Bassas da India is one of the so-called Scattered Islands found near Madagascar, with Bassas da India itself situated between Madagascar and the country of Mozambique. While some of the Scattered Islands boast diverse ecosystems, featuring varied flora and fauna, Bassas da India has none of this. An atoll consisting of ten rocky islets left behind by an extinct volcano, the rim is rocky and inhospitable. It is submerged each day at high tide, emerging again to display the circular ring of rock enclosing a shallow lagoon.
While the land is unable to sustain life, the lagoon and surrounding ocean are teeming. Because of its unique shape and dramatically sloping reefs, Bassas da India has long been a hazard for shipwreck, and past wrecks have served to provide a haven for marine life. Five species of sea turtle make the Mozambique Channel their home, including the loggerhead and leatherback turtles
. The channel serves as a migratory route for southern right whale
, and both the minke and humpback
whale can be found year-round.
More than two thousand species of fish have been identified in the waters around Bassas da India, from the minute to the massive. Grey reef sharks, ocean whitetip, and hammerhead sharks are just a few of the formidable species that can be found in the area. Marlin and sailfish make the channel around Bassas da India a popular destination for fishermen, and staples of many fine dining restaurants can be found here, including yellowfin
tuna and red snapper
The diverse and thriving ecosystem is guarded, however, and steps are taken by the surrounding governments to ensure that the waters are not fished to excess and to control access to the Scattered Islands. With these protections, the animals at Bassas da India will be there for years to come.