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A real feast for the senses, India is awash with colour, smells and spices. Although there is still hustle and bustle of towns and cities, the low rise buildings ooze authentic charm and culture so different to anywhere else in the world.
Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is the main cruise port, and is memorable beyond imagination. Amongst it’s chaos and excess, it’s landmarks include colour markets such as Mangaldas Market or Crawford Market, world class restaurants to fill you up ready for the next adventure, and stately architecture such as the High Court or the University of Mumbai. Perhaps most breathtaking are the rock cut temples on Elephanta Island, named after a large stone elephant near the shore which collapsed in 1814 and now stands in Mumbai’s Victoria Gardens. Carved into basalt rock, this is one of the most impressive collections of temple carvings in India.
Cruising away from India and into the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, idyllic islands await you, including Mauritius, the Seychelles and Sri Lanka. Paradise at it’s best.
Mahe is the largest of the Seychelles Islands, with 68 beaches for you to take your pick from, all with powdery white sands. From it’s peaks you can see the other islands, surrounded by coral reefs, and the capital, Victoria, boasts Creole restaurants and markets and galleries. Highlights include giant tortoises at the Botanical Gardens.
Praslin provides a home for some of the world’s rarest birds, including the Black Parrot but is most famous for Vallee de Mai, a forest of rare palms and flowers.
La Digue is rumoured to be one of the most beautiful islands in the world. You can get about on bicycle or cart to see the giant naturally sculptured boulders seen in most photos of the Seychelles, and the bird sanctuary which is home to the last remaining Paradise Flycatchers.
Mauritius is a mixture of old and new cultures, white sandy beaches and tropical forests. Average daily temperature is 27 degrees Celsius and rarely below 20 at night time, although November to April is the hottest time of year. The island’s history stems back to the sixteenth century when the Portuguese visited as the first Europeans. It was the Dutch however who settled on the island and named it after Prince Maurice of Nassau. Years later the French occupied the island and this was when the harbour ‘Port Louis’ was built. In the north, Grand Bay is sure to provide a good night out after some shopping.
To the east of the island, Ile aux Cerfs is a must for water sport lovers and has the most beautiful beach on the island. In the south east, La Vanilla Reserve des Mascareigenes has giant tortoises which roam free and Nile crocodiles to see. There are 20,000 species of insects including butterflies from all over the world. The west provides opportunities to see dolphins playing in the ocean. Finally, further inland, you can follow the Tea Route to the tea factory and museum, and vanilla plantations.
For such a small island, Sri Lanka has just as much to offer as some of the larger islands in this region. Waterfalls and ambling rivers, blue lagoons and sandy beaches frame the ancient cities and vibrant cultures of this island. But it’s the people who really make this island the welcoming, diverse paradise it is, many having had to start again from scratch after the Tsunami in 2004. Shop till you drop for trinkets and crafts in the morning before mountain biking round the island in the afternoon.