Bitesized guide: Indian Ocean islands

Published on: Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Bitesized guide: Indian Ocean islands - Colombo Seafront, Srilanka


If Disney created a magical marine setting encapsulating island paradise in its most picture-perfect form, the result would surely echo the dipping palms and crystal waters of the Indian Ocean's islands.

Nestled in the waters of the world’s warmest ocean, find idyllic isles – from the shores of the Seychelles to the festivities of Sri Lanka – where coral reefs thrive, sand shimmers into the horizon, and exotic flowers release their scent into the tropical breeze.

Best for honeymoons: Maldives

A romantic cocktail of breathtaking beaches, turquoise seas and dazzling sunshine greets visitors to the Maldives all year round. Kick back on white sands being lapped by twinkling waters or go in search of the wonderful wildlife inhabiting the islands’ deep lagoons and intricate reefs. This luxurious living does come with a rather hefty price tag, but for paradise on earth to mark that special holiday, the Maldives are the complete package.

Best for active breaks: Mauritius

While the beaches of this Indian Ocean island are characteristically stunning, a varied landscape, colourful culture and fascinating historical and religious sites make Mauritius so much more than a sand‘n’surf destination. Following the pilgrimage route to sacred Hindu site Grand Bassin is a popular activity, and the mountainous landscape means trekking and mountain climbing are a must, whether hiking the Black River Gorges National Park or exploring the untamed south coast. 

Best for escaping it all: Comoros Islands

Forget plush resorts and manicured grounds, the Comoros Islands, found off the eastern coast of Africa, are a tranquil and innocent retreat for those looking to escape the bustle. Services can be frustratingly slow – these three islands are much less developed than many of their Indian Ocean neighbours – but this adds to the sense of remoteness and encourages you to slip into the relaxed Comoros pace of life. From the world’s largest active volcano to charming beaches, the Comoros Islands are an enchanting backdrop for a secluded break.

Best for watery fun: Seychelles

The clear and calm waters of the Seychelles are the beloved playground of water-babies of all ages. For waterskiing, windsurfing and sailing, Desroches is the island of choice, whereas leisurely bathing and the feeling of powdery white sand between the toes can be enjoyed at Mahé. The waters surrounding the Seychelles are home to over 101 species of coral and 920 species of fish, and they come further alive in November when the world’s underwater experts meet for the SUBIOS underwater festival.

Best for wildlife: Madagascar

Exploring Madagascar‘s national parks and nature reserves is never dull. The island’s collage of emerald rainforests, vast mangrove swamps, glistening lakes, and savannah-like plains are teeming with a vast array of creatures – from endangered birdlife fluttering between the canopies, to perky lemurs and lounging sloths. The beaches skirting this large island offer spectacular snorkelling and diving, meaning the wildlife beneath the waves can be appreciated as much as their land-dwelling counterparts.

Best for festivals: Sri Lanka

Strong musical traditions and a multicultural society mean Sri Lanka boasts a bright and burgeoning festival tradition, offering a rainbow of events to tap your feet and click your camera to. The island’s Buddhist community celebrates every full moon, and Hindu festivals, such as Deepavali, and several Muslim festivals take place throughout the year; the Sinhala and Tamil New Year signal carnival-style festivities and Christmas is celebrated throughout the island. Visitors are strongly advised to check the current Foreign Office travel advice before travelling to Sri Lanka.