Fantasy Islands; the Unspoilt Beauty of the Seychelles and Mauritius Are Becoming Ever More Popular

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), April 10, 2005 | Go to article overview

Fantasy Islands; the Unspoilt Beauty of the Seychelles and Mauritius Are Becoming Ever More Popular


THE INDIAN Ocean covers a wide area. From the Seychelles in the west to the coast of Thailand in the east is a distance of some 3,300 miles.

Even though the St Stephen's Day tsunami crossed the ocean to the east coast of Africa - 300 died in Somalia - the islands that make up the Seychelles suffered minor damage.

The Seychelles, however, are concerned that the damage in public confidence might be more substantial.

Will their location - until recently considered an advantage - now become a handicap? It was just months ago, after all, that people were talking about the Indian Ocean as the 'new Caribbean'.

And with some justification.

The implication was that the 'old' Caribbean had gone out of fashion and that the islands of the Indian Ocean - Mauritius, the Seychelles and, above all, the Maldives - had rapidly become the smart places to be seen taking a holiday.

The Caribbean hasn't actually gone out of fashion, of course. For anyone who wants a good-value slice of winter sun the favourite destinations will continue to be Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Barbados.

Barbados may not be at the cutting edge of style.

Being patronised by the likes of Cilla Black, Tony Blair and Cliff Richard probably does little for its street cred.

However, the island is unique in its huge range of accommodation, from bargain package holiday places to top- end swanky spots such as Sandy Lane.

The Indian Ocean islands have nothing to compare with Barbados, but they've never claimed to be in competition with the Caribbean. Those keen on the likes of Mauritius and the Seychelles and are coming for quite a different sort of holiday.

Take the Seychelles, which I visited for the first time towards the end of last year.

It was interesting to note the contrasts in travelling to the Caribbean.

The flight departed in the evening, flew through the night for 10 hours and arrived on Mahe, the main island of the Seychelles, in the early morning.

The Seychelles have also received business support from Mauritius, two hours by air to the south.

Mauritius hotel group Beachcomber has developed the magnificent Sainte Anne Resort & Spa on the private island of Sainte Anne, 10 minutes by boat from Mahe.

The relaxed, low-key style of the resort, with smartly designed villas and handsome public areas, stands in contrast-to the funky, in-your-face Caribbean. The atmosphere on Sainte Anne may be laidback but service is friendly, brisk and highly efficient.

As long as you keep your mobile phone turned off, a week at Sainte Anne will guarantee you seven days of perfect relaxation. I wasn't trying hard, but I managed to read a book a day.

Flying to the Caribbean, you leave in the morning and arrive late afternoon.

Emotionally, it always seems better arriving in the morning with the day still ahead than arriving as night begins to fall. It might have been this psychological boost, but I never once felt jetlagged during my weeklong stay. …

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