The Indian Ocean is the perfect place to push the boat out for your clients’ big day, says Katie McGonagle
Picture the scene: a nervous groom stands at the water’s edge of a white-sand beach, deserted but for a few close friends and family, as his blushing bride makes her way barefoot across the sand to say ‘I do’.
Sounds pretty perfect, doesn’t it? If that’s the dream your clients have in mind, the pressure is on to make it a reality, but with operators expanding their weddings and honeymoon product across the much sought-after Indian Ocean, that task might not be as tricky as it sounds.
From sun-drenched beachside ceremonies or religious weddings to high-end honeymoons in the most stunning properties on earth, no one does luxury better than the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka and Mauritius have been the most popular wedding destinations for Kuoni customers this year and last, with the Seychelles also in the top 10, while the Maldives is top of the pile for honeymoons.
Here, we asked operators to name some of their favourite resorts for tying the knot or enjoying a romantic honeymoon.
Tropical paradises don’t come better than Mauritius – rippling volcanic scenery, azure blue sea and glittering waterfalls – so it’s no surprise it was Thomas Cook Signature’s top-selling wedding destination in 2011.
For the ceremony itself, the Maritim hotel is a firm favourite, singled out by Hayes & Jarvis, Travel 2 and Thomas Cook Signature for its comprehensive service and hassle-free all-inclusive package.
The hotel has two dedicated dressing rooms for the bridal party to have all the hair styling and beauty treatments they want on the big day, plus a vast choice of wedding locations in the 25-hectare resort: get hitched on the beach, in exotic tropical gardens, on a boat, on the jetty, overlooking the ruins of the grand Balaclava estate or in front of the River Citrons waterfall.
The Heritage Awali offers a similarly stunning mountain backdrop, with Thomas Cook Signature offering wedding packages from £439. Gold Medal also recommends Lux Belle Mare for its personalised packages, where couples design everything from the wedding cake to the bridal bouquet.
On the northern coast, Lux Grande Gaube is one of Travel 2’s top honeymoon picks, offering excellent views of the beautiful sandy beach while keeping each room private, plus there’s windsurfing, pedal boats and waterskiing for active couples.
Travel 2 also highlights the chic Le Touessrok, complete with Givenchy spa and 18-hole golf course, plus the more budget-friendly Veranda Paul & Virginie, a quaint romantic escape named after the legendary shipwrecked lovers.
The Private Travel Company offers 25% off accommodation for honeymooners at 34-room boutique 20 Degrees Sud and luxurious 65-villa Maradiva, one of the firm’s best-selling honeymoon resorts. The latter offers newlyweds a couple’s massage with petal bath and champagne breakfast on the beach; clients who would like to test out the service can visit a pop‑up spa hosted by the hotel at Harrods from October 8 to November 5.
For the latest luxury, suggest the St Regis Mauritius which opens in September on Le Morne Beach and is featured by Sunset Faraway, or Banyan Tree’s boutique Angsana Balaclava, which is less than a year old and recommended by Elite Vacations for its ‘superb’ suites which boast private pools or spa treatments.
Seychelles in style
When it comes to exclusive romantic getaways, the Seychelles has the royal seal of approval – Kate and Wills escaped to the secluded North Island for their honeymoon. Although isolation worked for the royal couple, bigger islands such as Mahé and Praslin have better transport links and more varied accommodation, making them an easier choice for wedding parties with guests.
Happy couples will be spoilt for choice on where to tie the knot at the five-star Sainte Anne Resort & Spa, a huge private island property just off Mahé. Elite Vacations suggests a ceremony at the resort, which offers discounts for wedding guests, followed by a honeymoon on a smaller island like Denis.
Constance Ephelia Resort is also good for larger wedding parties; it’s a huge property with suites and villas to suit different-sized groups; plus, its range of watersports, children’s activities and restaurants make it a great place for guests to have their own holiday after the ceremony.
Expressions Holidays suggests total tranquillity at Banyan Tree Seychelles, a 60-villa property whose wedding packages include a decorated venue, free upgrade, surprise gift, champagne breakfast and dinner on the beach.
On Praslin Island, Elite Vacations recommends Paradise Sun Hotel for a more budget-friendly option; the wedding package is free if the couple stay at least six nights, and comes with a complimentary sunset cruise.
Also on Praslin is Coco de Mer, set in 200 acres of tropical gardens, which conducts weddings in a covered gazebo on the ocean’s edge. Joanne Tipping, assistant product manager at Thomas Cook Signature, says: “With its remote location, Coco de Mer offers a secluded hideaway with a relaxed atmosphere for an unspoilt, informal wedding.” Couples can choose from three wedding themes, starting at £535.
Although Brits can’t legally marry in the Maldives, the islands are a magnet for luxury-seeking honeymooners and those who want a private blessing or to renew vows.
Gold Medal recommends Lux Maldives on Dhidhoofinolhu in South Ari Atoll; think overwater villas, suites with private gardens or pools, and romantic adventures like private picnics and beach bonfires. The Conrad Maldives also offers a private island experience and is the top pick for Expressions Holidays.
Set on Rangali Island, the resort even conducts blessings in an underwater chapel in a coral reef, and offers honeymooners spa treatments, a private dhoni cruise and dinner on the beach.
Kuoni has added Gangehi Island Resort, a rustic 40-bungalow property in North Ari Atoll, to its exclusive product. A renewal of vows package, including in-room breakfast, a 90-minute snorkelling tour, couple’s massage, wedding cake and candlelit dinner, starts at £814 per couple, plus brides get seven nights free when booking two weeks in an overwater bungalow.
The Private Travel Company has also added properties to its collection: Niyama offers contemporary style with an offshore restaurant, underwater music club and exclusive spa, while Lily Beach Resort & Spa offers value-for-money all-inclusive stays.
Spectacular Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has its fair share of gorgeous golden beaches but also suits couples who like an element of adventure as it’s easy to combine the beach with jungle walks, elephant rides or historical tours. Weddings are also cheaper than on other Indian Ocean islands, with affordable options for couples bringing friends and family.
Thomas Cook Signature’s most popular properties are the four-star Blue Water and Vivanta by Taj. The former has an epic staircase leading into the ballroom, perfect for newlyweds to make a grand entrance, while the latter can have an elephant on hand to greet the bride and groom (wedding packages from £1,239).
Margaret Anderson, Sri Lanka and Indian Ocean sales specialist with Expressions Holidays, recommends Amangalla in Galle.
She says: “It provides a different twist on a tropical wedding, exuding romantic charm and an air of grandeur from its colonial past. Memorable celebrations will be organised down to the finest detail, and it’s possible to organise Kandyan dancers, fireworks and elephants.” There is also an Anglican church nearby if couples prefer a religious ceremony.
For beachside weddings, The Fortress in Koggala is a popular choice, while those seeking something out of the ordinary might prefer Ceylon Tea Trails, a quiet resort in the heart of mountainous tea country.
For romantic honeymoons, Expressions’ top pick is Taprobane Island, a privately-owned island off the shore of Weligama.
Elite Vacations offers six nights’ half-board at Paradise Sun Hotel, Seychelles, from £1,549 in October/November including free wedding package, Etihad flights, sunset cruise and transfers.
Hayes & Jarvis offers a week’s all-inclusive at the Maritim Hotel in Mauritius from £1,699, or from £3,937 for a luxury wedding package, based on departures in November including Air Mauritius flights and transfers.
0871 200 2211
Seven nights at Niyama in the Maldives costs from £2,729 with The Private Travel Company, staying half-board in a beach studio with pool, including return flights, seaplane transfers, champagne and one honeymoon dinner.
020 7751 0880