Africa's Indian Ocean Islands: The Complete Guide (2023)

Africa’s east coast is blessed with a plethora of stunning islands, each one washed by the warm waters of the azure Indian Ocean. Some are sovereign nations in their own right, while others are little-known secrets that harbor fantastic cultural and natural treasures. Many are famous for their history; while still more are dedicated toocean-themed adventure. In this article, we take a look atthe best Indian Ocean destinations that Africa has to offer.

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Comoros

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Comoro Islands

Located between the coast ofMozambique and the northernmost tip of Madagascar, the sovereign Comoros archipelago consists of three main islands —Grand Comore, Mohéli and Anjouan. A fourth island, Mayotte, currently remains under French rule. Comoros culture is shaped by Arab traders and explorers from Persia and Portugal; and by the French, who colonized the islands during the 19th century. Now independent (and with a reputation for political instability), Comoros is an off-the-beaten-track destination for those looking to escape the crowds and experience life at a slower pace. The islands boast pristine beaches, beautiful reefs and lush rainforests — as well as a fascinating blend of Arab and Swahili culture.

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Mauritius

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Mauritius

The Republic of Mauritius is another archipelago comprising the islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues, Agaléga and St. Brandon. Mauritius also claims sovereignty over two other territories — the Chagos Archipelago (disputed by the UK), and Tromelin Island (disputed by France). It is a cultural melting pot, combining a heady mix of African, Indian and European influences. It is famous for its luxury beach resorts and stunning shores, and is renowned as a world-class destination for scuba diving and deep-sea fishing. Inland, the islands’ forests provide a habitat for several endemic mammal, bird and plant species. From sophisticated nightlife and five-star cuisine to remote beaches and sleepy fishing villages, there is something for everyone in Mauritius.

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Réunion

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Although Réunion Island is a French overseas department, it is located just 110 miles/175 kilometers southwest of Mauritius, making it geographically part of Africa. The island was settled by French and Malagasy explorers in the 16th century, while indentured workers from India and beyond contributed to its cultural makeup in the years that followed. Today, it is known for its unique cuisine, which ranges from spicy curries to classic French pastries and abundant seafood. Quaint, seaside villages are imbued with rich Creole culture and beyond their limits a wonderland of beautiful beaches and lush volcanic scenery awaits. A helicopter ride over the top of live volcano Piton de la Fournaise is a top attraction.

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Seychelles

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Seychelles

Situated 930 miles (1,500 kilometers) east of Kenya, the Seychelles archipelago comprises 115 paradise islands. It has the smallest population of any sovereign African country, and is known for being fantastically uncrowded. Visitors are drawn primarily by the islands’ idyllic white sand beaches and aquamarine waters, the latter of which offer excellent diving and snorkeling. The islands themselves are also full of rare wildlife, ranging from pelagic seabirds to the vulnerable Aldabra giant tortoise. Seychellois cuisine is another highlight, taking its inspiration from generations of African, Asian and European settlers. A proliferation of luxury resorts makes the Seychelles a favorite choice for honeymooning couples.

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Madagascar

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Madagascar

Located off the coast of Mozambique, Madagascar is a land of superlatives. It’s the world’s fourth-largest island, and is fringed by the world’s third-largest coral reef system. Its flora and fauna is so unique that the island is often referred to as the eighth continent –and indeed, up to 90% of Madagascar’s wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth. Its national parks provide ample opportunity to come face to face with these strange creatures, the most famous of which are undoubtedly the lemurs. Birding is especially rewarding here. Madagascar’s many habitats range from lush rainforests to alien limestone karsts, avenues of giant baobab trees and stunning, isolated islets. Top activities include scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, hiking and whale-watching.

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Zanzibar

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Zanzibar Island, Tanzania

Officially known as Unguja, Zanzibar is the largest island in the Zanzibar Archipelago. The archipelago is a semi-autonomous region belonging to Tanzania. It is steeped in trade route history, and once played a key role in the movementof slaves, spices, ivory and gold between the Arabian peninsula and the African mainland. Today, the island is predominantly Muslim, and Arabic influences are evident everywhere —especially in the architecture of historic Stone Town. Perhaps busier and more geared towards budget travelers than many of the other islands on this list, Zanzibar is famous for its history, its spices and its beautiful beaches. It also has a bustling nightlife scene and excellent opportunities for diving and snorkeling.

