Juan de Nova Island is a tropical island sandwiched between the coasts of Mozambique and Madagascar. This small island encompasses only three square miles of land. As small as it is, it does have an airstrip in the northeast where airplanes can land. Juan de Nova is a nature reserve designated to protect the coral reefs enclosing the island. The interior is forested by casuarina trees.
Juan de Nova was named after the Portuguese explorer, Joao da Nova, who discovered the island in 1501. He did not claim it. The French colonized it in 1897 and Juan de Nova has remained a French territory ever since. During the early 20th century, phosphate deposits were discovered and heavily exploited until 1970. During WWII, German submariners visited the island and installed a military post.
Today, Juan de Nova is home to a meteorological station patrolled by French troops. While the French administer the island, Madagascar claims an exclusive economic zone over it.
Juan de Nova is not a conventional tourist destination. Visitors who do come can enjoy deserted beaches where terns breed from November to March and turtles nest year-round. There are also a number of shipwrecks off the coast that can be explored by scuba divers. Many of the ships traveling from Madagascar to South Africa have been sunk by the strong currents. The most notable shipwreck is the remains of the SS Tottenham lying somewhere off the south coast; it sunk in 1911.