By Lilian Gaitho
No one talks of safari without mentioning the great treks that crisscross the African continent. So popular is this cradle of mankind for its magic-ridden sunsets and vast plains teeming with wildlife, that many seem to awe away at the bush ideal, totally ignoring that the continent also takes pride in mothering some of the world’s most blissful and unpolluted islands. This year, maybe it’s time to spice up your travelogues by exploring at least one of these exotic and scenic African islands.
Madagascar’s bevy of islands
Located down Southeast on the coast of the Indian ocean, Madagascar, or Madagasikara as known in the local dialect is a sight of paradise, a lush show of biodiversity that satiates all senses and desire for nature’s own healing. It’s the fourth largest island on earth, consisting of various distinct regions marked by unique, kaleidoscopic topography. The country’s wildlife and its flora and fauna accounts for the world’s 5% unique life; an experience that cannot be found elsewhere. Depending on the kind of excursion and adventures you are looking to have, you can choose on any of these regions. Nosy Be will be perfect for snorkeling and diving, while you will be at loss on what national parks to visit for an up and close interaction with the island’s legendary lemurs.
Mozambique’s big four has something for everyone
From Quirimbas to the Bazaruto Archipelago, and the good ol’ Pemba, Mozambique is renowned for playing host to celebrity figures in search of calm, virgin and exclusive vacations. While the Quirimbas offer authentic experiences due to her undiscovered off the beaten path kind of scenery, Bazaruto’s warm and transparent waters make for one of the best breaks for surfers especially in the long months of February to October. The Marine park is also a gem to explore, offering exceptional sightings such as those of dudongs, sea turtles, and rare species of lizards.
A Wanderer’s ancient abode; Kenya’s Lamu and Watamu
You want to preserve the world? Top your list of places to be with the old beach city of Lamu that dates back to 1370’s. This island, which continues to occupy important reference in the history of East Africa is also a UNESCO heritage site. Its occupants continue to live unperturbed by civilization; still relying solely on donkeys for their transport, and maintaining their architectural design for living and work space. The town is also host to many blissful events including the Lamu yoga festival and the Lamu cultural festival. Watamu on the other hand offers coastal quaint, with a traditional swahili village and a refreshing visit to Gede ruins.
Catch some ol’ spice in Tanzania’s Zanzibar
Perhaps closer to Lamu, than any other coastal destination is Zanzibar; whose most famous icon is its capital city, Stone town. The town is characterized by deserted Swahili Sultan palaces. Zanzibar is made of two main islands; Unguja and Pemba. Day long trips to the spice farms of Pemba will offer a great break for those looking to leave the sandy beaches and the winding trips for an aromatic excursion in the farms.
Rejuvenate in the Re-Union Island
The Reunion Island perhaps has the highest growing numbers in tourist arrivals in recent years. Aggressive marketing activities, and awareness campaigns have brought this gem from downright ‘undiscovered’ list to one of the most coveted destinations world over. The island’s firsts include the Piton de la Fournaise – an active volcano scaling up to a massive 8,635 ft. and its kin, the equally massive but no longer active Piton des Neiges. Unlike in other destinations where mountain and sea seem to thrive worlds apart; Reunion’s mountainous tropical climate casts and the azure waters of the Indian ocean seem to merge right under your eyes. Such is the harmony, that you’ll find it hard to understand where the fish starts to dance, and the flowers sprout off their petals, unless with your toes burrowed in the stretches of white, powdery sands.
From Mahe to Praslin, and La Digue; own a piece of Seychelles!
Dreaming of owning an island, if only for an hour or two? Then, make your way to Say-shells’s La Digue. Nestled between an intricate mystery of rock and boulder formation, the small island casts a surreal atmosphere, making one feel like a star in some exotic Bollywood piece. Seychelles can be difficult to travel; simply because, you’ll be torn between the three main regions of Praslin, Mahe, and La Digue! Mahe is the main island, and houses the capital – Victoria – popular for splendid beaches, unique plant life and the famous century old clock tower. Praslin is the island’s divers’ haven – globally recognized for its bounteous marine life and sport conducive underwater environment, with an impressive birdlife to chase about, anytime you take a breather off the ancient corals.