The Aldabra of the Amirantes
Photo by Byron Dilkes

In an exciting development towards the protection of the beautiful coralline islands of St Joseph Atoll, the Seychelles’ Ministry of Environment recently proposed the designation of the Atoll and its surrounding waters as a part of a larger zone 2 marine protected area. Formal protection of these tiny pockets of pristine wilderness will provide a sanctuary for some of the world’s last remaining giant tortoises and healthy communities of sharks, rays and turtles, making D’Arros and St Joseph the ‘Aldabra of the Amirantes’.

About 150 million years ago a massive chunk of land broke free from what is now the African continent and began drifting north. While most of this land mass continued on its passage to Asia and eventually became the Indian subcontinent, thin slivers of it were left in the middle of the Western Indian Ocean, seeding the islands of the Seychelles. More recently, the coralline Outer Islands have formed and together these remote islands and their surrounding ocean systems have evolved into some of the most distinctive natural environments on the planet.

As is the case with all protected areas, the success of the proposed reserve will depend on careful and informed management. Scientists at the D’Arros Research Centre (DRC) have been studying the D’Arros and St Joseph ecological system since 2004, and in 2012 the Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF) took over the management of the facility allowing for the DRC to further its reach and goals. Once the atoll has protected status, the Foundation will continue to work with international scientists, the government, stakeholders and experts in marine protected area management to ensure that the islands remain ‘the Aldabra of the Amirantes’.

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The SOSF–D’Arros Research Centre is perched at the edge of a white sandy beach at the northern end of D’Arros Island. It provides an essential base for researchers to examine the area’s incredible biodiversity, including its large population of manta rays. Photo by Rainer von Brandis | © Save Our Seas Foundation