Ideas for group holidays in the Indian Ocean
Date Posted: 17/06/2015
Pictured: The Valle de Ferney in Mauritius.
If your idea of a holiday to the Indian Ocean is white sand beaches and tranquil lagoons you won’t be disappointed. But Polly Hayes reveals there’s a lot more to discover in this exotic region.
Combine a beach and hiking holiday in Mauritius
If your group is looking for adventure but wants some much needed rest and relaxation too, then Mauritius could be your ideal destination. Famous for its long stretches of white sand and warm oceans, the island is also blessed with a beautiful mountainous interior largely divided into accessible national parks.
Highlights include Casela Park where groups can try their hand at everything from ziplining over jungle canopies and canyon swinging to quad biking safaris and sightseeing in Black River Gorges National Park with its 50 kilometres of nature trails littered with natural swimming pools.
A little less off the beaten track, 20 minutes from Port Louis, you’ll find Pamplemousses Botanical Gardens, which are the largest in the southern hemisphere and home to giant water lilies and 85 different types of palm tree.
For the days when you’d prefer to do nothing but lie in the sun and swim in the ocean check out Mauritius’ legendary beaches including Grand Baie with its restaurants and watersports and the tranquil beauty of La Cuvette.
Gourmet Indian Ocean Holidays
Foodies will love the exotic cuisine of the Indian Ocean infused with local herbs and warm spices and influenced by historic settlers from across Asia, Africa and Europe.
The development of high end tourism in the region means that many of the 5* hotels and resorts in countries like Mauritius, Seychelles and Maldives now offer elegant fine-dining options lovingly prepared by world-class chefs which wouldn’t look out of place in the restaurants of a European capital. These hotels also pride themselves on extensive wine cellars stocked with the very best wines from the New and Old World making them a culinary treat for gourmet travellers.
As part of your gastronomic exploration of the region make sure you make time to sample local cuisine from the delicious street foods sold at bustling local markets, like the one on Port Louis, to the small local eateries serving traditional island dishes – La Varangue Sur Morne near Chamarel has plenty of room for a big group.
If you really want to immerse your group in the local cuisine of the Indian Ocean some hotels, like the Constance Belle Mare Plage, offers cookery classes in their kitchens to guests interested in learning how to create local dishes using traditional cooking methods. Lessons are for small groups, so large parties will have to take part in stages.
Pictured: Seafood at the Blue Penny Cafe in Mauritius.
Get off the beaten track in Madagascar
Madagascar is like nowhere else on earth. Originally part of the same landmass as Africa and India, Madagascar was isolated more than 88 million years ago leaving its plants and animals (like the iconic lemur) to evolve independently. Today 90 per cent of Madagascar’s native plants and animal species exist nowhere else.
Alongside its stunning biodiversity is a landscape ripe for exploring that features three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the rainforests of the Atsinanana and the otherworldly Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve, as well as 23 further strict Nature Reserves and National Parks.
Tourism in Madagascar is not as developed as other parts of the Indian Ocean, so it’s a good idea to book a group tour package before you leave but this does mean there is still plenty of good value accommodation to be had here.
Scuba diving in the Maldives
Channels rich with marine life including manta rays and whale sharks and peaceful lagoons with stunning coral reefs make the Maldives one of the world’s top diving destinations.
A tropical nation of more than a thousand islands scattered across pristine Indian Ocean waters where the water temperature rarely falls below 26ºC, the Maldives has become such a mecca for scuba divers over the years that there is now a wide variety of safe, fully qualified dive centres for you to choose from.
One of the most economic ways to explore these teaming waters can be to book a liveaboard dive boat for your group. Sleeping up to 20 guests, these boats range in price and luxury, and offer the chance to explore remote dive sites not accessible from the hotels and resorts.
Pictured: A view of Victoria in the Seychelles.
Island hopping in Seychelles
The Seychelles is an archipelago of over 115 beautiful tropical islands all with their own unique character and features. With regular flights and ferry services between the larger islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, travelling from island to island in the Seychelles is relatively easy and affordable.
Touch down in Mahé, the nation’s main island, and take time to explore the tiny capital Victoria with its bustling daily market and its stunning beaches before taking a flight or ferry to the quieter Praslin, home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site the Vallée de Mai and countless secluded tranquil beaches.
From Praslin take the short boat ride to La Digue, a sleepy Seychellois island where the pace of life is as slow and gentle as the tide on its world-famous beach Source d’Argent.
While there are a number of luxurious, high end hotels and resorts scattered across the islands, like the elegant Constance Lémuria on Praslin don’t feel you have to splash out for your entire stay as there are more affordable options for group accommodation such as the guest houses and small hotels available on all three of the larger islands.