Discover 5 of Africa’s Most Alluring Indian Ocean Islands
I am a traveler which means I am always on the road exploring new places and discovering the world’s hidden treasures. No place on earth has had as resounding an impact on me as Africa.
Have you ever visited a place that made you feel like you were in another dimension? To describe my experience in Africa I can only say that it seemed a fairytale world; a small glimpse of paradise I will never forget. It’s Africa’s Indian Ocean islands that harbour some of the continent’s greatest magic. Here are five you should have on your bucket list.
Just off the coast of East Africa lies the Tanzanian archipelago of Zanzibar. The combination of azure waters, coral reefs and clear blue skies make the beaches of Zanzibar a true haven. If you are fan of watersports, these beaches offer countless opportunities for exploring the depth of the Indian Ocean. On the main island of Unguja you can find the Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose architecture—dating back to the 19th century—reflects the diverse culture of the Swahili people. Zanzibar is well known for its spice industry, so a walk through local markets is a treat for the senses.
The Bazaruto Archipelago competes with Sri Lanka for the title of “The Pearl of the Indian Ocean.” This group of six islands in Mozambique are the perfect place to lose yourself. Go horseback riding along the sandy coast, or head out diving and snorkeling through the crystal clear water to get up close and personal with ocean residents like dolphins, seahorses, turtles and sharks. The breathtaking biodiversity of this archipelago has been boosted since the islands were named a National Park in 1971. It’s the perfect place to disconnect from a hectic digital life and reconnect with nature.
Perhaps my favorite destination on my peregrination was discovering the volcanic island nation of Mauritius. Immerse yourself in Mauritius’ rich history with a wander through tea plantations or sugarcane fields. Discover hidden villages in the island’s interior with a blend of cultures and religions. Visit ornate Hindu temples scattered across the country, including one on the lake of Ganga Talao which is home to a giant 108-foot statue of Lord Shiva. Mauritius is one of the most unusual and spectacular destinations in Africa.
The Seychelles comprise 115 islands, home to some rare wildlife like giant Aldabra tortoises. The second largest island, Praslin, was once used as a hideaway for pirates and Arab merchants in the 1700s. It is said that General Charles George Gordon of Khartoum was convinced that Praslin’s Vallée de Mai was the biblical Garden of Eden. Head to the country’s capital Victoria on Mahé island for the National Museum of History and the Natural History Museum. But your visit wouldn’t be complete without perusing the local markets, full of traditional Creole cuisine. Sir Selwyn Selwyn Clarke Market in Victoria is one of the best for authentic local flavours.
The Maldives, a collection of coral atolls, is known for its pristine blue waters and thatched-roof huts hovering a few feet above the water. It’s technically located in the South Asian part of the Indian Ocean but more than merits inclusion in this list. The best way to fully experience this place is through a local’s eyes. Join the fishermen on one of their deep-sea fishing trips and enjoy some of the freshest seafood from your same-day catch. Wash it down with raa, a local brew which is a type of sweet toddy made from the crown of the coconut palm. The capital Malé, once known as the King’s Island, was re-founded as a trading post in the 16th century by the Portuguese. The densely populated island is known for its colorful buildings and historic mosques. At the National Museum in the Sultans Park you can see artifacts like the coral stone head of Lord Buddha and an impressive collection of ancient weapons. The crowded streets and busy life of the capital are in stark contrast to the Maldives’ quiet beaches.
Africa’s Indian Ocean Islands are an adventurer’s paradise. These alluring islands offer much more than pristine beaches and sun-kissed waters; they offer a chance to immerse yourself in local life, traditional cuisine, unique history and outdoor adventures. My trip encouraged me to grab life by the horns and live it fully. It reminded me that when you dare to explore the unknown is when you discover something magical.
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- Discover 5 of Africa’s Most Alluring Indian Ocean Islands - February 16, 2016