Perfect Match

With the ultimate in romantic experiences, the Indian Ocean continues to tempt couples in search of their dream wedding or honeymoon, says Lauren Jarvis

We sail towards the sinking scarlet ball on the horizon, as rays of purple and gold light up the sky and dolphins ride the bow of our traditional wooden dhoni.

With a glass of champagne in hand, and a warm, gentle wind playing with my hair, the Indian Ocean surrounds us, golden orbs of sandbanks and coral cays streaking the blue, and flying fish soaring into the air as we sail by.

There’s a freedom that comes from being on or near the water, and in the Maldives, an epic ocean encounter is never far away.

Experiencing this remarkable archipelago alone or with family and friends is a privilege that will make your heart sing, but immerse yourself in this spectacular destination with your romantic partner or soul mate and the islands offer up an extra sprinkle of magic.

Whether you choose the legendary luxury of an over-water villa, enjoy the playful decadence of a floating breakfast for two, explore spectacular reefs and lagoons hand in hand, or sample the simple indulgence of swaying side-by-side in a hammock, the Indian Ocean’s captivating islands will allow you the chance to write your own fairytale, far, far away from the chaos of the real world… if only for a week.

Romantic retreats

The Indian Ocean offers the ‘wow’ factor in abundance, from romantic starlit dining overlooking dreamy lagoons to wedding ceremonies conducted under the sea, with vibrant coral reefs replacing the usual floral displays and a guest list which includes turtles and tropical fish.

“From the tranquil serenity of the Maldives to the enthralling activities of Mauritius and the overall vibrancy throughout the seychelles, it’s easy to understand why the Indian Ocean is one of the top wedding and honeymoon destinations in the world,” says Indian Ocean specialist, Amanda Shand, at Audley Travel, which offers honeymoons across the Indian Ocean. “What truly sets the Indian Ocean apart is its power to make travellers feel nothing short of amazing.

There really is something quite magical about the Indian Ocean, which helps create those memorable, once-in-a-life time moments.”

The Maldives, famous for its crystal-clear waters, powder-white sand, top-notch spas and myriad of marine life and water sports is the perfect destination for couples looking for a blissed-out escape; Mauritius is a great fi t for adventurous couples, who can combine luxe accommodation with hiking through incredible landscapes and enjoying cultural tours on land; and the Seychelles is an exciting choice for couples who like to mix things up, with opportunities to island hop while sampling secluded resorts, breath taking beaches, and world-class hospitality.

As the cost of living crisis continues, travellers are looking for ways to cut costs and make savings, rather than compromising on their dream destination. “The Indian Ocean is enticing savvy couples with generous early-booking discounts and fantastic all-inclusive packages, which offer financial peace of mind,” says Shand. “From a laid-back barefoot wedding ceremony, to a five-star honeymoon in paradise, the idyllic islands of the Indian Ocean will more than deliver.”

Seychelles

Honeymoon destination of choice by the Prince and Princess of Wales, the Seychelles archipelago holds a special allure for weddings, offering a magical and exotic backdrop for couples exchanging their vows, while the unparalleled natural beauty of its islands and unique flora and fauna makes it an excellent choice for a honeymoon.

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“Seychelles maintains a quiet and secluded atmosphere, providing an intimate escape for couples seeking privacy,” says Karen Confait, Marketing Director, UK & Ireland, at Tourism Seychelles. “It also embraces a hassle-free process for destination weddings, making it appealing for couples seeking simplicity and elegance.”

Streamlined wedding packages and simplified legal procedures make destination weddings in Seychelles accessible and affordable and the islands provide a range of venue options, from intimate beachside ceremonies to luxurious resorts, with the diverse cultural influences in Seychellois traditions adding a unique touch to the celebrations.

Tourism Seychelles actively engages with UK travel agencies to promote exclusive deals and incentives, and participates in training events to educate agents on wedding offerings in the archipelago. Hilton Seychelles offer two properties for honeymooners or couples looking for a romantic escape, including the recently renovated Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & spa, which has private villas with pools and the chance to explore Mahe’s secluded spots by mini-moke.