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Pemba

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Pemba Island, Tanzania

Pemba is located approximately 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Unguja, and is also part of the Zanzibar Archipelago. It is greener, hillier and more fertile than its southerly cousin, and sees far fewer visitors. Pemba’s untouched coves and mangrove lagoons make it a good choice for wildlife enthusiasts hoping to get off the beaten track, while the plunging drop-offs of the Pemba Channel make this island a top destination for experienced scuba divers. Expect large shoals of pelagic fish in addition to bucket list species ranging from Napoleon wrasse to giant green sea turtles. Great clove plantations add a fragrance to the air and establish Pemba’s reputation as one of the Tanzanian spice islands.

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Mafia

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Mafia Island, Tanzania

Also part of the Zanzibar Archipelago, Mafia Island is located south of Unguja and governed entirely from the Tanzanian mainland. For many years, the island was visited only very infrequently by overseas visitors, and it remains relatively undeveloped today with only a handful of upmarket accommodation options. Its laid-back pace and the absence of mass tourism contribute greatly to its attraction. Mafia is a mecca for deep-sea fishermen, and for scuba divers wishing to explore the protected reefs of the Mafia Island Marine Park. The beaches on the east coast are popular breeding sites for green and hawksbill turtles, while whale sharks aggregate in Mafia's waters between November and February.

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Bazaruto Archipelago

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Located just off the Mozambique coast near the mainland town of Vilanculos,Bazaruto Archipelago comprises six individual islands. The best-known of these are probably Benguerra Island, Bazaruto Island and Santa Carolina, often dubbed Paradise Island for its stunning beaches and close-to-shore reefs. The archipelago has enjoyed national park status since 1971, and as such it is a haven for wildlife. It is especially famous for its population of endangered dugongs, and between June and November humpback whales travel through the archipelago on their annual migration. It’s one of the best island birding destinations in Southern Africa, while a number of luxury lodges make it the ultimate romantic getaway.

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Quirimbas Archipelago

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Off the coast of northern Mozambique lies the breathtaking Quirimbas Archipelago, a collection of approximately 32 picture-perfect islands including Quirimba, Ibo, Matemo and Vamizi. Once renowned as important trading posts for first the Arabs and then the Portuguese, the archipelago is now largely inhabited by artisanal fishing communities. The Quirimbas National Park protects the southern section of the archipelago, and the reefs here are especially popular with visiting scuba divers. Game fishing is another favorite pastime, and there are several luxury resorts— all of which have created their own secluded section of paradise. Those interested in culture should check out Ibo Island’s crumbling 16th-century ruins.

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Lamu

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Lamu, Kenya

Part of Kenya’s northern Lamu Archipelago, Lamu Island is a stronghold of Islamic and Swahili culture. Many visitors travel to the island to explore the winding alleyways of Lamu Old Town, a UNESCO-protected settlement believed to be the oldest and best-preserved Swahili town in East Africa. There are virtually no paved roads here and no cars —instead, donkey carts and dhow ships provide the main methods of transport. In addition to its rich culture, Lamu offers scuba diving, sailing and swimming with dolphins. Day-trips to the 9th-century ruins on nearby Manda Island are also worthwhile. It is important to note that although current travel warnings advise against travel to Lamu County, Lamu and Manda islands are still considered safe.

FAQs

Which African islands are found in Indian Ocean? ›

There are four sovereign island nations located in the Indian Ocean: Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles.

How many islands are there in Indian Ocean? ›

There are a total of 1,382 islands (including uninhabited ones) in India.

What is the largest African island located in the Indian Ocean? ›

Madagascar in brief. Destination Madagascar, a Nations Online country profile of the Big Red Island. Africa's largest island is located in the Indian Ocean, about 420 km (260 miles) east of the coast of Mozambique and is separated from the African continent by the Mozambique Channel.

What are the islands of the Indian Ocean in brief? ›

The islands of the Indian Ocean are part of either the eastern, western, or southern areas. Some prominently large islands include Madagascar, Sri Lanka, and the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java.

