November 1

A Guide to Africa’s Exquisite Indian Ocean Islands

November 1, 2020

We are all in desperate need of a holiday! If, like us, you are Covid-19 fatigued and spending large parts of your day in a holiday fantasy, we have some great news for you. Stop dreaming of your idyllic island holiday and start planning your Indian Ocean getaway now. Forget the crowded beaches of the Mediterranean or the Caribbean.

Africa has undeniably a set of unbeatable, authentic beach destinations which outshine their more illustrious counterparts. Not only that, they are open for travel right now and offer the perfect isolation getaway we are all craving. Consequently, here’s our Indian Ocean Islands guide!

A view of Praslin
Image credit: Paradise Sun

Even for those experienced travellers it can be tricky to differentiate between all Africa’s Indian Ocean islands. If you struggle to tell the difference between the Maldives and Mauritius or your sea shells from your Seychelles then this is for you. Each island enjoys its own unique attractions and qualities and all are worth visiting in their own right. To help you tell which one appeals specifically to you we crafted this special guide.

Our Indian Ocean Islands Guide


  • Islands: 1 (3 other islands form part of the Republic of Mauritius)
  • Best time to visit: April to June, and September to December
  • Activities: Scuba Diving – Deep Sea Fishing – Surfing – Hiking
Sunset on the pool of a Mauritius resort
Sunset on the pool of a Mauritius resort

Mauritius is considered the ideal island getaway. Postcard perfect beaches and world-class resorts ensure that this palm-fringed oasis of beautiful beaches, coral reefs and tropical rainforests is immensely popular.

Mauritius has a number of destinations, each offering a unique experience. Many travellers head north to Grand Baie, a seaside village and large beautiful bay that’s popular with tourists. The west coast is sheltered with calm waters while the east coast is rougher with a rocky coastline. The south is the least developed with more stretches of wild nature and offers a secluded getaway. There is a wide variety of accommodation on the island – you can choose from rustic retreats, luxury lodges or five-star hotels.


  • Islands: 26 atolls & 1190 coral islands
  • Best time to visit: December to April
  • Activities: Scuba Diving, Snorkelling, Beach Relaxing
The Maldives is an unmatched island paradise
The Maldives is an unmatched island paradise

Another amazing destination are the Maldives. These atolls is your quintessential island paradise of powder-white beaches, crystal-clear turquoise water and just enough palm trees to string up a few hammocks. The richness and variety of the marine life are astonishing with the Maldives being home to some of the best diving and snorkelling in the world. The warm underwater playground is home to beautiful coral labyrinths and a dizzying array of life from tropical fish to turtles and even whale sharks.

As the Maldives possess some of the best beaches in the world it is a popular romantic holiday destination. Every resort in the Maldives is its own private island, and with over 100 to choose from the only problem is selecting where you want to stay.


  • Islands: 1
  • Best time to visit: All year
  • Activities: Hiking – Canyoning – Rafting – Paragliding – Mountain Biking
Discover the volcanoes on Reunion: view of Salazie
Discover the volcanoes on Reunion, Credit: Thomas McGowan

This French enclave has a range of cultural influences but the real star of the show is the incredible rugged landscape that holds stunning forests, mountains, waterfalls, volcanoes and beaches. It is an outdoor lover’s ideal destination as the wide range of activities allow visitors the opportunity to see this beautiful island from the land, sea, river or air.

Considered a little off the track compared to the likes of the more well-known islands, this island of adventure offers non-stop excitement for intrepid travellers. Reunion deserves the nickname is has earned of “Little Hawaii”.


  • Islands: 115
  • Best time to visit: All year
  • Activities: Island hopping- Scuba Diving – Snorkelling
Tropical Islands Seychelles
Tropical Islands Seychelles aerial view

The Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands of white sand beaches and tropical forest with pristine coral reefs that hold an abundance of tropical fish. Towering palms frame rustic retreats, which open up onto this unspoiled getaway.

The Seychelles is ideal for island hopping. This is a fantastic experience and a very popular way to see the different islands either via plane, cruise or private yacht. The major destinations are Mahe Island, which is the main island, Praslin Island and La Digue Island which is smaller and more remote.


  • Islands: 2 Main islands – Unguja and Pemba, with many smaller islands
  • Best time to visit: Great year-round destination (rainy season is generally in April & May)
  • Activities: Watersports – Cultural and Culinary Tours in Stone Town
One of the islands that make up the Zanzibar archipelago from the air.
One of the islands that make up the Zanzibar archipelago from the air

Only 40kms from the Tanzanian mainland, Zanzibar is at the crossroads of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The influence on the culture, cuisine and architecture is evident in Stone Town especially and it is this aspect of Zanzibar that makes it the most interesting Indian Ocean destination.

Zanzibar also offers some of the world’s beach resorts (you can check our Top 6 Best Zanzibar Resorts). And then of course there are the beaches of Zanzibar. These world-class beaches are perfect for anyone who simply wants to enjoy a lazy and luxurious beach vacation, or relax after a busy East Africa safari.


  • Islands: 1 main island (4th biggest in the world), with 250 smaller ones
  • Best time to visit: May to October
  • Activities: Safari – Hiking – Snorkelling – Diving.
Ilha Nosy Be em Madagascar
Nosy Be Island, Madagascar

Filled with a spectacular array of amazing wildlife and ringed by stunning beaches, Madagascar is an entirely unique holiday destination. Roughly the size of Texas or France, this haven for tropical fauna and flora is one of the world’s premier conservation areas possessing thousands of endemic species.

Madagascar is home to strange and alluring lemurs, magnificent baobabs, fascinating reptiles, soul-stirring landscapes and pristine beaches. This incredibly diverse land has roughly 5,000km of coastline, 450km of barrier reef and 250 islands. Divers will relish the chance to see rays, whale sharks, reef sharks and more. Snorkelers will be awed by the dynamic colour and vitality of the corals, turtles and fish. Madagascar’s diversity, and therefore uniqueness, ensures that it holds a special place in the hearts of all who visit it.

Why Travel with Rhino Africa?

Our passionate team of Rhinos at the Rhino Africa HQ
Our passionate team of Rhinos at the Rhino Africa HQ

As the leading safari company in Africa, we pride ourselves in knowing everything there is about our magical continent. Whether it’s an East Africa safari, a mokoro ride in the Okavango Delta or a beach holiday of your dreams, our expert consultants are on hand to make your dream holiday come true. If you enjoyed this Indian Ocean Islands guide and are thinking of going on a trip to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches then don’t hesitate to contact one of our Travel Experts!

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Madagascar, Maldives, mauritius, Reunion, Seychelles, Zanzibar

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About the author 

Matthew Sterne

Matt discovered a passion for writing in the six years he spent travelling abroad. He worked for a turtle sanctuary in Nicaragua, in an ice cream factory in Norway and on a camel safari in India. He was a door-to-door lightbulb-exchanger in Australia, a pub crawl guide in Amsterdam and a journalist in Colombia. Now, he writes and travels with us.

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