Indian Ocean Destination Guide
Experience tropical island living with a luxurious twist
As the warmest ocean in the world, the Indian Ocean’s scattered islands lend themselves to tropical getaways. Framed by India in the north, Australia in the east, Antarctica in the south and Africa in the west, the islands of the Indian Ocean enjoy a colourful blend of cultures, perfectly teamed with tepid turquoise lagoons, lush vegetation and some of the most luxurious resorts in the world.
While most holidays in the Indian Ocean will only require English, the official languages of the islands vary. In the Maldives, the official language is Maldivian, while in the Seychelles, French, English and Seychellois Creole are the official languages. The population of Mauritius is so diverse that it has no official language, with English, French, Mauritian Creole and Bhojpuri all widely spoken.
Travel to the Indian Ocean
San, sun and turquoise seas
Close your eyes, dream of paradise and you’ll probably envisage something close to an Indian Ocean island. With crystal clear waters, white silica sands and soaring palm trees, the islands encompass all the clichés of a desert island fantasy and then some.
Its postcard-perfect good looks may be undeniable but the Indian Ocean isn’t entirely deserted. Tourism is booming in the Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles, and quickly growing in Madagascar and Sri Lanka. While resorts are common, they still manage to allude to a deserted island feel with private island locations, overwater bungalows and beach villas tucked into lush greenery.
Though they have luxurious accommodation in common, the islands of the Indian Ocean vary greatly in terms of personality and experience:
The utmost luxury in the Maldives
It may seem extreme for some of the world’s smallest and remote islands to be home to some of the world’s most luxurious and expensive resorts, but such is the allure of the Maldives. Comprising a chain of coral atolls that cross the equator, the region features 1,192 islands in total and yet only 100 feature resorts – private Island resorts to be precise.
It may sound miniscule and yet the region hosts one million visitors each year. Again, the allure of secluded resorts and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world prove the Maldives to be one of the most popular tropical island holidays. With 5-star surrounds, resorts typically reflect a similar rating, outdoing each other in terms of island-style opulence, alluring honeymooners with overwater bungalows, a la carte restaurants, spas and private butler services.
For many visitors, the Maldives is about resort living – and their not wrong. Tourism here is the only industry. But if you do choose to venture beyond your bungalow, the Maldives also offers some of the best scuba diving and snorkelling in the world.
A spicy mix in Mauritius
Where the Maldives is very much a luxury tourist haven, Mauritius still holds onto its’ unique culture and colourful history. Originally visited by the Arabs and Portuguese, the group of islands were established as a colony by the Dutch before becoming an important base for trade between Europe and the East and subsequently fought over by the French and British. As a result Mauritius enjoys a colourful multicultural population where you can find everything from Indian temples to age-old colonial houses and Creole cuisine. Not to mention sparkling beaches – the country’s main drawcard. It’s this spicy mix of friendly locals, cultural sites, water sports and varied cuisine that sets Mauritius apart from other Indian Ocean islands. A stunning spot where you can choose to do as little or as much as you want.
A step above in the Seychelles
The other main region of the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles is the discerning option for a romantic island holiday. Offering the same level of luxury and beauty as the Maldives but with fewer people, the Seychelles is where many a celebrity (and even royalty – Prince William and Princess Kate honeymooned here) have known to escape for a secluded getaway.
Located off the coast of Madagascar, the region covers 115 islands in total. The islands enjoyed a largely uninhabited history until 1756 when the French took control. Even today though the region’s total population is under 100,000. Tourism is the Seychelles’ biggest industry. As such, the region has worked hard to become a world leader in terms of sustainable tourism, seeking to maintain its pristine beaches as well as its incredibly unique eco-system, notably featuring giant tortoises and some of the largest seabird colonies in the world.
Getting there and around
As a cluster of islands, by plane or boat are the main ways to get to and around the Indian Ocean. The main port of call for the Maldives is Male International Airport, which is serviced by a number of airlines including British Airways, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. From there, most resorts will offer a complimentary sea or plane transfer to reach your accommodation.
For travel to Mauritius, flights will land at Sir Seewoowagur Rampoolam International Airport, southeast of the capital city Port Louis. Air France and the country’s national carrier Air Mauritius service the island regularly. Flights to the Seychelles typically disembark on Mahe Island and typically include a stopover such as Dubai when flying with Emirates, or Abu Dhabi when flying with Etihad.