What are 4 islands in the Indian Ocean? ›

Madagascar, Maldives, Seychelles, Socotra, and Sri Lanka are continental fragments. The other islands include Christmas, Cocos, Farquhar, Prince Edward, Saint-Paul, Amsterdam, the Amirante, Andaman and Nicobar, Chagos, Crozet, Kerguelen, Sunda groups, Comoros, Lakshadweep, Mauritius, and Réunion.

What large island is in the Indian Ocean off the coast of east Africa? ›

Zanzibar, Swahili Unguja, island in the Indian Ocean, lying 22 miles (35 km) off the coast of east-central Africa. In 1964 Zanzibar, together with Pemba Island and some other smaller islands, joined with Tanganyika on the mainland to form the United Republic of Tanzania.

What are 5 islands in the Indian Ocean? ›

Featured in
  • Comoros.
  • Mauritius.
  • Seychelles.
  • Madagascar.
  • Maldives.

Which is the largest island in the world? ›

Greenland is the largest island in the world.

What is the smallest island in the world? ›

Summary of 15 of the Smallest Islands in the World
RankIslandArea
1Just Room Enough Island0.0001 sq. mi.
2Simping Island0.0019 sq. mi.
3Dangar Island0.1 sq. mi.
4Wizard Island0.49 sq. mi.
11 more rows
May 10, 2023

What is the most remote island Indian Ocean? ›

Marooned 600km north-east of Mauritius, and close to no other landform, Rodrigues is a world unto itself. It is also one of the world's most remote inhabited islands.

What islands are off the coast of Africa? ›

There are six islands that are located off the African coast and hence, considered the part of the continent. These are Cape Verde, Sí£o Tomé and Príncipe, Madagascar, Comoros, Seychelles, and Mauritius.

What is the island off the coast of West Africa? ›

Sotavento Islands, also called Leeward Islands, Portuguese Ilhas do Sotavento, island group in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of western Africa and the southern of two island groups that constitute Cabo Verde.

What is the secret island in the Indian Ocean? ›

North Sentinel Island is one of the Andaman Islands, an Indian archipelago in the Bay of Bengal which also includes South Sentinel Island. It is home to the Sentinelese, an indigenous people in voluntary isolation who have defended, often by force, their protected isolation from the outside world.

What are two important islands in the Indian Ocean? ›

The most widely discussed strategic islands in the Indian Ocean are Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius, and Seychelles. These islands span the ocean from India to Africa. Their strategic importance is highlighted by their location along key sea lines of communication (SLOCs).

Which is the lost island in Indian Ocean? ›

Kumari Kandam is a mythical continent, believed to be lost with an ancient Tamil civilization, supposedly located south of present-day India in the Indian Ocean.

Which is the smallest island country in the Indian Ocean? ›

Notes: Maldives is the smallest country not only in the Indian Ocean but also in Asia in terms of area and population. There are over 1,192 coral islands in the Maldives, which are spread over 90,000 sq.km, making it one of the world's most dispersed countries.

What are the largest islands in the Indian Ocean? ›

The largest island in the Indian Ocean is Madagascar. With an area of about 2,26,568 sq miles, it is the fourth largest island in the world, after Greenland, New Guinea, and Borneo.

Where is Bora Bora? ›

The Bora Bora island is one of the most popular islands in The Islands of Tahiti. One of nine islands within the Society Islands, Bora Bora was formed over seven million years ago by a volcano. Like most of the islands of French Polynesia, Bora Bora is surrounded by a ring of coral reef, also known as an atoll.

What is the name of the largest island found to the east of Africa? ›

Madagascar, officially the Republic of Madagascar, is an island country lying off the southeastern coast of Africa. It is the world's fourth largest island, the second-largest island country and the 46th largest country in the world. Its capital and largest city is Antananarivo.

What is the island between Africa and Madagascar? ›

The Comoros are a group of islands at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel of the Indian Ocean, between Madagascar and the southeast African mainland, about 180 miles (290 km) off the eastern coast of Africa.

