The East African Islands are in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of Africa. Madagascar is by far the biggest, and a continent on its own when it comes to wildlife. Most of the smaller islands are independent nations, or associated with France, and known as luxury beach resorts.
Countries and territories
A small island group in the Mozambique Channel and an historic crossroad of cultures
Expect the unexpected in the land of the lemurs and the so-called eighth continent
An island with a population mainly descended from Indian indentured labourers
This is a department of France all the way in the Indian Ocean
A group of 115 islands northeast of Madagascar and the smallest country in Africa by both area and population
This is another department of France – it voted to remain French when the rest of Comoros became independent.
- 1 Rodrigues is an outlying island of Mauritius. Réunion, Mauritius and Rodrigues are collectively known as the Mascarene Islands.
- 2 Europa Island is a small atoll with an unpaved airstrip.
- 3 Glorioso Islands are all part of a small atoll with one airstrip and some anchorages.
- 4 Tromelin is administered by France but claimed by Mauritius, but its uninhabited and off-limits as a wildlife reserve.
The islands along Africa's coast, such as Socotra, Zanzibar, Mafia Island, the Bazaruto Archipelago and Ilha de Mozambique, have natural and cultural similarities to these islands. They are described as part of their respective country.
- 1 Antananarivo — also known as Tana, is the capital of Madagascar
- 2 Mamoudzou — the largest town in Mayotte
- 3 Moroni — capital and largest city of the Comoros
- 4 Port Louis — the capital of Mauritius
- 5 Saint-Denis — the largest town in Réunion
- 6 Victoria — the capital of the Seychelles and one of the smallest capitals in the world
Both the natural and human history of the East African islands differs from the history of continental Africa. 90% of the wildlife of Madagascar is found nowhere else on the planet. The first inhabitants of Madagascar arrived from Southeast Asia, while the locals of Indian origin form the majority in Mauritius and substantial minorities in Réunion and Seychelles.
Arab trade and exploration flourished in the region between the 10th and 16th centuries. The Arabs also brought Islam to the lands, and it took in a big way in the Comoros and Mayotte. European influence and colonialism began in the 15th century, as Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama found the Cape Route from Europe to India. The Portuguese, Dutch and English set up trading posts in the region for the East Indian Companies. By the 19th century, France became the major colonial power on the islands, and still possesses some of them.
French is the lingua franca of the islands. People in Madagascar speak Malagasy, an Austronesian language.
As most of these islands have been part of the French Empire or are still governed from Paris in some form, many intercontinental flights arrive from France; especially Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG IATA) and Orly Airport (ORY IATA). The more touristed islands receive flights from hubs in Europe and Asia.
There are some domestic flights within Madagascar and you can "island hop" to some extent but some connections are awkward and it may sometimes be easier to fly back to the mainland or even to France for some trips.
You CAN get between different countries/territories on boats, but they are slow and expensive.
The wildlife of Madagascar has so many species found nowhere else, that biologists describe it as the "eighth continent". Andasibe-Mantadia National Park on Madagascar is home to the indri lemurs. Andringitra National Park is one of the most biologically diverse areas in all of Madagascar.
- Black River Gorges are a national park in the mountains of Mauritius.
- Moheli is the most beautiful of the Comoros.
- Réunion National Park has mountainous scenery including the active volcano of Piton de la Fournaise.
- Morne Seychellois National Park protects some of the Seychelles' most scenic tropical rainforests
The East African Islands are generally much safer than most of mainland Africa, although safety varies from island to island. Réunion and Mayotte have comparable safety to metropolitan France.