February 23

A Holiday to the Indian Ocean Islands: Which Island Should You Visit?

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February 23, 2022

A holiday to the Indian Ocean Islands is the best way to switch off, feel the sun on your skin, watch spectacular sunsets, sip on bottomless cocktails, and feast on fresh seafood. But how do you choose between the different Indian Ocean Islands? We break down which one's best for your travel needs. We don't know about you, but we can already feel the sand between our toes and taste that Mojito…

Water activities in Mauritius

Mauritius is a water playpark, image credit: Cyrus Pellet

Tropic Like It’s Hot 

Everything seems to happen slower and look rosier when you’re bronzing yourself on a beach on one of the Indian Ocean Islands. We honestly love them all, for their own reasons, and although most are suited to every kind of traveller, there are some geared more specifically for couples, adventurers or families. 

Here’s what you need to know when deciding which Indian Ocean Island should be next on your list.

Choosing Your Holiday to the Indian Ocean Islands

Our Rhino Africa Travel Experts have visited all of these Indian Ocean Islands, and we know just how tough it can be to pick just one! All of our tours are tailor-made to you and your fellow travellers, so remember that you can combine a couple of them for the ultimate island-hopping getaway! It's also easy to turn your beach holiday into a bush and beach holiday by adding on a safari in South Africa or East Africa. In fact, we highly recommend it!

But if you must choose, here's why we love each one, who's it for, and what activities you can look forward to.

Diving with turtle in Indian Ocean Islands

Diving and snorkelling are highlights at any Indian Ocean Island

1. Mauritius

Mauritius has long been a favourite island destination. In fact, with its postcard-perfect, palm-fringed coastline, it remains one of the most visited islands for a holiday to the Indian Ocean Islands. 

Located off the southeast coast of Africa, it offers a delightful mix of volcanoes, lagoons, palm trees, colourful coral reefs, and pure white, velvety beaches. The warm Indian Ocean means you can enjoy plenty of water-based activities. These include swimming, snorkelling, diving, stand-up paddling, and many more. If you prefer to stay dry, you can go out on a glass-bottomed boat to admire the kaleidoscope of fish. Furthermore, Mauritius is known for its all-inclusive luxury resorts, many with kids programmes, making it perfect for families. 

Mauritius at a Glance

Mauritius is so attractive to guests because it offers plenty to do, many of it family-friendly, within easy reach of your accommodation. Although there are over 300 bird species and other wildlife on land, it's really the spectacular landscapes and underwater world that you'll spend most of your time admiring.

Big producers of sugar, tea and rum, there are plenty of sugarcane fields, tea plantations, and rum distilleries to explore. Or, for your dose of culture and cuisine, pay the capital, Port Louis, a visit.

Swimmingpool und Strandblick vom The St. Regis Mauritius Resort

Mauritius has plenty of luxury resorts to choose from, image credit: The St. Regis Mauritius Resort

Perfect for

Families with kids 

Activities

  • Watersports like snorkelling, sailing, stand-up paddling, etc.
  • Some of Africa's best diving and snorkelling sites 
  • Adventure activities like quad biking, hiking and zip-lining
  • Exploring nightlife, shops, restaurants and tasting the local rum
  • Family-friendly with safe bathwater-warm shallow swimming areas, particularly on the east and west coast, as well as excursions like glass-bottomed boat trips, visiting local parks, aquariums, and more.

When Should I Visit Mauritius?

The best time to visit Mauritius is whenever you want to! It’s got great weather year-round. The peak time, however, is from December to January. 

Beach with mountain in Mauritius

Slice of paradise in Mauritius

2. The Maldives

What is more romantic than an over-water bungalow on the warm Indian Ocean? Imagine jumping straight out of bed and into the ocean! The Maldives is perfect for the dream honeymoon or celebrating a romantic milestone. You'll feel like you're drifting on your own private island, waking up to the sun rising over the ocean's vast horizon. (Sigh)...it's the perfect place to celebrate love as its beauty will make anyone's heart melt.

The Maldives at a Glance

Privacy and exclusivity are what you'll get in the Maldives, with plenty of luxury overwater resorts or bungalows opening up on the beach to choose from. A stay in the Maldives is more about the unique experience of being able to jump straight into the ocean from your room, spend lazy, boozy days sipping cocktails in your pool, and explore the deep blue sea.

The ocean is alive with so much colour and movement that each time you jump in will feel like you're doing it for the first time. There are some local cultural activities you can partake in, like learning more about the coconut palm trees and learning how to climb them using the traditional technique.

