‘This place is designed for romance,’ says Mrs Smith, lying back in a sunken marble bath on a bed of red rose petals. ‘Actually, it’s more than that. It’s made for Hollywood romance.’
She’s not wrong. Mrs Smith’s re-enactment of the famous scene from American Beauty is, in fact, just one example of the A-list treatment that’s been meted out to us at the Oberoi in Mauritius. It began back at the airport, when our uniformed driver, Raj, handed us cold towels and water, settled us into the back of a seven-series BMW, and drove us past fields of sugar cane, white Hindu temples and Jurassic Park-like crags to the hotel. And it continued with the mojitos, drunk under a thatched Indonesian-style roof, we were handed on arrival.
Our room, a villa with a pool, makes us feel like Tom ’n’ Katy/Brad ’n’ Angelina, too. Unlike the rooms you find in city-centre hotels, which have to cater for a business clientele as well as those travelling for leisure, the villas at the Oberoi have clearly been created purely for pleasure. This is obvious from our villa’s three stand-out features, each designed with couples in mind. First of all, our solid blond-wood, four-poster bed is strong enough to support a man doing pull-ups. I tried this, of course, to impress Mrs Smith – and quickly reached the conclusion that this was not a bed to be easily broken. Then there’s the cream marble bathroom, in which you’ll find a mother-of-pearl-framed mirror, floor-to-ceiling glass walls and the aforementioned sunken tub, which, when we first walked in, was filled with yellow and white frangipani flowers. Best of all, though, is the total privacy. The villa is not overlooked. You feel undisturbed and undisturbable. Swimming in the pool, chatting on the steps of the pool, drying off on the loungers – and anything else you do in your villa’s garden – is an entirely secret affair.
However, we haven’t come to Mauritius for a bath. We cross our garden, unlock the gate and make our way over to the Oberoi’s main pool – a black volcanic rock-framed delight lined with deep-blue tiles and surrounded by statues. ‘It’s like being in an Indiana Jones film,’ says Mrs Smith as she breaststrokes her way across the pool while attempting to keep her hair and Ray-Ban Wayfarers from getting wet. ‘Follow me,’ she says, speaking in the conspiratorial tone she uses with our young nieces.
So we swim from the end with the long-nosed, big-lipped Easter Island-esque statues, past the half-submerged goddess heads and under a vast iron bell to the restaurant end of the pool. Here, at a table just two feet from the turquoise, beach-lapping waters of the Indian Ocean, we eat a delicious fish salad. Afterwards, we take a post-prandial paddle, walking hand-in-hand along the line where waves break gently on the shore, emerging only occasionally from the swell to feel warm white sand between our toes and inhale clear, salt-tinged air.
Afterwards, in the Moroccan-style spa, we submit ourselves to the unforgiving fingers of the Oberoi’s resident masseuses. We’re led through to a covered area outdoors, and laid side by side. This isn’t the ideal combination for a relaxing rub-down a deux. Mrs Smith is a medium-pressure person. For me, it’s no pain, no gain; and I can only apologise to my wife for masking the tranquil sounds of the waves, and the pheep-pheeps, w-ra w-ras and y-up, y-ups of the birds, with a constant cacophony of ‘aaaaarghs’, ‘oh, oh, oh, ows’ and sharp intakes of breath, as the cat's cradle of knots in my back is satisfyingly untied.
I drifted off. I think we both did. Then we wandered back, in our robes, to the privacy of our villa for a lie-down on that vast bed. Later, after a dinner of shrimp and taco root cake with a passionfruit and coconut sauce, we find ourselves in the bar. Here, we listen to a guitarist play acoustic versions of Cyndi Lauper songs as we sip strawberry mojitos made with cracked pepper, lemon and mint, and rock in an exquisitely carved Indonesian love swing. It’s an ideal place from which to see the sunsets, we’ve been told, but we’ve arrived too late for that. We have to settle for night’s black-and-white alternative: spotlit palm trees, an inky black sea and a half-moon.
Back in our villa, a mere 70 yards away along the oceanfront, the bath has been filled anew with hot water and thousands of red rose petals. ‘This place is designed for romance,’ Mrs Smith tells me, slipping the blue spaghetti straps of her dress from her shoulders…