African tourism guides tend to boil down to a few specific types of vacation. People go to dive into local communities, experience nature unlike anywhere else on Earth, go hiking and engage in other outdoor sports, and sometimes enjoy a luxury or party atmosphere in some of the continent’s bigger and more noteworthy cities. What we don’t talk about as much, at least not as an overarching topic, is the fact that some of the best island destinations on the planet are located off the coast of Africa in either direction.
These are four that are as appealing or more so than any other island getaways in the world.
Technically an archipelago consisting of a few small islands, Zanzibar is a part of Tanzania located just off the coast of East Africa. Its name is exotic enough that some people don’t realize it’s a real place, but instead think of it as something out of an old myth or storybook. But in fact it’s one of Africa’s top offshore destinations, a friendly and inviting place that can give you everything you want out of a coastal getaway. Said one piece about things to do on Zanzibar, few places can evoke images of white powdered sands, pristine turquoise waters, and tropical palm tree paradise like this one. Throw in local seafood, interesting wildlife like giant turtles, and the charming capital of Stone Town, and it’s simply a wonderful place to visit.
The Seychelles may ultimately be the most famous island destination in all of Africa. They’re famously noted as an excellent island escape, and were recently listed as a likely honeymoon destination when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married. The royal couple did in fact make their way to Africa, though not necessarily to Praslin – which is the most striking of the islands that comprise the Seychelles. Despite having a number of resorts and even its own airport, this island – the second-largest of the Seychelles – is comprised largely of tropical forests and gorgeous beaches. It’s a stunning spot for a vacation that will feel particularly natural.
3. Sao Tomé
Sao Tomé is actually part of its own tiny island nation, just about on the equator in the Gulf of Guinea west of Gabon. The nation contains a few different volcanic islands, but Sao Tomé is the main destination. Rainforests, beaches, hiking areas, offshore rock and coral formations, and a small collection of historic cathedrals are all among the top attractions for visitors, and the island does have its own airport also. There’s also easy access to the other main island of Principe, which is less heavily populated and more “unspoiled,” for lack of a better term, meaning you can almost have two types of island vacation in one.
If you were asked to name African island paradises, one that might come to mind alongside the Seychelles is Mauritius. This is a very famous and beautiful destination not far from Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, and tourism is growing there of late. However, if you’re looking for a more original idea or a less popular spot, nearby Reunion is one worth looking into. With a population of roughly 800,000 people and designated as a French territory, it’s an incredible volcanic island not entirely unlike Hawaii or some places in Southeast Asia. Beautiful shallows, natural waterfalls, and some surprisingly imposing mountains make up the landscape.