The warm waves are strumming a symphony of sea shells against the shore, and I wake to a scarlet sunrise over the Indian Ocean, feasting on eggplant Benedict for breakfast.
Shortly, I will be invited to partake in a personal welcome ritual, relaxing on a beachside beanbag, and blessed with a meditation and the winter sunshine.
The day smells of sea salt and Mauritian magic.
I have arrived the previous night, more under a floaty sarong than a cloak of darkness, checking into SALT of Palmar, the newest luxury resort on the east coast of Mauritius.
And in the light of day, I am discovering there is much more to this beautiful boutique hotel than meets the eye.
The ocean roars against the reef while inside the languid lagoon, this paperless hotel screams sustainability.
It all starts with entry to my room, which is via a digital key on the SALT app, downloaded upon check-in, while I sip a tropical concoction of local basil, clove, citrus and pineapple.
I stroll the breezy halls of this apricot-coloured, 59-room hotel, opened last November, which resembles a Moroccan riad.
About the only thing not locally sourced here are the Swedish-made organic cotton beds, every one of which face the ocean, and are like sleeping on the fluffy clouds that punctuate the blue sky.
Two woven baskets, in a riot of colours, are in the cupboard, one for use as my beach bag and the other to store the plump cushions which adorn my bed upon my nightly turndown service.
I also locate a rubber yoga mat, which the hotel has paid its eco-debt for by planting a rubber tree for every mat purchased.
In the bathroom, there’s succulent soap crafted by a Mauritian soap maker, who has also provided a sensual scrub and heavenly hair mask, all made of local, organic ingredients.
Toiletries, such as toothbrushes and razors, are fashioned from sustainably harvested bamboo and packaged in a paper alternative made out of crushed limestone. Even the labels are printed in soy ink. And the paint on the walls is non-toxic, of course.
The unbleached bathrobe is made from an organic fabric derived from coffee grounds, while the cinnamon sledge slippers with rubber soles, are as comforting as a cappuccino on a crisp day.
In the drawers, I discover homemade treats and crockery, handmade by a local potter who crafted 950 individual pieces for the hotel.
There’s no minibar or TV; rather, guests are encouraged to leave their rooms and explore Mauritius via several sustainable programs.
SALT General Manager Raj Reedoy says the hotel recognises that the biggest luxury for guests is time.
Before they arrive, guests are asked whether they have any skills they wish to share with the community and in turn, are encouraged to mix with locals under a Swap Skill program.
I spin yarns and the wheel with potter Janine Espitalier-Noel, the aforementioned local potter; spend a sensual afternoon with soap maker Nathalie Marot discussing the salt scrub, hair masks and soap she made for SALT; and enjoy an elegant evening at the Mauritian home of family hostess Mirella Armance, sipping local rum and feasting on island fare such as a traditional chicken curry, which you can also learn to make in SALT’s kitchen.
With hotel host Vimla, and as part of SALT’s push for its guests to truly experience the country, I visit the capital of Port Louis where I meet Mauritian fortune teller Madam Kwok for a palm reading, and to stroll the colourful and chaotic markets.
Had I more time, I would have also met Reotee Buleeram, the basket weaver whose bright bags in the room caught my eye, or gone fishing with Kishor Juggoo, who claims he never comes home empty-handed and whose hand-caught fish are delivered to your plate the same day.
In fact, when it comes to food, SALT places a huge emphasis on organic, locally produced offerings, trying to grow much of its own produce, and bottles everything from kombucha to pickles in-house. The menu is divided into small, medium and large plates to avoid food waste and there’s even an innovative raw food offering from which to choose.
Even the wine is sustainable in this non-grape growing nation, with SALT’s parent company, The Lux Collective, importing barrels of Fairtrade varieties from nearby South Africa, to minimise the carbon footprint, and bottling it locally under its own Scrucap brand.
The hotel even has a partnership with not-for-profit Island Bio, to ensure organic food is available to everyone on the island, not just the wealthy, through community gardens or ‘open-air supermarkets’.
These are staffed by ex-offenders, recovering drug abusers and others in need of a second chance in life.
While sustainability is king here, luxury is queen and you are treated like royalty, and even more importantly, family.
Visit the day spa and indulge in a treatment that ends in the first Himalayan salt room in the Indian Ocean.
And my SALT journey ends where it begins. On the beach, on a beanbag, with a meditation. I am handed a teaspoon of sea salt, instructed to walk to the water’s edge and toss my salt back into the ocean as a sign of abundance.
There’s that Mauritian magic, soaked in sustainability and sprinkled with salt.
Mauritius is far more accessible than you may think. Catch a domestic flight from Australia’s east coast to Perth and overnight here, staying at the likes of the new QT Perth, which opened last September, and boasts an award-winning restaurant and elegant rooms.
SALT of Palmar is part of The Lux Collective
For similar luxury and sustainability, check out nearby sister hotel LUX Belle Mare
The writer travelled as a guest of The Lux Collective.