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chances are that you have spent the past two weeks wrapping, unwrapping and wolfing down the stuff brought to you by people like the cheerful rating whom Horatio Clare calls "N".

Get me out of here - Mauritius, Madeira, cruising the Arctic Circle

Now... Grab some winter sun in Mauritius

Depart on 5 December for a week in Mauritius. Western & Oriental's offer on the Indian Ocean island is £1,159pp for seven nights at the Veranda Paul & Virginie resort, with all meals, transfers and Emirates flights from Heathrow via Dubai included. westernoriental.com

Families of former British soldiers held in Indian jail call on government for help

The families of six former British soldiers imprisoned in India after being arrested during “anti-piracy operations” have demanded the UK government intervene to secure their safe return.

Scientists attached GPS trackers to a group of 16 albatrosses in the Indian Ocean. They recorded the birds flying at speeds of up to 67mph using a ‘dynamic soaring’ technique, which enables them to fly thousands of miles depending on the wind

How the unflappable albatross can travel 10,000 miles in a single journey

Scientists believe they have finally worked out how the mighty albatross – a seabird capable of travelling 10,000 miles in a single journey and circumnavigating the globe in 46 days – manages to fly without expending almost  any energy.

Maldivians finally vote to elect new president

After two months of political bickering and repeated failure to hold an election, Maldives voters headed to the polls today to elect a new president for their vulnerable new democracy.

Supporters of former Maldivian president and presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed staged a protest in Male recently

Maldives to finally hold election after two failed attempts as archipelago island nation rocked by series of crises

After two failed attempts, the Maldives likely will hold its presidential election on Saturday as the three candidates have agreed on a voters' register, the president said today.

People affected by Cyclone Phailin wait to be rescued and receive relief supplies in the Balasore district of the eastern Indian state of Odisha

Cyclone Phailin survivors still await rescue as aid workers warn a million will need help

A mass evacuation saved thousands of people from India’s fiercest cyclone in 14 years, but aid workers warned a million would need help after their homes and livelihoods were destroyed.

Fresh turmoil in The Maldives as election results are annulled

Supreme Court says poll in which Mohamed Nasheed won highest number of votes suffered irregularities

Supporters of former president Mohamed Nasheed face police officers during a protest demanding that election be held as scheduled Saturday

Maldives: Protests and violence on streets, yet there’s nothing to worry about

Tour operators are apparently oblivious to reality

Tourism, the Maldives’ lifeblood, threatens to shut down over election

Result of the first round was overturned by the country’s Supreme Court after it was challenged by third-placed candidate

Zanzibar acid attack: Catholic priest in hospital

Incident comes after assailants threw acid over two British teenage girls on the island in August

A survey by Avaaz found that 92 per cent of Maldivians want a reform of national laws to protect women from sexual assault, while 73 per cent are opposed to punishments for women for 'sexual crimes'

Maldives rape victim spared the lash after global anger

Girl’s ‘fornication’ sentence commuted after IoS highlights case

Efforts to aid British victim of Zanzibar acid attack made injuries worse

Parents release pictures of injuries as volunteer teachers arrive in the UK to be seen by surgeons for ‘horrendous’ burns

Family handout photo of one of the two British teenagers attacked with acid on Zanzibar.

Acid attack victims Katie Gee and Kirstie Trup
return home as Zanzibar police hold five men

Parents release pictures of injuries as volunteer teachers arrive in the UK to be seen by surgeons for ‘horrendous’ burns

A Hindu devotee, whose body is pierced with skewers, takes part in the religious festival of Panguni Uthiram in the southern Indian city of Chennai March 26, 2013. The festival is observed in the Tamil month of Panguni and is celebrated in honour of the Hindu god Muruga. The devotees make offerings to lord Muruga with sacrificial feats they believe will keep them away from evil spirits. REUTERS/Babu

New study shows how inflicting pain in religious festivals increases charitable giving

Researchers compared two rituals - one involving only praying and singing, the other requiring participants to pierce their bodies with hooks, skewers and needles

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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 15 May 2015
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue