As temperatures drop in Britain, escape the shorter days and cold weather by heading to the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean for a relaxing break.
Plans for winter sun in 2020/21 may have been scuppered by the ongoing pandemic, but with the vaccine rollout and easing of restrictions around the world, now’s your chance to explore recently reopened, new and renovated properties across the Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Zanzibar and Madagascar – from exclusive private islands to boutique boltholes and resorts specialising in watersports and other fun activities.
OBLU RESORTS, NORTH MALÉ
Best for: All-inclusive packages
Atmosphere Hotels and Resorts is set to debut two brand-new resorts in its Colours of Oblu brand in the North Malé Atoll next year. The adults-only Oblu Select Lobigili will open in February on Lobigili island – known as ‘Island of Love’ in the Maldivian language of Dhivehi. It will feature 68 chic beach and overwater villas, three restaurants (including one underwater), two bars, a spa, and an overwater gym. Guests can opt for the Lobi Plan which includes all meals, daily snacks, unlimited beverages, spa services, excursions, a selection of non-motorised watersports and a fully stocked minibar. A month later heralds the arrival of Oblu Xperience Ailafushi, a 268-villa, family-friendly resort with activities including a Kids Club, Zumba classes, and a 15-metre theatre and entertainment centre (to follow in June). Atmosphere Hotels and Resorts currently operates eight resorts within the Maldives.
VELAA PRIVATE ISLAND, NOONU ATOLL
Best for: Privacy and high-tech experiences
This ultra-luxe resort comprises 47 private villas, houses and residences, with a maximum occupancy of 134 people. The resort has recently invested in new facilities and experiences to coincide with the return of guests following the pandemic – these include a new padel tennis court and Krash Predator jet-ski, while wellness practitioners have joined the property to provide integrative body work, sound healing and mind training workshops. Existing highlights include an aquatic hoverboard which reaches speeds of 16 miles per hour, and an aquatic jetpack that uses water pressure to send riders 30 feet high. Meanwhile, dining venues range from the all-day Athiri restaurant and Avi poolside bar to fine dining options and Japanese teppanyaki accompanied by wines from the island’s cellar.
LUX GRAND BAIE RESORT AND RESIDENCES
Best for: Stylish interiors
This luxury hotel opens on December 1 on the north coast of the eponymous island, featuring 86 junior suites, seven two-bed villas and 20 residences with calming interiors by British designer Kelly Hoppen. Suites come with terrazzo bathrooms, rainfall walk-in showers and stand-alone bathtubs, while villas are set in landscaped gardens and feature private pools, expansive decks and a gazebo. If you’re going with a larger group, opt for one of the 180 sqm residences, with a pool, kitchenette, dining and living area. Dining concepts include a restaurant and beach club, tapas by the infinity pool at rooftop bar and restaurant Bisou, and Asian cuisine at Ai Kisu.
Guests can rejuvenate at the on-site spa which provides curative treatments, a Recharge and Rehydrate juice bar, and a rooftop wellness area. Lux has several other properties across the Indian Ocean, including Lux Belle Mare, Lux Le Morne and Lux Grand Gaube in Mauritius.
THE WESTIN TURTLE BAY RESORT AND SPA
Best for: Fitness enthusiasts
This luxury five-star resort reopened in October, situated in Balaclava on the north west coast of Mauritius. It occupies 800 metres of beachfront on Turtle Bay, while sugarcane fields lie to the rear of the property. The hotel houses 190 rooms and suites and five dining venues facing the turquoise lagoon, which include Indian cuisine at Kangan, lantern-lit barbecues under the stars at Beach Grill and produce from the island’s gardens at Fusion. Marriott International’s Westin brand is known for its focus on wellness and fitness, and this property does not disappoint. Guests can pack light and borrow New Balance shoes and athletic wear to sport at the fitness centre, or source tips on the best running routes from the Running Concierge. Plus, there’s a 1,500 sqm spa, two swimming pools and a kids club.
