Thomas P. Peschak
From outer space, the 115 islands that make up the Seychelles archipelago are little more than specks of rock and coral spread in a fan across the western Indian Ocean. A mere 30 islands are inhabited; the rest, a scattering of sandy coral cays, wild atolls and barren granite pinnacles, are home to seabirds, land crabs and giant tortoises. In great contrast to its modest total landmass, the nation’s exclusive economic zone includes a vast swathe of ocean, a seascape rich in marine wildlife sandwiched between East Africa, Madagascar and the Maldives.
The Seychelles comprise two distinctively different island groups. The inner islands, sculpted from granite 650 million years old, are an almost unfathomably beautiful collection of mountainous, emerald-green islands floating on a turquoise sea. To their south-west lie the coralline islands, many of which are low lying, created by the ocean’s forces. Others, the atolls, were born when volcanoes erupted from the sea floor.
The Seychelles’ coral reefs are among the most extensive in the Indian Ocean. Mangrove forests and seagrass beds are also well represented, and marine biodiversity is high. The Seychelles host one of the world’s most important hawksbill turtle populations, are a globally important sanctuary for whale sharks and host breeding colonies of 18 seabird species, from greater frigatebird to fairy tern.
In Sir David Attenborough’s words, the south-western atoll of Aldabra is ‘one of the wonders of the world’. Its underwater realm is one of the most remarkable seascapes in the world and ranks as one of the least touched marine ecosystems in the Indian Ocean. There the top of the food chain remains virtually intact: at high tide the reef flats boil with black-tip reef sharks, clouds of bohar snappers eclipse coral pinnacles and giant groupers inhabit and vigorously defend every crack and crevice in the reef.
Lost World: The Marine Realm of Aldabra & the Seychelles is a visual journey into the aquatic world of this remote archipelago. It is a celebration of the underwater world and the spectacular marine wildlife of this forgotten and often overlooked corner of the world. Shrimp-gulping whale sharks, sponge-devouring hawksbill turtles, flocks of pirating seabirds, armies of land crabs and schools of wily reef sharks – they all find a place in its pages. It is my sincere hope that this book will give a voice to all life that inhabits one of our planet’s last marine wildernesses and ensure that this ‘lost world’ is finally discovered by an audience all around the globe.