Indian Ocean holidays have way more to offer than just hopping off your flight and making a beeline for the nearest beach. And that's why we've rounded up a few of the best trips ideas for this year, from wellness getaways and romantic hideaways to diving holidays and everything in between. Whether you want to head out on a freediving course in Madagascar or take a heli-tour of Réunion, we've got you covered. Here goes:
Best Indian Ocean holidays for diving and watersports
Learn to freedive in Madagascar
I AM WATER
On this trip with diving specialist IAMWATER, you'll snorkel seagrass beds off the coast of Madagascar looking for green turtles, have a crack at yoga and – perhaps most excitingly – learn the skilful and meditative art of freediving, which'll get you up close and personal with whale sharks, reef fish and dolphins under the water's surface. Then, once you've towelled off, you'll get to spend your evenings enjoying huge sunsets over the ocean from remote, rustic lodgings. Count us in.
Need to know: IAMWATER offers annual seven-day trips to Madagascar from £4,600pp. iamwateroceantravel.com
Surf a paradise wave in the Maldives
Newsflash: surfing doesn't have to mean donning a hired wetsuit, grabbing a foamie and getting pummelled by cold in the far west of England – it can be luxurious, too. Trade Cornwall for the Niyama Private Islands in the Maldives and you've got two uncrowded natural breaks that offer consistent surf in warm water just minutes from your villa. Add to that everything you'd expect from a luxury resort – the multiple sumptuous restaurants, the high-end villas and the spa – and you're in for a surf getaway like nothing else.
Dive from a liveaboard in the Seychelles
Want to know how to maximise your chances of seeing the finest sea life in the Indian Ocean? Start by spending the best part of your break in the water. On this liveaboard break with Dive Worldwide, you're only ever a few feet from fish for your whole trip, taking up to eight dives in seven days, and sailing with an expert crew trained to seek out the very best diving conditions. Not sold yet? You can choose to hit the seas on either a luxurious modern yacht or a historic Dutch sailing ship. Yep, we'd be taking those Dutch pirate feels, if you're asking us.
Need to know: Dive Worldwide offers nine-day tours including return flights from £2,475. diveworldwide.com
Island hop in a dhow in Mozambique
This tour with Steppes Travel will see you take a short hop across the border from South Africa to explore the beaches and bays of Mozambique's Quirimbas Archipelago by traditional dhow boat. It's the perfect way to experience the Indian Ocean: spot birdlife from a sea kayak, camp out on a desert island or pull up to an untouched sandbank for an afternoon's snorkelling – the choice is yours.
Explore underwater in the Maldives
If seeing show-stopping sea creatures without hours and hours of effort is your mission, head to Dhigali in the Maldives' incomparable Raa Atoll. The resort's house reef starts just four metres from the shore and reaches depths of 25m, showcasing wild coral and beautiful drop-offs housing shoals of colourful fish. For the more intrepid, you can also head out on day tours to the Unesco biosphere reserve of Hanifaru Bay – often home to more than 100 manta rays and numerous whale sharks thanks to its abundance of plankton.
Need to know: Kuoni offers seven nights at Dhigali (dhigali.com) including flights with SriLankan Airlines from £2,316pp. kuoni.com
Best Indian Ocean holidays for wellness and yoga
Up your yoga game in Thailand
The Thai islands around Phuket offer rugged beauty and tropical tranquility in equal measure. And as it turns out, they do a great line in yoga retreats, too. Check into Six Senses Yao Noi for a week-long break and you can build a personalised programme of yoga and meditation to loosen your body, open your mind and put you on the path to yoga mastery.
Head out on two wheels in India
This tour of India's rustic south-western province of Kerala trades traditional wellness – sunrise yoga, spa pampering and all that jazz – for an eight-day-long meditation on the seat of a bike. You'll cycle on quiet roads sandwiched between the golden sands of the Arabian Sea and the verdant forests of the Western Ghats, seeing wildlife all the way.
