Imagine if you could stay in a hotel that not only offers a perfect luxury island experience but also satisfies your need for wellness travel. A healthier, more humanistic approach to hospitality. Well, this is what SALT of Palmar, a luxury resort in Mauritius, promises its guests.
Wellness travel is a growing trend
I was intrigued by the concept of sustainable wellness travel. It’s about supporting local communities, but at the same time recognizing the strong connections between people, plate and planet. It’s also about the fact that our food choices have a major impact on the health of the environment and our guests. SALT is part of that new Slow Food Travel movement. This promotes ecotourism while providing all its guests with a culinary journey, full of stories, traditions, flavors, and craftsmanship.
As a curious traveler, I didn’t need any more convincing. I packed my beach gear and boarded an Air Mauritius flight from Johannesburg, to discover the concept for myself.
Travel to Mauritius
The island of Mauritius is a 11-and-a half-hour flight from Europe, nine-and-a-half hours from Asia, six-and-a-half hours from Perth and four hours from South Africa. It is known for having some of the best beaches and weather in the world. The national airline, Air Mauritius, has multiple routes across the globe, offering island-seekers easy access to the jewel in the Indian Ocean crown.
Mauritius really is more than just a stunning beach location. It’s home to an incredibly unique community formed of African, Indian, French and Chinese influences, with a deep cultural history and humble heritage. The island is an experience of colors, stories, customs, sounds, and flavors that form a brilliant, heady mix.
My trip from Johannesburg was easy enough. The island itself is small, but admittedly it took us about an hour to get from the airport to the hotel by transfer.
Entering the hotel, it felt different from other luxury hotels I’ve experienced.
Most telling, there is no reception desk. You arrive straight into a lobby that is bright and uncluttered, and has this kind of breezy, island feel to it. The entrance looks through to the swimming pool and ocean beyond, and the colors blend inside and out. Camille Walala, a globally renowned artist and designer, whose murals adorn buildings all over the world, was commissioned to design the hotel’s interiors. Her love of color and nature is evident immediately.
The hotel is run entirely by the SALT app, which you download onto your phone upon arrival. The staff is on hand to show you how – and it is really simple. The app sets alerts and scheduling, so it acts as a virtual concierge service. The hotel is set around a long, clear swimming pool and is right on the beach. And when I say right on the beach, I don’t mean 20m away. I mean, the Indian Ocean practically surrounds the property.
I was tempted to just drop my bags and go put my feet in the ocean.
With the app downloaded and keys in hand, I was shown to my room to change for drinks on the rooftop terrace, followed by dinner.
The bedrooms continue along the same theme of simplicity, with a touch of luxury. Decorated in light, breezy hues, my room had a distinctive feeling of calm about it. Perhaps that’s because there is a clear absence of electronic equipment. There’s no buzzing TV to distract me from the beauty of nature. Just a neat, hardly visible portable music center (disguised as a retro radio), a bookshelf with a curated set of books, and a healthy stock of coffee, water, and some interesting wholesome snacks.
So, there is no television here, but there is Wi-Fi, of course. I’ve already started using my SALT app and I really like how easy it is to engage with activities.
Wellness Travel at SALT. Where to start?
There are so many things to do, and not enough time.
- The salt room in the spa, a massage, beauty treatments, etc
- Yoga on the beach
- Stand-up paddle fitness activities
- A vegan cooking lesson in the kitchen from produce supplied by local farms
- Early-morning runs
- Sunrise and sunset walks
- A tour of a village community
- A food tour in the capital
- • Horse rides…
And the list continues. I could see I was to be spoiled for choice. Or I could do nothing but eat healthy food and rest. That’s not quite my style, but for others, it may be a perfect option. The beauty of SALT is that you can plan to do nothing other than lie on the beach or at the pool and indulge in delicious food and exotic drinks. This wellness travel destination includes the choice of several different kombucha variations on tap!
The sun dropped behind the Indian Ocean and the night was just a perfect temperature, warm and balmy. I felt completely relaxed, looking forward to letting some SALT get under my skin over the next few days.
From day one of my good, luxury hotel stay at SALT of Palmar in Mauritius, the experience was already proving to be exactly what the marketing brochure promised.
After a restful night’s sleep to the gentle sounds of the Indian Ocean, I headed off to a sunrise Hatha yoga class on the deck at the beach, with yoga teacher Dass. Anyone can do yoga. That’s the beauty of the practice. Even if you have never tried it before, everyone is included at their own pace. We did sun salutations as the sun rose, and stretched our hands to the ocean, welcoming back the energy of the sea into our heart chakras.
Feeling invigorated from the exercise and fresh, early-morning air, we were ready for breakfast. Now, this is where SALT of Palmar sets itself firmly apart from other hotels in Mauritius. The wellness travel concept focussed around great food and activities is unique on the island. The choices are wide and mindful of the many clean eaters out there. So, if you are gluten-intolerant, or on a Paleo or Keto diet, or even if you are just a vegetarian, or not any of these, there is something for you.
