How were the Indian Ocean routes and Silk routes similar? Different?
There are many differences and similarities between the two routes. The type of goods is just one example. The benefactors of the routes also differed. The Chinese were the primary benefactors of the Silk Road, whereas the Indian Ocean route benefited the Chinese, Indian and the Middle East alike.
However, possibly the most important differences come from the mode of transport.
Transporting goods by sea, for example, was preferable during the Monsoon season. The Monsoons made travel via land difficult, but winds acted to hasten sea travel.
Both routes required 'stop overs'. These stops could provide safety, re-supply of goods, trade opportunities and rest. For ships, these were simply ports - spread along the coastline. For road travel, the stops were 'Caravanserais'. These were placed roughly a day's ride apart - so that caravans could fully utilise their added security at night.
The differences in mode of transport also changed the length of the journey. To travel the entire silk road took approximately a year - but, there were significant trade opportunities along the way. The sea voyage was only ~six months long. Boats could also be loaded with a larger volume of goods, compared to the camels and caravans of the silk road.
Image Credit: University of Chicago (see link under)
The Silk Road connected China with the West and facilitated trade between the different territories that stretched through the region. On the other hand, the Indian Ocean trade route connected Asia to Africa, from Java to Zanzibar and Mombasa. The route also facilitated trade exchanges between the different regions. The Silk Road route was predominantly on land and crossed water ways at the Mediterranean Sea while the Indian Ocean trade route moved predominantly on water (Indian Ocean) between ports. The Silk Road got its name from Silk because this was a major export from China which received wool and other textiles from Rome, while on the other hand the Indian Ocean trade route also known as the Cinnamon Route got its name because of the trade items which were majorly spices.
The Silk Route and the Indian Ocean trade route were both aimed at linking the West to the East. The products that went across both routes included silk and spices from the East and processed textiles from the West.
Many of their similarities appear in the goods that were transported and many of their major ports of call were also similar. The dangers faced as they traversed their routes were obviously somewhat different, but they both faced pirates and thieves and they also had to deal with difficult weather conditions and terrible storms.
The Maritime route, or perhaps what you are referring to as the "Indian Ocean route" also allowed an extension of the silk (and spice and horses and everything else that was traded along the route) farther north through the Mediterranean Sea to Italy and other parts of Europe, a route that had not been established quite as thoroughly overland at the time.