Mauritius, Reunion and Seychelles’ Top 5
You're going to like this: dreamy beaches, surreal landscapes, top-notch hotels, delicious cuisine and a wealth of cultural experiences.
Mauritius, Reunion and Seychelles offer a unique combination of nature, culture and pleasure.
1. Hiking Through the Cirque de Mafate (Reunion)
Perhaps the finest set of multiday hikes anywhere in the Indian Ocean, Cirque de Mafate feels like you're traversing the end of the earth.
Wild and remote, watched over by fortress-like ridges and riven with deep valleys, this is an extraordinary experience.
A four-day hike through the Haut Mafate can be combined with the four-day, even-more-secluded Bas Mafate.
Best of all, these hikes take you through quiet mountain hamlets where you'll find gîtes (self-catering accommodation) where the welcome is warm and genuine.
2. Denis (Seychelles)
Welcome to paradise. It may be a much-abused cliché but the coral island of Denis comes as close to living up to this claim as anywhere on the planet.
This is a place where warm tropical waters lap quietly upon a beach of white sand, while the lagoon off shore dazzles in magical shades of blue.
The island's luxury lodge combines romance with seclusion to perfectly capture the idyll of barefoot luxury (no TV, no mobile phones), and you'll share the island with giant tortoises and gorgeous bird species.
3. Black River Gorges & Chamarel (Mauritius)
Some of the most dramatic scenery on Mauritius is found in the southwest.
The thick forests of Black River Gorges National Park shelter fantastic and endangered birdlife that has been saved from the fate of the dodo, quite apart from the exceptional views from along the myriad hiking trails.
After a morning's hiking, lunch just has to be in Chamarel, home to a series of superb restaurants and a well-regarded rum distillery nestled in the hills.
4. Diving & Dolphins (Mauritius)
Some of the Indian Ocean's best dives are found off the west coast of Mauritius.
The architecture of the underwater rock formations and the substantial schools of fish make the waters off Flic en Flac in particular a world-class dive destination.
The best sites are the walls and drop-offs on the edge of the turquoise lagoon and La Cathédrale, near Flic en Flac is simply marvellous. A little to the south, off Tamarin, swim with pods of dolphins out in the open water.
5. The Mighty Volcano (Réunion)
Piton de la Fournaise is Reunion's crowning glory.
Seen from the viewpoint at Pas de Bellecombe, le volcan (as it's known to locals) broods black and beautiful, its shapely form towering over the island.
But even though this is an active volcano, it's still possible to climb up to the crater rim and stare down into the abyss - one seriously memorable sight. Hiking and horse trails lead to the summit, while a scenic helicopter flight offers the ultimate birds-eye view down into the caldera.
This is an extract from Lonely Planet Mauritius, Réunion & Seychelles (8th Edition) by Jean-Bernard Carillet and Anthony Ham © Lonely Planet 2013. Published this month, RRP: NZ$44.99.