Today (March 17, 2017): Travel tip: Maldives, Seychelles or Mauritius: which island to choose?
Are you dreaming of a tropical island hideaway with dazzling beaches, turquoise waters, and exceptional accommodations offering an air of exclusivity and romance? Then the Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius are thé destinations that you should put on your bucket list. At the heart of the Indian Ocean, these island aren’t as similar as you might first think, with each nation having its own charm and offering travelers a somewhat different experience. Asking yourself which island to choose one? Let me guide you so that you may find out which one suits you the best by comparing the following characteristics:
- Luxury resorts
- Family holidays
- Wow factor
- Culture & religion
- Getting around, activities & sightseeing
- Snorkeling & diving
- Key points
You can share your own opinion and favorite in the comments section or take my poll below.
- The Maldives enjoy a tropical, generally humid climate throughout the year with almost no fluctuations in temperature, due to their location on the Equator. The winter monsoon – named ‘Iruvai’ in Dhivehi (Maldivian language) – is the best time to visit the Maldives with blue, clear skies on most days and less frequent rain (although showery days still occur). The winter monsoon generally starts in November and lasts through April. The summer monsoon – named ‘Halhangu’ in Dhivehi – runs from May to October, peaking in June, and brings heavy rains, thunderstorms, winds and rough seas (sometimes for days in a row). It is worth paying higher prices and sticking to the dry season in the Maldives, as there is not much to do on a rainy day. It has to be noted that Maldivian weather became less predictable since the 2004 tsunami. Especially November and December, which are often labelled as dry season months, have been very unsettled in recent years. Also keep in mind that the Southern Atolls – located south of the Equator – see more clouds, rain and storms due the presence of the nearby intertropical convergence zone.
- The Seychelles also enjoy a tropical, humid climate with constant high temperatures throughout the year. The weather is similar to the Maldives, although it features an inverse pattern. From May to October (wet season in the Maldives) the south-east trade winds (Southeast Monsoon) bring a relatively dry period with mostly clear skies and very little precipitation although seas can be choppy at this time of year (with seaweed on the beaches). From December to March (dry seasons in the Maldives), the Northwest Monsoon brings very wet weather to the Seychelles, especially in December and January, though the seas are calmer during this period. The transition months April and October are interspersed between the Southeast and Northwest Monsoon and are often considered the best months for a visit to the archipelago: the winds die down as they change direction and sunny days are the norm (with a few passing showers).
- Mauritius enjoys a subtropical climate with a similar pattern to that of the Seychelles: the dry seasons runs from May to October (Mauritian winter) while the wet seasons occurs from November to April (Mauritian summer). There are some differences though with the weather of the Maldives and the Seychelles. There is more fluctuation in the temperature since Mauritius is located further away from the Equator: the wet summer brings very hot and humid days, while the temperature is more comfortable and balmy during the dry winter season (you may need a light jacket at night). Also, contrary to the Seychelles and the Maldives, Mauritius is located in the so-called cyclone belt with a risk of tropical hurricanes in the hot summer months (chances are very low though). So in general, the best time to visit Mauritius for cooler, drier weather is from May to December. That said, if you’re planning to stay on Mauritius’ east coast, I recommend avoiding the months of July and August as this is when the wind is at its strongest on this side of the island.
Winner: The Seychelles (from May to October) and the Maldives (from November to April)
- The Maldives consists of 1192 tiny coral islands and sandbanks – of which around 200 are inhabited and a further 100 are managed as tourist resorts. These islands are grouped in 26 breathtakingly beautiful atolls and encircled by white sands and incredibly beautiful lagoons blessed with crystal clear waters and protected by reef structures. The Maldivian archipelago is completely flat, with an average ground-level elevation of 1.5 meters (4 ft 11 in) above sea level and the highest natural point being the lowest in the world, at 2.4 meters (7 ft 10 in).
- The Seychelles consists of 115 coral and granite islands which are the peaks of a massive underwater plateau. The 3 main islands – Mahe, Praslin and La Digue – are quite large, while the other islands are medium-sized to tiny. The island nation is a place of awe-inspiring scenery, with granitic mountain ranges clad in virgin jungle cascading down to hauntingly beautiful, palm fringed, with sand beaches. Some of the islands – such as La Digue – feature huge granite boulders on their beaches, sculptured by the elements and time itself. A real treat for the eye, the Seychelles – with their prehistoric, otherworldly landscapes – are the most beautiful islands of the Indian Ocean.
