HE FAMOUS THREE AREN’T THE ONLY DESTINATIONS IN THE INDIAN OCEAN. BUT YOU MIGHT WANT TO KEEP THESE SECRET IDYLLS TO YOURSELF
THE RESIDENCE ZANZIBAR, TANZANIA
We can still hear the friendly cry of ‘Jambo!’ — the warm Swahili hello 11 HRSi that every member of staff greets you with, and its this super service at The Residence Zanzibar that really sets it apart as one slick operator. In 80 acres of palm forest, 66 elegantly designed villas blend Swahili and European influences with all the honeymoon must-haves (private pool, huge egg-shaped bath, butler service) as standard. This is how to do beautiful beach-time in style. A gorgeous mile of white sand, it’s swept twice a day so it always looks perfect. Free daily snorkelling trips are worth rolling off your sun lounger for, as is a trip to see the sights, sounds and smells (this is the ‘Spice Island’) of the Unesco World Heritage Site of Stone Town. Back at the hotel, those spices translate into a delicious blend of African and Omani flavours in The Dining Room.
WOW FACTOR The main pool (pictured) is glass-sided — great for comedy photos!
GO The Turquoise Holiday Company (turquoiseholidays.co.uk) offers seven nights in a Luxury Garden Pool Villa from £1,995 per person, half board. Includes flights, transfers and a sunset dhow (sailing boat) cruise.
BARAZA RESORT & SPA,
Set behind the white beach of Bwejuu, Barazas location on the east coast of Zanzibar is hard to beat. Designed by the Raguz dynasty, the resort is styled on the palaces of Omani sultans — white buildings with Arabic-style archways are filled with bespoke, locally carved wooden furniture, gilt mirrors and brass lanterns. The numerous barazas (banquettes) for guests to sit on at the Dhahabu Bar (pictured) and around the resort give it an opulent yet relaxed air, and the 30 villas, all with their own plunge pool, are set among bougainvillea, frangipani and jasmine.
WOW FACTOR The beach seems to go on forever — ideal for long romantic walks.
GO Kuoni (kuoni.co.uk) offers seven nights from £2,718 per person, all-inclusive. Includes flights and transfers.
The Indian Ocean isn’t all about the beaches, and Kahanda Kanda, set in the jungle above Koggala Lake, a 30-minute tuk-tuk ride east of Galle on Sri Lanka’s south coast, is a different kind of island hideaway. Its owned and run by charismatic expat George Cooper and checking into one of the nine suites is like staying at a friend’s fabulous home. Each room is unique — from the grand Garden Suite to the Balinese-style Dubu Suite. Set on a working tea estate, there’s plenty to keep you entertained — learn to pick tea, take a Sri Lankan cooking class, have a dip in the main pool (pictured), or simply sit on your terrace and watch the peacocks in the trees. Beach? Oh yeah, there’s one of those a mere 10-minute drive from Kahanda Kanda, but we can almost guarantee you’ll not make it that far.
WOW FACTOR The peace. Nothing disturbs it but the odd chirp from the peacocks or put-put of a tuk-tuk far in the distance.
GO Scott Dunn (scottdunn.
LUX* ILE DE LA REUNION,
With its French signage and boulangeries Mauritius’s ruggedly sexy neighbour La Reunion is resolutely Gallic — but with a tropical twist. Alongside the palm-fringed beaches and clear blue waters there’s a much wilder heart: dramatic canyons, forests, tumbling waterfalls and gorges, and taking centre stage the 300,000-year-old Piton de la Fournaise volcano. The five-star resort looks onto a coral-laced lagoon (pictured) brimming with tropical fish, and the 164 rooms deliver low-key and eco-conscious luxury. Shaded lawns with white villas lead to a sandy beach with our favourite of the three restaurants, La Plage. Tuck into fresh fish or Creole curry followed by pineapple carpaccio, then sit under the stars at the alfresco cinema.
WOW FACTOR Take a helicopter ride that soars across dramatic canyons and cirques (the hotel will arrange this for you, or visit helilagon.com).
