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Established as a territory of the UK in 1965, a number of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) islands were transferred to the Seychelles when it attained independence in 1976, leaving only the six main island groups comprising the Chagos Archipelago of 2,300 islands. The largest and most southerly of the islands, Diego Garcia, contains a joint UK-US naval support facility. All of the remaining islands are uninhabited. Approximately 3,000 former agricultural workers, earlier indigenous residents in the islands (often referred to as Chagossians or Ilois) were relocated primarily to Mauritius but also to the Seychelles, between 1967 and 1973. In 2000, a British High Court ruling invalidated the local immigration order which had excluded them from the archipelago, but upheld the special military status of Diego Garcia. No timetable has been set for the Ilois return, but when they do they plan to reestablish copra production and fishing.
Tropical marine; hot, humid, moderated by trade winds.
Flat and low (most areas do not exceed four metres in elevation).
Entry to Diego Garcia is extremely limited due to the large American and British military presence on the island. To quote the British Indian Ocean Territory travel advice through the British Foreign Office: "The British Indian Ocean Territory is not a tourist destination. Access is restricted and a permit is required in advance of travel. There are no commercial flights and permits are only issued to yachts in safe passage. Access to Diego Garcia is only permitted to those with connections to the military facility."
A valid entry permit can be obtained from the British Indian Ocean Territory Administration, Foreign & Commonwealth Office; although proof of adequate travel insurance and yacht insurance is required before permit issue, and any permit issued would only be valid for the outer islands.
There is a military airport on Diego Garcia.
There is a harbour on Diego Garcia.
There is paved road between the airport and the harbour on Diego Garcia.
The clear blue water on the lagoon side of Diego Garcia (except after stormy weather).
- Catalina Beach (near The Plantation). The beach with a wrecked aircraft.
- The Plantation. A former coconut plantation on the eastern end of Diego Garcia, out of use since 1970. The buildings have been restored.
- Turtle Cove (south of the island).