Rugged, remote, and mysterious are words that aptly describe Aldabra, which is one of the largest coral atolls in the world. Aldabra belongs to the Seychelles, which is an island country in the Indian Ocean. There are 115 islands in the Seychelles, and each has its own distinct character. Many islands in the Seychelles contain rare and endangered plant and animal species found nowhere else on Earth, which has made them set aside as nature preserves. Aldabra is one such location. Aldabra is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site, which means that its delicate natural resources are protected by law. While uninhabited islands like Aldabra remain largely undisturbed, other Seychelles islands have been developed for commerce and tourism. Fishing, coconut farming, and spice production, namely cinnamon and vanilla, are main drivers of the Seychelles' economy.
Like many Seychelles atolls, Aldabra has been largely uninhabited by humans throughout history. Although spectacular to see, the island's coral-laden shoreline and narrow channels, which have shallow waters and swiftly moving currents, have made it treacherous for sailors to reach in the past. This factor has discouraged permanent settlements from springing up on the island. Even in the age of European exploration, which was most active from the 1600s through the 1800s, Aldabra was only visited by the most daring and adventurous explorers. Because of the dangerous waters, even the hardiest expeditions never stayed long. Today, Aldabra is still difficult to access, which means that it receives few human visitors. The lone man-made structure on the island is a research station that is home to the Seychelles Island Foundation.
While coral and sand line Aldabra's beaches, its interior is largely covered by a vast lagoon. The lagoon's geologic composition, which includes limestone pillars, creates unique habitats that support the island's flora and fauna. Along with aquatic plants, the lagoon is a popular nesting spot and breeding grounds for shorebirds such as the Greater Flamingo and the White-Throated Rail, which is one of few flightless birds left in the Indian Ocean. Aldabra is proudly home to one of the world's largest natural populations of giant tortoises, which are a carefully protected species that were on the brink of extinction in the late 1800s. Scientists estimate that there are currently about 100,000 giant tortoises on Aldabra. Offshore, crabs, shrimp, and manta rays are a few marine species that thrive in Aldabra's warm waters.