What is the most densely populated island in Africa? ›

Migingo Island in Lake Victoria is home to hundreds of fishermen from across East Africa. It is also the most densely populated African island.

What is the largest island in the Indian Ocean age? ›

The correct answer is Madagascar. It is the largest island in the Indian Ocean with an area of about 226,658 square miles. Hence, Option 1 is correct. It is the fourth largest in the world after Greenland, New Guinea, and Borneo.

Is Bora Bora in the Indian Ocean? ›

Bora Bora is among the many islands of French Polynesia and lies in the heart of the Pacific Ocean.

What are the Indian islands called? ›

Indian Islands

India has a vast mainland. Besides this, the country has also two groups of islands. The two groups of islands are - the Lakshadweep Islands and the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

Where is the largest island in the US? ›

Hawaii Island

What country owns the most islands? ›

Website worldatlas.com claims that out of all countries on the planet, Sweden has the most islands with 221,800, the majority of which are uninhabited. Even the capital of Stockholm is built across a 14-island archipelago with more than 50 bridges.

What country owns the biggest island? ›

Greenland is officially the world's largest island that is not a continent. Home to 56,000 people, Greenland has its own extensive local government, but it is also part of the Realm of Denmark.

What is the largest abandoned island in the world? ›

Devon Island in the Arctic is the largest uninhabited island on Earth, and for good reason. With a polar-desert climate and barren, rocky terrain, which is frequently veiled in fog, this desolate landmass is hardly welcoming.

What is the smallest island in the United States? ›

Just Room Enough Island, also known as Hub Island, is an island located in the Thousand Islands chain, in New York, United States. The island is known for being the smallest inhabited island, which appears to be around 3,300 square feet (310 m2), or about one-thirteenth of an acre.

What is the most densely populated island in the world? ›

With only 1,200 meters in length and 100 meters in width, this island is home to around 1,200 inhabitants who coexist in a small and colorful space. Life in Santa Cruz del Islote is fascinating.

What is the hardest island to get to? ›

We are talking about Tristan da Cunha, a part of the British overseas territory Saint Helena and a true sub-tropical heaven. The island sits in between South Africa and South America, 1,491 miles (2,400 kilometres) from the former and 2,088 miles (3,360 km) from the latter.

What is the forbidden island with a tribe? ›

The Sentinelese are an uncontacted tribe living on North Sentinel Island, one of the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean. They vigorously reject all contact with outsiders.

What is the most isolated spot on earth? ›

At more than 1,000 miles from civilization in all directions, Point Nemo is The Most Remote Location On Planet Earth. It is named after the famous submarine sailor from Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

What is the only island in Africa? ›

Madagascar, island country lying off the southeastern coast of Africa. Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world, after Greenland, New Guinea, and Borneo.

What is the most spoken language in Africa? ›

The most widely spoken languages of Africa, Swahili (200 million), Yoruba (45 million), Igbo (30 million), and Fula (35 million) all belong to the Niger-Congo family.

What African island is like the Maldives? ›

One of Africa's best beach destinations, the archipelago of Zanzibar is characterised by its striking blue water and sandy beaches, its position in the Indian Ocean blessing it with a hot, tropical climate.

What is the name of the island off the coast of Africa that is famous for its unique and varied vegetation and wildlife? ›

The island nation of Madagascar has developed its own distinct ecosystems and extraordinary wildlife since it split from the African continent an estimated 160 million years ago.

What is the island off Africa that starts with an M? ›

Mauritius, island country in the Indian Ocean, located off the eastern coast of Africa. Physiographically, it is part of the Mascarene Islands.

What is the newest country in Africa? ›

1. South Sudan. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after years of civil war, but violence continues to ravage the world's newest country. Civil War erupted in South Sudan in 2013 and continues today, as political leaders from different ethnic groups vie for power.

How deep is the deepest part of the Indian Ocean? ›

Data published in Geoscience Data Journal shows the deepest point of the Indian Ocean at 7187 m, within the Java Trench, and the deepest point of the Southern Ocean at 7432 m, within the South Sandwich Trench.

Is it illegal to go to Ramree island? ›

This island rests deep in the Indian Ocean, and the Government of India won't allow you to get within 3 miles of it. Filled with thick forest, the indigenous people are the reason you aren't allowed to ever visit this place. But it's not to protect them from you, however… it's to protect you from them.

