If you’re thinking of exchanging a gloomy winter for a spot of Vitamin D this year, then you may well have the Indian Ocean Islands on your list. And as well you should, as these tiny specks of sand off Africa’s eastern coastline are quite literally heaven on earth. But what happens behind the tropical seascapes, swaying palm trees and sugar-white sands? Read on to discover what each of these tropical Indian Ocean Islands has to offer behind the blurb on the marketing brochure…
A haven of watersports
If the thought of a sun-spattered ocean has you fighting your way into a wetsuit before we can say ‘best watersports in the Indian Ocean’, then start booking your flights to Mauritius. Almost every hotel has a dazzling array of water-based activities and with specialist instructors to go with them, it doesn’t matter if you’re an intermediate diver or expert jet-skier. If that sounds a tad too energetic then you’ll be pleased to know that if the activity doesn’t require a motor to get you there, it’s usually free – big hurrahs then for paddle-boarding, snorkelling, kite-surfing and kayaking.
A spot of culture
The largest of the exotic archipelago, Zanzibar will always have a place in our hearts as the original beach paradise of the Indian Ocean islands. But what most don’t know is that the island has a history and culture as diverse as its many inhabitants throughout the years. From Arab traders and Omani merchants to Indian sailors and Portugese adventurers, Zanzibar is a haven of ornate palaces and elaborate doors, heady plantations of spices and markets of exotic crafts. Tear yourself away from your sun lounger to wander in the maze of Stone Town’s narrow lanes and you’ll discover a side to East Africa you never knew existed…
With less than 1000 visitors a year, Mafia Island is one of the Indian Ocean’s best-kept secrets. And now we’re going to spill the beans! 20 kilometres or so away from mainland Tanzania, the tiny slash of green in the midst of the Indian Ocean is a bundle of unspoiled good looks. Refreshingly free of tourists, days here are tranquil and unhurried and diving in Tanzania’s first underwater marine park is as energetic as it gets. Instead, stroll along the peachy beaches, doze the days away under a coconut palm or watch as the dhows billow across the horizon… Did someone say honeymoon?
Glitzy beach glamour
We won’t beat around the bush – the Seychelles, one of the Indian Ocean islands is everything you thought it would be, and a little bit more. All 115 specks of brilliant white sand offer the most stupendous luxury in immaculate hotels, where platoons of butlers and eye-stretching infinity pools are the name of the game. Delve a little deeper and you’ll find exclusive beaches and tropical tableaus on private North Island, wandering turtles on the sandy shores of Fregate and champagne-hued sunsets from La Digue. Wherever you choose, we can guarantee it will be perfectly-manicured toes-in-the-sand beach luxury at it’s best… and it’s rather fabulous.
The ultimate Robinson Crusoe experience
The French Overseas Territory of Reunion is a veritable Garden of Eden when it comes to outdoor treasures. From La Piton Fournaise, one of the most active volcanoes on the planet, to hidden gorges, canyons and glittering waterfalls, the island’s interior is enchanting in its beauty. And it’s not just for looking at either – walking, hiking, rock climbing and canyoning are just some of the lung-gasping activities on offer. And then there are the beaches (white, pristine and perfectly tropical) and the food (colourful, exotic and melt in your mouth). Could this be the perfect island escape?
Out of this world diving
A smattering of talcum-powder beaches, an interior of lush tropical forests and fields of juicy mangoes make Pemba a castaway’s dream. But it’s under the gin-clear water that this magical island really comes alive: think dramatic coral cliffs, almost 800m long, plunging into the emerald depths of the Pemba Channel (said to reach up to 2000m in places!), home to pristine coral gardens and veritable paradise of Finding Nemo-esque delights of the Indian Ocean islands. If you’re feeling adventurous, motor down to the Emerald Lagoon in the south and watch the hammerheads and barracuda coming in on the currents. But the best bit? There’s no one else here…
Get away from it
Ever wondered what life was like before fruit-themed electronic devices and internet shopping? We can’t say we’re totally sure, but a few days in northern Mozambique’s stunning Quirimbas Archipelago might come close. Not many places epitomise barefoot island bliss quite like these little specks of sand, seemingly lost in a timeless history of Portugese, Arab and Swahili influences. The few lodges are sublime, the beaches are dramatic and beautiful and divers and snorkelers won’t be disappointed with the impressive underwater life. It might take a plane, a boat and even a short paddle to get here but the rewards are truly spectacular. Make sure you don’t miss this stunner amongst the Indian Ocean islands.