St. François Atoll is part of the Alphonse Group in the Seychelles. Geographically, it is part of the Seychelles' Outer Islands. Along with St. François, this atoll includes the island of Bijoutier. Like many of the other atolls in the Outer Islands, St. François is barren and largely void of human existence. While it is not presently home to humans, its warm and nutrient-rich waters support a variety of fish species. Therefore, St. François is a major destination for local fishermen, who depend on its fish for income, and visiting fishermen wanting to fish some of the most lucrative waters in the tropics.
Presently, St. François has no permanent villages or towns, but it does receive a fair amount of human traffic through the fishing industries. The atoll does not have any record of past human habitation, but historians believe that it was first discovered by Portuguese sailors. According to original navigational charts, a Portuguese vessel first sighted St. François and its neighboring islands in the early 1560s. The island was first named “San Francisco,” but its name was later reassigned a French name after the arrival of French sailors in 1730. As has been the case throughout its history, the tiny island is today only accessible by a boat. From St. François, it takes about 30 minutes to reach Alphonse. Although fly-fishing tourism is the island's main source of revenue, coconut products were exported briefly from the coconut farms that were once part of the island.
While St. François is inhospitable to long-term human life, its onshore and offshore ecosystems are perfectly suited for tropical plant and animal life. Much of St. Francois was designated as a natural preserve in 2007, and its conserved lands are managed by the Island Conservation Society that has a building on nearby Alphonse. St. François' nurturing environment makes it well-suited to host the Seychelles' small population of black-naped terns, of which there are only about a dozen. Tropical shearwater, another rare bird, has been documented using the island for breeding purposes. Other rare birds frequently appear on the atoll's shores, as do nesting sea turtles. Hawksbill turtles and green turtles are two species of turtle that rely on the island's resources for sustenance. Joining the animal life on St. François are low-lying shrubs and a few groves of coconut palms, which still remain from the days of the island's short-lived coconut product trade.