The Indian Ocean: unspoiled coastlines, untrodden islands and natural wonders
Today is World Oceans Day, which has been created to shed light on the wonder of the ocean and how it is our life source, supporting humanity and every other organism on Earth. So, to celebrate, we have highlighted some of the most unspoiled coastlines, pristine islands, and natural wonders of the Indian Ocean.
"The sea is as near as we come to another world," once wrote English-American poet Anne Stevenson, and her words hold true for the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean. As the third-largest ocean in the world, covering approximately 70,560,000 square kilometres, it's no wonder that this region is dotted with numerous lesser-explored tropical islands. These remote spots are brimming with incredible marine life that thrives in the surrounding waters, and their untouched palm-lined beaches along the coastlines offer endless opportunities for exploration. If you're an adventure seeker, here are eight must-visit islands that deserve a spot on your Indian Ocean travel bucket list.
Socotra Island, Yemen
Socotra Island, the Island of Dragon’s Blood, is a Unesco World Heritage Site often known for being ‘the most alien-looking place on earth’. This tropical desert island, marooned between Somalia and Yemen, is a haven for nature enthusiasts and one of Earth's most remote continental destinations. Here, the Indian Ocean hugs the shoreline, and unexplored terrain makes for breathtaking hiking trails. Though small, the island is teeming with incredible wildlife thanks to its unique biodiversity; you’ll find it’s home to countless species and a breathtaking kaleidoscope of flora and fauna, including 825 endemic plant species. Throughout the island, you’ll also find a fascinating array of trees, including dense forests of frankincense and cucumber trees. However, the most striking is the mushroom-shaped dragon tree, renowned for its crimson sap, resembling blood. They lend an enchanting aura to Socotra Island's landscape, further enhancing its otherworldly allure.
Pemba Island, Tanzania
Pemba is a small lesser-explored island located around 80 kilometres northeast of Zanzibar and forms an integral part of Tanzania's Zanzibar Archipelago. The island is renowned for its lush rolling hills and thriving clove plantations, a major export crop of Zanzibar. The Pemba Channel is bustling with all kinds of marine life, from manta rays and whale sharks to migrating humpback whales and schools of barracuda, surrounded by thick multicoloured coral making for breathtaking snorkelling. The island has managed to maintain its local charm and remains largely undiscovered by travellers, dotted with mangrove swamps, dense forests, secret beaches and ruins of tombs and mosques, which serve as a reminder of the Arab domination in the 17th century.
Kiwayu, a favourite spot of ours at Olo Safaris, is an African island north of Lamu that offers a remote retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Spanning just 10 kilometres in length and 500 meters in width, this remote oasis is adorned with isolated postcard-worthy beaches and lush mangrove forests. One of the best and safest ways to explore it is by The Enasoit Collection’s Tusitiri Dhow, a traditional wooden sailing boat initially built to carry spices and goods along the Indian Ocean. This coastal experience takes you to discover this unexplored slice of African paradise, from picnicking on pristine beaches and deep-sea fishing to snorkelling around multicoloured coral reefs and exploring the narrow streets of Lamu and Shela, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where Oliver chose to propose to Katie - since it is their favourite place in Kenya!
Migrating whale sharks, secluded sandbars, nesting turtles and tangled mangroves are just a handful of the things you can expect to find at Mafia Island in Tanzania. This remote island is part of the Zanzibar Archipelago, surrounded by some of the world’s most spectacular untouched coral reefs and the largest protected area in the Indian Ocean. With over 460 fish species and an impressive variety of 50 coral types, the island is a dream for snorkellers and scuba divers, and, depending on the time of year, visitors can swim with whale sharks or head on a humpback whale tour.
Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique
The Bazaruto Archipelago, which Katie visited in 2018, is a group of six islands in Mozambique that offer the opportunity for guests to indulge in undisturbed feet-in-the-sand island chilling. Designated as a National Park in 1971, these islands have become a sought-after destination for those looking to relax on unspoilt beaches and get close to an assortment of exotic wildlife. The surrounding waters act as one of the most important marine sanctuaries along the East African coastline, home to more than 2,000 species of fish, three types of turtles and elusive dugongs, making for brilliant diving and snorkelling. If you’re an avian enthusiast, the island is also home to dozens of bird species, such as pink flamingos, great white and pink-backed pelicans and fish-eating eagles.
Nosy Be, Madagascar
Nosy Be is the most famous of the Madagascan Islands, located just off the coast of Africa, and has captured the interest of discerning travellers over the years, including the legendary David Attenborough. This volcanic island is celebrated for its exceptional biodiversity, with many of its plant and animal species only found in Madagascar. From miniature chameleons to over 100 lemur species and 300 recorded bird species, the island is a haven for unique and endemic wildlife. Its coastal Madagascan waters are equally teeming, hosting seasonal visits from majestic whale sharks, humpback whales and 34 species of cetaceans. Visitors flock to Nosy Be for its breathtaking beaches and an array of activities, including quad biking, visiting the sacred banyan tree, hiking in Lokobe National Park, and savouring delectable cuisine at top-class restaurants sprinkled throughout the island.
Chumbe Island, Tanzania
This idyllic tropical island is situated around 6km west of Zanzibar and 30km off the coast of Tanzania and is the world’s first privately established and managed Marine Protected Area. It’s small but chock full of breathtaking nature and wildlife, including some of the world’s best snorkelling, a coral reef sanctuary and coral rag forest, and hiking trails that lead you to 15,000-year-old fossils through mangroves and baobabs. With only a few bungalows available to stay at, Chumbe Island ensures a serene and exclusive experience, allowing a maximum of 14 guests at a time to preserve the island's untouched charm.
The Songo Songo Archipelago, Tanzania
The Songo Songo Archipelago is a collection of five tiny remote islands on the southwest of the Mafia Islands, bordered by teeming reefs and beautiful white sandy beaches. Coconut palm trees fringe the shores, creating a tropical paradise that attracts a variety of sea turtles and marine birds, such as grey and purple herons and African reed warblers. The islands are surrounded by a protective reef, sheltering the islands from the vast open ocean, brimming with marine life and an impressive population of multicoloured corals. People come here to chill on the beaches and enjoy the epic snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities surrounding the islands. But a trip here is best paired with an unforgettable safari in nearby Tanzania or Zanzibar.
So by reflecting on this day, we hope it sheds light on the wonder of what the Indian Ocean has to offer. Interested in a bush and beach holiday, please get in touch with us at email@example.com.
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