From flyboarding to underwater weddings, Joanna Booth looks at ways to enjoy the Indian Ocean
One of the joys of island life is the proximity to water, and when the island in question is in the Indian Ocean, then the warm, clear, blue seas are even more enticing.
If you think a quick dip is all that’s on offer, then you haven’t been paying attention. Hoteliers across Mauritius, the Seychelles and in particular the Maldives have been coming up with increasingly wacky and exciting ways to make the most of the pristine marine environment. From yoga on a paddleboard to underwater clubbing, there’s something to suit many different kinds of client.
It doesn’t even need to break the bank, with all-inclusive packages increasingly covering a range of options.
Centara Grand Azuri Resort & Spa Mauritius now includes waterskiing, reef snorkelling, kayaking, windsurfing, dinghies, pedal boats and glass-bottomed boat trips free of charge, and the new Beyond All-Inclusive rate, available from November at Maia Luxury Resort & Spa in the Seychelles, covers unlimited scuba diving and non-motorised watersports.
Viceroy Maldives has launched an all-inclusive offer available from October 1 to December 19, with a credit of $350 that can be redeemed against diving trips and motorised watersports.
On the surface
The Maldives needn’t just be about lazing on the sand. At Sun Siyam Irufushi, there’s a veritable adrenaline rush on offer in the form of flyboarding.
Guests can strap in, power up and zoom off, splashing in and out of the water and even hovering metres above it. Half-hour sessions start from £103. Those without a head for heights can paddle a glass-bottomed kayak instead, for clear views of the world underwater.
It may be something more associated with California or Australia, but clients can surf in the Maldives too. Yin Yang is one of the most famous surf breaks in the region, and as Six Senses Laamu is the only property on Laamu Atoll, residents have the wave to themselves.
Advanced surfers are offered two daily sessions on Yin Yang, and beginners can have a daily two-hour lesson in the lagoon with a resident expert.
Kitesurfers should head for Mauritius, with the activity now on offer at two resorts.
St Regis Mauritius can cater to every level, with its location on the southwestern Le Morne peninsula giving excellent wind conditions year round. Aficionados can ride the ‘One Eye’ wave, whereas the shallow, protected lagoon is best for beginners.
Tuition programmes are on offer, with a two-hour private lesson starting from £153 with two hours’ equipment hire from £55. Beachcomber’s Dinarobin Hotel Golf & Spa has a new Kitesurf School.
Four qualified instructors offer training and practice sessions six days a week to guests over 10 years of age.
The hotel also offers stand-up paddleboarding. If that’s not tricky enough, guests at Raffles Praslin Seychelles can now try out paddle board yoga, with a private tutor leading them through poses and stretches on the board.
If this all sounds far too much effort for a holiday, let an engine take the strain. In the Seychelles, the new Savoy Hotel & Spa sits on Beau Vallon Bay, the only spot on Mahé where motorised watersports are allowed.
The hotel’s concierge has access to a wide range of local charters and can even organise private hire of a 65ft Sunseeker yacht, from €5,865 for a day.
For something a little more low key, clients staying at one of the four Veranda properties in Mauritius can take a fishing trip with local fishermen to learn their techniques and then have a beach barbecue.
Guests at Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru only need get their feet wet to get up close to marine wildlife. Every afternoon, a flock of stingrays glides over to the beach where they are hand fed by those waiting on the shore.
Under the water
When it comes to undersea fun, the Maldivian island resorts are masters. Overwater villas are now de rigueur; to be unusual, resorts are locating facilities underwater.
Huvafen Fushi has an underwater spa, so guests can watch marine life mid-massage, and at sister Per Aquum resort Niyama there’s an underwater club, Subsix, for champagne and tunes with sub-aquatic sights.
At Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, diners at the underwater Ithaa restaurant can eat caviar with a fishy audience.
The scuba diving in the region can be utterly spectacular, and some hotels have unique features. Premier Holidays flags up Vivanta by Taj – Coral Reef as the only property in the islands to have its own house shipwreck.
When The Small Maldives Island Company opens Amilla Fushi in November, guests will not only be able to enjoy complimentary motorised and non-motorised watersports, but also discover a ‘Blue Hole’ dive site within swimming distance of the beach.
Divers swim in at five metres and out again at 15 metres, discovering red-toothed triggerfish, snappers, and hawksbill turtles on the way, with a good chance of bumping into the resident guitar shark on the way out.
The Residence Maldives escaped the worst of the 1988 El Nino, and as a result has an untouched coral ecosystem hiding underwater. The hotel’s dive centre offers all sorts of Padi courses so clients can discover marine life including five species of sharks, dolphins, turtles, manta and eagle rays.
New to the programme are an underwater digital photography course (from $400 including camera rental) and fluo night diving, where guests scuba with special torches and mask filters to see fluorescent coral and fish invisible during daylight hours, from $169.
Keen divers can even tie the knot beneath the waves now Anantara Kihavah Villas has launched underwater weddings. If a scuba ceremony seems too daunting, there’s the option of the hotel’s underwater wine cellar and restaurant instead.
For non-divers who want to experience the world beneath the waves, Velaa Private Island has a ‘semi-submarine’, which can take two guests and a pilot to depths of five metres without the need to wear a helmet or mask. A 30-minute trip costs $395 plus taxes.
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