Aerial view of British Indian Ocean Territory

Most interesting facts about British Indian Ocean Territory

Devraj Lahiri Devraj Lahiri 19 February 2021
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Spread amidst the azure of the stark Indian Ocean lies the beautiful group of islands popularly known as British Indian Ocean Territory or BIOT. It has a continuous boundary with the Chagos Archipelago. It is a strategically placed group of islands, and being out of the line of cyclones is a safe one.

What is British Indian Ocean Territory?

blue boat

While most of the world knows about the larger islands, travelers are often puzzled when asked what is British Indian Ocean Territory. Despite being a beautiful group of islands, its strategic presence does not allow much tourism. British Indian Ocean Territory comprises Salomon Islands, Peros Banhos atoll, Nelsons Island, the Three Brothers Islands, the Eagle Islands, Danger Island, the Egmont Islands, and Diego Garcia atoll. Diego Garcia is the largest of them all and houses an important US military base. The total landmass is all of 23 Square Miles and has 4000 US and British contract civilian workers. Now that we know what British Indian Ocean Territory is let's wander more.

How to visit British Indian Ocean Territory?

british indian ocean territory coast

How to visit British Indian Ocean Territory has always been on the mind of the world traveler. The sad truth is that you are not allowed to set foot on the island chain. British Indian Ocean Territory is a strategic territory administered by the Commissioner from the London's Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It is a group of the island that houses a US military base, and traveling to the island would require a special permit. It is so restricted that no one is allowed to even allowed to sail close to it.  However, it wasn't always like this. The Portuguese who found these islands established a trading outpost since it was smack in the middle of the trading route. It then passed hands to the French, and later, the British took over the administration of the islands. So if you are wondering how to visit British Indian Ocean Territory, then I am afraid you will have to make some other plans. This land is out of bounds.

The British Indian Ocean Territory Flag

flag of british indian ocean territory

Even though travel to British Indian Ocean Territory is restricted, they do have their flag. The British Indian Ocean Territory Flag was designed for the Commissioner of British Indian Ocean Territory. The flag can be seen flying at Diego Garcia along with the American flag.

The British Indian Ocean Territory Flag is a combination of the Union Jack which is placed in the canton or the upper hoist corner. The rest of the flag has waves on it, which depicts the Indian Ocean. There is a palm tree arising in the middle, along with St. Edward's crown. Queen Elizabeth II granted this flag on the 25th anniversary of British Indian Ocean Territory in 1990. 

Diego Garcia British Indian Ocean Territory

diego garcia

Diego Garcia British Indian Ocean Territory is the overseas territory under the administrative control of the British Government. The atoll is situated 3,535 km (2,197 mi) east of Tanzania's coast, 1,796 km (1,116 mi) south-southwest of the southern tip of India (at Kanyakumari), and 4,723 km (2,935 mi) west-northwest of the west coast of Australia. It is also the largest piece of land in the British Indian Ocean Territory. Given its strategic importance and location, Diego Garcia British Indian Ocean Territory is a US military base. This base is jointly administered by the US and The British Government and overlooks most Indian Ocean.

There are many theories behind acquiring Diego Garcia. Two of the most important being its low to almost nil local population and legendary seclusion. The trade routes for which the Portuguese had maintained a trading post here were long gone, and the local population traveled elsewhere for livelihood. The US navy approached the US government to acquire this land to maintain strategic dominance. Diego Garcia British Indian Ocean Territory is often called a "fantasy Island" because of its legendary remoteness. However, despite its beauty and sparse population, one cannot travel to British Indian Ocean Territory since entry and access are restricted because of its strategic nature.

The British Indian Ocean Territory Map

indian ocean map

The British Indian Ocean Territory map shows how far the group of islands is from the nearest landmass, as stated in the prior paragraph. The British Indian Ocean Territory Map will also suggest that the island group has only one airport based at Diego Garcia. The British Indian Ocean Territory Map may also tell you that Diego Garcia and Gibraltar are the only two British territories where there is a right-hand drive among the overseas territories.

