Tikehau Atoll, French Polynesia
A narrow ribbon of islets encircles a deep blue lagoon in French Polynesia. Tikehau Atoll is one of 78 coral atolls that make up the Tuamotu Archipelago, the largest chain of atolls in the world. Created over thousands of years by tiny, sea anemone–like coral polyps, atolls are some of the most complex and vibrant structures on the planet. In this 2009 EO-1 satellite image of the atoll, patches of coral make starlike spots across the turquoise expanse of the oval lagoon, 27 kilometers long and 19 kilometers wide. At the southernmost tip of the atoll, a large islet accommodates the village of Tuherahera and an airstrip. The whole atoll is surrounded by an almost continuous coral reef. There is a single pass on the western shore deep and wide enough for navigation in and out of the lagoon.