All the islands in the Maldives are coralline. Each atoll consists of a ring-shaped coral reef or reefs, which can support many small islands. These reefs commonly surround a lagoon (partially or completely), and have been described as the biggest natural swimming pools in the world. The lagoons have flat, sandy bottoms, are relatively shallow and great for children. The clear water ensures excellent underwater visibility for divers and snorkellers.
Each atoll is made up of between 20 and 60 islands. Cocoa Island, which is part of the South Malé Atoll, enjoys an enviable position near the centre of the chain lying on the eastern side and thus geographically closest to India and Sri Lanka.
The older, larger islands in the chain have developed a layer of soil, made up of decomposing vegetation. These islands, and Cocoa Island is one of them, are covered in lush plant life. Mangrove and banyan trees are plentiful, along with the national tree—the classic Coconut Palm.
The reefs that surround these delicate islands help protect them from ocean weather. The Maldives’ coral reefs are globally significant, being the seventh largest in the world and supporting a rich biodiversity. Their protection is something the Maldives government is sensitive to, not least because of the threats posed by rising sea temperatures that kill coral, and rising water levels from global warming that put the low-lying islands themselves in jeopardy.