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Published 20 October 2020

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Birth of an Atoll: The secret behind Maldives’ picture-perfect luxury beach resorts

The Maldives didn’t exist 60 million years ago; the region was merely a network of active volcanoes. When the volcanic eruptions stopped, and the volcanoes slowly died, only a chain of mountains emerging from the sea was left behind.

Over millions of years, as the ocean levels rose, the volcanoes eroded and gradually diminished, creating a seamount. While erosion was still occurring and the volcanoes continued to recede, live coral colonies surrounded the volcanoes.

A fringing reef progressively formed around it until the volcanoes were eventually submerged by the sea and disappeared, replaced by coral. In most cases, the core subsides as the reef grows, creating a lagoon, and the fringed reef becomes a barrier reef, and alas, an atoll is born.

Corals bloomed over the ocean’s surface, and the spread and growth continued – they are living organisms that reproduce and die. As a result, their debris and sediments accumulated around the rings over time due to sea currents pushing and pulling them in, culminating in the white sand beaches – the Maldives defining feature that took many millions of years to cultivate.

The formation of the atoll is followed by the growth of vegetation, with organic matter like a stray coconut drifting along the shoreline and becoming trapped, resulting in coconut tree-lined beaches.

The environment of an atoll is a perfect place for coral reefs to thrive, and they are home to millions of marine species.

Atolls are the result of the Maldives’ long and spectacular birth process. From erupting volcanoes to coral colonies to breathtaking atolls and tiny tropical islands. The same phenomenon occurs all the way around the Indian Ocean’s chain of submerged volcanoes, gradually but steadily creating more pristine white sandy shorelines.

  1. Millions of Years Ago. The volcano is active.
  2. The magma stops erupting. The volcano shuts down.
  3. The volcano starts to sink.
  4. A fringe of living corals starts to develop around the volcano.
  5. The volcano erodes and slowly disappears forming a ring of shallow waters around the the coral ring.
  6. Corals grows. Coral ring slowly appears.
  7. Corals continue to grow above sea level. A ring is born.
  8. Coral debris and sediments accumulate.
  9. Coconut trees grow.
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