KISAWA SANCTUARY, BENGUERRA ISLAND
Best for: Sustainability
This new resort encompasses 300 hectares of forest, beach and sand dunes on the southern tip of Benguerra Island, 14km off Mozambique. Founded by Nina Flohr, the hotel focuses on protecting the natural surroundings and local population by showcasing the craftsmanship of local skilled artisans, sourcing ingredients from within 300km of the resort, and offering eco-friendly activities. At the opposite end of the island, for instance, lies sister property Bazaruto Centre for Scientific Studies, Africa’s first permanent ocean observatory where guests can help tag marlin and sharks for research and monitoring purposes. Other activities include sunset sailing aboard the resort’s dhow, or the opportunity to explore the island via the electric Mini Mokes. The resort’s 12 residences are housed within one-acre plots and each include an open-air deck, infinity pool, outdoor day area and kitchen. Plus there’s a spa with a 25-metre pool, and seven dining outlets, including pizza served from a tuk-tuk and Mozambique dishes with South Indian flavours at Baracca – guests can even pick their ingredients for dishes from the permaculture garden.
L’ESCALE RESORT MARINA AND SPA, MAHÉ
Best for: Superyacht sailors
Formerly the Wharf Hotel, the main attraction of this property on the largest island in the Seychelles is its 19-berth marina, allowing guests to sail straight to Mahé Island. The name pays homage to the ancient times of the Ottoman Empire, when seafarers would stopover on this tropical idyll. It’s fitting, therefore, that the interiors have been conceived by Winch Design – a firm known for its work on superyachts. The 25 rooms, suites and villas feature wood panelling, cream furnishings, and nautical memorabilia. Dining venues include L’Escale Lounge and Restaurant for international cuisine with a Creole touch, and the Pool Bar which offers views of the ocean and neighbouring Eden Island. The hotel also offers excursions, such as zip lining and hikes, or you can get treatments at the spa complete with a heated infinity pool and spa bath.
AMANI BOUTIQUE HOTEL ZANZIBAR
Best for: Kitesurfers
This Small Luxury Hotels of the World property is located on the Paje Beach overlooking the Indian Ocean. The 14 light and airy rooms offer balconies or patios with views of the gardens or sea. Nearby attractions include the beach, which has steady winds making it ideal for wind- or kitesurfing, while diving enthusiasts can see turtles, starfish, trumpet fish and other marine creatures on the coral reef. Elsewhere, travellers can explore the historical architecture and fortresses of Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, take part in a spice tour of the island, or see the endemic endangered Zanzibar red colobus monkey at Jozani Forest National Park, which is 25km from the hotel.
Best for: Peaceful seclusion
Located just over an hour’s drive east of Galle lies Amanwella, a contemporary beach retreat with a palm-fringed beach that stretches the length of the bay. The resort reopened in November and features 31 rooms and suites – the latter of which have their own private sea-facing terrace and plunge pool – a 47-metre swimming pool, an open-air yoga deck and a spa with treatments available in-suite and on the beach. Guests can dine at the restaurant and beach club which specialises in locally caught seafood and curries using ingredients from the resort’s organic gardens, or opt for romantic private beach barbecues, surrounded by candles and Sri Lankan oil torches. Local excursions include sunset views on a 210-metre-high rock at Mulgirigala Rock Temple and wildlife safaris at Udawalawe National Park. If you want to experience all that Aman has to offer on Sri Lanka’s southern coast, then follow up your stay with a few nights at sister property Amangalla in Galle Fort.
REQUIREMENTS FOR ENTRY
- MALDIVES: negative PCR test issued no more than 96 hours prior to departure; traveller health declaration form 24 hours before departure; temperature checks and screening procedures in place on arrival
- MAURITIUS: negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of last point of embarkation; mandatory health or travel insurance covering Covid-19; test on arrival and on Day 5 of the stay; non-vaccinated must quarantine in an approved hotel for 14 days and take further tests
- SRI LANKA: negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of last point of embarkation; health declaration form; non-vaccinated travellers must take PCR test on arrival, pay mandatory local Covid 19 insurance of US$12, and can only stay in approved hotels
- SEYCHELLES: negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to departure; application for entry form; temperature checks and screening procedures in place on arrival
- TANZANIA: negative PCR test taken within 96 hours prior to departure; online form submitted no more than 24 hours before arrival; temperature screening and mandatory rapid test upon arrival
- MOZAMBIQUE: negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to departure; possible testing on arrival