IN­DIAN OCEAN IDYLLS

From the Mal­dives to Mau­ri­tius, these is­lands of­fer idyl­lic es­capes for all tastes, says Har­riet O’Brien

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

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

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