With thousands of weddings postponed in the UK since the start of the pandemic and a new appreciation of travel, there’s a huge pent-up demand for honeymoons. Many couples with savings in the bank are booking more exotic and more lavish trips than they previously planned, and the most popular destination is the Indian Ocean, with its natural beauty and ultra-romantic resorts. Here, Jane Anderson, editor of 101 Honeymoons, asks the experts about the most exciting new developments in the region.
The luxury honeymoon sector is set for a bumper year in 2022 with record levels of customer enquiries, and hoteliers and tour operators responding with exciting new openings, with a focus on privacy, indulgence and sustainability.
The luxury tour operator Turquoise Holidays says average spend on honeymoons is up 11% on 2019 with couples budgeting an average £6,500 for a stay of 12 nights. High on the list of priorities are beautiful beaches, stylish accommodation and privacy, along with diving, snorkelling and perhaps a wildlife safari. The Indian Ocean – from Madagascar to Sri Lanka – clearly fits the bill.
Liane Goldring, of Mahlatini Travel, says: “With so many newlyweds having missed out on their original honeymoon due to the pandemic, we are finding many couples are pushing the boat out with higher budgets and a desire for a more experience-filled, memory-making trip. While they still want to fulfil that Indian Ocean paradise island dream, it is increasingly combined with a safari adventure first, or a more off-grid destination such as Mozambique or one of the private Seychelles islands.”
Here are some of the most exciting places to stay in the Indian Ocean in 2022.
Mango House is the Hilton Group’s first luxury property in the Seychelles and opened in July 2021. Originally owned by Italian fashion photographer Gian Paolo Barbieri, this contemporary boutique property has the feel of a house party in a private home. Interiors reflect local culture, art and nature. Many rooms are unique and some are in clusters that can be booked out as one whole villa – a great option for wedding parties. Honeymoon villas with private pools are also available for maximum privacy. Despite its bijou size, there are five places to eat and drink. Find out more from Turquoise Holidays.
Madagascar, the second largest island in the world, is known as much for its luxury barefoot resorts and pristine beaches as its diverse and unique eco-system. For an ultra lavish honeymoon, Abercrombie and Kent recommends a stay at Miavana located on Nosy Ankao, part of a five-island archipelago a 20-minute helicopter ride from the mainland. This is once-in-a-lifetime paradise island territory. The resort was designed by the same team that created North Island in the Seychelles, where luxury works in harmony with nature. Activities include lemur walks, mountain picnics and in-villa spa treatments.
Mauritius is a tried-and-tested honeymoon destination, where market-leading Beachcomber Tours has a lovely collection of resorts. Both Dinarobin Beachcomber and Victoria Beachcomber stand out for newlyweds looking for romance and privacy because of their adults-only sections. Dinarobin has a dedicated child-free crescent with a private pool and aptly-named Zen Suites.
Victoria Beachcomber has a separate purpose-built section dedicated to adults only called Victoria for 2, where couples can stay in one of the first swim-up rooms ever created in Mauritius. There’s also a dedicated bar and restaurants just for grown-ups.
In Sri Lanka, there’s less emphasis on the beaches and more on the unique cultural heritage, wildlife and natural beauty. The tour operator Barefoot Traveller says honeymooners are turning towards luxury boutique resorts in the hills and mountain regions. It recommends the newly-opened Aarunya Nature Resort and Spa, which has private villas scattered over seven acres of tea, fruit and spice plantations looking out to the Knuckles mountain range. Honeymooners are treated to free chocolates and wine, 15 per cent discount in the spa, a complimentary high tea and a poolside candlelit dinner.
A new resort Patina Maldives, Fari Islands is perfect for honeymooners with a conscience, created with natural, renewable materials and powered by solar energy. It also has a strong ethos of giving back to the local community, but still comes with all the glorious attributes you’d expect of a Maldives honeymoon resort including a fantastic spa, pool, white sandy beaches and a sense of seclusion. It’s featured by several UK tour operators including Abercrombie & Kent.
The new adult-only SALT of Palmar in Mauritius offers something a little bit different for couples with its a quirky, eye-catching design of bold colours and stripes, showcasing local heritage alongside international flair. Highlights include cloud-like handmade beds and a Himalayan salt room in the spa.
Also in Mauritius, the LUX* Grand Baie Resort & Residences, opened on December 1, promises to be a big hit with honeymooners. Newlyweds will be pampered with a complimentary champagne breakfast on their terrace, an experimental cooking class in the resort’s Foodlab, and a couple’s photoshoot session, all valid up to 12 months after the wedding date. Book with The Inspiring Travel Company.
Adventurous honeymooners looking for a remote retreat should head to Mozambique, then take a helicopter transfer to Benguerra Island, part of the Bazaruto Archipelago Marine National Park. Here, newlyweds can check into the Azura Marlin Beach, the latest addition to the Azura Retreats’ portfolio. This newly refurbished five-star boutique hotel has just nine beach villas with beautiful outdoor showers and wide private verandas. Exploring the rich marine environment is uppermost here, whether that’s snorkelling over the coral reefs of Two Mile Reef or taking a guided island hop. Book with Mahlatini.
The new five-star Kagi Maldives is an intimate new boutique resort perfect for honeymooners looking to get away from it all. This five-star adult-only private island in the North Male Atoll focuses on living healthily and joyfully and has just 50 villas. For couples in search of less solitude and more action, the new all-inclusive Siyam World is home to the first floating water park in the Maldives.
The Maldives is better known for its overwater villas than its water parks. Oliver’s Travels, the villa specialist, recommends Villa Kulhi which is built over a crystal-clear lagoon and comes with a dedicated 24-hour villa host. Back on dry land, Villa Barracuda is perfect for honeymooners looking for total privacy with its own indoor and outdoor living spaces, private pool and beachfront setting.
Sri Lanka has a couple of extraordinary new properties perfect for honeymooners that want something above and beyond the usual five-star luxury. The specialist operator Selective Asia recommends Haritha Villas and Spa near Galle which has just nine stunning contemporary villas with private gardens and pools and views to die for. If you want colonial grandeur, then book one of two Colonial Mansions in the original period building which have been given a magical makeover combining ancient and modern.
A honeymoon at Raffles Seychelles begins with a scenic helicopter transfer from Mahé to Praslin and things only get better at this luxurious villa-only resort. There are indoor and outdoor showers, soaking tubs with sea views and an open-air Pan Asian restaurant with its own sushi bar. Book with Classic Collection.