INDIAN OCEAN IDYLLS
From the Maldives to Mauritius, these islands offer idyllic escapes for all tastes, says Harriet O’Brien
Indulge in the best islands for couples, families, value – and sheer luxury
The Indian Ocean: nowhere else on Earth will you find a perfect winter climate combined with such a winning variety of island destinations, resorts and idyllic palm-shaded beaches. If you are looking for an exotic holiday, you just have to choose between the atolls of the Maldives, the rich culture of Sri Lanka and the exotic landscapes of Mauritius, and you will find a holiday to suit. To help, here is our selection of 20 of the best holidays on offer this winter – whether you are looking for a bargain, luxury, or an active break, travelling as a family or a couple.
GREAT VALUE 1 RIU CREOLE, MAURITIUS
Among the upscale all-inclusive hotels on Mauritius, Riu Creole (riu.com) stands out for its spa, its proximity to an 18-hole golf course and its beachside setting at the foot of Le Morne Brabant.
TUI (0871 230 2555; tui.co.uk), from £1,368 for a January departure.
2 BANDOS ISLAND RESORT AND SPA, MALDIVES
There’s a good feeling of space at Bandos (bandos maldives.com), which is on one of the Maldives’ larger islands, about a 10-minute boat ride from Male. This lively resort is acclaimed for its three restaurants and its coral reef and dive centre.
British Airways Holidays (0344 493 0778; ba.com/ maldives), £1,259 including breakfast, book by Nov 15. BA (ba.com) flies direct to the Maldives from Gatwick three times a week between Nov and March.
3AVANI KALUTARA RESORT, SRI LANKA
Built in elegant colonial style, handsome Avani Kalutara (minorhotels. com) is set by a lagoon on Sri Lanka’s west coast. From yoga sessions to spa access and water sports (available at sister property Anantara Kalutara; telegraph.co.uk/ tt-anantarakalutara), there’s plenty to keep you occupied, although should you fancy exploring – the historic sights of Galle are about an hour-and-half ’s drive south. Trailfinders (020 7369 1200; trailfinders. com), £899 half board.
4HERITANCE KANDALAMA, SRI LANKA
Kandalama (heritancehotels.com) is a complete treat. It was devised as an eco-hotel in the Nineties by the architect Geoffrey Bawa, who wanted it to become part of its jungly hill landscape. It has open corridors that let in wildlife, from birds to monkeys. The 152 stylish bedrooms look out to the Dambulla temples and Sigiriya Rock fortress. It is a beautiful base for exploring the island’s cultural riches. Travel Republic (020 8974 7200; travel republic.co.uk), £902 including breakfast.
SHEER LUXURY 5MILAIDHOO, MALDIVES
Spectacularly luxurious Milaidhoo (milaidhoo.com) is in the vibrantly coral-rich Baa Atoll – so special it is Unesco protected. Beautifully devised with handcrafted fittings such as doors that fold away so that you walk into your idyllic view, Milaidhoo has a state-of-the-art spa, three restaurants and 50 very private villas, each with a fabulous infinity pool. Red Savannah (01242 787 800; redsavannah.com), £5,125 half board.
6 NIYAMA, MALDIVES
Butler service, open-air bathrooms and almost every hi-tech accoutrement imaginable come as standard in the 134 villas at Niyama (niyama.com) in Dhaalu Atoll (the resort has its own private lounge for seaplane transfers from Male airport). Luxury is innovative and fun here. You can dine underwater in Subsix restaurant/nightclub or in the treetops at Nest bistro. Exsus Travel (020 7563 1303; exsus. com), from £2,970 with breakfast (price includes a 40 per cent discount).
7CAPE WELIGAMA, SRI LANKA
Cape Weligama (telegraph.co.uk/ tt-capeweligama) has been a game-changer in the Sri Lankan hotel world, its superb service and attention to detail setting it several rungs above most other top accommodation on the island. Literally so: styled as a Sinhalese village, it stands high on a cliff top on the south coast – the views are jaw-dropping, particularly from the infinity pool. Great food, a serene spa and 39 elegant suites and villas complete the sybaritic scene here.
