BA High Life reveals 5 top dive sites in the Maldives

Discover five of the best dive sites in the Maldives on British Airways’ High Life website.

Top dive sites in the Maldives

Top dive sites in the Maldives

Journalist Ianthe Butt visited Constance Halaveli at the end of November, and explored the crystal clear waters around the north and south Ari Atolls with the dive team from TGI Maldives.

Highlights include diving with reef sharks at Hafsa Thila and manta rays at Madivaru Lagoon, both in the north Ari Atoll.

At Maamigili Kandu, in the south Ari Atoll, Butt writes:

‘Whale sharks, the largest fish in the world, have to be on every diver’s wildlife bucket list…The currents and plankton-rich waters along the channel in this Marine Protected Area regularly attract these gentle giants.’

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Fitness tips for an aquagym workout

Fitness guru and personal trainer at Constance Le Prince Maurice, Isabelle Lamant, describes her secret to getting the most from a swimming pool workout.

Aquagym fitness tips from Isabelle Lamant

Aquagym fitness tips from Isabelle Lamant

Thursday 19th December

It’s 10.40am and I prepare for my 45-minute outdoor Aquagym class.

I have my water noodles to work legs and my plastic gloves to tone up arms and chest!

Today I want my guests to learn the hypopressive technique to benefit the abdomen. I will ask them to focus on the breath, on the movement of their ribcage and on the contraction of the abdomen during their postures and motions.

This is an efficient workout for a flat tummy and safe lower back.

Then we will deeply stretch all muscles in a pool with a beautiful background and the lovely sound of water and birds…

The goal: a fit and healthy body working in a peaceful and beautiful atmosphere.

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2013 MCB Tour Championship winner – Paul Wesselingh

As Paul Wesselingh wins the 2013 MCB Tour Championship at Constance Belle Mare Plage, Mauritius, it marks the latest chapter in the late rise of this remarkable player.

Paul Wesselingh wins MCB Tour Championship 2013

Paul Wesselingh wins MCB Tour Championship 2013

Back in 2001 Wesselingh was a club professional whose success on the regional golf circuit earned him a rare start in a European Tour event at the Belfry.

That tournament was the Benson and Hedges International Open. Wesselingh shot 78 in round one and then retired with a bad back; the winner that week was Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.

To say that both men have had quite a journey since that week is something of an understatement. Stenson has lost form, found it again, lost it again and then, this year, won both the European Tour’s end-of-season event, the DB World Championship, and the Race to Dubai as well (effectively that tour’s order of merit).

Wesselingh, by contrast, returned home to his family, continued to give lessons, sell Mars bars and tee pegs, and play the odd minor tour event. Then six years ago he began to think of the European Senior Tour.

He had first played golf aged seven but his handicap never dipped below three so he became an accountant, but desk work was not for him and he turned pro off five, happy to become a club professional. “I did give the European Tour School a couple of goes,” he said, “but I wasn’t anywhere near good enough.”

He and his wife Tracy had three young boys and Wesselingh preferred to see them grow up than travel the world chasing a golf dream. But by his late-forties he recognised that his golf swing had matured so he began to improve his fitness and get his game in tournament mode.

When he earned a card through tour school he finished second in his first event and won on his fourth start, at the 2012 PGA Seniors Championship at Slaley Hall. By the end of the year he had added another six top ten finishes and was crowned Rookie of the Year.

Many take the foot off the gas after such success, but Wesselingh had been waiting for this opportunity for years and was in no mood to coast.

He started the 2013 season by successfully defending his PGA Seniors Championship title and followed it up with victory in the Bad Ragaz Open.

“It was going so well that a few of the guys suggested I give Champions Tour Qualifying School a go,” he said. “But I decided to focus on the Order of Merit, headed to Taiwan and won the Fubon Open there.”

He arrived in Mauritius confident. The deep confidence that comes from long term success.

“I’ve trusted myself. A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have attacked the 18th like I did in round two. You have to go for it at this level.

“The first year I was a little nervous and aware of being in the presence of some great players.”

But this year he has blossomed and when he faced his hero Colin Montgomerie in the final round of the MCB Tour Championship at Constance Belle Mare Plage he was ready to prove how far he had come.

Montgomerie is one of the Ryder Cup’s greatest ever singles performers. His ability to go head-to-head with an opponent and win is legendary. It meant that most of the gallery on the final day expected Monty to thrive and Wesselingh to wilt.

