“Welcome, welcome our guests,” a handful of staff smiled and danced at the main entrance of Club Med D’Albion in Mauritius. After about an hour’s drive from the airport, my tired mind saw that as one of those exaggerated welcomes by hotel staff. But in four days, I was about to learn that that is Club Med in its element.
Club Med? Many would ask, so let’s back up a little. In May this year, French hospitality firm Club Méditerranée — commonly known as Club Med — entered the Kenyan market with an agreement with Maniago Executive Travel Designers. The deal saw Maniago become the Club Med’s preferred sales agent for Kenya.
As the announcement was made by Monique Gardel, director of Maniago Executive Travel Designers in Kenya and Seymour Brugger, indirect sales manager Club Méditerranée Southern Africa, one thing stuck out: Club Med does not own any resort in Kenya, or East Africa for that matter. This in effect meant that Club Med was targeting Kenya as a source market to their 71 resorts spread around the world.
Some of the Club Med facilities nearest to Kenya are in Southern Africa, Mauritius to be precise. These are the Club Med La Plantation D’Albion and La Pointe aux Canonniers. Few marketers have targeted Kenya as a tourist source market, instructively, another one of these is South Africa Tourism.
Back to Club Med. Then came the question: Kenya is a destination-rich country, so what would attract Kenyans to go for holidays outside the country? A different experience was the answer.
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That is how I found myself aboard an Air Mauritius flight out of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Next stop? Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport, Mauritius’ main airport and an hour’s drive out of capital Port Louis to Club Med La Plantation D’Albion, usually shortened to Club Med D’Abion.
The massive 54-acre resort was to be my home for the next three nights. What do you do during that time? The answer, as I came to find out, is: not enough. Club Med prides itself in its “all inclusive” packages and I was hell bent on testing the maxim — which might explain whisky-fuelled late nights at the bar. So I picked my activities and by the time I was leaving for the airport for the flight back to Nairobi, I hadn’t gone through them all.
Party every night
This is not an “activity” per se but it is one of those times a guest gets to see the Club Med culture in action - and drink on the house. Staff from all sections interact with guests and when the party kicks off, you would be forgiven for thinking you were in a club in the city and not a five-star resort with the Indian Ocean lapping at the shore in the background. Almost every night, there is an activity from circus acts to musicals and disco-themed parties.
The staff culture is different from any other resort I have been to where employees rarely mingle with guests and retreat to their quarters after their shifts. Here, the only thing that differentiates employees from guests is the name tag on their chests.
Our host, Seymour, pointed this out as a must-do. A key act in circuses, the performer grabs a hang or fly bar and jumps off from a raised platform — in this case several metres high — and lets gravity push the swing. Depending on your skills, you get to perform a few tricks in the air.
Standing before the set, I chickened out a few times despite the fact that it all seemed safe (there is a safety net below you). Conquer your fears, they said. I finally did it once and refused to get up on the ladder again. For a few in the party, they got quickly hooked and went up several times. If you love adrenaline sports, this is it.
It looks easy from the sidelines until you get a quick lesson and the aim and shoot all of a sudden looks more than a quick run through. A few arrows down though, I got the hang of it but quit soon when my fingers started feeling sore. Quite the activity for a quiet afternoon.
Not to forget golf. I only started hitting the links recently as a result of getting on the Airtel Media Golf Challenge tournament held once every month. A few games later, I felt I could handle a few swings on my own, so one morning at Club Med D’Albion, found me working on my swing at their golfing range.
Thankfully, they have trainers on hand for the different levels: beginners, intermediate and proper players. They have a course on the grounds but 30 minutes at the range and I doubted my ability to survive nine holes in what was supposed to be winter weather but I was already sweating. Note: Winter weather here looked like Nairobi in February. Beautiful weather otherwise.
Other activities on the resort include tennis and water sports. But if laid-back is your thing, the spa or infinity pool would be right up your alley.