Indian Ocean Islands – Travel Guide
Indian Ocean Islands
The Indian Ocean is home to the most secluded and exotic island groups on the planet – the Maldives, the Seychelles, and Mauritius. Soak up the sun, surrounded by spectacular coral reefs and white-sand beaches, fabulous golf courses and stunning resorts – and some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet!
Crystal-clear lagoons, magnificent marine life, white-sand beaches, buzzing nightlife, European heritage, tropical vegetation, medieval architecture, great golf courses, and some of the most beautiful resorts in the world. Yes, you can find all that in Mauritius!
A tiny green dot in the heart of the Indian Ocean, about 1,200 miles east of Madagascar, the island of Mauritius can best be described as a small, untamed-yet-sophisticated tropical paradise. Just 38 miles long and 29 miles wide, it is part of the British Commonwealth, but is suffused with the cultural remnants of its one-time Portuguese, Dutch and French Settlers.
The warm, crystal-clear waters of the lagoons and white sandy beaches are ideal for any water sports activities. Sailing, diving, snorkeling, water-skiing, fishing, and other sports are pursued in the best conditions all year round. Blue and black marlin, sailfish, and tuna thrive in the waters around the island.
But Mauritius is not about sun, sea, and sand alone. Indeed, the island has now matured into a serious golfing destination – not surprising, as the sport’s history here runs deep: Mauritius was the third country in the world where golf was played (after the UK and India), and Gymkhana Golf Club is the oldest golf club in the Southern Hemisphere. The weather is ideal for short-sleeve golf year-round, and the stunning beaches and rippling waters provide the perfect frame to a glamorous, sunshine-filled golf holiday.
Mauritius has a varied nightlife scene and offers something for every style, taste, and budget. The action centers on a number of bars, discos, clubs, and casinos, located mostly in Grand Bay, on the West Coast, and at individual resorts. Music varies widely, encompassing techno, ’80s, commercial music, ragga, and sega (an evolved combination of traditional music of Mauritius, the Seychelles, and Reunion, sometimes also blended with genres like zouk, soukous, and reggae). Take an eye-opening journey to discover a fascinating hidden beauty – Mauritius.
Spot yourself approximately 1,000 miles east of mainland Africa, and you’ll see a group of tropical islands amid the turquoise Indian Ocean. Unknown until the French discovered them in the late 1700s, they were promptly forgotten again until just a few decades ago. Now the world knows that heaven is indeed a small place on Earth.
The island group is called the Seychelles, and they are simply breathtaking. The Seychelles consist of two distinct island groups: the northern (or Mahe) group, formed of granitic rocks, and the southern group, made up of low-lying coral islands, mostly uninhabited. There are a total of 115 islands in the archipelago, with significant stops including Mahe, where 90% of the country resides; Cousin Island, where a nature reserve counts over 300,000 nesting seabirds of seven species; Praslin and La Digue, both of them meccas for bird watchers and hikers; and Aldabra Atoll, the world’s largest coral atoll and original home of the giant land tortoise.
Many of the beaches of the Seychelles are untouched by man’s influence and refreshingly uncrowded, offering clear blue skies and a rare dose of tranquility. The warm Indian Ocean waters make it perfect for scuba diving and snorkeling, as well as water sports ranging from sailing and windsurfing, to fishing and surfing. Back on land, golf, tennis, horseback riding, and biking are some of the most popular recreational activities.
The principal city and leading port is Victoria, the world’s smallest capital city. The courthouse and post office have been virtually unchanged since colonial times, and there is a miniature replica of London’s Big Ben, built in 1903. Take time to explore the morning market where residents buy and bargain for fresh fish, fruits, and vegetables. There are also numerous art galleries and shops, colonial Creole-style plantation houses, several museums, a botanical garden, and national monuments.
Highlight – Indian Ocean Islands
For most vacationers, traveling to an island resort means that it’s all about the beaches – preferably lined by blue waters, backed by a row of swaying palm trees, and lacing a view to the endless horizon! And so it is on Mauritius, the Maldives, and the Seychelles: Wherever you stay, you’re never far away from the warm, white sands. In fact, Maldivian law provides that all resort guest rooms must face the beach, and five linear meters of beachfront is to be allocated to each resort bungalow.
Spas are luscious places, but even more so when they’re situated in such a way thai you become convinced you’re the only human being on the planet. This is the experience you get on the three islands, because the spas here are in a world of their own – or more precisely, they’re at the very edges of our own world, perched along an ocean thai extends for thousands of miles to the blue horizon.
Although Mauritius has a long history of golfing – the historic Mauritius Gymkhana Golf Club is the oldest gaff course in the southern hemisphere and the fourth oldest in the world – il has only recently emerged as a major golf destination, thanks to the creation of a dozen or so championship courses designed by the likes of Bombard Longer, Ernie Els, and Gary Player, and highlighted by stunning locations with mountain and ocean visas.
The Seychelles, the Maldives, and Mauritius were all apparently designed for scuba diving, as they all hove been blessed with spectacular coral reefs, a profusion of colorful underwater marine life, and a host of shipwrecks daring all the way back to the 1600s. All three islands have numerous PADI dive centers lo instruct beginners and outfit experienced divers.
Thanks to their many beach breaks, reef breaks, and fun rollers, Mauritius, the Seychelles, and the Maldives are all hot destinations for surfers, from beginners and intermediates, all the way up to pros and “kamikazes.” Indeed, the Maldives has hosted a number of international surfing competitions. There are surfing schools and instruction available on all the islands, including many based at top resorts.
Active water sports such as windsurfing, para-sailing, water-skiing, swimming, and fishing are extremely popular on all three islands, and arc made even better by the warm Indian Ocean waters. You can also go island-hopping onboard a yacht, power boat, catamaran, or sailboat, many of which are available for day charters including crew.
Whale & Dolphin Watching
Frolicking, feeding, migrating, playing with their kids – whales are fascinating to witness in their natural habitat, and the Maldives is home to approximately 20 species of whales and dolphins, including blue whales, pilot whales, bottlenose dolphins. Many of the resorts offer morning or afternoon whale watching safaris.
You can buy pretty much the same items in Mauritius, the Maldives, and the Seychelles that are available elsewhere, except that they’ll be more expensive, as virtually everything must be imported to the islands in the first place. For locally made items, however, head to the bazaars and street markets! In the Maldives, prime shopping is at the Local Market (fresh produce), Chaandhanee Magu (souvenirs and land-woven mats), and the Majeedhee Magu (garments), le Caudan Waterfront Craft Market in Port Louis, Mauritius, offers embroidered linen, spices, basketwork, and other creative regional handicrafts. And local textiles, fiberware, pottery, artwork, and other goods can be found in Victoris, Seychelles.
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