- Mauritius is a single island – about 21 times smaller than Denmark – ringed by reefs and beaches. Its interior consists of rugged hills and mountains, that are covered in lush tropical foliage, while the vegetation becomes more sparse with endless sugar cane plains towards the shores (except for the imported palm trees at the resorts where you will spend your holiday). In all honesty, and having traveled to Mauritius a couple of times, I have never been impressed by Mauritius’ landscape which does not feel very tropical (due to the fact this is located further away from the Equator). The only exception is the spectacular, UNESCO protected ‘Le Morne’ area in the southwest corner of the island, where the iconic Le Mont Brabant mountain (with a height of 556 meters or 1824 feet) overlooks a deep blue lagoon fringed by a white sand, creating a truly tropical idyll that comes close to absolute paradise.
Winner: The Seychelles
- The Maldives are billed as a slice of heaven and one of the world’s greatest beach destinations and it’s hard to find any reason to argue with that. The more than 1000 islands are graced with the whitest sandy beaches and surrounded by the bluest and clearest of water. The only things you hear on the beach are the palm trees swaying in the wind and the warm Indian Ocean waters lapping the powder soft sands. While all beaches in the Maldives are marvelous, the quality of the beaches does differ from island to island, since – unfortunately – some resorts make use of sandbags, sea walls and coarses sand to preserve the state of their idyllic beaches.
- The Seychelles have the finest and most spectacular beaches in the world. Their beauty is beyond words and also the main reason that more and more people visit this Indian Ocean island nation (and keep returning). The beaches at the Seychelles are so consistently amazing that it’s hard not to become blasé about them. Exquisite ribbons of powdery-soft white sand are lapped by turquoise waters and backed by jungle clad hills and huge granite boulders. It is not difficult to see why photographers and film makers love to come here. The Seychelles’ most beautiful beaches are Anse Intendance (on Mahe Island), Anse Lazio (Praslin Island) and Anse Source d’Argent (La Digue Island).
- Mauritius‘ blindingly white beaches are excellent according to all international standards and most people will absolutely love them. However, they are in a different league as compared to the magnificent, pristine beaches of Mauritius’ Indian Ocean siblings described above. Not only do Mauritius’ beaches feature rougher sand granules (these aren’t the powder soft beaches you may have been dreaming about), they are also backed by a so-so background that lacks the naturally tropical, lush and jungle-like vegetation you’ll find in the Seychelles and the Maldives.
Winner: The Seychelles
4. LUXURY RESORTS
- The Maldives have become the globe’s ultimate luxury holiday playground. Synonymous with unrivaled luxury, the Maldives have the most luxurious hotel resorts anywhere on earth with room rates that matches the archipelago’s reputation. Those looking to pay top dollar – often more than $5,000 USD per night – for some of the world’s most decadent luxury resort experiences will be spoilt for choice here. Every resort is constructed on its own unpopulated and pristine tropical island, ensuring exclusivity, serenity and total privacy. Guests can choose between villas built on the shore’s blinding white sand or accommodations perched on stilts above the shimmering blue lagoons. Top-drawer spas, Michelin star dining, unrivaled butler service, and impressive wine cellars are the norm. Besides the 5- and 6-star resorts, the Maldives also feature some more affordable hotels catering to families, divers and those on a (relative) budget. I have published here a top 10 list with the most fabulous luxury resorts in the Maldives, with Soneva Jani being my favorite hotel in the island nation.
- The Seychelles have recently moved up a gear when it comes to pleasing the discerning traveler, and are on their way to overshoot both the Maldives and Mauritius in terms of astonishingly decadent resorts. The nation’s most exclusive resorts are all located on their own insanely beautiful granite islands, featuring palatial beachfront villas that offer the ultimate in tropical holidays and private living on the globe. North Island (where Kate and William spent their honeymoon), Fregate Island and Six Senses Zil Pasyon rank among the most exclusive – as well as most expensive – hotel real estate in the world. Something to keep in mind is that the Seychelles’ resorts are either ultra luxurious hotels or charming guests houses with very little in between, although newly opened, more modest resorts are trying to lure the more budget minded traveler.
- Mauritius has always been knows as a luxury destination, with many leading and world-class resorts dotted around the island shore’s. The luxury hotels in Mauritius were built long before the Seychelles and the Maldives became the planet’s hotspots for luxury travel, hence explaining why the facilities in Mauritius are somewhat older and why most hotels don’t feature stand-alone villas with private plunge pools (which is now the norm in the Maldives and the Seychelles). The good news is that the luxury resorts in Mauritius are surprisingly affordable, at least when compared to the sometimes insane room rates charged in the Maldives and the Seychelles. Mauritius’ five star hotels have indeed some of the best value deals to be found in the Indian Ocean basin. The island also features a diverse range of accommodations appealing to all travelers and budgets, raging from modest establishments to high-end glamorous hotels.
