Boost your family holiday bucket list with 10 Indian Ocean wonders that everyone should see at least once. You might not be able to experience them right now, but nobody can stop you dreaming (or having a look on Google Earth).
Amazing Mauritius is like all the Indian Ocean’s magnificent landscapes in one perfect, little island. It’s also the Southern Hemisphere, so no surprise that one of the most dramatic of all Mauritian features owes everything to a volcano. Seven Coloured Earths is like a vast, petrified sea of rainbow coloured rock, swirled together in every shade from indigo to terracotta. Visit at sunrise to discover ‘seven colours’ is a very tame description.
Beaches are a matter of taste, but when one gets voted ‘world’s most beautiful’ as often as Anse Lazio, it’s difficult not to believe the hype. A mesmerising mix of bone-white sand and clear seas, the beach sits in a sheltered bay on the southern end of Praslin Island – the second largest in the Seychelles archipelago. If that doesn’t completely fulfil your escapist fantasy, Anse Lazio is also lovingly cradled in the shelter of enormous prehistoric rocks and rich, exotic forest.
Around 90 million years ago, Madagascar floated off the end of India and set up on its own to become the world’s fourth largest island and a uniquely bio-diverse environment. This is the land of the ring-tailed lemur, immense forests, rare wildlife and incredible fragile beauty. One of the most astonishing Madagascan sights is the 250m long avenue of monumental trees known as Baobab Alley. Locals call the baobab ‘mother of the forest’ and have protected these 800 year old specimens for centuries. Today, as more and more of Madagascar is designated ‘Strict Nature Reserve’, this incredible landmark has become a powerful symbol for conservationists and eco-conscious visitors.
A perfect Indian Ocean paradise tucked away in Ko Phi Phi National Park, you can only reach Pileh by boat. It’s one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world and the journey there's an adventure in itself. Ko Phi Phi Leh is part of the Phi Phi Archipelago in the south west of Thailand. It’s a protected environment, an unforgettable family holiday and a constant reminder that this is still one of the most spectacular countries on earth.
Calling Le Morne Brabant a ‘basalt monolith’ really doesn’t do justice to its stately grandeur. It is stunning, no doubt about it. And it stands sentinel overlooking the island’s legendary One Eye surf spot on the Morne Lagoon, so the location is flawless too. But take a closer look and beauty gives way to fascination. Back in the 19th century, the caves, concealed in the rock’s dense vegetation, were used as a hiding place by the island’s runaway slaves. Slavery was abolished in Mauritius in February 1835. But when a group of police officers sailed to Le Morne to announce the news, the escapees assumed they were being recaptured and leaped off the rock to their death. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Le Morne Brabant is also the heart of the island’s rich and fascinating Creole culture.
Kuta on the west coast of Bali is one of the Indian Ocean’s best-known resorts. Mile upon mile of broad, beautiful sands trim the city, the surfing’s fantastic and everything from waterparks to road trips into the gorgeous island interior make for kid-heaven. But just a few kilometres to the south of Kuta is another Bali altogether, Padang-Padang Beach. This neat, flawless cove had a brush with fame in the movie ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, but is still surprisingly peaceful. And you have to squeeze down a minute staircase hewn out of rock to reach the sand, which is just another one of its many enchantments.
La Réunion sits between Madagascar and Mauritius in a world of its own. Known for its incredible volcanic landscape and stunning amphitheatre-like cirques, it’s also one of the world’s 35 bio-diversity hotspots and a playground for kids – mainland French schools are lucky enough to have exchange holidays here. There are several lovely lagoons on the island but Saint-Leu is idyllic and not for looks alone. The waters are safe and shallow, so it’s one of the Indian Ocean’s most rewarding places for first forays into snorkelling and the island's marine life is awesome so little underwater explorers will be thrilled.
Known locally as the Seven Cascades this remarkable natural wonder is made up of several simultaneous waterfalls gushing from a height of 293m through the lush, green landscape of south west Mauritius. It’s the highest waterfall on the island and, apart from the roar of the torrents, a place of perfect peace and serenity. It’s also another excuse to hike in the Mauritian hills and visit the pretty heritage village of Henrietta.
The hint is in the name: this is the most porpoise-plentiful stretch on the sunny South African east coast. It’s also a magnet for surfers, fantastic for first-time snorkelers and beginner divers and packed with so many cute seaside towns and villages it’s hard to believe big, beautiful Durban is just half-an-hour’s drive away. Surrounded by endless sugarcane fields and loved for its relaxed, beachy lifestyle, Dolphin Coast is part of the Indian Ocean’s mainland that competes effortlessly with the tropical islands.
Not only are these atolls the most celebrated in the world, the term ‘atoll’ itself derives from the Maldivian word ‘Atholhu’. This string of 1200 tiny coral islands lies hundreds of kilometres from land, so the waters are amazingly clear and theatrically full of strange and wonderful marine life. There are 26 atolls altogether and one of the most captivating experiences in The Maldives is staying on one island and sailing around to explore the others.
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