Facts on every country, dependency, and geographic entity in the world

This photograph features one of the numerous atolls in the Maldive Islands chain. The Maldives are an island nation comprised of twenty-six atolls that stretch in a north-south chain for almost 900 km (560 mi) southwest of India. The silvery, almost pink sheen on the normally blue water of the equatorial Indian Ocean in the image is the result of sunglint, which is sunlight reflecting off of water surface directly back towards the observer. The largest island (image center) is 6 km (4 mi) long, and it is part of the 70-km-(40-mi-) long oval-shaped Male Atoll. Shores facing deeper water have well-defined beaches. Numerous small, elliptical coral reef islets are protected within the ring of shallow water to the northeast (image right). These islets are mostly awash at high tide. Image courtesy of NASA.