But neither happened. Well, they did, but the wrong way round. The Englishman had that deep confidence in his game and he remained patient on the early holes when the more famous golfer did the opposite. It was a stellar performance and all the more remarkable because he knew he was not just winning an event, but the Order of Merit.

That second trophy proves he has taken on so many of the players he had watched from afar throughout his 30s and 40s … and he had beaten them over the entire season. This was no flukey week, but one year of excellence. Little wonder he was emotional when the scale of the achievement hit him afterwards.

After victory there were scores to check, ceremonies to attend, photos to be taken, interviews to be had. It was a blur of activity, watched by his proud wife (who caddied for him all week) and his three sons.

When it was done, Wesselingh breathed a sigh of relief and asked if he could go now.

“You know what I’m going to do?” he smiled. “Same as I’ve done all week. Every morning I’ve swam in the sea, every night I’ve thrown myself in the plunge pool. I love this place.”

It’s a long way from the Belfry in 2001. 

Stenson and Wesselingh had very different weeks that year. But they’ve had very similar 2013s.

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Find out more about the action from the 2013 MCB Tour Championship

Visit our website to find out about luxury golf holidays at Constance Hotels & Resorts

Follow Matt Cooper on Twitter @MattCooperGolf or visit his blog Curious About Golf

Tension mounts for final round of MCB Tour Championship 2013

Golf journalist Matt Cooper is reporting on the final day of the MCB Tour Championship 2013 at Constance Belle Mare Plage, Mauritius. As play begins, here’s how things are looking.

Legend golf course, Constance Belle Mare Plage

Legend golf course, Mauritius

It would be foolish to entirely discount all but the top two on the leaderboard, but it does seem likely that the winner will come from the final group and the battle is an intriguing one.

Leading the tournament by three shots on 11-under-par is Englishman Paul Wesselingh, a three-time winner on tour this year and the current holder of top spot in the Order of Merit.
 
Up against him, on eight-under-par and three shots clear of third, is Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie, an eight-time European Tour Order of Merit winner and eight-time Ryder Cup player.
 
Follow Matt Cooper on Twitter @MattCooperGolf

A special golfing week in Mauritius on the Legend and Links courses

“We’ve been coming for years,” said my Constance Hotels & Resorts Pro-Am partner David pointing to the third member of our team, Patrice. “We love it here. You’ll see why over the next two days.”
Links at Constance Belle Mare Plage

Links course

 
Behind us, on day one of the tournament, was the driving range and first fairway at the Links course, Constance Belle Mare Plage. High on the hill we could see the rolling terrain, covered with rainforest, through which the course twists and turns.
 
This week is a special one for the resort and the golf courses. In addition to welcoming the world’s finest senior golfers for the MCB Tour Championship, amateur golfers from across the globe fly in to enjoy the Air Mauritius Trophy and/or the Pro-Am itself.
 
For David and Patrice, who are from London and Paris, their annual participation in the Pro-Am is the highlight of their golfing year – a week of fun competition which creates a buzz amongst guests at the hotel. “Everyone talks about the golf at night and congregates round the scores to see how they’re doing,” explains David, “it’s a brilliant atmosphere.”
 
“We also love the fact that Belle Mare Plage has two courses,” he adds. “That makes it stand out from the other resorts on the island because we can always get a tee time and aren’t restricted to one layout.”
 
They were right about one thing: as we made our way down our first fairway I immediately knew I liked the Links course. Undulating fairways creep between huge lumps of volcanic rock, water hazards and thick indigenous rainforest. 
Links course, Constance Belle Mare Plage

Patrice rushes to see where David’s ball has gone on Links

The course, designed by Rodney Wright and Peter Alliss, calls for shot-making and it works for all levels of golfers: short hitters can plot their way round, big-hitters have the opportunity to take risks and gun for par-fives in two, or short par-four greens in one.
 
After concluding our day, David and Patrice, plus Marc Farry, our professional who also has a golf academy at the resort, grinned and told me I’d enjoy round two even more. “The Legend course is going to suit you,” they laughed and I wondered if they weren’t just flattering me a little too much.
 
It turns out they weren’t: the Legends course hosts the MCB Tour Championship this week and it’s little wonder that David Frost and Tom Lehman have excelled there. The course rewards an accurate long game – which is precisely why my team-mates suspected that my pit-a-pat drives and fairway woods would work well.
Legend golf course, Constance Belle Mare Plage

Legend golf course

 
It sounds a little peculiar – given that the trees are heavy with fruit and spices, and the foliage alive with vibrant tropical colours – but the track reminds me of a classic English tree-lined parkland venue (albeit the Bermuda grass greens are very different, as is the temperature and humidity!).
 
