Why now is the best time to plan next years Indian Ocean luxury escape
If youre feeling ready to escape your own four walls and the grey skies hanging over your garden, this could be a good time to start planning your next holiday. After all the current situation isnt going to last forever and when the restrictions are lifted, holidays are going to fly off the shelves like pasta and toilet roll! Youll want to make sure youre first in the queue!
Today were going to look at the perfect antidote to self isolation a tour around Mauritius, Zanzibar and the paradise islands of the Indian Ocean. You can picture it now; a warm breeze on your face, fresh air and blue skies, not to mention some of the worlds most pristine white sand beaches. This is a tour by our travel partner Saga; a household-name in luxurious but affordable package holidays for the over 50s.
This tour starts in Port Louis on the volcanic island of Mauritius. Its a fascinating city, given that its influenced by so many cultures; Indian, European, African, Chinese and Middle Eastern, a fact that is reflected in its cuisine. Creole curries, pancakes with peas, curry known as dholl puri, rougaille, a tomato stew and cassava chips are all likely to be on the menu and they can be washed down with the almond flavour milk drink alouda, or rum.
Port Louise is a hugely important financial centre in Africa, but also extremely picturesque. The Moka mountain range serves as a backdrop and the waters around the shore are filled with the most incredible coral reefs. Its a great place to dive or snorkel.
Youll have an overnight stay at the beginning and end of your trip here, leisure time to explore, as well as pre-arranged tours around the exotic flora and fauna of the Pamplemousse Botanical Gardens and the Aapravasi Ghat world heritage site, which will transport you back in time, not quite to the point when dodos roamed the island, but a little later.
Your next destination will be Praslin; the second largest island in the Seychelles archipelago, a celebrity jet set favourite, and an influence on Ian Flemings James Bond novels. He visited in 1958 and named the character Milton Krest after one of the local drinks. This former land of pirates has enjoyed some serious gentrification!
If you have the chance to explore the local wildlife, youll find giant tortoises and a wealth of bird life. The Fond Ferdinand Nature Reserve and Mai Valley National Parks are particularly stunning. And of course, youll certainly have time sample a few local dishes. Fish, bananas, coconuts and breadfruit are staples of the island and you can enjoy them prepared in a variety of ways. There are 23 different types of bananas here, as well as the infamously enormous Coco de Mer coconut, so it makes sense these are both popular flavourings.
The next stop is to Mah island and the town of Victoria. Its the only town in the Seychelles and the smallest capital. Its here youll find the Seychelles National Botanical Gardens, a cathedral, a Hindu temple, a clocktower modelled on Big Ben and two colourful, exciting and aromatic markets, where you can buy all manner of gifts and souvenirs.
If you have the time to take a walk into the countryside, the Copolia Trail and Trois Freres Trails are both popular with visitors. Why not take a Satini with you for your lunch? This is a special Seychelle-style salad, in which all the salad items are very finely grated. It might contain smoked fish, lentils, or both.
This exotic land of spice is spread over several islands and is home to a number of different species of monkey. You might hear them as you sun yourself on one of Zanzibars spectacular beaches; Nakupenda, Jambiani or Kendra perhaps. Theres also the Jozani Forest to explore and when youre ready to discover what lies both in and around the shoreline youll find the Chumbe Island Coral Park under the waves and Kiwengwa Caves.
Top attractions here include several spice farms, a mosque, a cathedral, a turtle conservation pond, a butterfly centre and a bazaar. Our top snack recommendations include Mchuzi wa pweza (octopus curry), date nut bread, coconut bean soup and fried plantation.
If you thought Zanzibar smelt good, wait til you get to the Comoros Islands! Theyre known as the perfume islands because they smell of the cloves, vanilla and ylang ylang that grows here. With the active volcano, Mount Kathala, Nzwani Waterfalls and countless incredible beaches, the Comoros Islands offer much in the way of impressive natural features on the land, but its perhaps the waters that surround the island that are its greatest attraction. The diving school here will take you to explore the coral reef and wider Moheli Marine Park.
However, if you dont feel like swimming several metres under the sea, you can also enjoy the sights from the surface with a snorkel. Some of the most notable reefs include Banc Vailheu, a submerged volcano, and Banc du Leven, a submerged island. Once you come up for air, youll most likely feel hungry and when that happens theres a lot of delicious local food to try. Lobster in a vanilla sauce is a favourite dish of these islands, as is pigeon pea curry, and fish with green plantains. Enjoy exotic surroundings and a menu to match.
Port Reunion on Reunion Island is the final destination before you head back to Mauritius. This island of rugged mountains was colonised by the French in the 17th century, so the official language here is French, although Creole and Tamil are also widely spoken. There are volcanic craters, lush forests and high summits to marvel at, as well as plenty of beautiful beaches on which you can sun yourself.
When it comes to what youll be eating in this part of the world, youll find the cuisine has been influenced by global recipes. Chicken in chilli sauce, curries, salads, dumplings and star fruits are ubiquitous on the menus, but with their very own Indian Ocean influences. Your trip will end back in Mauritius, before you fly back to London.
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This situation wont last forever and when it ends, wouldnt you like to be first in line for a holiday? Here at Aspen Travel, we are still taking enquiries about our packages. We partner with a number of big name, award-winning tour operators, so youll be in safe hands. For more information about any of our luxury all-inclusive escorted tours, cruises and ski holidays, please get in touch. We can help you find the perfect bucket-list trip. Please get in touch.