Across two decades of travelling for what I like to call “work”, I’ve ticked off most of the islands in the Indian Ocean. The Comoros are still on my list, as are a few private bolt-holes off the coast of East Africa. But if I told you my favourite, there’s a good chance you’ve not heard of it, let alone thought of going there on holiday.
It’s not the Seychelles, where Waldorf Astoria last month unveiled a gorgeous new private island, or Mauritius, the family-friendly escape my son keeps begging to return to.
Rather, perhaps my favourite corner of the Indian Ocean lays cast away about 650kms — luckily just an easy 90-minute flight — east of Ile Maurice.
And what Rodrigues — 18km long, by six wide — may lack in forested volcanic peaks or sprawling resorts, it makes up for in untouched island scenery and a sense of authentic Creole hospitality. Here migratory birds nest on sandy islets, and the fringing coral reef — three times the size of the island — will take your breath away.
For years it’s been the haunt of hardy kite surfers, drawn here by flat warm seas and steady trade winds, without the crowds you now find in the waters of southwest Mauritius. What’s kept less adventurous souls from discovering the island has been a lack of decent places to stay. While there have long been charming local-run guest houses and homestays, quality hotels have been few and far between.
But that changed this year, with respected hospitality brand Constance giving the island a huge tourism boost as it opened two new resort-style destinations on Rodrigues. In refurbishing and reimagining two rather-tired island hotels, it brings the brand’s tally to 11 hotels across five Indian Ocean islands.
Compared to many of its larger Mauritian resorts, Constance Tekoma is a boutique property, but it takes full advantage of its prime location on the east coast of the island.
Here, 32 sea-view rooms gaze out over the hues of blue across the coral lagoon. Each offers a private terrace — cue more views — and open-air bathtubs for soaking away the salt. Rooms come decorated in a bold tropical aesthetic, in which natural woods and organic textures contrast with pops of primary colours.
That thread carries through to the resort’s main restaurant. At 1528 — a nod to the island’s discovery by Portuguese explorer Diogo Rodrigues — expect a contemporary take on Creole cuisine, from fresh line-fish off local boats to Asian-inspired crab noodles. Pickled octopus salad is a local speciality not to be missed. To work up an appetite, Constance Takoma is set just a few steps from the beautiful Anse Ally, where you’ll find pristine snorkelling reefs and memorable kite surfing.
But if it’s kiting — and more of a vibe — you’re after, then head south to the new C Rodrigues Mourouk.
This is the second opening under Constance’s “C” brand, aimed at a Generation-X market: those looking for contemporary style, not opulence, and the opportunity to get active and meet fellow travellers. C Palmar opened on the east coast of Mauritius in 2022, and has fast grown a loyal following.
Expect the same to happen at C Rodrigues Mourouk, which is aimed squarely at kitesurfing enthusiasts, adventurous families, and sustainability-minded travellers. There are three categories across the 65 rooms, with 12 beachfront rooms the pick of the lot. Travelling with kids? Splash out on the two-bedroom villas, which step right onto the beach to stretch out on your own dedicated sunbeds. Villa Gombrani even comes with a private pool. Nice.
But the C concept is less about in-room indulgence and more about getting out and about. There’s a packed activity offering here, from the signature C Trek hiking excursions and a dedicated kite-surf club on the beach, to fishing excursions with experienced locals. Foodie? Take a tour of the island’s Creole cuisine, including the markets in the main settlement of Port Mathurin. Into spa? The C Wellness Cabin offers a more laid-back take on the traditional spa experience in a seafront sanctuary. Come evening, the beachfront comes alive with the C Sessions, as DJs spin sunset tunes.
It’s been a few years since I was last on the island, but I’ll not easily forget the days spent on empty beaches, the casuarinas whistling in the wind as White-tailed Tropic Birds whirled and wheeled overhead. Or a morning spent with local women as they combed the reef for octopus. Simple moments, on an island that hadn’t succumbed to overtourism. Happily, the refurbishment of two boutique properties will do little to change that.
I remember there’s a lovely beach in the east of the island, a rugged cove between rocky headlands, called Trou d’Argent. There was pirate silver buried here, local legend says. A shimmering treasure hidden away, waiting to be found by the fortunate few. I’d say the same goes for the island of Rodrigues itself.