Winner: The Maldives
- The Maldives have a reputation as the world’s most sought after honeymoon destinations and for good reason. What’s not to like about its iconic sunsets, sugar white beaches, ocean-edge dinners, pampering spa facilities, endless vistas over clear lagoons, and stunning overwater villas. It’s no wonder honeymooners flock here in droves, including the rich and famous. Katy Perry and Russell Brand and Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are just two of the high-profile (former) couples who spent their honeymoons in the Maldives.
- The Seychelles offer a more discrete and understated type of romance as compared to the Maldives over-the-top and opulent venues. While the Maldives are favored by newly weds because of the decadent luxury and overwater sanctuaries, the Seychelles’ diverse natural beauty and exclusivity are hard to beat. A holiday here is much more of an adventure, which will appeal to more active honeymooners and couples who are interested in ecology and/or island hopping between some of its 115 islands.
- Mauritius is also a magnet for honeymooners and couples, although – IMHO – it cannot compete with romantic X-factor of the dazzling Maldivian resorts nor with the breathtaking natural splendor of the Seychelles. Having said that, Mauritius is perfect for couples that want to explore some of the world outside their resort (not possible at the Maldives) without the hassles of venturing too far away from their hotel base (not possible at the Seychelles). And let’s not forget that Mauritius offers more affordable luxury for honeymooners as compared to the Maldives and the Seychelles.
Winner: The Maldives
6. FAMILY HOLIDAYS
- The Maldives mainly attract adult travelers, with a mix of honeymooners, surfers, divers, spa enthusiasts, sunbathers and the occasional celebrity. Families with young children may feel a little out-of-place here, and resorts rarely cater for young children, with water activities limited to snorkeling and diving. In addition, overwater villas are often prohibited to families with children under the age of 12. There are a few resorts though that are great for families, such as Soneva Fushi, which features the largest kids’ club of the Indian Ocean.
- The Seychelles are mainly a destination for couples, with a focus on refined tranquility. With a few exceptions, there are no kids’ clubs to keep the young VIP guests entertained and water skiing, tube rides and jet-skis are not allowed because of conservation reasons. Having said that, eco-conscious families with older children (teenagers) will adore the island nation. And Praslin and La Digue are also suitable for a family trip with younger children, since some protected lagoons there allow bathing in peace.
- Mauritius is the Indian Ocean’s greatest destination for family travel and one of the most child-friendly destinations on the globe. Most hotels and resorts offer professional kids’ clubs to take care of and entertain children of all ages so their parents can have a holiday too. Water sports, light entertainment, and a wide range of excursions also keep the older children and teenagers entertained.
7. WOW FACTOR
- The Maldives have an enormous WOW factor, due to its exceptional geography, the idyllic and tiny tropical islands, the incredible underwater world beneath the crystal-clear waters, and the over-the-top hotels with the world’s most amazing overwater villas.
- The Seychelles‘ might just be the ultimate Indian Ocean beach destination, although its wow factor is less obvious at first sight when compared to the Maldives. While the Maldives immediately impress their visitors upon arrival, the Seychelles’ exceptional natural beauty will leave an overwhelming impression on condition that you include some sightseeing and island-hopping in your itinerary.
- Mauritius is a very beautiful island but – IMHO – lacks a wow factor.
Winner: the Maldives
8. RELIGION & CULTURE
- The Maldives – a predominant Muslim nation – offers so much more than sand, sun and sea as the islands are blessed with a rich culture and heritage. A holiday in the Maldives is a chance to gain an insight into this unique country, by exploring island villages, sourcing local handicrafts, visiting heritage sites and the National Museum in the capital Male, tasting local cuisine, and watching cultural performances. However, most tourists will pass on that since they prefer to spend all their time on their private island resorts.
- The Seychelles is a colorful and cosmopolitan blend of people of different races and cultures. The population is 82% Roman Catholic and 6% Anglican. At different times in its history, people of African, European and Asian origin have come to Seychelles, bringing with them their distinct traditions and customs and contributing to the way of life and to the vibrant Seychellois culture. Though there is no culture indigenous to the Seychelles, many influences from African origins have remained for centuries now. You can partake of the wonderful Seychellois culture simply by visiting the islands, dining, dancing, and having a great time.
- Mauritius‘ culture involves the blending of several cultures from its history, as well as individual culture arising indigenously. The country is a religiously diverse nation with Hinduism being the religion of about half the population. Going to its discovery can be a journey into some of the most fascinating and refined thousands year old ancestral traditions. This rich diversity is found in every aspect of the Mauritian life. Churches can be found next to a mosque, Indian temples next to Chinese pagodas. Various religious festivals are celebrated with much fervour and devotion all year round by the different communities. Some of these celebrations can be quite spectacular like the fire-walking ceremony that is performed on the Cavadee day.
