Marine Park of the Glorieuses, Glorioso Islands

Photo: TAAF (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Do your dreams revolve around deserted islands? They’re tropical, of course. They’re always surrounded by calm lagoons and vibrant coral reefs. Their white-sand beaches, which sea turtles use to lay their eggs, are lined with mangroves and coconut palms. While, except for a few rocky islets, brilliantly blue water extends as far as the eye can see.

Your vision of paradise does exist. It’s the Glorioso Islands in the Indian Ocean. The archipelago, which consists of two islands and eight small islets, lies off the coast of East Africa. The Comoros are to the west. Madagascar is to the southeast. But the islands are truly remote.

The Glorioso Islands were first settled by a Frenchman, who established a coconut plantation on Grande Glorieuse, the larger of the two islands, in 1880. The French claimed the islands a decade later. Though Mayotte, the Comoros, and Madagascar have challenged their holding over the years, the French have retained control. In 2012, they even established a protected marine area. It’s only their second one in the Indian Ocean.

The Marine Park of the Glorieuses covers 1,200 acres. The two islands are low and flat. Besides the remains of the coconut plantation and lots of casuarina trees, there’s a sandy airstrip and a military garrison, with a radio and weather station, on Grande Glorieuse. Île du Lys, five miles northeast, was once quarried for phosphate. Nesting migratory seabirds—mostly sooty terns—and sea turtles now rule the island. Sand dunes and mangroves cover the rest of it. Plus South Rock, Verte Rock, and Wreck Rock lie just offshore. For once, the reality is even better than the dream.

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