The islands that God used as the blueprint for Heaven


1 Volcanoes trekExplore Worldwide (tel: 01252 760 000) offers a 15-day hiking tour of the volcanic isles of Mauritius and Reunion. As well as clambering up volcanic peaks, the trip includes exploring the melting pot of colonial cultures on the islands and their fantastic beaches. The next trip departs 7 May and costs £1,295 per person, based on two people sharing a room and including flights, transfers between the two islands, accommodation and some meals.

1 Volcanoes trekExplore Worldwide (tel: 01252 760 000) offers a 15-day hiking tour of the volcanic isles of Mauritius and Reunion. As well as clambering up volcanic peaks, the trip includes exploring the melting pot of colonial cultures on the islands and their fantastic beaches. The next trip departs 7 May and costs £1,295 per person, based on two people sharing a room and including flights, transfers between the two islands, accommodation and some meals.

2 Heaven on earthSee for yourself whether Mark Twain was right in his belief that "God created Mauritius and then copied it in heaven." Beautiful white beaches fringed by palm trees, and a variety of activities on and offshore, such as snorkelling, sailing, tennis and boules, are promised by Valtur UK (tel: 0870 036 3666). The cost for a 14-night stay starts from £1,459, for departures before 7 July, based on two sharing and including flights, transfers, accommodation, all meals and sporting facilities, except golf. Departing weekly from May.

3 GolfImprove your game and tee off against a dramatic volcanic backdrop in Mauritius with British Airways Holidays (tel: 0870 24 24 249). At the Belle Mare Plage resort guests have free access to the 18-hole Championship Course and a nine-hole course, and receive two hours free tuition during their seven-day stay. Prices start from £995 per person, based on two people sharing a room and including flights, transfers and half-board accommodation.

4 BirdwatchingThe aptly named Bird Island in the Seychelles is the focal point for a 14-night island-hopping birdwatching tour organised by Island Holidays (tel: 0800 253 534). The area's abundant wildlife includes the Black Parrot and a colony of over a million sooty terns. Departing 17 September, the price is £2,775 per person based on two sharing and including flights, inter-island transport, accommodation and all meals.

5 Island-hoppingFor those intent on relaxation rather than activity, the Seychelles also have much to offer.Elite Vacations (tel: 020 8864 4431) caters for visitors wanting to make the most of the beautiful beaches and luxurious hotels with its 'Treasure Trove' package. Planes, helicopters and boats are used to ensure that guests sample the delights of four islands over 15 days. Prices per person start at £1,970, based on two sharing and including flights, inter-island transport, hotel accommodation and some meals.

6 Natural wondersDiscover the World (tel: 01737 218 800) offers a 15-day trip for budding naturalists in the Seychelles. This unique tropical archipelago has over 200 species of indigenous plants and its wildlife includes colourful frogs, geckos and flying foxes. Highlights include a search for two birds found nowhere else in the world, the Seychelles scops owl and Seychelles white-eye, on Mahe, and a visit to the World Heritage Site of Vallée de Mai on Praslin which is home to 4,000 coco-de-mer palms, some over 800 years old. The next trip departs 4 June and costs from £2,499 per person, based on two sharing and including flights, transfers, accommodation and some meals, all boat trips and island excursions.

7 DivingAquatours (tel: 020 8398 0505) runs a week-long diving trip on board the Kiswani, a luxury motor cruiser out of Pemba, off the coast of Tanzania. This provides an ideal vantage-point for experienced divers to explore the bountiful Indian Ocean, waters renowned for hammerhead sharks and minke whales. The price per person is £650 and includes transfer from Mombasa and berth with full board, but excludes flights.

8 Deep-sea fishingSilhouette Travel (tel: 020 8255 1738) can arrange deep-sea fishing trips in the Seychelles. Desroches is a coralline island 250km south of Mahe. The largest of the Amirantes group it's one of the best places for deep-sea fishing. Reputed for its marine life, the island holds the 1996 record for a 610lb blue marlin Makaira indica.There is only one lodge on the island, with 20 luxury suites, and the cost for five nights starts at £1,350 per person including full-board accommodation and flights. A full-day fishing excursion costs £475 including soft drinks and food.

9 Maldives cruiseThe exotic - exploring uninhabited islands and admiring traditional Maldivian dances - and the luxurious are combined aboard the elegant Island Explorer (www.unisurf.com). A seven-day tour of this Indian Ocean archipelago can be booked with Maldive Travel (tel: 020 7352 2246). The cost until the end of April (after which it falls considerably) is £1,185 per person, based on two sharing a cabin and including flights, transfers and full-board accommodation.

10 Luxury MaldivesThe tropical island of Vabbinfaru in the Maldives is a beautiful palm-covered island less than an hour by speedboat from the capital, Mahe. With Scott Dunn World (tel: 020 8672 1234) you can spend seven nights at the luxury Banyan Tree Maldives, 48 conical villas set along the beach front and in the lush gardens behind. Relax in the spa or, if you're feeling slightly more energetic, try your hand at scuba diving, snorkelling, water-skiing, sailing and fishing. The cost is from £1,580 per person based on two people sharing and including full-board accommodation, transfers and flights.

11 Flora and faunaWildlife enthusiasts will be overawed by the amount and variety of Madagascar's flora and fauna, the centrepiece of an expedition arranged by Explore Worldwide (tel: 01252 760 000). Over the 19-day tour the habitat of the lemur, fruit bat and land tortoise will be explored, along with that of the exotic plants of the area. The next trip departs 12 April and costs £1,940 per person based on two people sharing and including flights, accommodation and some meals.

12 Conservation MadagascarEveryone's heard of the lemur, but there's another, rarer predator that's been virtually ignored until now. The fossa resembles a small, lanky puma and is one of the most ferocious animals on the planet. Earthwatch (tel: 01865 318831) has a 12-day trip to Madagascar working in the dry, deciduous forest of the Ranomafana National Park with the founder of the Carnivore Conservation and Research Trust, assessing the size and density of the fossa population. Departing on 10 June, the cost is £1,150 per person based on two people sharing and including tented accommodation and food on the project, but excluding flights.

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