The Domaine de Bel Ombre estate owes its name to a peculiar anecdote: the lake on the sugar estate was home to a species of salmon-like fish called the “shadow” (ombre in french). The first tenant of the estate named it Bel Ombre because one of the fish in the pond was particularly big. Tucked away amidst the perfectly manicured lawns, rolling hills and mountains are the Heritage Resorts, which stand out as a resplendent echo to Mauritius’ colonial past. With names deep-rooted in the island’s rich legacy, these resorts have a wealth of stories to tell.
Heritage Le Telfair
Charles Telfair left behind a legacy of places that bear his name – Heritage Le Telfair Golf & Wellness Resort being just one of many. In the 19th century, he disembarked on the Mauritian shores as a doctor of the British colony.
He was a compassionate and remarkable fellow, ahead of his times. He built a hospital and a school for slaves in Bel Ombre, where his wife Annabella taught. He also initiated the first choir for slaves.
His fondness for greenery and his contributions to the advancement of botany placed Mauritius on the map. He gave new dimension to his home, Bel Ombre – which he meticulously developed – and Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens, where he introduced new plants and preserved specimens of indigenous fauna. In recognition of his dedication, his legacy lingers around the estate: the architecture of Château de Bel Ombre, where he lived with his wife, was modelled after its original plantation style.
He passed in 1833 in Mauritius, two years before slavery was abolished – it is no mystery his name lives on today.
A couple so remarkable, you cannot mention one without thinking of the other. Annabella, Charles Telfair’s wife, lends her name to a colonial-style restaurant, reminiscent of a brasserie.
Like her husband, she harboured a deep passion for botany, and spent her days perfecting botanical art. It is no exaggeration to say that her spectacular illustrations played an instrumental role in identifying certain specimen. Charles regularly corresponded with renowned European botanists, namely William Jackson Hooker, sending them faithful renditions of Mauritian endemic plants painted by Annabella. In time, her illustrations were even published in Curtis’ Botanical Magazine.
Today, her lithographed drawings of local fauna adorn the walls of the hotel, suffusing it with the Telfair couple’s art de vivre.
Cavendish, the piano bar that overlooks the beautiful gardens, takes its name from old British smoking rooms that existed during the colonial era. The bar very much evokes and Old England atmosphere, reminiscent of the island’s status as a former British colony. Curl up in one of the plush chairs to smoke a cigar and savor a housemade cocktail or an after-dinner liqueur. A “Single Malt” drinks menu (of which there are more than 100 whiskies) will delight connoisseurs.
Heritage Awali Golf & Spa Resort cultivates in an understated way, the Mauritian métissage and the island’s African roots, visible in the hotel’s welcoming disposition. Upon their arrival, guests are immersed in the ethnicity of the place: a warm welcome to the beating of drums, earthy tones of saffron and ochre, exotic wood furniture and the name, Awali, which in Swahili means a return to the source.
Since the 17th century, Mauritius, a land of confluence, is where various waves of migration (at times superposed, and at others, juxtaposed) came to form today’s celebrated ethnic and cultural rainbow. Awali draws its inspiration from the African heritage of our island. Amongst the first inhabitants of the island, were the slaves from East Africa and Madagascar, who left their mark on the nation, in the language spoken, in its spirit, traditional music and dance but also in the island’s mixed heritage DNA.
The denotation of “boma” is a livestock enclosure, corral, small fort or a district government office used in various parts of the African Great Lakes region, namely during the European colonial rule. Bomas, fortified circles, were built using tree trunks. What we commonly refer to as a “boma” is a circular fire pit that stands above the ground. Our Boma offers an ephemeral outdoors experience and setting unlike anything else at the Domaine de Bel Ombre, where one dines under a starlit sky to the beat of percussion instruments, around a bonfire and torches.
The Timomo & Friends mini club’s mascot is Timomo, a “cato vert,” a green “Echo” parakeet, endemic to Mauritius, which almost went extinct a few years back. With its green plumage and yellow beak, it is similar to a parakeet. The mascot’s name, Timomo, comes from the Creole “Ti” (in french, “petit,” small) and “momo,” a nickname for Mauritius, Moris in creole.