Africa's most beautiful islands are the perfect places for a truly unique escape. Africa's East coast islands blend Asian and African culture and among them island-nations with unique flora and fauna. Further beautiful islands in Africa are found to the west of the continent in the Atlantic sea, or indeed miles inland, in an oasis delta of Botswana.
Where are some of the best islands to visit in Africa?
Once a hippie destination, Lamu, close to the Kenyan coast, retains an independent and bohemian vibe. Architecture, art and culture on the island blends Swahili, Chinese, Indian and Arabian influences to give it a truly distinct character. The largely car-free Lamu, the most populated of its archipelago, is the ideal base for a holiday. It includes Lamu Old Town, a UNESCO world heritage site. By dhow charter, visitors can explore historic sites dotted with baobab trees and the white sand beaches of Kipungani. Is there an airport on Lamu Island? The nearest airport is Manda Airport, located on Manda Island. It connects with Nairobi and Mombasa.
Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania, is one of Africa's most enigmatic islands, a true tropical paradise. Zanzibar is in fact the name of the archipelago, but the largest island, Unguja, is generally given the name. Highlights include the Stone Village UNESCO site. Known as the "Spice Island", Zanzibar produces nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon, worth mentioning because the subtle scent of these spices can be enjoyed across the island. Is there an airport on Zanzibar? Yes, Zanzibar International Airport.
Arguably Africa's most famous island and certainly its biggest at 229,000 square miles. Madagascar is the second largest island-nation in the world. Key to the island's beauty is its unique fauna and flora. 90% of the flora doesn't exist anywhere else on earth and neither do 44% of the birds. Animal species unique to Madagascar include the ring-tailed lemur, the aye-aye, and the almost unbelievable satanic leaf-tailed gecko. One of the island's most incredible natural sites is Tsingy de Bemaraha, a UNESCO reserve, a limestone plateau made up of hundreds of sharp pinnacles. Does Madagascar have an airport? Madagascar has more than ten international airports, but most visitors arrive at Ivato International Airport which serves the capital, Antananarivo.
4. Chief's Island, Botswana
Best for safari fans, Chief's Island is one of Botswana's Okavango Delta islands. The delta is known as the "Jewel of Botswana", a country landlocked by four other countries, which makes the natural wonder of this waterway even more beguiling. The delta itself has been named one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. Chief's Island, so-named because it was once the hunting ground of the chief, now enjoys protected status. The island is over 400 square miles and home to baboons, vervet monkeys, zebras, crocodiles, elephants, hippos, lions, leopards and cheetahs. Is there an airport on Chief's Island? The closest international airport is Maun International Airport, located to the south of Okavango Delta.
5. São Tomé & Principe
Uninhabited until the 15th century when the islands were settled by the Portuguese, São Tomé, the larger of the two, became the world centre for sugar growing. With a tragic history of slavery, today São Tomé & Principe is a modern, democratic country with a robust tourist industry, low crime and a welcoming laid-back feel. Natural highlights include the beautiful Lagoa Azul lagoon, the vast jungle of Ôbo Natural Park, and the other-worldly Cão Grande Peak, a finger-shaped rock formation popular with climbers. São Tomé International Airport is located on São Tomé island.
Another island-nation, but much smaller than Madagascar at only 790 square miles, tropical Mauritius is far flung from Africa's East coast at some 1200 miles away. Uninhabited until the 16th century and settled over the years by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the British before gaining Independence in 1968, it is one of the most peaceful countries in Africa where residents enjoy a high standard of living. If that wasn't enough it also has the world's second highest air quality. With a robust holiday infrastructure, it's easy to get out and explore the beauty of Mauritius. Naturalists should head to the Black River Gorges National Park, home to swathes of native rainforest where you can see species unique to the island such as the flying fox, pink pigeon and the Mauritius parakeet. To fly into Mauritius you need to book flights to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport.
Pick your beautiful island paradise in Africa for a nice getaway