Juan de Nova Island

Juan de Nova Island

Juan de Nova Island
Île Juan de Nova
Motto: "Liberté, égalité, fraternité"
Anthem: La Marseillaise
Locations of some of the scattered islands in the Indian Ocean, including Juan de Nova.
Locations of some of the scattered islands in the Indian Ocean, including Juan de Nova.

Juan de Nova Island (French: Île Juan da Nova (official), Île Juan de Nova (local)), also known as Saint-Christophe, is a 4.4 square kilometres (1.7 sq mi) low, flat, tropical island in the narrowest part of the Mozambique Channel, about one-third of the way between Madagascar and Mozambique. Anchorage is possible off the northeast of the island which also has a 1,300 metres (4,300 ft) airstrip. Administratively, the island is one of the Scattered islands in the Indian Ocean, a district of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. Within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 61,050 square kilometres (23,570 sq mi), it is claimed by Madagascar. The island is garrisoned by French troops from Réunion and has a weather station.[1]


Juan de Nova, about 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) long and 1.6 kilometres (0.99 mi) at its widest, is a nature reserve surrounded by reefs which enclose an area (not a true lagoon like in an atoll) of roughly 40 square kilometres (15 sq mi). Forests, mainly of Casuarinaceae, cover about half the island. Sea turtles nest on the beaches around the island.

Important Bird Area

The island has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because it supports a very large colony of Sooty Terns, with up to 100,000 breeding pairs. It also has a much smaller colony of Greater Crested Terns (with at least 50 breeding pairs recorded in 1994). Of at least seven species of landbirds present, most are probably introduced.[2]

2008 map.
Image of Juan de Nova Island taken from the International Space Station.


The island is named after Juan de Nova, a Spanish admiral in the service of Portugal who came across the island in 1501. It has been a French possession since 1897.[3] Guano (phosphate) deposits were exploited from the start of the 20th century until 1970. The island was abandoned during World War II and was visited by German submariners. Installations, including a hangar, rail lines, houses and a jetty are in ruins.


The island lies on the sea route between South Africa and the northern tip of Madagascar. It is affected by strong currents, and has become the site of numerous wrecks. Most visible are the remains of the SS Tottenham which ran onto the southern fringing reef in 1911.


  1. ^ http://www.ethnia.org/ethnia-fiche.php?ask=FR-DT-DM-RE-XL-JU
  2. ^ BirdLife International. (2012). Important Bird Areas factsheet: Juan de Nova. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 2012-01-07.
  3. ^ http://www.taaf.fr/spip/spip.php?article312