GO The Turquoise Holiday Company (turquoiseholidays.co.uk) offers seven nights from £1,450 per person, B&B. Includes flights, transfers and a dinner.
AMANWELLA, SRI LANKA
Its not difficult to see why they say Silent Beach (pictured), home to Amanwella, is the most beautiful in Sri Lanka. Equally serene are the resorts 30 zen-like villas — glass-sided with minimal interiors, a plunge pool and long terrace. Dining is a real highlight, from fresh seafood straight off the boats at the Beach Club, to the famously good Sri Lankan curries (a must-try for breakfast!) in the main poolside restaurant. Do venture to the nearby Mulkirigala Rock Temple, which rises 210m out of the jungle, with its intricately painted caves, which have been carved out of the huge rock and filled with Buddhist icons. You’ll get quite a work-out as you climb the 500 steps to the top.
WOW FACTOR Laze by the pool for a never-ending supply of treats, from coconut ice cream to shots of watermelon juice.
GO Carrier (carrier.co.uk) offers seven nights in a Pool Suite from £2,385 per person. Includes flights with Sri Lankan Airlines and air transfers.
Tsarabanjina is a world away — almost literally. A speck of land off the northern coast of Madagascar, it has no pretensions, only sporadic wi-fi and no pool (it doesn’t need one — it’s encircled by warm turquoise water, teeming with reef fish). The pace is luxuriously slow; we spent our days snorkelling in coral gardens or kayaking, diving and paddle-boarding. Each villa has glass doors leading on to what feels like your own private beach. A morning hike around the island will reveal a tiny fishing village and a gold mine hollowed out of the sand.
WOW FACTOR The most romantic villa is No 14, which has a terrace on a rocky promontory overlooking the shore.
GO Audley (audleytravel.com) offers six nights in a South Beach Villa all-inclusive, plus two nights in Antananarivo, from £3,595 per person, B&B. Includes Kenya Airways flights, internal flights and transfers.
VAMIZI ISLAND LODGE,
You don’t get more castaway than this. On an eight-mile island off the north coast of Mozambique, Vamizi has 13 thatched-roof villas hugging the pristine white sand beach. This is a conservationist project so there are no pools, but with huge marble showers and the glorious Indian Ocean winking at you from your white-muslin-swathed bed (pictured), you won’t miss them. Diving, dining and reclining are key here, with top-notch underwater sightseeing and surf-fresh seafood on the beach. You won’t have to leave your huge Swahili daybed (except for a few spa treatments), where you can lazily daydream about never leaving.
WOW FACTOR Honeymooners should ask for villa No 1, which is set on a private beach around the headland from the rest of the lodge.
GO The Turquoise Holiday Company (turquoiseholidays.co.uk) offers seven nights in a Beach Villa from £4,500 per person, all-inclusive. Includes flights, transfers, a candlelit beach dinner, a sunset cruise, a nature tour and a 15-minute head massage.
AZURA AT QUILALEA,
Truly remote, it takes at least two planes, a 4×4, a boat and a wade through the shallow water up the beach to get to this tiny 34-hectare island in the Quirimbas Archipelago. As well as a few turtles, there are just nine villas here, each with either sunrise or sunset views, billowing white muslin and rattan furniture. We loved the clifftop Quilalea villa, which comes with an infinity pool (pictured) that seems to hover over the ocean below. Whether you want a post-safari flop or a beach away from the crowds, this resort is pure bliss. Dolphin-spot from your villa, take a picnic to a deserted beach, snorkel the house reef, or stargaze as they twinkle low and bright overhead — whatever you do here you’ll feel very, very far from the hectic lives you’ve left behind. And that, in our book, is what paradise is. Well, that and the perfect white sand and warm turquoise sea.
WOW FACTOR Lose yourself in the African Beginnings ritual that buffs you with crushed apricot kernels and chamomile, then cleanses your skin with a traditional mud wrap.
GO Original Travel (originaltravel.co.uk) offers seven nights from £4,185 per person, full board. Includes flights and all transfers.