For socially-distanced escapes on secluded shores, look to the Indian Ocean, writes Laura French.
Secluded escapes cut off from the rest of the world have always held their allure – but perhaps no more so than now, when social distancing has given us a newfound appreciation for nature and all the vast, open space it offers.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the most remote stays across the Indian Ocean, from exclusive eco-retreats floating above the Maldivian lagoon to Seychellois hideaways where turtles nest on the shore and palms sway above the sand.
Best for… Dining
Kandolhu Maldives: Sometimes good things come in small packages, and this tiny island resort proves the point. Glowing out from the lagoon in a splodge of emerald, it’s home to a smattering of overwater and beach villas nestled among the palms, with an impressive choice of restaurants for an isle of its size (five, all à la carte).
“Glowing out from the lagoon in a splodge of emerald, it’s home to a smattering of overwater and beach villas nestled among the palms.”
Restaurants offer Peruvian, Mediterranean and Japanese cuisine and everything is included in its all-inclusive deal. One of the restaurants only has six seats – the emphasis is on intimacy. There’s also a dive centre and spa, plus complimentary snorkelling, sailing, paddleboarding and kayaking.
Book it: Kuoni offers a week’s all-inclusive in a Beach Villa from £4,179 per person, including flights from Gatwick on selected dates in May and June 2021.
Best for… Biodiversity
Hilton Seychelles, Silhouette Island: Set on a beach in a national marine park on the remote Silhouette Island, Emirates Holidays recommends this secluded, all-villa retreat for its rich biodiversity. It also has some of the Seychelles’ best diving found in the surrounding waters.
“The wider island offers quiet beaches, palm-fringed hiking trails and a trio of authentic villages – including the historic La Passe.”
Six restaurants, a bar and spa hidden in the jungle mean there’s plenty to keep guests occupied, while the wider island offers quiet beaches, palm-fringed hiking trails and a trio of authentic villages – including the historic La Passe, home to a population of 135 and dedicated to the island’s conservation.
Book it: Emirates Holidays offers a week’s half-board in a Garden Villa from £1,815 per person, based on two sharing with Emirates flights from Heathrow and including a complimentary couples’ massage. For travel between May 10 and June 22, 2021.
Best for… Self-contained escapes
Maradiva Villas, Mauritius: Operators across the board report a rise in interest for villa stays, and for clients headed to Mauritius, few places beat this tucked away spot on the privacy front, according to Julie Winder, head of product at Gold Medal. “Maradiva is the only all-villa resort on the west coast of Mauritius,” she says. “The resort boasts a long stretch of sandy beach from which you can enjoy spectacular views over Le Morne Mountain, and the small number of villas (65) gives guests a real experience of privacy and seclusion.”
“The resort boasts a long stretch of sandy beach from which you can enjoy spectacular views over Le Morne Mountain.”
Waterskiing, windsurfing, canoeing and snorkelling are all complimentary, and every villa comes with its own pool and optional 24-hour butler service – making it an ideal spot for those wanting to cocoon themselves away from the rest of the world.
Book it: Gold Medal offers seven nights’ half-board from £2,499 per person, based on two sharing a Luxury Suite Pool Villa and including flights from Gatwick on September 18, 2021.
Best for… Affordable luxury
Heritance Ahungalla, Sri Lanka: While tourists aren’t currently allowed into Sri Lanka, the country’s recent addition to the UK travel corridors list is a promising sign for the future.
“The busier town of Galle boasts a 16th-century fort, traditional boutiques and historic colonial architecture, offering a glimpse into the country’s past.”
For clients who want to avoid the hustle and bustle of the better-known resorts, Tui suggests the beach town of Ahungalla, a sandy curve on the southwest coast, whose beachfront Heritance outpost boasts two pools, two restaurants, tennis courts and a spa. The emphasis is on tranquillity here, but for those looking for a little more activity the busier town of Galle is about an hour away. It boasts a 16th-century fort, traditional boutiques and historic colonial architecture, offering a glimpse into the country’s past.
Book it: Tui offers seven nights’ all-inclusive from £1,253 per person, based on two adults sharing with flights from Gatwick on June 7, 2021.
Best for… All-out exclusivity
Soneva Jani, Maldives: For clients wanting an exclusive stay away from it all, Carrier points to this eco-friendly, carbon-neutral resort in the Medhufaru lagoon.
Experiences range from spending the day with a marine biologist to foraging for lunch ingredients at the on-site garden, heading out on a dhoni boat with a local fisherman to stargazing at the overwater observatory. Accommodation includes a collection of huge ‘Water Reserves’ that hover above the lagoon and feature their own private pools and water slides.
“Accommodation includes a collection of huge ‘Water Reserves’ that hover above the lagoon and feature their own private pools and water slides.”
“Particularly special is the two-bedroom Crusoe Residence, which is hidden away in the mangrove trees,” says Jenny Basham, product manager for Carrier. “Complete with an impressive swimming pool and expansive timber decks, this is one of the most private and exclusive hideaways in the Maldives”.
Book it: Carrier offers seven nights’ half-board from £40,850 for a family of four sharing a Water Retreat, including seaplane transfers and flights from Heathrow with Fast Track Voyager service, departing April 2, 2021.
Ask the expert
Amanda Springer, senior product manager for beach and cruise, Abercrombie & Kent
“There’s a promising uplift in Indian Ocean bookings for 2021, particularly to the Maldives. For the first quarter there is some hesitancy, but we expect a last minute post-Christmas booking trend for this period. Easter and the remainder of second quarter plus the fourth quarter are looking healthy, and we’re seeing a lot of family and extended family bookings as people are desperate to spend some quality time together. Milaidhoo, Huvafen Fushi, Niyama and Baros are also all proving popular thanks to their Covid-safe protocols and attractive offers.
Bookings for the Seychelles arealso picking up. The government there has handled the entry requirements and quarantine well, having given the UK special status to travel earlier in the autumn, and like the Maldives, it’s well set up for social distancing on stunning, isolated islands. The general feel is that people want to escape 2020 and relax in the sunshine – and the Indian Ocean ticks those boxes.”