Couple walks to their floating bungalow in the Maldives

Expect plenty of romance in the sun in the Maldives  

Perfect for

Honeymoon or romantic getaway 

Activities

  • Some of the best snorkelling and diving sites
  • Boat cruises to visit surrounding island sandbanks for romantic private lunches or dinners 
  • Surfing, stand-up paddling, fishing, and more.
  • Pampering couple spa treatments often alfresco 
  • Visit the town Malé for the markets, local cuisine, and culture 

When Should I Visit the Maldives?

The Maldives is always a good time, regardless of the time of year! However, plan your holiday around December to April if you want fewer rainy days. 

Floating accommodation in the Maldives

Overwater bungalows are the Madlives' signature accommodation

3. Seychelles

Calling all beach bums! Seychelles is famous for having some of the best beaches – in the world! So, if you love lazily lounging on powdery sand with a book while sipping on a piña colada, look no further than Seychelles. However, as much as it will delight those wishing for a holiday where they can do as little as possible, it's also perfect for adventure-seekers with a host of watersport activities.

Seychelles at a Glance

Seychelles are the only oceanic granitic islands globally not formed by volcanoes, makings its flora and fauna entirely unique. Picture granite boulders hugged by lush green vegetation, the iconic leaning palm trees, and pure white coastline lapped by translucent turquoise water. Without meaning to sound like a cliché, it will take your breath away.

Because the tourist areas are generally buzzing, you can take a boat transfer to a more remote island for the best snorkelling experience. Several species of sea turtles are also stars of the Seychelles show, with the hawksbill sea turtle being one of their endangered species.

La Digue in Seychelles beach

The famous beach of Anse d'Argent in La Digue, Seychelles 

Perfect for

Honeymoon or romantic getaways and adventure-seekers who will enjoy plenty of watersports activities.

Activities

  • Plenty of adrenaline-fueled watersports on offer 
  • Glass-bottomed boat trips, scuba diving and snorkelling
  • Sightseeing and exploring local culture and cuisine in Mahé
  • Island hopping and helicopter rides 
  • Hiking and exploring the local national parks and botanical parks

When Should I Visit Seychelles?

Seychelles is great at any time of year, although May to October is ideal as this is the dry season. November to January is the rainy season and very warm.

Sunset in Seychelles with man swimming in pool at resort

Spectacular sunset are a given in Seychelles

3. Zanzibar

Zanzibar ticks so many boxes for so many different types of travellers. If you want a Castaway experience but without sacrificing any of the luxuries on your well-deserved holiday, then Zanzibar's the place to go!

An island with a rich cultural history, it's also known as the 'Spice Island' as it used to be an important part of the spice trade. Today, you'll find various spice plantations here. It's also well-known for Stone Town, a World Heritage Site with plenty of treasures and marketplaces to marvel at and collect souvenirs for your home. 

Zanzibar at a Glance

Lying just off the Tanzanian coast, Zanzibar has served as a stopover for many explorers, which today gives it its medley of cultural influences such as Arab, African and European, with plenty of aromatic spices and cuisine to sniff and sample.

The landscapes are relatively flat, with indigenous forests and coconut palms framing the untouched coastline. Hop on over to its neighbouring island Pemba for a different terrain of mangoes, cloves, spice trees, fruit, and more. This is also a fishing hotspot, and you'll see plenty of traditional dhow boats lining the coast in hopes of getting a bite.

Man walking into ocean alone in Zanzibar

Space and solitude will make you feel like a castaway in Zanzibar

Perfect for

Digital detox, culture, watersports, and romantic or family getaways 

Activities

  • Plenty of watersports, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing and snorkelling 
  • Traditional Dhow or catamaran cruise for sundowners 
  • Wellness activities such as spa treatments and yoga on a private island 
  • Cultural tours through Stone Town and spice plantation tours
  • Mangrove tours in Pemba, seeing monkeys at Jozani Forest, and visiting the endangered green turtle sanctuary 

When Should I Visit Zanzibar?

Plan your visit to Zanzibar somewhere between July to September during the dry season for the best experience. However, it's great year-round!

Zanzibar White Sands Villas & Spa

Zanzibar White Sands Villa & Spa, image credit: Relais & Chateaux

4. Madagascar

Consider yourself someone who prefers to venture off the beaten track? We can relate! And Africa has so many gems. Madagascar is one these, located in the middle of the Indian Ocean. As a mico-continent, it has such a baffling diversity that you'll feel like you're exploring a whole new world. 