9. GETTING AROUND, ACTIVITIES & SIGHTSEEING
- The Maldives are spread out and getting around the islands (always by boat or waterplane) is expensive and time-consuming (you always have to backtrack via Male). That’s why most people prefer to stay on their private island resort while visiting the archipelago. Activities are limited to what is offered by the resort and these are largely focused on exploring the ocean. Days are filled with sunbathing, swimming, fine dining, snorkeling, diving, visits to the spa, and some excursions (e.g. visit to a local island, dolphin cruise, picnic on a deserted island, etc …). One island, one resort – that’s the main appeal.
- The Seychelles consists of 115 island that are covered by magical landscapes waiting be explored. Getting around and do some island hopping is a must and easily done, with a regular network of high-speed ferries, small aircraft and helicopters operating out of the principal island of Mahé and catering for most itineraries. As long as you stick to the public ferries and limit your itinerary to the 3 main islands (Mahé, Praslin, and La Digue), it’s also quite cheap to go from one island to another. The Seychelles offer world-class sightseeing. Mahé is home to the small capital and the beautiful Morne Seychellois National Park (which offers exceptional hiking). On Praslin Island, visitors can explore the UNESCO-listed Vallée de Mai, while sleepy La Digue shelters some of the world’s most breathtaking beaches. The outer islands are mainly uninhabited low-lying sand cays and small coralline islands and atolls. The resorts themselves offer plenty of activities, but keep in mind that all motorised sports are banned for conservation reasons (which is great news for snorkelers and divers).
- Mauritius is 45 km (28 mi) in width and 65 km (40 mi) in length. Getting around and exploring the island is very easy with a rental car or by taxis. Mauritius offers a myriad of activities and attractions, such as world-class golf courses, exciting water sports (e.g. jetski, windsurfing, waterski), parasailing, mountain trekking, hunting, birdwatching, exploring the old colonial capital, one of the world’s best botanical gardens, a couple of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, driving an underwater scooter to be eye-to-eye with the local marine life, and walking with some of Africa’s big cats. If you are looking for a fun and action-packed holiday, then Mauritius is the place to go.
10. SNORKELING & DIVING
- The Maldives stand head and shoulders above any other destination on earth when it comes to diving and snorkeling. Deep channels concentrate nutrient-rich ocean currents into and out of the atolls, which supports an abundance of marine life, including giant whale sharks and manta rays. Most resorts feature their own certified dive center, and have access to a diverse range of dive sites suitable for divers of all experience levels. All resorts also feature a so-called ‘house reef’ close to their shores, where snorkeling can bring you face to face with everything from surgeon fish, tuna, and parrot fish, to eagle rays, turtles and even hammerhead sharks. I have published here a top 10 list with the best resorts for snorkeling in the Maldives, with Soneva Fushi being my favorite.
- The Seychelles‘ stunning topography of expansive reefs, walls, pinnacles, drop offs, wrecks and canyons make for one of the world’s most diverse marine environments around, teeming with both fish and coral life. The destination is rated world-class by divers and also snorkelers will enjoy the waters, although the reefs are not as impressive as those in the Maldives. The Inner Islands rest on an easy-to-access shallow plateau and the pristine Outer Islands offer experienced divers barely explored reefs where you may even be able to spot the occasional hammerhead shark if you’re lucky! Contrary to the Maldives, the Seychelles’ top resorts often offer complimentary diving excursions.
- Mauritius is almost entirely encircled by a coral reef, making it an excellent destination for lovers of marine life, although the snorkeling and diving is a far cry from the experience you get in the Maldives or Seychelles. However, unlike its Indian Ocean siblings where the rise in the sea temperature caused by global warming leads to slow destruction and whitening of the coral reefs, the marine fauna and flora of Mauritius is still well-preserved.
Winner: The Maldives
11. KEY POINTS
- The Maldives is all about luxurious escapism. It mainly attract wealthy tourists, honeymooners, celebrities, and dive and snorkeling enthusiasts, who are in search of the tranquility, decadent luxury and amazing oceanic wildlife offered by the nation’s small, super-de-luxe and mind-blowing island resorts.
- The Seychelles are the only Indian Ocean island that have escaped mass tourism so far, although its off-the-beaten-track reputation may change in the near future as more and more airlines are opening routes to the fabulous archipelago. At the moment, the islands mainly attract ecoconscious guests and affluent couples who fancy wild beaches, love to be surrounded by unspoilt and rough nature, put some island-hopping on their itinerary, and enjoy the exclusivity offered by the Seychelles’ string of uberluxurious resorts.
- Mauritius is the most popular island in the Indian Ocean. Tourists flock to the island because of its affordable luxury resorts, exotic live entertainment, world-class golf courses, and family friendly image.