What are Atolls?
Atolls are found in warm, tropical waters. They are made of coral reefs that have grown on top of rock, sand or debris.
How many Atolls are in the World?
Depending on which definition(s) is used to classify them, there can be anywhere from 200 to over 400 in the world. The common number stated is approximately 400. The vast majority are located in the Pacific, where a number of archipelagos have them, including Kiribati, Marshall Islands, the Tuamotus, Vaavu and the Spratly Islands. The Maldives, Seychelles and Belize are some of the places where they can be found outside of the Pacific.
Atolls have historically attracted researchers like Charles Darwin, who came up with the term “atoll.” They have also served as pirate hideouts and as bases for European sailors. Their shallow and treacherous waters have also caused thousands of shipwrecks, including that of the famous raft Kon-Tiki. Today, atolls are used for scientific research, diving, and vacationing. Some are inhabited, while others remain virtually untouched by humans.
How do they form?
They are formed by coral that has grown either on the peak of a seamount, which is an underwater sea mountain, or on the sides and rim of a volcano that rises from the sea floor. The coral creates an island or group of islands that forms a circle around an inner lagoon, which was likely once the caldera of the underwater volcano. Atolls often include a single main island and several smaller islands and cays. Like islands, atolls are subject to growth and erosion. Their continually changing landscape produces complex geographical features such as inlets, passageways, and coral towers.
Environment of Atolls
In addition to their natural beauty, atolls are valued for their vast array of marine life. Collectively, atolls are home to over 650 species of fish and more than 70 types of seabird. Many species that live in atolls are threatened or endangered, and special efforts are made to ensure their survival. Atolls are also home to many rare types of coral, which makes them a critical site for coral studies. Deep-sea diving, scuba diving, salt water fishing, and ecotourism are some of the most popular activities on atolls.
Atolls of the World
The Maldives is a nation and archipelago located in the Indian Ocean, almost 500 miles southeast of India. Here, people from around the world travel to the beautiful atolls and peaceful bungalows for rest and relaxation.
Kiribati is a beautiful country in the South Pacific that is split into two archipelagos of islands and atolls. The two groups are the Gilbert Islands on the west and the Line Islands on the east towards the International Date Line.
While the Marshall Islands have a difficult past, their recovery is giving rise to diverse flora and fauna. It is blossoming into a tourist destination of the South Pacific, with activities such as snorkeling, paddling and diving.