Protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the uninhabited Aldabra Atoll is one of the world's largest atolls, located in the Indian Ocean about 600 miles (1,000 km) southwest of the Seychelles, of which they are part. First discovered in the 9th century by Arab seafarers who named them Al-Khadra (the Green One) the islands had little to offer the early mariners in the way of water or hardwoods. Aldabras Atoll is an oval atoll, about 19 miles (30.5 km) long and 8 miles (13 km) wide, enclosing a large shallow lagoon with the outer ring divided into four low islands - South Island (Grand Terre; the largest), West Island (Picard), Polymnie, and Middle Island (Malabar). The Aldabra Islands are volcanic in origin and a naturalists' paradise where a rich diversity of flora and fauna has evolved in splendid isolation.
The islands are home to 200 plant species of which 40 are unique to these shores. On South Island you will find giant tortoises, 150,000 nesting green turtles (the worlds largest colony) and a nature reserve that boasts an impressive avia-fauna. It boasts 12 species of bird unique to these islands, including the flightless White Throated Rail, a close relative of the Dodo. Diving on Aldabras terraced walls is dramatic, as you can expect to see dozens of Green Turtles on their pilgrimage to the beach. The diving highlight of this atoll is the stunning drift dives through the channels to the vast lagoon: join schools of snappers, surgeon-fish and stingrays as they drift effortlessly into the lagoon at speeds of up to 6 knots. This same flow of tide has sculpted a mass of small mushroom-shaped limestone islands known as champignons that contrast markedly with weathered, razor-sharp rocks.
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