Sell it: A seven-night honeymoon Package on Alphonse Island with Lusso Travel starts from £7,025pp, in a beach bungalow on a full-board basis, including flights from London Heathrow to Mahé with Etihad Airways, a 15% discount, bubbly on arrival, a romantic turndown, sunset event and a private romantic dinner. 01625 591 111 lussotravel.com

Mauritius

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With breathtaking natural beauty, luxurious elegant resorts, a rich blend of cultural experiences and warm, welcoming hospitality, Mauritius is a truly unique destination for an overseas wedding or honeymoon. “The island’s resorts off er competitive honeymoon and wedding packages, making the destination more aff ordable than elsewhere and taking away the stresses of wedding planning,” says Arvind Bundhun, Director of Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA).

“We have some of the best professional wedding planners in the world, who help to create unforgettable experiences suitable for every kind of couple.”

The MICE VAT Exemption scheme, introduced in 2023, provides an attractive incentive, exempting 15% VAT on half-board accommodation for those organising weddings with over 50 guests staying for a minimum of three nights. Air Mauritius offers easy access with its new daily direct flight from London Gatwick.

The MTPA regularly hosts wedding and honeymoon-related FAM trips, and also offers online webinars for agents. Mauritius’ stunning resorts are ripe for romance, with The lux collective’s Mauritian LUX and Salt resorts offering tailor-made beach weddings with a strong sustainability focus, and boutique properties like the refurbished three-star Veranda Palmar Beach blending contemporary comfort with immersive authentic local experiences and relaxed weddings on the beach. Sunlife’s four luxury hotels on the island also embrace local traditions, with options to include local musicians, dancers and cuisine in the celebrations.

Sell it: Stay seven nights at heritage Le Telfair Golf & Wellness Resort, a small luxury hotels of the World member. Accommodation is in a Deluxe suite with sea View, from £3,249pp with Kuoni. The deal includes honeymoon upgrades, a Gourmet Bliss all-inclusive package and flights from Gatwick with Air Mauritius. 0800 294 9727 kuoni.co.uk

Maldives

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With its ‘one island, one resort’ ethos, signature over-water villas and impossibly picturesque islands and atolls, the Maldives is a spectacular destination for an exotic wedding or honeymoon. Maintaining its focus on privacy and exclusivity, the Maldives has been leading the way on romantic escapes for more than 50 years, offering everything from picnics à deux on a desert island to incredible couples’ spa experiences overlooking the ocean – and with Virgin Atlantic now flying direct three times a week from London Heathrow to the Maldives, and introducing daily flights from October 2024, it’s never been easier to get there.

Coco Collection offers dedicated From the heart experiences, including setting up a private cinema under the stars and Robinson Crusoe escapes, while Angsana Velavaru has a dedicated wedding pavilion styled on a traditional Maldivian Dhoni boat and offers ceremonies featuring traditional drummers and sarongs for the bride and groom.

Known for its prolific marine life, the Maldives has long been a magnet for divers and snorkelers, and intrepid couples can now exchange their vows during the ultimate underwater Wedding at the new Amari Raaya Maldives, before enjoying a traditional Maldivian ceremonial procession on board the resort’s new luxury yacht, Raaya.

Rainer Steinhilber, General Manager at Amari Raaya Maldives, says: “The introduction of Raaya adds a new dimension to the exceptional romantic offerings we provide and helps create unforgettable memories in the heart of the Maldives.”

Sell it: Gold Medal offers seven nights at Sun Siyam Iru Veli, premium all-inclusive in a Beach Villa with Pool, from £4,429pp. Flights from London Heathrow to Male are with Virgin Atlantic. Extras for honeymooners include one bottle of sparkling wine, a fruit basket on arrival, a honeymoon cake and in-villa breakfast. 0800 014 7777 goldmedal.co.uk