) in the open sided candlelit pavillion bar. This was followed by a set 3 course meal in the dining room accompanied by several geckos who were scampering around the walls and even on our table. They’re so cute (even though one pooped on hubbie), despite having caused me some confusing nights in the past!
The meal itself was pleasant, but I think this was mainly down to the ambience and the rum! Service was cheerful but painfully slow and inconsistent. Often diners who had come to their tables after us had eaten dessert and retired to the bar before we’d even been brought our main courses. I get that the ethos of the place is all about relaxing, but really, you don’t want to get hubbie frustrated where his food is concerned. The meal when it came was quite simple and frankly didn’t live up to our expectations, lacking flavour, finesse and tenderness. Yet being serenaded by an acoustic guitar player who was clearly trying his best made it a fun evening.
Although the food was a bit of a disappointment, I can say with conviction that had we not stayed somewhere as sublime as Lakaz Chamarel, Mauritius probably wouldn’t have been a place for us. Once we realised ‘laid back’ were the operative words here, we adjusted to the slow pace of life, and enjoyed just ‘being’…something we often don’t have time for at home. Truly we hadn’t been so relaxed for a long time, the perfect way to start our adventures in South Africa.
Ok, so it wasn’t all serene and perfect, after all, l was there…never could quite master the art of climbing into a hammock!
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