Go on a boot camp in Sri Lanka
We can think of worse places to binge on exercise than the windsurfing hotspot of Kalpitiya on Sri Lanka's west coast. Check in at eco-wellness camp The BNKR and you'll split your time between riding the waves and working out at the resort's on-beach gym. Your package includes nine hours of windsurfing lessons, unlimited gym classes, sports massages and a personalised programme to take home. Sweaty.
Grab some serious R&R in the Maldives
If the dose of sun, sand and incredible ocean you'll get staying at Amilla Fushi doesn't de-stress you, the retreat's Sensora treatment probably will. Using one of the most advanced coloured-light systems in the world, it stimulates your senses with a bespoke sequence of light, colour and vibration. The treatment is clinically proven to help with everything from depression and insomnia to chronic pain and stress.
Get outside in Mauritius
With miles of rugged (but nonetheless gorgeous) coast and mountains to explore inland, Mauritius is the Indian Ocean island with the great outdoors in spades. And SALT of Palmar – a sustainability focused beachfront resort that opened last year – is the perfect place to head if you want to explore it. You can read up on local hikes, join a sunrise run club, learn the local art of sega dancing, hire a bike for exploring or go and practice shinrin yoku (the Japanese art of forest bathing) in the woods on the hotel site. Not doing it for you? There's a plush spa, too, obvs.
Best Indian Ocean holidays for romance and luxury
Spend the night stargazing in the Maldives
It'll be you, your boo and the wide night sky when you book in for the stargazing experience at Anantara Kihavah Villas over-the-water observatory in the Maldives. Oh, and a third wheel in the form of the resort's sky guru Ali Shameem, who loves astronomy so much that he spent his childhood mapping constellations from the island where he grew up. The Maldives are so close to the equator and have such minimal light pollution that you can see 15,000 stars without a telescope – when you aren't staring into your loved one's eyes, that is.
Get the experts involved in Mauritius
When it comes to romance, the devil is in the details. But sometimes the details can be, well, a bit difficult to sort out. To get the experts involved, book you and your partner in at Beachcomber's Trou aux Biches resort in Mauritius. For starters, the whole place is primed for mindblowing sunsets and candlelit dinners, and if you need a little bit more help, the hotel offers packages that up the romantic ante.
Tour the Teardrop Isle, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka – home to canoe trips, fiery sunsets, glorious ancient ruins and more romantic feels than you can shake a candlestick at. The teardrop-shaped isle has romantic drama in spades, from the 19th-century splendour of the Royal Botanical Garden of Peradeniya in Kandy to the swimming elephants of Gal Oya and the slinky leopards of Yala National Park. On a tour with Vivid Travel, you'll see it all in a two-week journey west to east, taking in coast, jungle and all kinds of adventures along the way.
Need to know: Vivid Travel offers 14-day tours from £2,145pp including flights. vivid.travel
Take a flying visit to Reunion
Situated about 430 miles off the east coast of Madagascar and 110 miles from Mauritius, the French department of Réunion takes some getting to, but boy is it worth it. Formed around the vast, wooded caldera of a volcano, it's part island paradise, part tropical wilderness. Our tip? Check into LUX* Saint Gilles – the island's only five-star resort – then get your bearings by heading out on a helicopter tour of the island's mountains and waterfalls. Even if you spend the rest of your holiday canoodling in your absolutely gorgeous villa, you can still
say you saw the whole island.
Need to know: LUX* Saint Gilles offers six-night hotel and flight packages from £3,350pp. luxresorts.com
Escape it all on a yacht in the Maldives
If kicking back on the beach, chilling in the infinity pool of an over-the-water villa and fine dining the night away isn't enough to get you feeling loved up, Kudadoo Maldives' new private-hire yacht might just do the trick. Available for half-, full- or multi-day charter from the resort to any destination in the Maldives, it's the perfect way to get away from it all. Sunbathe on the top deck, sip bubbly in the panoramic-windowed cabin and hop to any island, sandbank or faraway atoll you please. Or, if you're feeling really fancy, make your entrance by private yacht and forget the fuss of waiting around for your transfer.