Destination Africa: 10 Best Indian Ocean Islands

November 25, 2021

destination africa

Pristine white-sand beaches lapped by stunning iridescent turquoise water, vibrant culture, unique wildlife, and friendly locals – this is what you’ll find in Destination Africa off the east coast in the Indian Ocean.

destination africa

Tourists who are doing a safari in nearby Tanzania, Kenya, or even South Africa should not leave the continent without taking a few days of respite on one of these incredibly gorgeous islands. In addition to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, there are a variety of land and ocean-themed adventures to try, intriguing and sometimes troubled history to investigate, and delicious local food to taste.

INSIDER TIP: Here’s the Only Beach Vacation Packing List You’ll EVER Need!

Here’s the great thing about the Indian Ocean islands in destination Africa: staying here can cost a fraction of what you’d pay for a beach vacation at islands in the Caribbean, South Pacific, or the Mediterranean.

10 Madagascar


Directly east of Mozambique, Madagascar is the fourth-largest island in the world, fringed ty the world’s third-largest coral reef. Most third-world with poor infrastructure, the flora, and fauna of the island are a big attraction for adventurers. Up to 90% of Madagascar is found nowhere else on the planet. For example, lemurs are unique to the island. And those giant baobab trees are something to behold. Visitors can hire a dugout canoe to drift up the rivers and canals, which affords them an opportunity to view the everyday life of the Malagasy.

Quick Facts

  • Area: 228,900 mi²
  • Founded: 26 June 1960 (Independence from France)
  • Population: 26 million
  • Capital: Antananarivo
  • Electricity:  220- 240 v AC / 50Hz.
  • Currency: Malagasy ariary
  • Languages: French, Malagasy

Click here for more information about Madagascar travel.

9 Réunion

reunion island

Although Réunion Island is actually a French Department, because of its location in the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and Mauritius, it is geographically if not politically part of Africa. Three-million-years-old Reunion has been inhabited since the 16th-century and is known for its incredible natural beauty exhibited via volcanoes, rainforests, waterfalls, coral reefs, and beaches. The island is a veritable mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and photographers. Reunion is a melting pot of French, African and Indian cultures. In particular, the Creole cuisine and the rum are delicious.

I highly suggest renting a car and driving around this island. The roads are well-paved and the signage is good.

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Quick Facts

  • Area: 970 mi2
  • Founded: 1946 (became an overseas department of France)
  • Population: 866,506
  • Capital: Saint-Denis
  • Electricity: 220- 240 v AC / 50Hz.
  • Currency: Euro
  • Language: French

Interested in traveling to Réunion? Here’s our Réunion Travel Guide.

8 Comoros

destination africa - comoros

The Comoro Islands or Comoros form an archipelago of volcanic islands situated off the south-east coast of Africa, to the east of Mozambique and north-west of Madagascar. There are three islands: Grande Comore, Mohéli and Anjouan which are undeveloped with few modern facilities. The islands boast beautiful beaches, colorful reefs, and lush rainforests.

The culture is a combination of Arab, Swahili, Persian, Portuguese, and French influences. There’s a fourth island, Mayotte, which currently remains under French rule.

Comoros is an off-the-beaten-track destination. Pristine and protected Mohéli Marine Park is perfect for diving through the beautiful coral reefs that ring the islands and are home to dolphins, whales, and sea turtles. The islands also have rainforests and Mount Karthala where visitors can hike to the summit, or adventure-seekers can descend to the crater of this active volcano.

Quick Facts

  • Area:  785 mi²
  • Founded:
  • Population: 832,322
  • Capital: Moroni
  • Electricity: 220- 240 v AC / 50Hz.
  • Currency: Comorian franc
  • Languages: Comorian, French, Arabic

7 Bazaruto

destination africa - Bazaruto

The Bazaruto Archipelago is a group of six islands off the coast of southern Mozambique. Originally the islands were long famed for their pearls and ambergris. They became a vibrant maritime seaport in the 15th -century due mainly to the dhow boat trade. In the 16 th-century, Portuguese trading began here, and a Portuguese settlement was established on Santa Carolina in the mid-19th century.

