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Introduction

Diego Garcia is an atoll and functions as the capital of the British Indian Ocean Territory, or Chagos Islands. It's also the largest of the islands and the only one which is inhabited (around 4,000 people).

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History

It was settled by the French in the 1790s and was transferred to British rule after the Napoleonic Wars. It was one of the "Dependencies" of the British Colony of Mauritius until it was detached for inclusion in the newly created British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) in 1965. Between 1968 and 1973, the population was forcibly removed by the United Kingdom and United States (in order to establish an American base) through intimidation of locals and denying the return of any who left the island. Many were deported to Mauritius and Seychelles, following which the United States built a large naval and military base on Diego Garcia, which has been in continuous operation ever since. As of March 2015, Diego Garcia is the only inhabited island of the BIOT; the population is composed of military personnel and supporting contractors.

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Geography

The atoll is located 3,535 kilometres east of Tanzania's coast, 1,796 kilometres south-southwest of the southern tip of India (at Kanyakumari) and 4,723 kilometres west-northwest of the west coast of Australia (at Cape Range National Park, Western Australia). Diego Garcia lies at the southernmost tip of the Chagos-Laccadive Ridge, a vast submarine mountain range,[4] top of coral reefs, atolls, and islands comprising Lakshadweep, The Maldives, and the Chagos Archipelago. Local time is UTC+6 year-round (DST is not observed).

The island consists of the largest continuous dryland rim of all atolls in the world. The dryland rim varies in width from a few hundred metres to 2.4 kilometres. Typical of coral atolls, it has a maximum elevation on some dunes on the ocean side of the rim of 9 metres above mean low water. The rim nearly encloses a lagoon about 19 kilometres long and up to 8 kilometres wide. The atoll forms a nearly complete rim of land around a lagoon, enclosing 90% of its perimeter, with an opening only in the north. The main island is the largest of about 60 islands which form the Chagos Archipelago. Besides the main island, three small islets are at the mouth of the lagoon: West Island (3.4 ha), Middle Island (6 ha) and East Island (11.75 ha). A fourth, Anniversary Island, 1 kilometre southwest of Middle Island, appears as just a sand bar on satellite images. Both Middle Island and Anniversary Island are part of the Spur Reef complex.

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Sights and Activities

  • The clear blue water on the lagoon side of Diego Garcia (except after stormy weather) is a great sight on its own.
  • Catalina Beach (near The Plantation) - The beach with a wrecked aircraft.
  • The Plantation - A former coconut plantation on the eastern end of Diego Garcia, out of use since 1970. The buildings have been restored.
  • Turtle Cove (south of the island).

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Weather

All precipitation falls as rain, characterised by air mass-type showers. Annual rainfall averages 2,213 mm (87.1 in), with the heaviest precipitation from May to December. February is the driest month with 18 mm of rain, and August the wettest month, averaging 298 mm of rain.

The surrounding sea surface temperature is the primary climatic control, and temperatures are generally uniform throughout the year, with an average maximum of 30 °C by day during March and April, and 29 °C in July through September. Diurnal variation is roughly 3-4 °C, falling to the low 27 °C by night. Humidity is high throughout the year. The almost constant breeze keeps conditions reasonably comfortable.

From December through March, winds are generally westerly around 11 km/h. During April and May, winds are light and variable, ultimately backing to an east-southeasterly direction. From June through September, the influence of the Southeast trades is felt, with speeds of 10-15 knots. During October and November, winds again go through a period of light and variable conditions veering to a westerly direction with the onset of summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Thunderstorm activity is generally noticed during the afternoon and evenings during the summer months (December through March) and when the Intertropical Convergence Zone is in the vicinity of the island.

Diego Garcia is at minimum risk from tropical cyclones due to its proximity to the equator where the coriolis parameter required to organise circulation of the upper atmosphere is minimal. Low-intensity storms have hit the island, including one in 1901, which blew over 1,500 coconut trees; one on September 16, 1944, which caused the wreck of a Royal Air Force PBY Catalina; one in September 1990 which demolished the tent city then being constructed for United States Air Force bomber crews during Operation Desert Storm; and one on July 22, 2007, when winds exceeded 110 km/h and over 250 mm of rain fell in 24 hours.

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Getting There

Entry to Diego Garcia is extremely limited due to the large American and British military presence on the island. To quote the British Indian Ocean Territory travel advice through the British Foreign Office: "The British Indian Ocean Territory is not a tourist destination. Access is restricted and a permit is required in advance of travel. There are no commercial flights and permits are only issued to yachts in safe passage. Access to Diego Garcia is only permitted to those with connections to the military facility."

A valid entry permit can be obtained from the British Indian Ocean Territory Administration, Foreign & Commonwealth Office; although proof of adequate travel insurance and yacht insurance is required before permit issue, and any permit issued would only be valid for the outer islands.

By Plane

There is a military airport on Diego Garcia.

By Boat

There is a harbour on Diego Garcia.

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Getting Around

Diego Garcia has a short stretch of paved road between the port and airfield; otherwise transport is mostly by bicycle. There is also a marina bus service along the main road of the Island of Diego Garcia.

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Diego Garcia Travel Helpers

We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for Diego Garcia

This is version 2. Last edited at 8:18 on Jul 11, 17 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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