The Indian Ocean is known as Ratnākara in ancient Sanskrit, which translates to ‘the creator of gems’ – very apt for an ocean that lays claim to the tropical idylls of the Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius and Réunion. The temptation, once you’ve reached your desert island paradise, might be to lie back, relax, sip on a cocktail and do precisely nothing at all, but the islands of the Indian Ocean offer far more than mere fly-and-floppery. Read on for a roundup of what to do in our favourite Indian Ocean holiday destinations...
Surfing in... the Maldives
When it comes to desert island paradises, the Maldives ticks all the right boxes. This pearl string of tiny islands is home to dreamy barefoot luxury retreats, colourful coral reefs and even an underwater restaurant. If you can drag yourself away from the beach and the hotel spa, you’ll discover that the Maldives is also a pretty decent surfing destination. Exhibit A is Six Senses Laamu, the only luxury retreat in the atoll of the same name and home to Yin Yang, a testing eight-foot right-hander best left to competent surfers. Meanwhile Farms break at Maalifushi by COMO in Thaa Atoll is better for beginners and the resort’s pros offer excellent surf lessons.
Foodie Tours in... Mauritius
Direct flights, a plethora of world class beachfront hotels, water sports galore, alluring creole culture and plenty of inland activities make Mauritius one of our all-time favourite Indian Ocean holiday destinations. Thanks to the island’s complex combination of colonial and creole cultures, this is a great place to go on a globally gastronomic foodie tour taking in Indian, Chinese, African and French flavours, washed down with delicious Mauritian tea (and rum). Listen up during the tour, and you’ll pick up some handy creole phrases such as lapay dite (tea leaves), larack (local moonshine) and dilo koko (coconut water).
Catamaran Cruises in... the Seychelles
The 115 islands of the stunning Seychelles archipelago are a veritable Eden, where coral-coloured birds flit between tropical palms, and sea turtles nest on stretches of pearlescent sand. It’s no wonder, then, that some of the world’s finest hotels have pitched up on these shores. Luxurious resorts abound, particularly on the three islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, while a cluster of eco-luxe private island hideaways make for very exclusive beach escapes indeed. With all this choice, it can be tricky knowing where to aim for. One way to solve this (wonderful) dilemma of where to stay, is to explore more than one island on a crewed luxury catamaran charter. Moor in secluded bays, visit a turtle sanctuary, trek through pristine jungles to a deserted beach for a creole cuisine and sushi barbecue, try big game fishing and if you really have to, combine it all with a stay in a sumptuous island paradise resort as well.
Outdoorsy Adventures in... Reunion
The French Overseas Territory of Réunion boasts miles of stunning sandy beaches along its west coast, but it was the exceptional biodiversity, rainforests, towering pitons and cirques of La Réunion National Park that caught the eye of UNESCO, earning the region World Heritage status in 2010. Pair that with a couple of lovely luxury hotels (with a new one on the way in 2017), and you’ve got an Indian Ocean holiday destination with the perfect blend of luxury and adventure. You can take your pick from canyoning, lava tubing, windsurfing, deep sea fishing, surfing, mountain biking and amazing helicopter trips over huge waterfalls and volcanoes, but best of all are the fabulous Grand Randonee treks in the cirques of Salazie, Cilaos and – for really remote and amazing scenery – Mafate.