Reinventing yourself in Mauritius

I’m balancing on a tiny platform high above the ground, paralysed with fear. Both hands are gripping a short metal bar, and I’m leaning forward with my feet half over the edge. “Hop” the instructor behind me says in a voice bubbling with enthusiasm.

I shake my head, too numb to speak, as my brain asks why the hell I thought a flying trapeze lesson would be fun.

Admitting defeat and climbing back down the narrow ladder that got me up here would be even scarier, so I flex my knees and launch. Wooohooo!! I fly through the air trailing a scream of fear and sheer delight behind me. The exhileration is astonishing.

After a few swings back and forth the instructor tells me exactly when to let go so I land bum-first on the safety net, not in a tangled flying mess of limbs. Minutes later, after some extra tips on how to leap and land, I’m climbing the ladder again.

It’s hardly what I imagined when I set off to Mauritius, best known as a lazy sun, sea and sand destination. Instead, Club Med’s La Pointe aux Canonniers resort has me reinventing myself as a person who says yes to daunting or daft new experiences. While holidays are often about visiting new countries, this was about revisiting myself, by trying things I always thought were for braver or younger people.

What’s kept Club Med thriving for 70 years is partly the way it makes it so easy to try new things. Everything is right in front of you, it’s all included in the price, and the welcoming crew will teach you what to do.

The resort stretches across a spur of land between two golden beaches near Grand Baie. It recently reopened after a Euro 30-million refurbishment to keep it relevant in a world full of competition, with a new adults-only swimming pool, a swanky spa, and a family pool with water games, and 394 rooms and suites including connecting family rooms. My room with a balcony looking towards a pool was all sleek wooden furniture, a large shower, a fridge, and air conditioning controlled by a funky touch screen.

Trapeze lessons aren’t on the agenda here, so that involved a taxi ride to a sister resort, La Plantation d’Albion. That soaring success gave me the courage to try a sailing lesson, but as our catamaran skimmed across the water at a huge rate of knots I was too terrified to move, let alone start fiddling with ropes, locks and levers. “You sail, I’ll just cling on,” I told my bemused instructor Alsheriad Domun. It’s a bit schadenfreude, but I was secretly pleased that two catamarans tipped over that day, so at least I knew my fear was rational.

Then I tackled water-skiing, which I'd always believed I'd never be able to master. No sense of balance and ultra-strong contact lens that I'm terrified of losing had created fears in my head that limited my actions. But this was new adventure-me, so I donned a life jacket, a pair of goggles, and jumped the hell in.

First the patient instructor Gael Ladoureur put me on a solid ‘baby bar’ on the side of the boat, where you practice until you literally find your feet. Then the boatman threw me the rope itself, and I bobbed around trying to get my legs, skis and arms aligned. As the rope tightened I wobblingly pushed up from my knees, and as I rose up out of the churning water the exhilarating sense of achievement was unimaginable. It felt like freedom, like I'd grabbed life a little bit more and bugger the consequences. I went back three days in a row until my arms couldn’t take it any more.

This ease of being able to try new things saw me join the Zumba classes too. The lithe instructress Jordana made every move look sexy, while we jerked about like marionettes with broken strings. I’ve been too shy to try Zumba at my local gym, knowing I’ll step left when everyone else steps right, but now I have the confidence to join.

Perhaps the wackiest thing - and absolutely safe, too - was an excursion with Blue Safari, where I laughed non-stop for 30 minutes on a scooter I was driving underwater. It’s enormous fun, chugging along at a depth of 3m as air is pumped into a plastic bubble around your shoulders.

Every evening I took a seat at the poker table, and mastered the game with guidance from the dealer. You’re only betting with plastic chips, so it’s a safe way to learn, like an incubation hub to train you for the real world experience.

Club Med still has the party reputation it earned a few decades ago, and with good reason. Its crew stages a show each evening before the open bar lubricates a general outbreak of dancing. But its main targets now are families and active couples, although solo travellers will rarely feel lonely amid all these activities.

Even though half the guests can be kids, you never feel like you’ve wandered into a playground, which is essential for non-maternal people like me. Babies can be dropped off in a creche, and toddlers up to teenagers of 17 have a full range of separate activities to enjoy. The revamp also jazzed up the restaurants, and Alma Beach Lounge is a lovely place to dine for exquisite meals right by the beach.

Since Mauritius is notoriously expensive for alcohol, South Africans often fly out with a bottle of Klippies in their suitcase. At Club Med all the food and drinks are included, and the barmen aren’t shy when it comes to pouring. Hell yes, after a couple of sturdy cocktails I even put those zumba moves to music.

* For details, see Club Med La Pointe aux Canonniers,  For submarine and wacky sub-scooter rides, check out Blue Safari

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