The world’s best islands to visit

These 5 tropical and soul-restoring Indian Ocean Islands are the ultimate escape from reality…

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

I believe this quote is attributed to author Anne Lamott and it remains one of my favourites. Laptop giving you hassles? Restart it. Cell phone on the fritz? Reboot it. Personally feeling exhausted and emotionally tapped out? Though we seldomly apply the same adage to ourselves, the solution here is just as simple: disconnect (completely) and reboot. Preferably somewhere warm and tropical.

An island reboot

When life gives you lemons, (hop on a plane and) make a beach cocktail. Sometimes a generous dose of sunshine, sand and vitamin ‘sea’ is the perfect physical and emotional reboot. Those lapping turquoise waves, swaying palm trees, balmy island breeze, non-stop rays of golden sunshine and idle afternoon siestas gently lull our depleted, technology-overloaded souls back to a slower and much healthier rhythm. It’s a foolproof recipe for the perfect reboot.

Where to go?

Whether your much-needed island vacation is a long-overdue family adventure, a milestone celebration, a long-awaited reunion with long-lost friends, a romantic beach honeymoon or a soulful escape-for-one, these five tropical islands are among the world’s best.

The checklist for the best island vacation is simple: powder soft beach; warm, crystal clear water; endless sunshine; mood-boosting palm trees; fresh seafood; luxury accommodation; and those classic, carefree island vibes. Most tropical island destinations tick these boxes, so which tropical island is the best to visit? It depends on you and your travel tribe.

Each island has its own unique charm and character and appeals to different types of travellers. First, determine who you’re travelling with (or not, if it’s a solo mission). Next, define your budget and length of stay. Then, the fun part: hone in on your specific priorities. Do you want to laze on the beach, undisturbed? Do you crave a mix of nightlife with your daytime solitude? Do you want to get out and explore the natural landscapes? Are you travelling with children or is this an over-the-top romantic beach honeymoon?

Whatever your pleasure, these five soul-restoring Indian Ocean Islands are the ultimate escape from reality. Each one is perfect as a standalone, need-some-downtime-ASAP island vacation; however, they also combine seamlessly with an active holiday or action-packed safari, providing a restful and relaxing final leg to an adventurous journey. Let that ocean breeze put the mind at ease…

Romantic overwater luxury and underwater adventure

1. Maldives

Just southwest of Sri Lanka and India, the Maldives is a volcanic archipelago that consists of 26 postcard-perfect coral atolls and nearly 1,200 small and mostly uninhabited coral islands. The beaches and ever-shifting sand banks are snow white and powder soft, the palm trees are tall and soothing, and the aquamarine water is impossibly clear and straight out of a dream.

The Maldives takes pride of place at the top of many a bucket list, and for good reason. This is a jaw-droppingly beautiful and over-the-top luxurious archipelago geared entirely towards romance, exclusivity and escapism. It is the perfect destination for island honeymooners, water lovers, snorkel and dive enthusiasts, and couples or solo adventurers seeking to truly get away from it all.

The Maldives is completely flat. In fact, it is the lowest country on the planet, with an average ground level reaching a mere 1.5 m (just under 5 ft) above sea level. The idea here is to go underwater, where an enchanting, kaleidoscopic marine world exists beneath those turquoise waves.

This island paradise is all about that bucket list wow factor. There really is no place like it. In addition to the Maldives’ unique and breathtaking geography, blissful remoteness and captivating underwater world, it’s the country’s iconic overwater beach bungalows that are the ultimate bucket list tick (not to mention its underwater restaurants and tropical treehouse pods). With stairs leading straight into the warm, turquoise water, you can snorkel from your front doorstep. It doesn’t get much better than that.

A romantic, heart-shaped private island paradise

2. Mnemba Island

Situated just off the tropical northeastern shores of Zanzibar, &Beyond Mnemba Island is an exclusive private island with just 12 rustic beach bandas and no more than 24 guests. The entire circumference of this tiny barefoot beach paradise can be walked in a mere 20 minutes.

Mnemba is, quite literally, a heart-shaped island nirvana that is geared entirely towards unapologetic romance and relaxation. Honeymooners, couples and solo travellers seeking island solitude and some indulgent R&R all fall hopelessly in love with Mnemba’s unbelievably turquoise water, silky soft sand and its blissfully unhurried pace. It is by far one of the most romantic, relaxing and carefree places on the planet.

