Travel Guide Indian Ocean
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The Indian Ocean covers about 20% of the water surface on Earth, making it the third largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean. It is at its widest in the southern area between Africa and Australia and narrows bit by bit before reaching the Arabian Peninsula, Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
It could be said that modern Indian Ocean history started in 1497 when Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope in modern day South Africa on his way to India, becoming the first European to reach India by sea. It was the starting point of the trade routes between India, several other Asian countries and both Europe and Africa. Portugal and then the Netherlands, France and the UK all had their periods of power and wealth regarding these trade routes and the domination of strategic areas along the Asian coastline.
This period lasted for almost 400 years before the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, when routes around Africa were replaced by routes through the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden & finally to the big waters of the Indian Ocean.
Nowadays, most of the countries in the Indian Ocean region are autonomous and few colonial relationships exist. Both the UK and the US though have some strategically located naval bases right in the centre of the Indian Ocean at Diego Garcia. There are still several French territories as well.
In general, the western and eastern boundaries are formed by the 20º East Meridian and the 147º East Meridian respectively. The former acts as the unofficial border with the Atlantic Ocean at South Africa's Cape Agulhas, the latter with the Pacific Ocean.
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Although of course the coastlines of many countries located on the main continents all form borders of the Indian Ocean, it is sufficient to only name the islands in the Indian Ocean proper. Only just over a handful of these are actually independent countries.
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