Most of the tee shots are hit down narrow funnels and if the course has one advantage over the Links it is that there are fewer blind shots. Only once does the course open up and when it does so, it does so in style when the dramatic 17th tee presents a wide panoramic view across a cove, over which you hit to a small par-three green.
 
David’s and Patrice’s enthusiasm for the courses and the competition, plus my liking for the Legends challenge, and a second pro (Spain’s Juan Quiros) whose fun attitude lifted our spirits in the heat, all contributed to earning us a top ten finish in the Pro-Am.
 
“See you next year?” asked Patrice with a smile. You know what? I quite fancy trying to make the top five in 2014.
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Colin Montgomerie at the MCB Tour Championship 2013

There is something about Mauritius which makes me think of old-time explorers, ones who came across the island after weeks at sea and were awed by the beautiful beaches, steep mountains and lush trees.

MCB Tour Championship 2013 - Colin Montgomerie tee's off

MCB Tour Championship 2013 – Colin Montgomerie tee’s off

When locals point into those trees at the fruit and spices I can pluck from their branches I genuinely feel like a 16th century traveller, one who might have been awed by the possibilities of trekking inland to discover the local wildlife.

Perhaps that’s why I found myself, on day one of the MCB Tour Championship, excited by the prospect of trailing one of golf’s most famous creatures. No, not the famous golfing Tiger, but an animal whose reputation also goes beyond the game and is built on not only a unique talent, but a personality and facial expressions that are unmistakeably his.

There are plenty of golfers who hide behind wraparound sunglasses and underneath caps. They are rarely excited, rarely reveal their frustrations. Indeed they take great pride in the fact that you cannot tell if they have just made birdie or bogey.

Colin Montgomerie is not one of those golfers.

In fact he has more quirks and idiosyncrasies than entire fields put together. Consider, for example, that habit he has of taking two steps forward in a sentence and one step back – he repeats words like he’s a YouTube video being buffered. It’s extraordinary and uniquely Monty.

He is, as the British say, a bit like Marmite (you either love or hate him). But the fact he inspires passionate responses is good for the game. Better that than 156 automatons standing on the tee.

And on day one at Constance Belle Mare Plage’s Legends course, Monty was, well, not quite in his element (it was too hot for that), but he gave the crowd what they came to see.

He opened with a birdie three at the first hole, but he completed it only after patiently, and with good humour, asking for a few of the fans not to take photos at the wrong moment. On the next tee he repeated the request and laughed: “You don’t want to make my caddie angry.”

Montgomerie & his caddie plan the approach

Montgomerie & his caddie plan the approach

Behind the second green he stopped for a few seconds with fans to watch the deer scurry through the bushes, a peculiarly Christmassy scene in the middle of the Indian Ocean. On the fourth tee he took shade in the trees and joked with the crowds about the boiling temperatures.

It was classic Monty: he’s genuinely quite funny when he interacts with the public, he was also pulling all those over-the-top dramatic facial expressions he likes (and which have a sort of cartoon-like honesty) and his famously languid swing was arrowing the ball at the flag. By the eighth he was five-under-par and leading the tournament.

But on the ninth green he was looking hot and the fact he was distracted by a banging noise coming the clubhouse suggested he was getting bothered. More classic Monty.

On the 13th he hit an approach shot into the trees and followed it with a tee shot on the 14th into the woods. Suddenly it was not Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, but Monty the red faced golfer. (He wasn’t the only one, though – there were red faces everywhere.)

He had chances to recover those dropped shots. But he missed an eight foot birdie putt on the 17th and three-putted from 18 feet having made the par-five final green in two blows.

This is not quite the Monty of old however. He said in the tournament press conference that when the “gun goes off we’re all as competitive as ever”, but he didn’t stomp away from the 18th green this time. His shoulders were slumped, he scrunched his face up and raised his eyebrows in a typically expansive show of bemusement. No-one rushed to ask for his post-round thoughts, but no-one was scared of him either, as they have been in the past.

And he’s only four shots back. He drew the biggest gallery today and is sure to for the rest of the week. It’s still not out of the question that he’ll be in contention come Sunday afternoon – and the back nine on the final day is a habitat Monty is right at home in, even the more cuddly version.

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