Short and Simple: ATOLL, SKERRY, CAY and KEY

Seniors and other followers, it would be nice to know the difference among these terms when you visit various destinations …

An atoll is a ring-shaped coral reef1, island2, or a group of closely-spaced small coral islands, enclosing or nearly enclosing a shallow lagoon3. It is sometimes called a coral atoll. Most of the atolls in the world are in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean, according to the Wikipedia page, “Atoll”.4

The largest atoll in the world is the Great Chagos Bank in the Chagos Archipelago, south of the Maldives, with a total area of almost 13,000 km2, and administered by the United Kingdom through the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), according to the Wikipedia page, “Great Chagos Bank”.5

A skerry is a small rocky island2 too small for habitation but may have moss and small grasses, sometimes rested upon by animals liked birds and seals, according to the Wikipedia page, “Skerry”.6

A cay, caye or key, is an islet7 formed by the accumulation of fine sand deposits on top of a coral reef1, found in tropical places (Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans). Examples are the Elbow Cays (Bahamas), Florida Keys (USA) and Rama Cay (Nicaragua), to name a few.

You can check out the following posts: EL NIDO: Heaven on Earth – Part 1 and other related topics: Short and Simple: ISLAND, ISLE or ISLET?  and Short and Simple: EXACTLY HOW MANY ISLANDS ARE THERE IN THE PHILIPPINES?

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The following terms are defined for interested readers, especially non-Filipinos, those with “Senior-Moments”, and those too busy or lazy to Google such terms:

1A coral reef is a ridge of a rock in the sea formed by the growth and deposit of corals (marine invertebrates in the class Anthozoa of phylum Cridaria which secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton), according to the Wikipedia page, “Coral reef”.8

2An island/isle is a large, isolated landmass that is surrounded by water but not as large as a continent9, according to the Wikipedia page, “Island”10

3A lagoon is a shallow, often elongated, body of salt water separated from a larger body of water, like a sea, by barrier islands11, coral reefs1, shoal12 or low sandbanks, according to the Wikipedia page, “Lagoon”.13

4“Atoll,” accessed March 3, 2018,

5“Great Chagos Bank,” accessed March 3, 2018,

6“Skerry,” accessed March 3, 2018,

7An islet is a very small island2. An example is Capitancillo Islet in Bogo City, Cebu, Philippines.  I hope I can see it someday …

8“Coral reef,” accessed March 3, 2018,

9A continent is a very large landmass of the world, according to the Wikipedia page, “Continent”.14. Recall that there are 7 (largest to smallest): Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe and Australia.

10“Island,” accessed March 3, 2018,

11A barrier island is a coastal, flat or lumpy landform made of sand formed by waves and tidal action parallel to a mainland coast, and usually occurs in chains, according to the Wikipedia page, “Barrier island”.15 The longest barrier island in the world is Padre Island in Texas, USA, according to the Wikipedia page, “Padre Island”.16

12A shoal is a naturally submerged bar, bank or ridge, made of, usually covered with sand, and rises from the bed of a body of water to near the surface. It is also called a sandbar, sandbank or gravelbar, according to the Wikipedia page, “Shoal”.17 A beautiful sandbar I have visited last February 2017 was Snake Island Sandbar in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines. See my link below. Another example is Scarborough Shoal, a shoal located between Macclesfield Bank and the Luzon island in the South China Sea; it is disputed by the Philippines, People’s Republic of China, and the Republic of China. I do not think I can be able to see this shoal since it is being disputed and dangerous to go to.

13“Lagoon,” accessed March 3, 2018,

14“Continent,” accessed March 3, 2018,

15“Barrier island,” accessed March 3, 2018,

16“Padre island,” accessed March 3, 2018,

17“Shoal,” accessed March 3, 2018,


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