When one thinks of Africa, savannas and safaris are often top of mind — but don’t forget that the continent has glorious sandy stretches, too. In fact, many travelers to the region decide to do a combination “bush and beach” escape, pairing wildlife adventures on land with downtime by the sea. And the No. 1 place to do so, as voted by T+L readers, happens to be the Seychelles, a 115-island archipelago in the Indian Ocean. These are some of the most biodiverse isles on the planet, and home to some 7,200 species of animals. Visitors can see Aldabra giant tortoises on Curieuse Island and enormous coco-de-mer palm trees in the Vallée de Mai, a UNESCO World Heritage site on Praslin. And then there are the beaches: mountain-backed Beau Vallon Bay on Mahé, family-friendly Anse La Réunion on La Digue, and secluded Anse Citron on Praslin, to name a few.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated islands according to their activities and sights, natural attractions and beaches, food, friendliness, and overall value.
The other two winners on the list — Madagascar and Mauritius — also offer exotic scenery and wildlife. Deep-sea-fishing aficionados flock to Mauritius to reel in marlin, while landlubbers content themselves on beaches where tortoises can outnumber the people. Villages welcome visitors with restaurants and shopping, and history lovers can visit buildings from the 17th century. Whether you want to immerse yourself in the island’s culture or pretend you are the first to discover it, Mauritius makes room for it all, with spectacular places from which to base your adventures thanks to five-star resorts such the Four Seasons.
Located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa, Madagascar can claim biodiversity seldom found elsewhere. It’s the world’s 47th-largest country and fourth-largest island, and it makes the most of its 227,000 square miles. Rain forests are abundant with animals and rare orchids; the island boasts more than 100 species of lemurs, 285 endemic birds, and, should you be able to tear yourself away from this paradise, unparalleled diving off the heralded beaches.
As for the glories of the Seychelles — where Six Senses, which won for best hotel brand in the world, has an outpost — read on.
The Seychelles are hardly undiscovered. Kate Middleton and Prince William celebrated their honeymoon here, on the exclusive North Island, and there are now several five-star resorts, including the Four Seasons — another T+L World’s Best winner. But this is the rare archipelago where you can find the kind of luxury that attracts celebrities and romantic royals, and still feel that you are the first to discover uninhabited beaches and nature trails. As one reader wrote, “It is like you are in the Garden of Eden.” And if you’re craving a vibrant scene, check out the island of Mahé’s many cultural attractions and restaurants, which serve dishes that combine flavors from African, French, Chinese, and Indian cuisines.