Cox & Kings (020 3642 0861; coxandkings.co.uk), £2,575 including breakfast.
8 ONE& ONLY LE SAINT GERAN, MAURITIUS
One&Only Le Saint Geran (telegraph.co.uk/ttlesaintgeran) is set to raise the bar of luxury on Mauritius when it relaunches in December after a 10-month refurbishment. There’s a stunning new pool (one of three), a new activity hub, Club One, and a splendidly devised water sports pavilion, and all the rooms have been redesigned. The resort is stunningly set on a peninsula on the north-east coast.
Bailey Robinson (01488 689700; baileyrobinson.com), £3,325 including half board for a trip in early Jan.
COUPLES 9 KOMANDOO ISLAND RESORT & SPA, MALDIVES
This adults-only resort, about 40 minutes by seaplane from Male, attracts many return visitors with good reason. Discreet, intimate and low-key, Komandoo (komandoo.com) has 65 villas, a vibrant coral reef and two restaurants – buffet-style Falhu and Aqua, which rests on stilts over the Komandoo lagoon.
Kuoni (01306 747008; kuoni.co.uk), £2,698, full board, book by Nov 30.
10GILI LANKANFUSHI, MALDIVES
One of the Maldives’ most exceptional barefoot-luxury havens, Gili Lankanfushi (gili-lankanfushi.com) offers fabulous dining, a serene spa, a jungle cinema, water sports and more. Yet you might not want to set foot beyond your accommodation; the 45 rustic-chic overwater villas are secluded, large and lovely. Elegant Resorts (01244 897516; elegant resorts.co.uk), £4,495 including breakfast.
11 BEACHCOMBER DINAROBIN, MAURITIUS
From an 18-hole golf course and a large spa to a choice of five swimming pools and four restaurants, Beachcomber Dinarobin (telegraph.co.uk/ ttbeachcomberdinarobin) presents an ideal combination of activity and pampering. Fringed by a long white beach on the south-west coast, this is a generously large resort with plenty of peaceful spaces.
Beachcomber Tours (01483 445685; beachcombertours. co.uk), £2,510 half board in a junior suite, for a Dec 11 departure.
12 SUGAR BEACH RESORT AND SPA, MAURITIUS
At this plantation-style resort right on the sandy bay at Flic-en-Flac, there’s plenty of scope for couples to find romantic seclusion. Facilities at Sugar Beach Resort (sugarbeach.com) include a spa complete with hammam, six tennis courts and three restaurants.
Destinology (01204 821396; destinology. co.uk), £1,629 half board, for travel until Dec 21.
13UGA ESCAPES, SRI LANKA
Suffused with intimate charm, the five properties of the Uga Escapes boutique hotel group are beautifully located and devised to give an innate sense of adventure and elegant Sri Lankan character.
Sri Lanka in Style (00 94 11 239 6666; srilankainstyle.com), offers a two-centre break at Uga Escapes’ Chena Huts (telegraph.co.uk /tt-chenahuts) by the sea at Yala, and Ulagalla south of Anuradhapura; this costs £2,337, including breakfast at Ulagalla and all-inclusive board at Chena Huts.
FAMILIES 14OBLU BY ATMOSPHERE AT HELENGELI, MALDIVES
There’s a lively vibe at this stylish resort about a 50-minute speedboat ride from the airport near Male. Oblu by Atmosphere (oblu-helengeli.com) offers a host of activities, from stand-up paddle boarding to kayaking, but it’s the house reef that makes a stay here truly special; the coral is some of the best in the Maldives.
Hayes & Jarvis (01293 762456; hayes andjarvis.co.uk), from £8,599 all-inclusive.