British Indian Ocean Territory Tourism

british indian ocean territory golden coast

In the British Indian Ocean Territory Tourism is banned since it is a restricted area. There are no commercial flights or cruise plans that will take you there. It is quite sad since the islands are one of the most beautiful on the planet. It is also geographically remote and hence far away from the maddening crowd. Its white sand and long beaches are a delight to lie on, but alas, no tourist would be able to savor that. As a military base, civilian movement is restricted to only those who are licenses to travel there. In British Indian Ocean Territory, Tourism may not be allowed for a long time since most of the island is under the administration of the military, and movement is under constant surveillance. Even licensed yachts are allowed only in the outer islands for the safe passage of the civilians working on the island. 

The British Indian Ocean Territory passport

red passport

Anyone who is a resident of British Indian Ocean Territory is, by default a United Kingdom citizen. Hence, the British Indian Ocean Territory passport is issued to them, and they enjoy the same status of a citizen as those of the British Isles. A British Indian Ocean Territory passport holder would have to follow the same procedure while visiting a foreign country that a British Citizen from the Isles or any other administered territory follows. 

British Indian Ocean Territory People

british indian ocean territory people

British Indian Ocean Territory does not have any indigenous inhabitants, and the ones who were former plantation workers have since been moved to Mauritius and Seychelles in the 1960s and the 1970s. The island group is currently populated by British and American contractual workers called British Indian Ocean Territory People. British Indian Ocean Territory People have the same rights as those as the ones from the British Isles. The passport they carry will have the same importance as the one carried by the British Isles citizens.

Who Owns Diego Garcia?

diego garcia

One of the pertinent questions that have often been asked is Who Owns Diego Garcia? Diego Garcia is a British territory and has a US military installation. It is governed through the Overseas and Commonwealth Department of the British Government through a Commissioner. It used to be a part of the Chagos Archipelago, but the Government of Mauritius handed it over to the British Government, two days before its independence. The local populace was resettled in Mauritius and Seychelles, and the entire island chain and Diego Garcia were barred to civilian access.

It has often been mistaken that the Government of the United States of America was the one who owns Diego Garcia, but that is not the case.

British Indian Ocean Territory has for long had a chequered history. Right from the time, the Portuguese had set their eyes on it; the island chain has been in constant flux. The original populace is also known as the Chagossians, or IIois were resettled in the neighboring island nations of Mauritius and Seychelles. Under the current arrangement, the island chain is under the British and American military's joint management, while the administrative responsibility lies with the British Government. The British Indian Ocean Territory island chain is famous for being of strategic importance and remoteness. This reason led the American military, especially the Air Force and the Navy, to want a strategic base that will enable them to keep an eye on the proceedings in the Indian Ocean. 

The only inhabitants of this wonderful chain island are the civilian contract workers and military personnel. 

How to Travel to British Indian Ocean Territory?

plane flying

As has been mentioned plenty of times in the articles, there is no way you will be allowed anywhere near British Indian Ocean Territory. If you have to travel to British Indian Ocean Territory, special permission must be required, which would be granted if you are required for a job on the island. There are no tourism activities on the island, and no commercial flights are allowed to British Indian Ocean Territory. Hence, the worldly traveler asking How to travel to British Indian Ocean Territory will only end up in sadness since there are no ways one can.

Final Words

clean beach

We have learned how to travel to British Indian Ocean Territory or how not to, learned where it is located, and know a fair bit of its past. However, the sunrise and sunset of beautiful beaches will always be missed.

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Devraj Lahiri

Devraj Lahiri is a resident of Kolkata, India. He is an IT Entrepreneur by profession but a writer, traveller and a photographer by vocation. Besides, he is a gastronome who indulges in eating the myriad variety of delicacies while the universe keeps tempting him. His favourite leisure activity is walking around his hometown. The city of Kolkata is his muse, and he wishes never to leave it except for the short trips for travel inspiration.

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