The Chagos Archipelago consists of 65 islands which are spread over 200 miles across the great Chagos Bank in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Diego Garcia is the largest (approximately 14 miles from tip to tip). The remaining islands are mostly contained in two further atoll groups of Peros Banhos and Salomon.
These two groups are at least 135 miles distant from Diego Garcia, which is the only island in use by the US military. Diego Garcia itself is 1,335 miles from Mauritius and 1,179 from the Seychelles, so it is pretty remote.
The Archipelago is home to the most diverse seabird communities in the Indian Ocean. Marine turtles breed and feed here, and many lay their eggs. Dolphins and Whales are a common sight in the surrounding waters.
The coral reefs of Chagos are some of the most unspoiled in the world. With over 1,000 species of fish and 220 stony corals, the diversity is astounding.
The islands themselves are very fertile. They have a benign climate outside the cyclone belt, and have abundant rainfall, being amongst the wettest atolls in the world.
Not surprising then that they were home to a thriving community for more than 180 years.