Most of Bazaruto lies within a protected national park, established in 1971, that attracts scuba enthusiasts from all over the world to explore the pristine coral reefs around Magaruque and Santa Carolina islands. Whale sharks, dolphins, manta rays, and tropical fish, the occasional dugong, and other marine life populate the warm waters, and fish eagles and pink flamingos onshore.

All of the islands except Bangué are inhabited and renowned for white palm-lined beaches and clear waters. On the six islands, you’ll find a combination of dunes, wetlands, forests, and grasslands.

Quick Facts

  • Area:  550 mi²
  • Population: 4,000
  • Electricity: 220- 240 v AC / 50Hz.
  • Currency: Mozambican new metical
  • Languages: Portuguese, Changana, Nyanja, Makhuwa, other African languages

6 Praslin

praslin seychelles

The sleepy island of Praslin is the second largest in the Seychelles archipelago, with about 6500 inhabitants. Years ago, the island was used as a hideaway for pirates and Arab merchants. Today, it attracts tourists to its beautiful beaches and resorts.

Some of the world’s most outstanding beaches are here. Anse Lazio is the most well-known, often turning up in lists of the world’s most beautiful beaches. A beach of turquoise waves, thickets of takamaka trees, and the granite boulders so common in the Seychelles are some of the features that make this beach so gorgeous. There’s a shaded outdoor beach bar where we lazily dug our toes on the sand and sipped an afternoon cocktail.

Praslin is also home to 4,000 Coco De Mer, an exotic, endemic plant that led to the belief that the Seychelles were the true Garden of Eden. It produces the world’s biggest nut which you can find at Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and tropical rainforest. You’ll also find the endangered black parrot there, of which there are less than 900 left in the wild.

Quick Facts

  • Area: 14.87 mi²
  • Founded: 1744 (explorer Lazare Picault)
  • Population: 7,533
  • Electricity: 220- 240 v AC / 50Hz.
  • Currency: Seychellois rupee
  • Languages: French, English, Seselwa

INSIDER TIP: Never travel to Africa (or any other country without travel insurance! Random, unplanned things can happen. I was involved in a horrendous car crash in South Africa in 2014.

5 Mauritius


Once thought of as primarily a honeymoon destination, visitors have discovered the stunning nature and activities of Mauritius. The landscape of this island in the Indian Ocean is incredibly diverse. From the sugar-sand beaches, tropical reefs and impossibly blue lagoons ringing the island, to the majesty of the towering mountain ranges and basalt cliffs, Mauritius is one of the best Indian Ocean islands for a beach getaway.

Located about 1,200 off the southeast coast of the African continent, Mauritius has a rich and diverse culture and is ranked as one of the most developed economies in the African region. The people of Mauritius are multiethnic, multicultural and multilingual. Blends of Creole, French, Hindi, and Bhojpuri all coexist harmoniously together. You’ll see a variety of religious establishments such as churches, temples, pagodas, and mosques.

I highly suggest renting a car and driving around this island. The roads are well-paved and the signage is good.

Car Rentals from $8.98 A Day: 7 Major Car Vendors, 15,000 Locations, Save Up to 40%.

Quick Facts

  • Area: 790 mi²
  • Founded: 30 May 1814 (returned from France)
  • Population: 1,265,985
  • Capital: Port Louis
  • Electricity: 220- 240 v AC / 50Hz.
  • Currency: Mauritian rupee
  • Language: English

INSIDER TIP: Click here to read more about the best things to do in Mauritius.

4 Mahe

mahe seychelles

The largest and most varied island in the Seychelles, Mahé is home to about 77,000 people (90% of the nation’s total). Still, the island retains its tranquil beauty, with 3,000-foot mountains and a plethora of stunning beaches.

destination africa

Mahe is gorgeous. Post-card perfect Anse Royale beach at the end of a bay has giant granite rocks and turquoise water. It’s secluded and often empty. The island has two mountain passes, each with hairpin turns that take you up to Morne Seychellois National Park and then back down on another road.

Victoria is the smallest capital in Africa, and best explored on foot. The colorful city center spreads out from the Victoria Clock Tower, constructed to look like London’s Big Ben. There’s the kaleidoscopic hued Arul Mihu Navasakthi Vinayagar Hindu Temple, a bustling local market, and the botanical gardens to explore.

I highly suggest renting a car and driving around this island. The roads are well-paved and the signage is good.

