Formed above peaks emerging from the depths of the ocean, upon layers of coral debris and living coral, and remnants of other marine life, these tropical islands are found forming the pearls of Indian ocean. Coconut palms tower above dense shrubs and hardy plants protect the shores from erosion and reefs guard as a barrier against the sea forming lagoons. Smaller islands and sandbanks under formation are also able to be perceived underwater.
Out of a total of 1190 islands in 26 natural atolls, 202 are inhabited, 100 are set aside for exclusive tourist resort development. Measuring 820 kilometres north to south and 120 kilometres east to west at its greatest width, the closest neighbours are India and Sri Lanka.