St. Brandon

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Cargados Carajos
Native name: Saint Brandon
Cargados carajos 76.jpg
Location Indian Ocean
Coordinates 16°35′S 59°37′E / 16.583°S 59.617°E / -16.583; 59.617Coordinates: 16°35′S 59°37′E / 16.583°S 59.617°E / -16.583; 59.617
Total islands 16
Major islands Albatross Island, Raphael, Avocaré, Cocos Island and Île du Sud
Area 1.3 km2 (0.50 sq mi)
Largest settlement Île Raphael (pop. 35)
Population 63 (transient) (as of 2009)
Density 48 /km2 (124 /sq mi)

Saint Brandon, also known as the Cargados Carajos shoals, is an archipelago comprising a number of sand banks, shoals and islets. It is a group of outer islands belonging to Mauritius and is administered by the Outer Island Development Corporation (OIDC). Saint Brandon is located in the Indian Ocean about 430 km to the northeast of Mauritius. T.The islands have a total land area of 1.3 km². The reef measures more than 50 km from north to south, and is 5 km wide, cut by three passes. The reef area is 190 km². The islands have a small transient population, mostly fishermen, 63 in number on census night (Census of 2000).[1] The majority of the population (~40) lives on Île Raphael, with smaller settlements existing on Avocaré, Coco, and Île du Sud. A former settlement existed on Albatross Island, but was abandoned in 1988.[2] The islands are rich in flora and fauna. They are classified as a dependency of Mauritius, which is more than 300 km to the south, and are administered from Port Louis.[3] Cargados Carajos is part of the Mascarene Islands.


In the past, Cargados Carajos was a large, volcanic island (part of the Mascarenes, caused by the Réunion hotspot). Over time however, the island eroded until it became submerged and a coral atoll was left behind.

The formation might be considered an atoll. Individual islets on the reef include, from north to south, with their respective locations:

Satellite image of Cargados Carajos

A number of unnamed islands and sand cays complete the Cargados. The total number of islands on the reef is close to 40.

Siren Island, Pearl Island (Île Perle), Frigate Island (Île Frégate) are west of the reef, while North Island (Île du Nord) is about 4 km Northeast of the northern tip of the reef.

Albatros Island, about 18 km north, is geographically a separate single coral island at location 16°15'S, 59°35'E.

Albatros Island is the highest (its highest point is 6 m above sea level) and the largest of the islands in the group, with an area of 1.01 km², followed by Raphael, Avocaré, Cocos Island and Île du Sud.

The main settlement is on Raphael, comprising a privately owned commercial fishing station (with a minimum of 35 resident employees), a coast guard and meteorological station (with eight residents in 1996). Smaller settlements exist on Avocaré, Cocos, and Sud; the settlement on Albatros was abandoned in 1988.

Coconut trees can be found on a few islands as well as bushes and grass.

The islands are covered with white granular sand from eroded coral, and a thick layer of guano can be found in most places. Sea turtles take advantage of the low population of the islands and lay eggs on their beaches. It's problematic how long this refuge will exist without international protection, as the Mauritius economy is among the fastest growing on earth. The price of sugar (Mauritius's main crop, introduced by the French; it represents 17% of Mauritius's exports) is dropping and tourism is filling the economic gap.


Cargados Carajos is located in Indian Ocean
Cargados Carajos
Cargados Carajos
Location of Cargados Carajos in the Indian Ocean

The atoll may have been discovered c. 7th century by Arabian sailors. It was named in 1506 by Portuguese sailors who put ashore for provisioning on their way to India. In 1598, the Dutch occupied the islands. The islands became a French protectorate in 1722 and passed to British hands in 1810.

Pirates have used the islands as a refuge. In modern times the islands were mined for phosphates (guano). Mining ceased mid-20th century.

In April 2006, French surfer Erwan Simon discovered new surfspots in the west and south part of the archipelago.

Cargados comprises about 190 km² of reefs. It has perhaps the largest algal ridge in the Indian Ocean. The reefs of Mauritius have been overfished and have suffered from the effects of tourism and other development. Mauritius plans to establish two marine reserves of coral reefs that were proposed for protection in 1974.[4] This may demonstrate the pace of protection of natural resources in the area, slowed by the complications of new independence.

On November 29, 2014, during the second leg of the 2014–15 Volvo Ocean Race, Team Vestas Wind, sponsored by the Danish wind-turbine maker, ran aground on St. Brandon.[5] The crew was safely rescued.[6]


  1. ^ "Introduction". Central Statistics Office, Mauritius. 2001. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  2. ^ "St Brandon Island - Cargados Carajos - Mauritius Attractions". Retrieved 2016-01-07. 
  3. ^ Districts of Mauritius at
  4. ^ The Developing Western Indian Ocean (WIO) Coral Reef Programme
  5. ^ "Grounded". Volvo Ocean Race official website. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  6. ^ "Bad Words". Sailing Anarchy. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 

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