When you think of blue, cloudless skies above a warm turquoise sea that laps against a palm fringed beach you tend to be thinking of the Indian Ocean. The many thousands of islands that dot this vast expanse are home to some of the world's finest hotels and beach lodges, particularly popular amongst honeymooners. While the Maldives is a destination in its own right, the islands and beaches closer to mainland Africa combine brilliantly with a safari to make one of the world's best combination holidays. The beaches of Zanzibar provide the lion's share of the accommodation options but, if you want to do it in style, these are the lodges to go for...
A short plane, car and boat journey off the coast of Tanzania, probably the word's best safari country, is Mnemba. This private island is one of the best beaches in Africa, if not the world, and the best example of barefoot luxury I have ever experienced. Unlike the beaches of Zanzibar, just a mile away across a short channel, Mnemba's beach is not affected by the tides, looking beautiful at all hours of the day. The island is surrounded by a large reef that provides some of Tanzania's best snorkelling and diving. The lodge is simple in design with reed and palm rooms set just back from the beach within the tree line. The food and service, largely provided by your private butler, is some of the finest in Tanzania.
Moving south and crossing into Mozambique we have the Quirimbas Islands. Our favourite in the area, Vamizi, is closing for refurbishment allowing nearby Quilalea has moved to the fore. The lodge is owned by honeymoon specialists Azura Retreats, who have built their reputation on luxurious and romantic lodges. Quilalea has just nine private suites lining the beach, looking out over a marine sanctuary that's teeming with life. You can do exceptional snorkelling by sticking your head under water! If it's a honeymoon, Azura go out of their way with little extras and surprises that can really make the whole experience. Getting there is expensive and difficult but can also be the highlight of your trip - the final leg is by helicopter!
Mozambique is a country blessed with exceptional beaches and, thankfully, not all are as inaccessible as Quilalea. Benguerra Island, part of the Bazaruto archipelago and just a couple of hours flight north of Maputo, is one such beach. The pick of the island's lodges is &Beyond's Benguerra. This 13 room lodge offers incredible views from every angle, and its west-facing position means sundowners are a daily must. The food, a mixture of local and Portuguese food, is always fresh and always delicious. The unimaginatively named "Aquarium reef" is nearby and, as expected, an exceptionally good snorkelling and diving site. A major refurbishment will be finished by June 2015.
Belle Mare Plage
Several hundred miles east of Benguerra lies the tiny, beautiful island of Mauritius. Despite its remoteness, hundreds of hotels line its beaches. One such hotel is the Belle Mara Plage, a 235 room, 9 restaurant and 2 golf course resort on the north eastern side of the island. Despite its size, the hotel does not feel overcrowded as the rooms are well spaced and the beach is vast. If you tire of sitting on the beach, you can participate in one of countless activities offered including golf on their championship golf course, tennis, diving, water skiing, sailing, kite surfing, cookery, spa treatments and the rest. The food is varied and excellent and the range means guests are never bored of what's available. One of the most impressive aspects to staying here is that you are made to feel relaxed and at home, despite essentially being part of a small town.
North Island Lodge
Completing our tour of the best beach properties in East Africa we travel back up north to the Seychelles. This 115 island country has traditionally been difficult to link with a safari due to a lack of international flight and the difficulty of onward travel once in the Seychelles. The islands themselves are most people's image of paradise and North Island is the best beach lodge in the country, if not the world. It is the only lodge on the fabulous North Island, with three pristine white sand beaches and untouched coral reefs surrounding a hilly, palm tree covered interior. The eleven villas are beautiful and elegant - effortlessly luxurious without being OTT. Each comes with air conditioning, a private plunge pool and several other bells and whistles. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge stayed here on their honeymoon.