British Indian Ocean Territory (B.I.O.T.) - Travel/Philately/Numismatics/Memorabilia Profile

The British Indian Ocean Territory (B.I.O.T) is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean due south of India, midway between Indonesia and Africa, around 1300 miles east of Seychelles. The territory was established in 1965. A number of the islands in the archipelago were later transferred to the Seychelles following its independence in 1976. Currently, the territory consists of the six atolls of the Chagos Archipelago with over 1000 individual islands and covers a total area of 23 square. The island is the site of a joint military facility of the United Kingdom and the United States – the native population which amounted to around 2000 was evicted in the 1960s. As a military facility, the strategic location has helped the United States Air Force launch operations in the 1991 Gulf War and the wars in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003).

Travel Resources:


ResourceISBN or ASINBest PriceDescription
United States and Britain in Diego Garcia: The Future of a Controversial Base978-0230617094$70The coral atoll of Diego Garcia is a US naval and air base for all Middle East operations. The book describes the largely secret mission that started in 1966 and the deportation of the native island population in the 1970s. The island is at risk due to climate change as the average elevation is just 4 feet.

Philatelic Profile:
Given the lack of native inhabitants, evidently it is not an absolute requirement to have their own postage stamps. But, they have issued stamps regularly since 1968 with only a very small portion of these issues actually used for postage – the rest are sold to philatelists worldwide. BIOT Post Office, operated by Cable and Wireless, Diego Garcia on behalf of the Commonwealth Office of the British Government is the sole body authorized to issue stamps. It handles all outbound postal services while incoming mail is routed to the US Postal Service and the British Forces Post Office for distribution.

Below are some relevant stamp issues of British Indian Ocean Territory (B.I.O.T) over the years:
  • The first stamps of British Indian Ocean Territory is a long set (Scott #1 to #15) of fifteen Seychelles Issues (Scott #198 to #212) overprinted ‘B.I.O.T.’ released on January 17, 1968. The stamps have a varied theme that covers the following: vanilla, fisherman, Denis Island Lighthouse, Clock Tower, Anse Royal Bay, Government House, fishing boat, Cascade Church, flying fox, sailfish, Coco-de-mer Palm, cinnamon, copra, map of Indian Ocean, Settlers Homes, Regina Mundi Convent, and badge of Seychelles. The set catalogs for around $50 MNH or used. The original Seychelles set is valued a little lower at around $45 MNH or used. The first original issues of British Indian Ocean Territory is a long set (Scott #16 to #33) of eighteen stamps in the ‘Marine Fauna’ theme released between 1968 and 1973. Despite being a long running issue, the set still commands a good premium at around $70 MNH or used. The designs are Lascar, hammerhead shark, tiger shark, sooty eagle ray, butterflyfish, robber crab, green carangue, needlefish, barracuda, spotted pebble crab, parrotfish, rainbow runner, giant hermit crab, humphead, rock cod, black marlin, whale shark, and lionfish.
  • A long set (Scott #63 to #77) of fifteen stamps released on February 28, 1975 in the Birds theme. The set catalogs for around $40 MNH and $70 used. The designs show Aldabra drongo, Malagasy coucal, redheaded forest fody, fairy tern, crested tern, brown booby, noddy tern, gray heron, blue-faced booby, Malagasy white-eye, green-backed heron, lesser frigate bird, white-tailed tropic bird, souimanga sunbird, and Malagasy turtledove. A beautiful long sister set (Scott #94 to #105) of twelve stamps followed on May 3rd 1990. That set catalogs for around $25 MNH and $30 used. The designs are white-tailed tropic birds, turtle doves, greater frigate birds, little green herons, greater sand plovers, crab plovers, crested terns, lesser crested terns, fairy terns, red-footed boobies, Indian mynahs, and Madagascar fodies.
  • A set (Scott #115 to #118) of four stamps released on November 8, 1991 in the ‘Visiting Ships’ theme. The set catalogs for around $15 MNH or used. The designs are Survery Ship Experiment of 1786, US Brig Pickering of 1819, SMS Emden of 1914, and the HMS Edinburgh of 199. A sister set of four stamps (Scott #124 to 127) in the ‘Aircraft’ theme soon followed on October 23, 1992. The set catalogs for around $12 MNH or used.
  • A long set (Scott #151 to #162) of twelve stamps in the Sharks theme released on November 1, 1994. The set catalogs for around $70 MNH or used. The designs show nurse, silver tip, black tip reef, oceanic white tip, black tip, smooth hammerhead, lemon, white tip reef, tiger, Indian sand tiger, great hammerhead, and the great white shark.
  • A set (Scott #207 to #216) of ten stamps in the ‘Sailing Ships’ theme released on February 1, 1999. The set catalogs for around $30 MNH or used. The ships shown are Bark Westminster of 1837, Sao Cristovao (Spain, 1589), Clipper Ship “Sea Witch” (US, 1849), HMS Royal George of 1778, Clipper Ship “Cutty Sark” of 1883, British East India Company Ship “Mentor” or 1789, HM Brig “Trinculo” of 1809, Paddle Steamer “Enterprise” of 1825, Privateer “Confiance” (France, 1800), and British East India Company Ship “Kent” of 1820.
  • A set (Scott #286 to #289) of four stamps in the “Crabs” theme released on December 20, 2004. The set catalogs for around $10 MNH or used. The crabs shown are coconut crab, land crab, rock crab, and ghost crab. A sister set (Scott #290 to #295 and #296) in the “Turtles” theme soon followed on February 14, 2005. The set of six and the souvenir sheet catalogs for $12 and $6 respectively for MNH or used. The designs show green turtle hatchling, hawksbill turtle hatchlings, hawksbill turtles head, green turtles head, and hawksbill turtle swimming. The Souvenir Sheet show green turtle swimming in a design similar to the the highest denomination in the set.
Numismatic Profile:

British Indian Ocean Territory started issuing commemorative coins in Silver and Cupro Crystal in 2009 with the Life of the Penguin and Turtle Sets with low mintage (5000). This was followed the same year by a QE design. In 2011, they also issued a set for the Royal Engagement. The beautiful silver and crystal proofs are valued into the 100s.


Last Updated: 12/2015. 



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