“The earth, the air, the land, and the water are not an inheritance from our forefathers but on loan from our children.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Nowhere is this truer than in the islands of Mauritius, Maldives and Papua New Guinea. The three island nations are marooned deep into the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and possess breath-taking resplendence with turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and boundless sunshine.
With global temperatures and sea levels rising, it is no wonder these islands are facing the heat — and it takes a visit to understand why their beauty is special and deserves to be protected.
While these islands hold treasures that can be explored not just on foot but under water and in the sky, they are also centres of human civilisation where the geography is currently undergoing transformation.
And so, practising a sustainable form of tourism such as no littering, choosing responsible tour operators, and not haggling for lower prices with local sellers and professionals, will not only be helpful to the islands’ ecosystems, but also a rewarding experience for you.
So pack your bags, get your travel checklist ready and dive into the beauty of these islands before they are transformed forever.
Of Mauritian beaches and exotic coral reefs
Grand Baie owes its popularity to its emerald waters and liveliness in the day and night
In the past few decades, however, the country has become warmer and some of the beaches have seen significant erosion. As the climate change challenge is critical, the government of Mauritius is now spending 7-8% of its budget to preserve its natural heritage, with nearly 20 sites being identified as protected areas.
With an impending plastic ban, as an environmentally conscious traveller, you could carry a water bottle and a metal straw for personal use. You can also choose your accommodation and pursue a water adventure via Mauritius Conscious, as it provides tailored and sustainable travel experiences. Yemaya Adventures, for instance, prioritises nature preservation as you kayak around the cerulean waters of Mauritius.
The La Cuvette beach is an unpopulated, hidden gem as only the locals know about it
If it’s relaxation that you’re seeking, the Grand Baie beach is the place to go, to bask in the sun with coconut trees lined up behind you. If you’re up for a stroll, head to the La Cuvette beach merely 500 metres away, for stunning views of the ocean as there are fewer boats in the harbour — every beach traveller’s dream come true.
To get close and appreciate the crystal-clear waters of Mauritius, hop onto the glass bottom boat ride to the Blue Bay Marine Park and enjoy snorkelling where schools of fishes and vibrant corals come to life. The Park is organised into specific zones to provide critical protection and is managed based on a sustainable conservation approach. Spanning an area of over 300 hectares, the Park has nearly 40 species of corals, the oldest of which is the 1000-year-old brain coral.
Swim with whale sharks and dine underwater in Maldives
The diverse coral reefs in Maldives attract over one million tourists each year
Also located in the Indian Ocean, Maldives is made up of nearly 1,200 coral islands that are grouped together in circular formations known as atolls. From a seaplane, you can see all 26 atolls of the nation, shaped like a diamond necklace!
This treasure cove of natural beauty too is susceptible to erosion and land loss. Due to rising sea levels, the country now has 35 protected areas, three of which were declared recently.
So, when you find yourself in one of the protected areas and feel like picking up a seashell or stone to take home as a souvenir, do remember it is illegal to do so as it disturbs the natural beauty of the islands. Littering and fishing in these areas are banned as well. While shopping at the local markets, you might come across beautiful handicrafts made from coral or turtle shell. As a responsible traveller, do be aware that not only would it be illegal to fly these out of the country, they also encourage potentially damaging tourism practices.
Don’t be intimidated by their size — whale sharks are extremely docile
Since 2009, the South Ari Atoll has been the largest protected area in Maldives, and is one of the few places in the world where one can swim with whale sharks in their natural habitat throughout the year. The friendly giants can be over 15 feet long so prepare for a dive of a lifetime. If you choose to book this experience at The Conrad Maldives, you will get to swim with a Maldives Whale Shark Research Program field researcher and the proceeds from your swim will go into research.
Once you have explored the islands above the sea, it’s time to go beneath it and treat yourself to an exquisite European dining experience as underwater creatures — like reef sharks and manta rays — swim around and over you! At South Ari Atoll’s Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, which means ‘mother of pearl’ in Maldivian language, savour delicacies such as a grilled Maldivian reef lobster and sliced dried tuna served with an appetising vinaigrette.
Prepare to be amazed in Papua’s waters
Enjoy the gorgeous sunset and serenity of the still waters at Papua New Guinea on your kayak
Papua New Guinea lies in the South-Western Pacific Ocean near Australia. With 10% or 2,800 of the world’s species of fishes found in the country’s corals and marine habitats, it is one of the most biodiverse places around the globe.
However, due to rising ocean tides, nearly 2,500 inhabitants of Carteret Islands recently had to vacate their homes and move to the Bougainville region of Papua New Guinea. In fact, they were amongst the first in the world to be officially named as environmental refugees. At the moment, 20% of the nation’s land and sea territories have been identified as conservation priorities. As the government and local NGOs focus on efforts to protect the areas, you can expect eco-tourism tax on many of the larger islands, which helps them to continue doing good.
As plastic littering is a huge problem here, do dispose of plastic products at a public bin or in your hotel room. A great way to support the local economy of Papua New Guinea, is to choose local travel professionals or stay at eco-friendly resorts like Nuli Sapi which enables locals to benefit from tourism, while boosting the country’s community-based tourism.
As the country is a sought-after destination for surfers, only a limited number of enthusiasts and professionals are allowed to surf at a site at any given time. The Nusa Island Retreat at Kavieng is an ideal spot to minimise ecological footprint while surfing as it provides an environmentally low-impact facility.
Snorkelling near an active volcano like Tavurvur is truly an experience of a lifetime
But if you're interested in snorkelling, how would you like to do it with the majestic Tavurvur volcano in the backdrop? In the Kokopo region, you can do that while being in the lap of luxury with its opulent hotels and resorts.
For a tranquil escapade, you could check into the Blanche Bay, which is only fifteen minutes away. The Eastern Fields and Coral Sea is another gem of nature as it’s one of the largest unpolluted tropical freshwater systems in Asia Pacific — and its pristine clear waters will leave you spellbound.
Whether you choose to marvel at the marine life in Mauritius, swim with sharks in Maldives or ride the wild waves of Papua New Guinea, each island has much to offer beyond sandy beaches. With a sea of beauty surrounding these islands, you have to see them for yourself to be truly enchanted. While you’re there, do play your part to keep the beauty intact for future generations through simple measures like refraining from littering and keeping your water and energy consumption to a minimum. Now that you’ve got the lowdown, go ahead and plan your getaway to live the idyllic island life!
Search for airfare deals and book your tickets now
Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Air Mauritius fly to Mauritius from Changi Airport.
Singapore Airlines, Silk Air and Scoot offer many weekly flights from Changi Airport.
Papua New Guinea
Singapore Airlines, Silk Air and Scoot fly to Papua New Guinea from Changi Airport weekly.