St. François Atoll
St. François Atoll from south,
with St. François Island in the foreground
|Area||0.176 km2 (0.068 sq mi)|
St. François Atoll is one of two atolls of the Alphonse Group of islands in the Seychelles that are part of the Outer Islands. It is located just three kilometers south of Alphonse Atoll, the second atoll of Alphonse Group.
The atoll is uninhabited and has two islands, St. François and Bijoutier Island.
It was discovered by Portuguese explorers and after 1562 the whole Alphonse group (Alphonse, St. François and Bijoutier) are sometimes collectively named on charts as San Francisco. This might explain how St. François was given its name. Chevalier Alphonse de Pontevez visited on 28 June 1730 and named St François possibly following the Portuguese name for the group. Some sources (giving the incorrect date for the visit) claim it was to commemorate the religious feast of St Francis de Sales of 29 January.
There is a small breeding population of 10-15 pairs of Black-naped Tern. A small colony of Tropical Shearwater was rediscovered in 2013, the first confirmed breeding record since the 1950s. Migratory bird numbers are huge and include globally significant numbers of Crab Plover and Saunders’s Tern. Seychelles’ largest concentrations of Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone and Grey Plover have also been recorded here. The only land bird is the House Sparrow and this is its most southerly outpost in Seychelles. Significant numbers of Hawksbill Turtles and Green Turtles nest on St François and Bijoutier, and the waters of the atoll provide important foraging habitat for immature turtles of both species. Conservation work is carried out on the island by staff of Island Conservation Society based on Alphonse.
Area and islands
The aggregate land area is 0.196 km² (196,000 m²), but the total area including reef flat and lagoon is much larger (roughly 15 km north-south and 5 km east-west, with an area of more than 40 km²).
St. François Island
The area of the island is 176,000 m². St. Francois is easily accessible at less than 30 minutes distance by boat from Alphonse.
The northern and smaller island takes its name from the French word bijoutier, meaning "jeweller". The area of the island is 20,000 m². The island is only accessible by boat during high tide. The island is small enough that it takes only a few minutes to walk completely around it.
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