Featured Hotels in Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean Destinations
Luxury Indian Ocean Holidays
Between Africa and Asia, in the shimmering waters of the Indian Ocean, there lies a sprinkling of palm-fringed islands that fulfil everyone's dream of the ultimate get-away-from-it-all destination. The fact that these places are a long way from both Europe and the USA only seems to add to their exotic charm. The lengthy journey is rewarded by sun-kissed white-sand beaches, sparkling emerald waters, and cultures that are as intoxicating as the landscapes -- all to be enjoyed in some of the world's most luxurious resorts.
The Indian Ocean probably got its name from early explorers who were charting the routes to the spice riches of India, and who were no doubt as enchanted as are modern-day travellers when they arrived at the idyllic groups of islands scattered among the waters. This was certainly the first of the world's oceans to be extensively navigated, and from the 17th century the area was colonised by the Portuguese, French and British, exploiting the islands for slavery-based plantations. All these influences remain to this day, while the ocean's position between Africa and Asia ensures that a heady mix of Asian, Arab and African influences is added to the cultural melting-pot.
Alternative to the Caribbean
This part of the world has actually only emerged as a popular travel destination over the past couple of decades, when Westerners increasingly started to feel the urge to escape to more distant places, and Europeans, especially the British and French, adopted the Indian Ocean as their alternative to the Caribbean. It certainly doesn't have the compact geography of the Caribbean -- most groups of islands are separated by vast distances. For instance, it is a three-hour flight from the Maldives to the Seychelles.
But with this geographical spread comes an incredible topographical diversity that you certainly do not find in the Caribbean. The Indian Ocean landscapes range from the coral atolls of the Maldives, that barely rise above the surface of the water, to mountainous archipelagos like the Seychelles, and the volcanic craters of Réunion. The extraordinary cultural layering is also unique to this region, and is reflected not only in a mosaic of fascinating customs, but in the amazing variety of local cuisines.
This fusion is nowhere more evident than in Mauritius, one of the region's most popular and sought-after destinations. Situated just inside the Tropic of Capricorn, it is part of the volcanic Mascarene islands off the east coast of Africa, along with Réunion, and is a paradise of beautiful beaches, coral reefs, mountainous rainforests and luxury hotels. Mauritius has a particularly fascinating mix of cultures, with Indian, African, Asian and European influences blended together, and reflected not only in the variety of cuisines, but in the incredible diversity of its architecture.
Réunion, 150 miles south-east of Mauritius, has retained even more of its volcanic origins, being home to an active and tempestuous volcano and three massive craters. These form a series of huge natural amphitheatres, with jagged peaks and dramatic jungles. Réunion is known as the island of adventure because of the range of activities on offer, such as canyoning down waterfalls, scaling mysterious mountains and hiking into lunar craters.
The other islands of the western Indian Ocean, the Seychelles, seem to be a thousand miles from anywhere. They are not volcanic, but consist of an archipelago of 115 granite islands and coral atolls -- the only islands in the world that were part of the planet's original continent, formed over 200 million years ago. Local legend describes them as diamonds scattered by God to create something marvellous, and this aptly depicts the flawless paradise that is the Seychelles.
Lands Further East
Further east lie the beautiful Maldives, technically part of Asia, and one of the world's most unspoilt areas, containing some of the Indian Ocean's best-kept secrets. All its 2,000 islands are luxuriant with tropical vegetation and surrounded by endless tranquil blue lagoons, but of the 2,000, only 200 are inhabited. Of these, some are given over to some of the world's most luxurious resorts-- each resort in the Maldives has a whole island to itself.
Also in the eastern part of the region is romantic Sri Lanka, whose charms have been rediscovered since the end of its civil war, and it is now exceptionally welcoming to visitors. It is an island full of surprises, with spectacular scenery and wildlife, and an extraordinary wealth of natural wonders. Visitors can enjoy more than 3,000 years of event-filled history, and a cultural life of unbelievable depth and diversity.
These are the better-known islands of the Indian Ocean -- they are all amazing destinations, but there is so much more to discover. There is fascinating Zanzibar, and incomparable Madagascar which is like nowhere else on earth -- and then there are the idyllic, but undiscovered, Quirimbas and Bazaruto Archipelagos. But wherever you choose to go in the Indian Ocean, one thing is guaranteed -- no brochure can ever fully reproduce the glorious landscapes and colours, so the reality will always exceed the expectation.