Indian Ocean Destinations
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Indian Ocean Holidays
Far away on the other side of the world there lies an azure ocean whose sparkling waves lap some of the most idyllic islands in the world. The Indian Ocean is the world's warmest, with sunshine almost all the year round, ensuring that the enchanting groups of islands dotted across its shimmering expanse fulfil everyone's idea of a tropical island paradise -- luxuriant jungles, untouched golden beaches with powder-soft sand, crystalline blue lagoons, teeming coral reefs. Scattered like glowing emeralds across this alluring ocean, every one of these groups of islands boasts its own inimitable and distinctive appeal, inviting to its shores honeymooners, romantic couples and families -- anyone looking for the ultimate exotic escape.
Heady Cultural Mix
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceans, stretching from Africa in the west to Asia and Australia in the east, and was the first to be fully navigated, originally by explorers seeking spice routes to India, and then by French, British and Portuguese adventurers colonising the islands. These influences are very evident to this day, while the ocean's position, bounded by such diverse countries and continents, ensures the islands enjoy a cultural mix that is as heady and intoxicating as the spices and the scenery.
For holidaymakers used to the Caribbean, it might be difficult at first to comprehend the diversity of the Indian Ocean destinations, and the vastness of their spread. Not only are the groups of islands separated by enormous distances, but the variety in their geography and landscapes is mind-blowing. From the low-lying coral atolls of the Maldives to the mountainous rainforests of Mauritius, from the granite rocks of the Seychelles to the ancient landmarks of Sri Lanka or the volcanic craters of Réunion, the Indian Ocean offers more than a lifetime of discovery.
Mauritius - Paradise Island
What's more, this incredible diversity extends not just to the landscapes, but to the lifestyles, customs and cuisines, and is particularly exemplified in the paradise island of Mauritius, situated just inside the Tropic of Capricorn. On this most beautiful of islands, referred to by Mark Twain as the original of which heaven is but a copy, you can enjoy an exhilarating blend of cultures from South-east Asia, Africa, Europe and the Indian sub-continent, arising from its cultural heritage and its central location in the ocean. This fusion is also reflected in the extraordinary variety of local cuisines, and in the range of architectural styles.
Further north, and closer to the east coast of Africa, the Seychelles form a breathtaking archipelago of 115 coral atolls and granite outcrops, some of which are 200 million years old, creating dramatic landscapes of towering palms and untouched rock-fringed beaches. Every island is different, each providing its own unique experience of jungle and wildlife exploration and some of the world's most perfect beaches. The special thing about the Seychelles is that the majority of the islands are uninhabited and completely unspoiled, so this is a perfect destination for island-hopping, enabling visitors to experience total tranquillity and solitude in incomparably beautiful surroundings.
Lying about halfway between the Seychelles and Sri Lanka are the exquisite Maldives, labelled the quintessential dream holiday destination, and made up of 26 atolls, each consisting of a group of islands. Almost every island is surrounded by its own sparkling blue lagoon, bounded by a coral reef teeming with marine life, making the Maldives the most sought-after destination in the world for diving and snorkelling. With most of the resorts occupying a whole island to themselves, and only about 200 of the 2,000 islands inhabited, it's no wonder that the Maldives is the number one choice for a honeymoon or romantic holiday.
East of the Maldives is the breathtakingly lovely Teardrop Island, Sri Lanka, with its glorious palm-fringed coastline, its colourful interior full of natural wonders, and its extraordinarily rich historical heritage. With no fewer than 8 UNESCO World Heritage sites, and 9 national parks full of incredibly diverse wildlife including elephant, leopard and giraffe, a stay in Sri Lanka offers a rich tapestry of experience like no other. Having recently recovered from its devastating civil war, the country is exceptionally eager to welcome visitors, so it has a seriously thriving tourist industry.
These are just a few of the dream destinations encompassed by the magical Indian Ocean, but there are more being discovered all the time -- dramatic Réunion, the island of adventure; sensational Madagascar, with its unique and stunning ecosystems; Zanzibar with its fascinating cultures. No other location on the planet has the power to conjure up such enchantment, but descriptions of these incomparable lands fall far short of the reality of what is there to be discovered. There is no substitute for experiencing the sights, sounds, smells and sensations for yourself, and when you do, you too will be lost for words.