The Best Islands in Africa and the Middle East in 2016

Photo: Getty Images/Minden Pictures RM

When you think islands, you may not first think of Africa. And yet the continent has a wealth of spectacular island experiences that easily compete with the best the Caribbean or Southeast Asia has to offer, including idyllic resorts and tropical climates. Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe—to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise lines, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated islands on their natural attractions and beaches, activities and sights, food, friendliness, and overall value. Unsurprisingly, the feature that readers most responded to was the beaches. And when it comes to sandy stretches, it is tough to top the Seychelles. Many visitors head to the islands to cap off an active safari vacation—understandably so, given the archipelago’s powder-soft sand and glass-like water. “These are the most beautiful islands I've had the pleasure of visiting,” one survey respondent, Rhonda Johnson, wrote. “The people are friendly and the natural beauty is amazing.” In second place came the lush, French-influenced Mauritius, followed by Zanzibar. With its trading history, it is sometimes referred to as one of the Spice Islands. Scuba diving and other aquatic pursuits were also a priority for visitors, who found jaw-dropping marine life and world-class watersports infrastructure in all three destinations. Convenience and proximity to other regional destinations were also key factors, with the Seychelles’ main island of Mahé now connected to Dubai by twice-daily Emirates flights, as well as regular regional connections to the African mainland. Read on for the full list.

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No. 3: Zanzibar, Tanzania

Zanzibar Tanzania
John Seaton Callahan/Getty Images/Moment RM

Score: 78.00

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No. 2: Mauritius

Getty Images/Robert Harding World Imagery

Score: 78.55

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No. 1: Seychelles

Getty Images/Minden Pictures RM

Score: 83.69

This 115-island archipelago comprises coral atolls and distinctive, mid-oceanic granite islands. Against these postcard-worthy landscapes, you’ll find some of the world’s most extraordinary beach resorts — including lush, private North Island, where Prince William and Kate Middleton spent their honeymoon — and Fregate Island, with its clientele of A-list celebrities. Readers were unanimous in their appreciation of the islands’ natural environment. “Beautiful white sand,” wrote one reader. “The water was so clear you could see your toes at a depth of four feet.”

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