15 THE FORTRESS, SRI LANKA
Set on golden sands on the south coast, this renowned hotel (telegraph.co.uk/ tt-thefortress) offers an upbeat combination of style, good value and safari possibilities. It is in a great location for whale watching and can also arrange day trips to Udawalawe National Park, home to herds of wild elephant. There’s plenty of choice for eating out, with three restaurants and many more options in nearby Galle.
Western & Oriental (020 3588 6130; westernoriental.com) for a February half-term break, £7,895 including B&B accommodation in two beach rooms (each with an open-air bathroom).
16 WILDLIFE AND BEACH IN STYLE, SRI LANKA
Take in Wilpattu National Park, home to leopards, wild elephants, sloth bears and more, then go dolphin watching – and enjoy a beachside break.
For a February half-term break, Experience Travel (020 3504 9937; experiencetravelgroup.com), offers a stylish two-centre trip in the beautiful, less-visited north west, with accommodation at the charming Notary’s House (notaryshouse srilanka.com), chic and historic Bethany 101 (bethany101.com), and tented Dolphin Beach resort (telegraph.co.uk/ttdolphinbeachresort), £7,157 including breakfast and three days half board.
17 CONSTANCE BELLE MARE PLAGE, MAURITIUS
You’re in an engagingly familyfriendly world at this luxury resort on the north-east coast. Constance Belle Mare Plage (telegraph.co.uk/ ttconstancebellemareplage) recently introduced a range of new activities for children in addition to its well-established kids’ club for under 11s, its four swimming pools, snorkelling and more.
Carrier (0161 492 1358; carrier.co.uk) for a Dec trip over the Christmas period £10,110 half-board for a family of four sharing a junior suite.
CULTURE AND ACTIVITIES 18 GRAND TOUR OF SRI LANKA
Visit Sri Lanka’s fifth-century capital, Anuradhapura, clamber up to the amazing fortress of Sigiriya, meet elephants at Pinnawala, walk in tea plantations and go leopard spotting in Yala National Park.
From mid-Jan to the end of June Best at Travel (020 3553 9844; bestattravel. co.uk) offers private, action-packed, seven-day trips taking in the highlights of Sri Lanka, from £1,149 including flights, transport, accommodation with breakfast, guidance, most entry fees and a wildlife safari.
19WILD COAST TENTED LODGE, SRI LANKA
The latest venture from the much-admired Resplendent Ceylon hotel company, Wild Coast Tented Lodge (resplendentceylon.com) opened recently. It is a wonderfully chic outfit combining the best of African-style luxury safari accommodation with Sri Lankan wildlife viewing. Set on the edge of Yala National Park, it offers 28 tented suites, each with private deck and retro copper bath tub – some suites have plunge pools.
Original Travel (020 3582 4990; originaltravel.co.uk), £2,350, including breakfast, domestic transfers by air, a game drive, a cookery class, sundowners by the beach and a private dinner. Snorkel on the west coast, explore bird-rich Black River Gorges National Park and enjoy a catamaran adventure.
Fleewinter (020 7112 0019, fleewinter. com) offers a week’s private activity package with accommodation at small and peaceful Sand Suites Resort & Spa (telegraph.co.uk/ttsandsuites) on a long white-sand beach near Flic-en-Flac, from £1,312 half board, guided south-coast drive, a day’s sailing and more.
Unless otherwise stated, prices are per person for seven nights in early December or January (low season), based on two sharing and including flights and transfers. With family holidays, prices are for seven nights for a family of four sharing, including flights and transfers over February half term, except for the package to Mauritius, which is for travel in December. 20CORAL AND OUTDOOR ADVENTURE, MAURITIUS
RETREAT FROM THE WORLD Bandos Island, above; the rock fortress of Sigiriya in Sri Lanka, below
WATER WAYS Milaidhoo, top; Komandoo's water villas, right; picking tea in Sri Lanka, below