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 to ocean-themed adventure.

Mauritius 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.

Situated 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.

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 baobabs and stunning, isolated islets. Top activities include scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, hiking and whale-watching.

Indian Ocean Islands