Where is Christmas Island? ›

Christmas Island is located in the Indian Ocean, 1500 km west of the Australian mainland and 2600 km from Perth. Although it is an Australian territory, Christmas Island's nearest neighbour is Indonesia, which lies about 350 km to the north. The island is around 500 km from Jakarta.

What ocean has 25,000 islands? ›

There are more than 25,000 islands in the Pacific. The Pacific Ocean is also home to many Atolls. An Atoll is a coral island surrounded by a lagoon.

What are the islands between India and Madagascar? ›

Two of the islands—Europa and Juan de Nova—and the Bassas da India atoll lie in the Mozambique Channel west of Madagascar, while a third island, Tromelin, lies about 450 kilometres (280 mi) east of Madagascar and the Glorioso Islands lies about 200 kilometres (120 mi) northwest of Madagascar.

What continent is Atlantis? ›

1. Atlantis was a mid-Atlantic continent that suddenly sunk into the ocean. Engraving of Atlantis, as first described by Plato, just beyond the Pillars of Hercules (Gibraltar and Mount Hacho).

Where is the lost continent of Atlantis located? ›

Where was the lost continent of Atlantis? Historians have speculated that it was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, off of the coasts of both Spain and France, and also in the western Mediterranean Sea.

What nation of islands are in the Indian Ocean? ›

Six island nations are located in the Indian Ocean, namely Comoros, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Sri Lanka.

How many African countries border the Indian Ocean? ›

This list of sovereign states and dependent territories in the Indian Ocean consists of 38 countries, with 13 in Africa, 22 in Asia, and 1 in Oceania that either border on or are in the Indian Ocean, as well as 2 European countries which administer several dependencies or overseas territories in the region.

Which are the two island countries located in the Indian Ocean? ›

Sri Lanka and Maldives are India's island neighbours. Sri Lanka is separated from India by a narrow channel of sea formed by the Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar, while Maldives Islands are situated to the south of the Lakshadweep Islands.

What is the only African country to have both a Mediterranean and Atlantic coast? ›

Morocco. Morocco, officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is a country located in North Africa. It has a coast on the Atlantic Ocean that reaches past the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea.

What 5 countries are found on the east coast of Africa bordering the Indian Ocean? ›

Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia are collectively known as the Horn of Africa. The area is the easternmost projection of the African continent. Comoros, Mauritius, and Seychelles – small island nations in the Indian Ocean.

What is the biggest sea in Africa? ›

There are no seas within Africa itself, although Africa borders two large and important seas: the Mediterranean to the north and the Red Sea to the northeast. Of these two, the Mediterranean is larger by... See full answer below.

What are the 7 regions of Africa? ›

Africa has eight major physical regions: the Sahara, the Sahel, the Ethiopian Highlands, the savanna, the Swahili Coast, the rainforest, the African Great Lakes, and southern Africa.

Is Africa connected to Indian Ocean? ›

The Indian Ocean is bounded on the West by Africa, on the North by Asia, on the East by Australia and the Australasian islands, and on the South by Antarctica.

Are there 55 African countries? ›

All in all, there are 54 sovereign African countries and two disputed areas, namely Somaliland (autonomous region of Somalia) and Western Sahara (occupied by Morocco and claimed by the Polisario).

How many islands in Africa? ›

How many islands are there in Africa? There are six islands that are located off the African coast and hence, considered the part of the continent. These are Cape Verde, Sí£o Tomé and Príncipe, Madagascar, Comoros, Seychelles, and Mauritius.

What island is owned by two countries? ›

Saint Martin is a Caribbean island, divided roughly across the middle into two countries: Saint Martin (under the jurisdiction of the French Republic) and Sint Maarten (under the jurisdiction of the Kingdom of the Netherlands).

What country is closest to the Indian Ocean? ›

The Indian Ocean is bounded by Iran, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh to the north; the Malay Peninsula, the Sunda Islands of Indonesia, and Australia to the east; the Southern Ocean to the south; and Africa and the Arabian Peninsula to the west.

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