NEW HORIZONS
Business Traveller Middle East|March 2021
After the past 12 months we all need an idyllic escape. The islands of the Indian Ocean should be on your wish list
APRIL HUTCHINSON

The Indian Ocean trio of Seychelles, Mauritius and the Maldives may all share the vast expanse of azure water that laps at their shores, but that’s where the similarity ends, with each country having its own unique culture and natural appeal, plus a distinctive array of superb hotels.

The 115 islands of Seychelles are perhaps the most wildly paradisaical of them all, with endless chalk-white crescents and stretches of beach, hemmed by enormous granite boulders so big that they must surely have been dropped by giants. There’s a population of around just 100,000 people spread across these scattered islands, so you can expect plenty of peace and space.

Still, the adventure does await those who seek it, from hiking Morne Seychellois – the country’s highest mountain is a challenging mission that you should allow a good half-day for – to diving in hopes of seeing some of the 850 species of fish that can be found here. Seychelles also prides itself on its rich Creole culture, and there’s no better time to see this come alive than for Festival Kreol, which is usually held in October.

In the Maldives, it’s more of a numbers game – both in terms of the volume of people who flock to its Robinson Crusoe-style islands, and in the plethora of classy resorts from which they can choose. It’s also a game of innovation – top properties constantly try to outdo each other with engineering feats such as the Muraka, a two-level residence at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island with an underwater bedroom that means you can literally sleep with the fishes.

Mauritius, meanwhile, is one large island with a population of about 1.2 million and a history woven with tales of colonization and sugar plantations. It has a strong Indian and Chinese heritage, a wild and wonderful untamed interior, and a dramatic coastline. Resorts tend to be located on beaches that are a struggle to peel yourself away from, but to not explore what this island has to offer would be a waste of a 12-hour flight.

SEYCHELLES

Of the three countries, Seychelles is the one where tourism is most low-impact and its development carefully measured, with islands maintaining a land-that-time forgot look about them. Sustainability is a way of life here, with almost half of this Eden-like paradise set aside as national parks and reserves, and the government and population priding themselves on taking care of their islands – as a visitor, you can expect to come across plenty of wildlife-saving projects and conservation-first resorts.

Seychelles comprises two island groups – the inner group of more than 40 mountainous granitic islands, which form the cultural, economic, and tourism hub and include the three main islands of Mahé, Praslin, and La Digue; and the 70 or so outlying, largely uninhabited, flat coralline specks known as the Outer Islands.

One new option in that area is a small eco-camp on Wizard Island, set within the magnificent Cosmoledo Atoll, where Blue Safari Seychelles takes care of conservation and preservation. Cosmoledo has always been the domain of fly fishing, but Cosmoledo Eco Camp means adventurous, conservation-minded souls can now stay there in one of eight converted shipping containers, or “eco pods”.

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