An island paradise with azure water, palms gently swaying in the breeze, a coconut-drink with a little pink umbrella and a tan that would make Debora Patta jealous. It's the kind of vacation most of us only dream about; the kind a few parents might need after the school holiday.
But where to go?
It needs to be somewhere breathtakingly beautiful without costing a body part. It's no fun going on holiday after being forced to sell your kidney to pay for the flights and accommodation.
Enter our two candidates: Mauritius and the Seychelles.
Both are in the Indian Ocean, not too far from the East African coast. Both were French and British colonies and have fairly recently gained independence; French and English are widely spoken. Creole is used by the locals.
Both have pretty decent eco-travel credentials, with 50% of Seychelles' landmass being protected.
And if you expect more from a holiday than lying on the beach, neither of these two island-destinations will disappoint.
The ocean and its mysteries are only the tip of the iceberg for both islands. Explore their interiors where giant tortoises roam (Seychelles) and dodo's used to wile away their hours (Mauritius).
Both the islands have very unique fauna: The Seychelles have the Coco-de-mer and jellyfish trees, while Mauritius counts the Victoria Amazonica water lilies as one of its many unique selling points. The lily is said to be able to carry more than a 100kg. (Please don't test the theory - except for the roots, flowers and upper sides of the leaves, it is covered in very sharp spines.)
So which would you prefer for your dream island escape - why not tell us in the comments section below or if you've been to either tell us about your experience and you could be published on News24 Travel - email email@example.com.
What sets Mauritius apart from other holiday paradises, is that when you are over miffing in the sun, there is a veritable treasure trove of nightlife hot spots and a rich history to explore. Start in the cosmopolitan capital of Port Louis where the rich tapestry of a harbour city, with its varied influences, is on full display. The experience starts fresh from the airport as the mountains of Le Pouce and Pieter both welcome you to the city. But don't just visit the touristy Waterfront, or you will be missing out on the hustle of the streets, the cacophony of China Town, the many museums and well-preserved colonial manors.
Blue Bay is what tourism promoters and holiday makers alike dream of. It is one of those places where it is simply hard to get a bad picture! The crystalline blue waters make it one of the quintessential beaches to frolic in. There are also plenty of water sports and snorkelling opportunities in the area. The water is warm, the sand is white and as a popular spot, there might just be something for your eye too.
The quaint village of Chamarel is home to two natural wonders: the Chamarel falls and the coloured ‘earths'. The earths were created by cooling volcanic matter, but due to the different speeds at which they solidified they have made for intricate patterns and breathtaking colours. When you pick up a handful of the eroded colourful earth, something bizarre happens; the earth eventually joins its original colour and forms a series of layers in your hand! The breathtaking falls, speak for themselves.
Le Morne Peninsula
The impressive Le Morne Brabant is today known for its indulgent resorts and some of the best stretches of coastline in Southern Mauritius. Yet, it takes its name from a sad incident where escaped slaved jumped to their deaths at the site of soldiers. They feared being recaptured. However, they were not told that slavery was abolished subsequent to their escape. Today "The Mournful One" has a much happier atmosphere and is a favourite with tourists seeking sun and surf.
Black River Gorges National Park
Escape the onslaught of the lazy crowds and explore a world of volcanic lakes, thick forests and wild monkeys! The Black River Gorges National Park is Mauritius' only official national park. It covers an impressive 3.5% of the total surface of the island and it is here where 300 species of flowering plants and nine species of indigenous birds make their luxuriant home. Although you can take a minibus around, the network of excellent hiking trails is a much better option to see the island's natural assets first hand.
Lying just off the north-western coast of its close neighbour Praslin and is now a reserve managed by the Seychelles Centre for Marine Technology - Marine Parks Authority. Aside from Praslin, Curieuse is the only other island where the Coco-der-mer grows naturally, and also boasts an endemic vine and eight different species of mangrove.
Sainte Anne Marine National Park
A Marine National Park with one of the largest areas of sea grass of the granitic islands where green and hawksbill turtles are often found. Bottlenose Dolphins also frequent the park. The variance of underwater life in the Seychelles makes it one of the top scuba diving spots in the world. Enjoy the reefs – some of which are white due to natural phenomena – but also crags, drop offs, canyons and ship wrecks. Waters are at their calmest from March to April and September to October, but diving is possible all year round.
The Dauban Mausoleum
Built in a serene and secluded spot of Silhouette amid luxuriant vegetation of mainly coconut trees. It's imposing architecture, a special landmark of the island ranks high among the work of its kind in Seychelles.
Granite Boulder, La Digue
This National Monument found at the L’Union Estate was formed round 750 million years ago. The slow cooling of molten rocks has resulted in its especially large crystals. You will also be able to spot giant tortoise in the area, some are over hundred years old.
This secluded beach that requires a two-hour walk to get to from Mahe. Not only is the beach paradise on earth, the hike along a nature trail to get there is phenomenally beautiful. You can also get there by boat.
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