Farming it, not flying it
SALT of Palmar is committed to the environment and the local Mauritian community. Every SALT has its own farm, using permaculture practices and hydroponics to yield diverse crops. As Raj, the general manager of the hotel, explained: “We get our hands dirty to keep our food clean. Each of the farms has its own vegetarian restaurant. What can be done with vegetables – super- fresh, seasonal vegetables – is wondrous. It has become the heart of our food philosophy. Simplicity is some ingredients.”
Not only is the food organically grown and sourced, but SALT bakes its own bread from special organically grown fair-trade flour. Enough to get anyone excited about breakfast, right? I watched as the staff kneaded the dough and prepared it, before popping it in the oven. I couldn’t wait to see, or should I say eat, the result.
SALT believes in no buffets and no waste that isn’t composted or animal feed.
Clean plates and consciences. Simple menus with daily specials based on the farm’s harvest and fisherman’s catch. The menu is prepared according to each season. Proteins are local, and what SALT can’t grow on its farm, it sources sustainably. Eggs are sourced from a free-range neighbor and suppliers are family.
The kombucha story at SALT is also unique. The hotel brews its own kombucha on site. I went into the kitchen to check on this for myself and saw no less than 12 different kombucha pots, all with different brewing recipes.
Anyone for coffee?
Coffee is grown locally and, indeed, the Lux Group, owner of SALT, boasts its very own coffee-roaster on the island. I looked at all the delicious and healthy food choices and felt I needed an entire day to just sit down and try them all. But, of course, that wasn’t going to happen, because I had so many other exciting things I wanted to do.
I opted for some chia seed porridge and fruit, but also tasted some of my traveling companions’ breakfast choices. All I can say is, if you love healthy food, you will never go hungry here. And if you want to eat plain eggs on toast, you will also not miss out. I drank kombucha with my meal and decided my next stop would be the SALT spa.
I checked in on my SALT app and booked a spot. However, before I headed to the spa, I took time in the beautiful Mauritian morning sun to catch some vitamin D rays and digest my meal. After all, who can resist some downtime at an island resort? And sitting on this beach is therapy, after all.
Green is the new black
Would you believe there are no single-use products in this hotel? The bathroom soaps and shampoo products are all locally sourced and contained in beautiful pottery containers. Refillable, yes, but straws, coffee-cup lids, and tiny toiletries, no. This newly launched luxury hotel uses corn starch, which does the same job, for packaging, and it can be made into compost. And if this isn’t enough, the hotel team also does regular clean-ups of local beaches and streets, and then finds a new life for the plastics collected.
During my short stay at the hotel, I loved joining the vegan cooking class. It’s not over-structured, is simple and fun, and takes place slap-bang in the working kitchen at SALT.
SALT has ditched unhealthy buffets for fresh, local and tasty meals. Apart from its own farms, its herb wall and vegetable cellar are something special. In the kitchen, we learned how they cook using simple, ancient cooking methods, such as the wok, the tandoori oven, and the charcoal grill. These kitchen maestros smoke everything to release and enhance flavor. They also marinate for hours and slow-cook over wood overnight. The food is creative and diverse, and, importantly, delicious and healthy.
Experience wellness travel
For those who want to venture out, SALT offers excursions into local communities and to the capital, Port Louis, where visitors can experience more local culture, food and shopping. However, I kept it closer to home, enjoying everything (or mostly everything) the hotel had to offer to satisfy my particular holiday needs. I used the SALT app to create a typical day plan. It was as simple as this:
- Wake up
- Yoga on the beach and/or walk, run, cycle, hike, swim
- Chilling with a book
- Cooking class
- Stand-up paddleboarding, yoga float or more chill time
- Time in the salt room
- Drinks on the deck
- Eat, sleep, repeat
What do cotton coffee and sleep all have in common?
There’s nothing like sinking into a comfortable bed and falling asleep quickly. The Carpe Diem beds at SALT encourage good, sound sleep. I discovered another secret to this: all the linen used in the hotel is long-fiber premium cotton, 100% organic with a 500 thread count.
Oh, and even the bathrobes are green. Well, they are ivory in color. I fell in love with mine, so I bought one to take home. Made of 66,7% coffee yarn and 33,3% cotton yarn, the cotton coffee fiber is prepared using the coffee residue. This is reduced to pieces by exposure to heat and ground into a powder to produce a functional staple fiber. Among other things, their cotton coffee-fiber bathrobe inhibits bacteria and is crumple-resistant.
The salt room at the spa is novel – it’s the first-ever salt therapy room on the island. It’s small, intimate and relaxed. SALT of Palmar ticks the boxes in many respects. With super-friendly, helpful staff and service, amazing activities, delicious food and a fabulous position on the beach, it has set the bar in terms of delivering a humanistic travel experience in the Indian Ocean – showing that wellness travel is not just good for you; it’s great for the environment and the local community too!
If you care about the environment and want to fly more eco-friendly, then read this.