Madagascar at a Glance

Madagascar is located around 400m off the East African coast, and it's the second-largest island country globally. But what makes Madagascar special is its unique wildlife habitat, with 90% of its species found nowhere else on earth! This makes for an unforgettable experience both on land and underwater.

With towering mountains, rainforests, jagged peaks in Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, majestic waterfalls, and stretches of unspoilt beaches, it's a unique paradise that will make any adventurous traveller's heart sing.

lemurs-in-madagascar

Cute lemurs in Madagascar

Perfect for

Adventure and bucket lists

Activities

  • Exploring the rainforests and seeing the adorable lemurs, fossa, and other wildlife 
  • Visit the Boaobab Avenue to see the ancient, bloated trees
  • Scuba diving at Nosy Be to admire the colourful marine life
  • Whale watching between June and October 
  • Exploring local cultures and cuisines

When Should I Visit Madagascar?

May to October is best for your Madagascar holiday. If you want to skip the crowds, you should visit around September.

Ilha Nosy Be em Madagascar

Ilha Nosy Be em Madagascar

5. Mozambique 

One of Africa's best-kept secrets, Mozambique might not have been on your radar until now, but it definitely should be! With wild, untouched spaces and known for its mouth-watering fresh seafood dishes, you'll quickly fall in love with Mozambique.

Mozambique at a Glance

Mozambique has five islands you can visit. These include Benguerra, which ideal for birders, Bazaruto, Banque, Magaruque, and Santa Carolina. With several protected marine areas, you can explore their magic on an underwater safari.

One of these highlights includes diving with whale sharks! Although harmless and peaceful, diving with them will get your pulse racing! Some of the other underwater animals you can see include dolphins, turtles, manta rays, the endangered dugong, and plenty of colourful fish species. But there's more than the ocean, with beautiful lakes home to crocodile and flamboyant flamingos. 

View from above clouds of Azura Benguerra

Head in the clouds at Azura Benguerra

Perfect for

Adventurers interested in culture, snorkelling or sailing

Activities

  • Scuba diving, sailing, or snorkelling the famous two-mile reef
  • Helicopter transfers to different islands 
  • Diving with whale sharks that are up to 14 metres in length 
  • Sundowner cruise on a traditional dhow boat 
  • Private castaway picnics on the beach 

When Should I Visit Mozambique?

Your best bet to avoid high humidity and heat is from May to October. 

6. Reunion  

The relatively small island of Reunion around 500km east of Madagascar is another one of Africa's hidden gems. The cuisine and culture are fascinating, with a distinctly French flair mixed with Indian, Asian, and African influences.

Reunion at a Glance

Reunion is probably best known for being home to one of the world's most active volcanoes, Piton de la Fournaise. And with around 40% of the island classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there's much to ooh and aah over. 

The island has also been nicknamed 'Little Hawaii' due to its resemblance to the famous spotless coastline of Hawaii. The rivers snaking through the landscapes means that you get to enjoy both ocean watersports and river activities like white water rafting. 

The dramatic Reunion landscapes

Adventure awaits in Reunion, image credit: Thomas McGowan

Perfect for

Honeymooners 

Activities

  • Take to the skies with helicopter flights, hang gliding, paragliding and skydiving for a bird's-eye view
  • Water-based activities include surfing, kayaking, white water rafting, water skiing, windsurfing and deep-sea fishing
  • Hike and explore the mountains and other landscapes on foot, mountain bikes or horseback
  • Visit the 2,632-metre-high Piton de la Fournaise active volcano 
  • Whale and dolphin watching (seasonal)

When Should I Visit Reunion?

If you're planning a holiday in Reunion, the best time to go is between May to October. 

Sunset on the island of Reunion

Magical sunsets await at Reunion, image credit: Vicente Villamón

Start Planning Your Holidays in Indian Ocean Islands Today

By now, you're probably fantasising about your holidays in the Indian Ocean Islands. Can you already hear the waves crashing and feel the sun kissing your skin? 

 As African Travel Experts, we know exactly when and where you should be for the holiday of a lifetime. Leave the headache of planning to us, and take advantage of our expert first-hand knowledge. 

It's time for Africa! Fill in this quick enquiry form, and let's start planning!

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About the author 

Tania de Kock

Tania has always been an avid reader, which ultimately led to her life-long dream of becoming a best-selling author. She loves travelling, super spicy food, South African wine, and cats! When she's not reading with a glass of wine, you can find her at the nearest beach or camping, running or hiking in the mountains.

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