Car Rentals from $8.98 A Day: 7 Major Car Vendors, 15,000 Locations, Save Up to 40%.

Quick Facts

  • Area: 60.73 mi²
  • Founded: 1976 (Independence from England)
  • Population: 77,000
  • Capital: Victoria
  • Electricity: 220- 240 v AC / 50Hz.
  • Currency: Seychellois rupee
  • Languages: French, English, Seselwa

3 Zanzibar


The word Zanzibar by itself summons visions of exotic idyllic beaches.  A semi-autonomous island belonging to Tanzania, Zanzibar has a colorful history of Sultans and spice trade. But it also has a dark blot on its history for its key role in the slave trade between the African mainland and the Arabian Peninsula.

A labyrinth of narrow alleys and exquisitely carved doors, the architecture of UNESCO World Heritage Site Stone Town, the cultural heart of the island, is a fusion of Arabic, African, Muslim, and Colonial European influences.

Quick Facts

  • Area: 950 mi²
  • Founded: December 10, 1963
  • Population: 1.304 million
  • Capital: Zanzibar City
  • Electricity: 220- 240 v AC / 50Hz.
  • Currency: Tanzanian shilling
  • Languages: Swahili, Arabic, English

For more information about Zanzibar, here is our Complete Travel Guide to Zanzibar.

2 Nosy Iranja

nosy iranja

You’ve likely never heard of Nosy Iranja – it’s one of the few undiscovered gems left in this world. Located off the northwest coast of Madagascar, about an hour away from the more visited island of Nosy Be, Nosy Iranja is a fusion of beach sand that is blinding white and as soft as powder,  welcoming the calm surf of mesmerizing aqua water that is as crystal-clear as you can find anywhere on the planet.

The most unique feature of Nosy Iranja is that it’s actually two islands. The larger island, Nosy Iranja Be is connected to a smaller island, Nosy Iranja Kely, which can only be accessed by a mile-long sandbar that surfaces at low tide.

It’s also interesting to note that on the highest hill of the island, there’s a lighthouse designed by none other than French engineer Gustave Eiffel. The lighthouse was completed in 1909.

Also known locally as “turtle island,” the beaches that surround Nosy Iranja are the only place in the Indian Ocean that is a nesting place for two of the eight ocean turtle species, the Hawksbill and Green Turtle.

Want to know what to do on Nosy Iranja? Here’s our story about our day of adventure on Nosy Iranja!

Quick Facts

  • Area:  tiny
  • Population: Just a tiny village
  • Electricity:  220- 240 v AC / 50Hz.
  • Currency: Malagasy ariary
  • Languages: French, Malagasy

Click here to find out more about Nosy Iranja.

There are no accommodations on Nosy Iranja, but click here to compare prices of hoteld on Nosy Be nearby.

1 La Digue

la digue seychelles

The smallest of the three main inhabited islands, La Digue has a tranquil Creole vibe. For an authentic way to get around the island, bicycle and ox cart rentals are available.  A jungle path leads to a dazzling white sand beach, framed by massive pieces of granite protruding into the sky, which also provide a shady respite from the blazing sun.

destination africa

Famed for being one of the most photographed beaches on the planet and arguably the most beautiful beach in the world (I agree!), Anse Source d’Argent beach does not have the waves of Anse Lazio but calmer, crystal-clear, shallow, pale-emerald water washes up on its shores. The saltwater is so clear and transparent that the rock formations below give an optical illusion that there’s a coral reef right offshore.

The ethereal vibe of Anse Source d’Argent beach will make you feel like you’re on another planet. You won’t want to leave.

Quick Facts

  • Area: 3.89 mi²
  • Founded: 1768 (French explorer Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne)
  • Population: 2800
  • Electricity: 220- 240 v AC / 50Hz.
  • Currency: Seychellois rupee
  • Languages: French, English, Seselwa

Note: One way to see several of the islands at one time is to cruise around the Indian Ocean. We visited Mauritius, Mahe, La Digue, Praslin, Nosy Iranja, and Madagascar on a Costa Cruise.

Click below to pin so you can find destination Africa islands again:

destination africa

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About the Author

Patti MorrowPatti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials.”  Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled six continents looking for fabulous places and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer (and Gen X!) tribe.

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