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What’s New in Indian Ocean Destinations, From Hotels to Activities

A lot has been happening in the Indian Ocean in recent years, with new hotels, wildlife breaks, private island escapes and tours offering the inside scoop on local culture. From Tanzania to Sri Lanka, via the Seychelles, the Maldives and Mauritius, here’s what you need to know.

1. Kick back with your kids

While Mauritius and the Maldives are already popular picks for those with children, families looking for fresh adventure should add Tanzania’s Zanzibar archipelago to their list. The Emerald Zanzibar Resort & Spa, which opened on the main island, Unguja, in December 2022, features two-bedroom family suites and a kids’ club, plus a water sports centre, tennis courts and football fields. It also has direct access to a non-tidal beach that’s surrounded by a marine conservation area, meaning snorkelling and diving are firmly on the agenda, too. 

More info: Family junior suites from US$561 (£447), all-inclusive. 

2. Hike around a volcano

How often does a country have a new landmark to discover? In Réunion, Mauritius’s westerly neighbour, the answer is: potentially every year. This volcanic island is home to the active Piton de la Fournaise (‘Peak of the Furnace’), which belches and spurts into action every nine months on average. The last eruption, in September 2022, gave rise to an entirely new volcanic cone, Piton Tikal. Find it in Réunion National Park, where trails take adventurous hikers on a circumnavigation around craters and past eerie lava tunnels in a landscape that’s constantly shifting.

3. Stay on a private island

The Seychelles has had a crop of hotel openings recently, from stylish Mango House Seychelles to just-launched Laïla, both in the sleepy southern end of Mahé, the main island. For an experience entirely apart, the Waldorf Astoria Seychelles is one to watch: later this year, it will become the first hotel to open on Platte Island, a private spot 80 miles south of Mahé. The luxury brand’s first Seychellois outpost will immerse guests in the wilderness and offer the chance to glimpse eagle rays, whale sharks and hawksbill turtles. 

More info: Prices not yet set.

The Waldorf Astoria’s one of a kind hotel is due to open in February 2024. 

4. Go beyond the beach

Hotels in the Maldives are increasingly offering plenty beyond the beach. A case in point is Kuda Villingili, which puts surfing front and centre — it’s just partnered with UK-based charity The Wave Project to set up a new surf therapy programme for families. At Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi guests can now assist marine biologists in regenerating coral reefs, and the resort is also turning plastic waste into souvenirs and products for schools. Meanwhile the Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands has launched a drone conservation programme that allows guests to help monitor marine wildlife. 

More info: Kuda Villingili from £1,500, B&B; Fairmont Maldives from US$854 (£673), B&B; Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands from US$1,800 (£1,440), B&B. 

5. Spot marine life in Comoros

Strung between Mozambique and Madagascar, Comoros is visited by relatively few tourists. Limited infrastructure means not many tour operators tackle this archipelago, but a new Intrepid Travel expedition launching this summer promises to give it its time in the spotlight. This includes the exciting opportunity to see humpback whales and dugongs at the UNESCO-backed Mwali Biosphere Reserve. There’s also the chance to visit one of the world’s largest green turtle nesting sites, near the village of Itsamia.

More info: Intrepid Travel’s Comoros: Wildlife Expedition tour from £2,240 per person.

Green turtles, now classifies as endangered, are the only herbivores of their species. 

6. Cycle above the treetops

The volcanic hills of Mauritius have long been a draw for those seeking active experiences, and this year’s launch of a bicycle zip-line in La Vallée des Couleurs Nature Park adds to the thrills. The aerial adventure sees participants pedalling along a 60ft-high tightrope while secured to safety cables, spinning over verdant scenery and taking in the views of the rivers and waterfalls below. You can also test your nerves crossing the narrow, 1,150ft-long suspension bridge, the Nepalese Bridge.

More info: Bicycle zip-line from 1,200 MUR (£21) per person; Nepalese Bridge from 1,100 MUR (£19) per person. 

7. Explore two islets in one

The one-resort-per-island set-up has been tried and tested, but Jawakara Islands Maldives is set to give travellers more space to play when it opens in August. The resort is spread across two sand blots, Mabin and Dheru, connected by an oversea walkway across the reef: hop from one to the next for a golf course, two spas and five restaurants. 

More info: Mabin island from 11,450 MVR (£605), B&B; Dheru island from 20,920 MVR (£1,105), all-inclusive. 

Jawarka Islands offers a range of activities including golf, diving and water sports. 

8. Learn local crafts

As Sri Lanka marks 75 years of independence, tour operators are putting the spotlight on local culture. On Wild Frontiers’ new trip, travellers can visit an ayurvedic doctor and meditate with a hermit monk, plus spend two nights with a local family. Intrepid Travel also launches a new tour in September: highlights include watching locals demonstrate the ancient craft of palm-leaf writing and trying your hand at traditional pottery techniques. 

More info: Wild Frontiers’ Adventures with Purpose: Sri Lanka tour from £5,195 per person; Intrepid Travel’s Premium Sri Lanka tour from £1,753 per person. 

9. Marvel at ancient baobabs

Baobab trees, recognisable by their vast, bulbous trunks and twisted branches that resemble roots, are an icon of Madagascar’s landscapes. The Avenue of the Baobabs forest, near the city of Morondava, is a popular spot in which to see these ancient giants, but private island resort Miavana by Time + Tide now offers guests a more intimate alternative. After one of its pilots spotted a baobab patch while helicoptering over a nearby island, the resort launched a tour to enable guests to view the site and even picnic under the canopy. 

More info: Baobab helicopter excursions from £2,010 per flying hour for up to four people. 

Madagascar has the largest population of Baobab trees in the world.

10. Join a night-time safari

After the sun has slipped below the horizon, Robert Matombe’s work begins. As the turtle manager and wildlife whisperer at Constance Lemuria, a Green Globe-certified resort on the Seychelles’ Praslin Island, he keeps tabs on what’s roaming in the darkness, from fruit bats nibbling on mangoes to hedgehog-like tenrecs shuffling through fallen leaves. A new night-time walking safari lets guests join his search for nocturnal critters, with the occasional opportunity to spot turtles nesting or hatching on secluded Grand Anse Kerlan beach.

More info: Safari free to Constance Lemuria guests. Doubles from £499, B&B.

Source : National Geoghrapic