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Mauritius is arguably Africa’s wealthiest destination, a tropical paradise with tons to do. Port Louis, the modern capital of this 38-mile by 29-mile island, is a bustling port with a revitalized waterfront and a busy market. But most visitors gravitate toward resort areas such as Mont Choisy, quiet Trou-aux-Biches and the more bustling Flic en Flac, popular with scuba divers. Rivière Noire is ideal for those looking for great deep-sea fishing.
The Zanzibar Archipelago, located in the Indian Ocean 15 miles off the coast of Tanzania, is a breathtaking spot to escape from the world. You’ll enjoy clear, turquoise-blue water; shallow sandbars perfect for wading; and many small, nearly deserted islands virtually unvisited by tourists. Explore the World Heritage Site of Stone Town, Zanzibar City’s old quarter. Or just go beach to beach between tiny fishing villages—each one's better than the next.
“Nosy Be?” Is that a typo for “Noisy Bee?” Nope. It means “big island” and it is just that; a large island off the northwest coast of Madagascar. Here you’ll find volcanic lakes, lazy lemurs, rum distilleries, Ylang Ylang plantations and intricate coral reefs that are practically begging to be explored. Flora and fauna lovers will be in seventh heaven at the beautiful Lokobe Nature Special Reserve. Audiophiles should visit in May, to experience the four-day Donia Music Festival.
One of the Seychelles’ most popular destinations, Praslin is home to fantastic beaches and intimate hotels and resorts. Soak up the sun in style while you keep a sunglassed eye out for the very rare bird species that dwell on Praslin, including the Seychelles bulbul and the black parrot. Praslin National Park in the island's south contains the spectacular palm forest of Vallée de Mai. Divers love the ancient coral reefs off Praslin's shores.
The soundtrack of tranquil Boa Vista is the sweet tweets of exotic birds. Maybe they’re chattering with loggerhead turtles or with the humpback whales that are known to splash around Boa Vista’s shallow waters. Work up a sweat and hike to the wreck of the Santa Maria, or explore the Duque de Braganca Fort, built to protect the Ilheu de Sal Rei from pirates. The windswept red and tan sand dunes of Deserto de Viana are awe-inspiring.
The Cape Verdean island of Sal is all about the beach, baby. White sand stretches along glassy turquoise waters—perfect for a lazy day of sunning or some heart-pumping watersports. Snorkelers and divers will find plenty of tropical fish, turtles, and dolphins to look at. On dry land, kids (and grownups!) will marvel at the Terra Boa mirage, an optical illusion that conjures a peaceful-looking lake in the middle of a large, flat plain.
The Seychelles largest and main island, Mahe is home to the capital of Victoria and about 70,000 people (almost 90% of the nation's total). Still, the island retains its idyllic beauty, with 3,000-foot mountains and scores of gorgeous beaches. Many plants, including the so-called Jellyfish Tree and several rare orchids, are unique to Mahe's shores. The Seychelles Natural History Museum, the Botanical Gardens and the Codevar Craft Centre, all in Victoria, are not to be missed.
Arriving at La Digue feels like sailing straight into a painting, brimming with brush strokes of blue, green and tan. The beaches here are spectacular, particularly Grand Anse and Anse Source d'Argent, which is strewn with pink granite rocks. There are very few cars here, so traveling by bike or by ox cart is the way to go. Pedal over to Ile de Cocos for snorkeling or gawk at the rare Paradise Flycatcher (a beautiful black bird) at the Veuve Nature Reserve.
The landscape of Rodrigues Island is a dramatic combination of mountains, valleys, lagoons and cave systems. A guided exploration of the Caverne Patate reveals playful rock formations that were created by tectonic plate movement. Above ground, the François Leguat Giant Tortoise and Cave Reserve will acquaint you with the island’s rarest plants and most laid-back residents. Hike the central Mont Limon for majestic panoramic views or dive among intricate coral reefs. Get up early to visit Port Mathurin on market day, when the otherwise sleepy village springs to life.