Every list of Africa's best beaches should include The Seychelles, Zanzibar and Mauritius. These islands in the Indian Ocean are home to literally dozens of picture-perfect beaches. But my pick for Africa's best beaches, below, stick to the rule of one beach per country. Countries like Eritrea and Somalia have beautiful unspoiled beaches too, but they are not easy destinations for travelers to get to and I am personally not familiar enough to recommend them. Enjoy my picks of Africa's best beaches below, and please share your own list of perfect beaches with us.
Mnemba is a private island in the Indian Ocean and part of the Zanzibar Archipelago. The island offers the best snorkeling in Zanzibar (and that's saying something) and you can also watch whales, see dolphins and swim with whale sharks. Best of all, for the romantics out there, there are only 10 cottages on the island which make up the Mnemba Island Lodge owned by luxury travel company &Beyond. Each cottage has its own veranda and is hidden in the shade of a tropical beach forest.
Close to Gabon in West Africa the island nation of Sao Tome and Prinicipe is home to some truly spectacular beaches. Principe is the smaller of the two islands, with a population of just 5,000. Two of the island's best beaches are part of Bom Bom Island, an amazing eco-resort on the northern shore of Principe. Its bar and restaurant are on a tiny islet, linked to the mainland by a long walkway. The virgin forests on Principe are a bird watchers paradise. If you enjoy turtles, whales and deep-sea fishing, you'll be very happy here.
Picture 27 pristine coral islands situated in the Indian Ocean and you have Mozambique's Quirimbas Archipelago. 11 of the southern most islands have been designated a national park in part to help protect the rare Dugong. The islands are a divers paradise, you can see enormous parrotfish, angelfish, cave bass, dolphins, hammerhead sharks, and moray eels. Ibo island provides a dash of culture, Vasco de Gama rested here in 1502. You reach this remote archipelago by taking a small plane from Pemba a coastal town in northern Mozambique.
The Seychelles Islands (in the Indian Ocean) have long been one of the world's most romantic destinations and its beaches feature in every top 10 beach list. One of the more famous beaches is Anse Source D’Argent, on the island of La Digue. This is a picture perfect beach, with dark boulders resting on the perfect white powder sand. For an exclusive island experience, try: Desroches Island, Denis Island and Fregate Island.
Lamu is an archipelago of islands located off the coast of Kenya, north of Mombasa. The beaches of Shela on the main island offer the quintessential Indian ocean beach ingredients, white powdery sands, excellent snorkeling and clear, blue waters. Lamu Town is a UNESCO World heritage site and one of Kenya's oldest towns, settled by the Swahili seven hundred years ago. It's quiet, narrow streets are fascinating to explore and the fact that there are no cars on the island just makes it very enjoyable. Take a Dhow and explore some of the other islands, Kiwayu is a real gem.
Mauritius is a beautiful island that lies in the Indian Ocean in Southern Africa. The best beach is Trou aux Biches, a mile long beach with fine sand, calm waters, family-friendly, and excellent for divers. It's on the western side of the island and gets the least amount of rain and wind. There are lots of restaurants serving fine cuisine that reflects the cultural melting pot of Mauritius. Numerous water sports will keep the children and active adults content. The southern end of the beach is the best place to stay with a range of accommodation to suit all budgets.
South Africa has more than 3,000 km of coastline and much of it is extraordinarily beautiful. I've picked the Wild Coast because it offers the best for both beach lovers and adventurers. The Wild Coast stretches along the entire Eastern Cape province coastline, about 250 km. Port St Johns is a lovely little town, perched alongside the Umzimvubu River which has carved a deep gorge to the ocean. You can find many secluded beaches along this stretch of the coast, just watch out for sharks at some spots! The Xhosa culture is a strong presence and adds to the magic of this wild place.
Lake Malawi is a beautiful fresh water lake that takes up about a third of Malawi. Likoma Island is located close to Mozambique. The island has several gorgeous beaches with two excellent eco-friendly resorts: Kaya Mawa and Pumulani. A great budget option is Mango Drift. Likoma is very peaceful with just a few cars on the island. You can take some nice walks inland to check out the villages and cathedral. Kayak, snorkel or just enjoy swimming in the perfect, sweet water. Reach Likoma by boat, the MV Ilala stops here once a week, or by plane from Lilongwe.
Sainte Marie Island lies just off the coast of eastern Madagascar and until a few years ago, your luggage would be transported from the tiny airport to your hotel on a wheel barrow. This tropical paradise boasts sunshine year round, incredibly warm, calm waters, and perfect white sand beaches fringed with palm trees. The island was popular haven for pirates during the 17th century. You can view humpback whales in season and dive among gorgeous coral gardens, safe from sharks. Stay at the upscale eco-resort Princesse Bora; check into Vanivola, a Hotel de Charme; or opt for the budget Baboo Village.
The Cape Verde Islands have a distinctive Brazilian vibe thanks to their Portuguese heritage. This group of 10 main islands lies just off the coast of Senegal. While most visitors come to enjoy the beaches, it's the delicious food, sunshine and morna music that brings them back every year. Our pick for the best beach goes to Curralinho beach located on Boa Vista. The ocean is warm, the current minimal, diving is spectacular, the waves are perfect for surfing and the beach goes on for miles. There are several accommodation choices on the island including a a few all-inclusive resorts.