After a leisurely lie-in and abundant island breakfast, days can be spent swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, swimming with dolphins, sunbathing, sneaking in an afternoon siesta or doing nothing at all. At sunset, private sundowners are delivered to each banda’s beachfront or they can be enjoyed on a traditional dhow cruise. Starlit evenings are for unforgettable sandcastle dinners, festive beach barbecues and moonlit strolls on the beach.

If you’re lucky, you might even get to watch enormous green sea turtles laying their eggs, or the tiny hatchlings braving it from their beach nests all the way to the sea.

Mnemba Island is the perfect, soulful escape from the hustle and bustle of modern day life. It is a place where time stands still, schedules simply do not exist and menus are merely a suggestion of the fresh, moreish meals on offer.

Island romance, luxury and adventure all-in-one

3. Benguerra Island

Mozambique itself is not an island, however, just off its balmy southern shores is a collection of small, idyllic islands that make up Mozambique’s achingly beautiful Bazaruto archipelago. An unforgettable helicopter flip from the mainland reveals the archipelago’s dreamlike mirage of impossibly white sand dunes and 50 shades of turquoise water.

Among these enchanting islands is &Beyond Benguerra Island, a tropical paradise where adventurous days meet romantic nights. It is the perfect blend of sunny adventure-filled days, vibrant Portuguese flavours, indulgent island romance and just the right amount of privacy for honeymooners, families and solomooners alike.

Laze on private beach swings with a book and a cocktail. Snorkel or scuba dive one of the world’s premier diving sites. Ride horses along the beach and into the ocean. Take a scenic helicopter flight and try your luck spotting an endangered dugong. Steal away for a romantic castaway picnic on a remote sand bank. Later, gather at the dhow bar for cheerful sundowners and pre-dinner bites. Not many islands have it all, but &Beyond Benguerra Island is certainly an exception.

Island relaxation and adventure for all ages

4. Mauritius

Roughly 2,000 km (1,200 miles) off the East African coastline, Mauritius is a single island, whereas its Indian Ocean counterparts, the Maldives and Seychelles, are archipelagos consisting of multiple small islands.

Fringed by magnificent beaches, towering palm trees and a brilliant coral reef, Mauritius is certainly geared towards those seeking that guilt-free island relaxation, coupled with world-class snorkelling and scuba diving. But, being the largest and most populated of these five best islands to visit, it also has a livelier, more energetic side for those wanting to explore outside of their tranquil beach bubble.

Mauritius is therefore perfectly suited for couples and families that want to explore beyond the beach. There are luxurious, romantic hideaways for couples and larger, but equally luxurious, properties that effortlessly cater to all ages, with activities suitable for grandchildren, grandparents and everyone in between.

This is a picturesque tropical island blessed with pristine beaches, rugged mountains, hidden waterfalls and lush forests to hike and explore. It also boasts bustling open-air markets, world-class shopping, vibrant nightlife, golf courses, tranquil spas, botanical gardens and an abundance of water sports. A definite must-see are the dramatic Seven Coloured Earths of Chamarel, a fascinating geological formation of red, violet, brown, green, purple, blue and yellow-coloured sand dunes.

Otherworldly landscapes and breathtaking natural beauty

5. Seychelles

The Seychelles is a pristine archipelago of 115 small coral and granite islands situated approximately 1,600 km (994 miles) off the coast of East Africa. With a longstanding dedication to conservation, it’s no surprise that this island oasis is blessed with an abundance of untouched natural beauty.

While Mauritius is a large, single island and the Maldives is a scattering of nearly 1,200 coral islands, the Seychelles offers the best of both with its three main islands and collection of smaller, more exclusive ones.

This surprisingly picturesque island archipelago is geared towards nature lovers seeking that classic island relaxation, but who also want to get back to nature, explore the great outdoors, island hop and appreciate the island’s extraordinary landscapes.

For the most part, motorised water sports are prohibited in the Seychelles in order to protect the island’s magnificent marine biodiversity. This of course makes it an ideal snorkelling and diving destination. Its marine sanctuaries, mountain reserves and protected areas are an invitation to explore, with their palm-fringed beaches, crystal clear lagoons, dense jungles, granite mountain ranges and those iconic granite boulders that are strewn across the shorelines.

Of the countless island highlights, Cousine Island is a small 30-hectare (74-acre) granite island dedicated to conservation. It is a protected nesting site for sea turtles and breeding ground for sea birds. The Aldabra atoll in the southwestern reaches of the Seychelles archipelago is the largest raised coral reef in the world, the second largest atoll in the world and is home to the largest population of giant tortoise, the endemic Aldabra giant tortoise.

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