The Indian Ocean islands are known for their excellent weather and beautiful beaches. But they also offer many unique activities for tourists to experience.

Each island has a different offering for tourists, says Lenél Vining, Air Austral’s South Africa Manager and Airport Manager Johannesburg. “Each has its own unique topography and culture. With the increase in popularity of experiential travel, the trend over the past couple of years has been to find new destinations, which are more authentic and offer more activities than just beaches.”

Golfing getaways

For golfing enthusiasts, the 18-hole Constance Lemuria golf course on Praslin in the Seychelles is considered by some to be one of the most beautiful in the world. Seychelles also offers the nine-hole Seychelles Golf Club layout, formerly known as Le Reef Golf Club on Mahé.

Mauritius has emerged as a top golfing destination, with a range of nine- and 18-hole golf courses available. These include the Avalon Golf Course, Gymkhana Club Golf Course, Mont Choisy Le Golf, Tamarina Golf Estate Course, The Links Course (Belle Mare), Heritage Golf Club, Ile aux Cerfs Golf Club, and Anahita Golf Course.

Réunion Island’s golf courses include Golf Club Du Colorado, Golf Du Bassin Bleu, and Golf Club De Bourbon.

A new way of playing golf is to experience a Mauritius helicopter golf flight where golfers can fly in to courses that have helipads.

From wildlife to street food

The Seychelles’ Utenganga Riding Centre takes tourists on scenic excursions on horseback, with options for both novice and advanced riders.

Réunion offers a diverse selection of activities, including whale and dolphin watching. Stop at one of the food stalls in the streets for a taste of the local cuisine, taking a poulet la route (road chicken) en route to the beach. Or experience the sight of the still-active Piton de la Fournaise volcano from its base, making sure to visit the Cite du Volcan Museum where visitors can experience 4D cinema, and a lava tunnel replica.

Nosy Be

Nosy Be, just off the coast of Madagascar, offers a variety of activities – from world-class scuba diving and sport fishing, to luxury catamaran tours. Between January and March, tourists can visit Lemuria Island, where local distillers explain and demonstrate the process of turning ylang-ylang flowers into the renowned essential oil. On the coast near the village of Mahatsinjo is a sacred banyan tree planted by the Queen of the Sakalava tribe in 1836.

A guide takes visitors to see this historic tree, which is signposted from the Route de l'Ouest north of Hell-Ville, and can be easily reached by quadbike or motorbike. Visitors are required to remove their shoes before approaching the tree, due to its sacred nature, and a wrap is provided if tourists’ legs are bare. And of course, Nosy Be is known for its lemurs. The Parc National Lokobe, a national park in north-western Madagascar, is home to the Black lemur, along with other lemur species, which visitors can see while enjoying a number of guided walking tours.

Airlink connects passengers directly from Johannesburg to Nosy Be through direct flights on Sundays. Additionally, from December 19 to January 2, 2019, there will be an additional flight on Wednesdays.

Bonefishing 

The Seychelles offers some of the greatest bonefishing habitats in the world. Popular amongst sporting anglers because of its challenging nature, fishing enthusiasts can visit Alphonse Island, around 450km from the main island of Mah, on a 60-minute charter flight. With a great volume of shallow water and coral reef, Alphonse Island’s ‘flats’ are a prime habitat for bonefish.

Aquacasia – a gourmet experience

Aquacasia is the brainchild of Chef Willibald Reinbacher, the chief executive of the Nira Hotels group, which runs Shanti Maurice in Mauritius. With the aim of showcasing the traditional cuisine from islands like the Comoros and Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Reunion and Maldives, this food trend is inspired by street traders and authentic family recipes.

And the offerings are diverse across the islands. According to Reinbacher, each island has a unique tropical climate, which means that a multitude of different fruits and vegetables grow locally.

Credit: Jacada Travel

“Today's visitors are in search of experiential diversity,” says Sherin Francis, CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board. Those heading to the Seychelles in December should pay a visit to the Seychelles Ocean Festival, she says. This three-day event includes film screenings, raft races and a family fun day with a triathlon, beach volleyball, football, treasure hunt and beach clean up.

Tourists are keen to get beneath the skin of the destination, she explains, and they want to do so by meeting and mingling with the locals, and taking the lesser-trodden paths to enjoy authentic cultural adventures.