Islands:Interesting Facts

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Updated on: Educator Review By: Michelle Connolly

It is a piece of landmass surrounded by water on all sides. Islands are part of a continent or continent-like and their area does not amount to a continent. The islands range in size from a few square meters, up to areas sufficient to form entire countries such as the islands of the United Kingdom and Cyprus. A group of closely spaced islands is called an archipelago.

There are over 370 thousand islands in the world. Most islands have unique ecosystems, cultures, and histories. Some larger islands can have multiple volcanoes and hills, making them extra beautiful but also dangerous. Life on an island is usually tough, as there is nowhere to run if a volcano erupts or a tsunami attacks. 

Islands play an important role in nature because they provide homes for many animals and plants without direct contact with mainland ecosystems. In addition, some islands have been used for centuries as sources of fresh food and materials such as timber. 

Islands are usually bounded by natural barriers or bodies of water such as oceans, seas, lakes, or rivers. For example, New Zealand is an island nation located in the south Pacific Ocean between Australia and Antarctica. The continental shelf, which stretches offshore from a continent’s coast, can create another type of island known as an offshore island. Examples of offshore islands include Prince Edward Island in Canada and St Helena Island in Africa. 

Another type of island is an ice island when it forms in glaciers due to its cold temperature—such as Nunavut in Canada’s Arctic region.

According to the geological origin, geographers divide islands into four main sections, The islands can be referred to as continental islands, oceanic islands, continental fragments, and river islands. Oceanic islands are mainly of volcanic origin, with some other subsections:

Continental Islands

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Continental islands are islands that are connected to the continents by a continental shelf, that is, they are considered parts of the adjacent continents. Continental islands, which are groups of islands formed and considered close to the coasts of a continent, were formed from this same continent. 

The five main islands are Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, New Zealand, and the British Isles. Among the most famous continental islands are the Bahamas, Hawaii, New York City, the island of Greenland, and Cybele Island, which are connected to North America. 

There are also the islands of Trinidad and Barbados, which are adjacent to South America. Java and Sumatra are connected to Asia. In addition to Greece, and Sicily, which are connected to Europe and New Guinea and Tasmania which are connected to Australia.

Under this type of island are continental micro-islands, which arise from faulting continental plates, and the best example of this type is the island of Madagascar. Seychelles and the Kerguelen Islands are also continental micro-islands.

River Islands

River islands are islands that are found in large river deltas and rivers. These islands were formed due to the sedimentation of river water to carry its load of sand, gravel, and biological remains at a certain point over time. Some of the river islands are temporary and disappear in the event of a change in the speed of the river current, while many of them remain and constitute vital residential areas.

The Amazon River is the one that contains the biggest number of river islands in the world. The biggest river island on Earth is in Brazil, in the Amazon River called Marajó. There are also the Riverine Plain, Moulamein, Coleambally, Hay, and Balranal in Australia which were formed by the Billabong, Edward, and Murrumbidgee river systems in NSW.

Volcanic Islands

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Volcanic islands are islands created and formed by volcanoes. These islands are of several types, the first of which is what arises at volcanoes located at the tectonic slide areas of one plate over another. Examples of the volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean are the Mariana Islands, Aleut Islands, and Tonga Islands. The Lower Antilles grouping with the South Sandwich Islands are the only volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean.

The second type of volcanic island originates at divergent plate boundaries (ocean rifts) and there are only two islands that follow this type, the first of which is Iceland, the largest volcanic island in the world, and Jan Mayen Island, both of which are in the Atlantic Ocean.

The third type of volcanic island is the one that originates above volcanic hot spots. This type of island is often eroded and drowned (millions of years after its inception) forming what is known as seamounts. The movement of the plates towards the hot spots leads to the formation of part of the land in the form of lines that point in the direction of the movement of that plate. 

Tropical Islands

The diversity of tropical islands ranges back to the Stone Age, in islands such as Madagascar and Borneo to the high-end lifestyles in the city-islands of Singapore and Hong Kong.

The Hawaiian Islands, from the mother island to the ocean island, are another example of tropical islands. They have a direct connection to seamounts called the Emperor’s Sea Mountains. That is, we can say that the Hawaiian Islands are nothing but the tops of a seamount chain (the Emperor) with a wide extension.

Annular reefs are islands formed by the accumulation of coral reefs on volcanic islands submerged in the waters of the ocean and continue to grow and accumulate until they form a new island. The annular bronchi appear in the form of a ring surrounding the lake in the middle. Examples of annular reefs are the Maldives in the Indian Ocean and Bora Bora in the Atlantic Ocean.

Artificial Islands

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There are man-made islands, which are modern copies on the globe, and they are man-made, or man-made interventions in their construction, by digging canals around them, such as the Vasilyevsky Island in the Russian city of St. Petersburg and the Flevopolder island in Holland for the purpose of housing and agricultural activities. Also, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia intends to dig the Salwa Canal, which will isolate Qatar and turn it into an island.

It is important at this point to differentiate between three confusing terms; an island, a peninsula, and an archipelago:

Islands are lands that are surrounded by water and not connected to other lands. They play an essential role in the management and survival of many animal and plant species. Islands can be volcanic, coral, or created by plate tectonics. Countries with islands include Australia, Indonesia, Italy, and the Maldives. In ancient times, Greek geographers recognized over 1,200 islands in the Mediterranean Sea. 

A peninsula is a landmass that is connected to the mainland by a land body, it is like a pointy elbow sticking out to the side of a table. Examples of peninsulas include Australia and Italy’s boot-shaped countries. 

An archipelago is a set of islands that are connected to the mainland by water or land— like a collection of islands at the end of a thumb. The Philippines are home to over 700 islands making it one of the world’s largest archipelagos.

Islands often arise from volcanic formation, formation along island arcs resulting from subduction zones or hotspots, but may also be the result of erosion or sedimentation and rising landmass. An archipelago is a set of islands that are connected to the mainland by water or land—like the collection at the end thumb.


A peninsula is one of the forms of the geographical surface, which is an extension of land surrounded by water on three sides and connected to the land by an isthmus. The Arabian peninsula is the world’s largest peninsula. 

The isthmus of a peninsula may disappear with the passage of time and increasing erosion of rocks with seawater, forming a new island. The area of the peninsula may range from a few kilometers to hundreds of thousands of kilometers. 

A peninsula is like a pointy elbow sticking out to the side of a table. Examples of peninsulas include Australia and Italy’s boot-shaped figure. Peninsulas have deep river valleys running through them that create landscape impacts such as river deltas and bayous. 

In addition, mountain ranges divide peninsulas into provinces called provinces or states, such as in Australia where there are several peninsulas containing counties (cities). A peninsula can also be referred to as an arm if it juts out from another body, for example, New England has several bays extending out from its elbow-like shape.

There are peninsulas on every continent. The most famous peninsulas in the world include the following:

In Europe, there are the Apennine Peninsula, Balkan Peninsula, Brittany, Calabria, and Cornwall. In Australia, there are the Arnhem Land, Cape York Peninsula, and Jervis Bay Territory.

The Americas have several peninsulas, including Alaska Peninsula, Baja California Peninsula, Cape Code, Florida, Lost Peninsula, Lower Peninsula of Michigan, Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Ontario Peninsula, San Francisco Peninsula, Southern Cone, and Washington Land. 

In Africa, there is the Horn of Africa. In Asia, we have Anatolia, Arabian Peninsula, Chukchi Peninsula, Indian Subcontinent, Indochinese Peninsula, Korean Peninsula, Malay Peninsula, and the Sinai Peninsula. And finally, Antarctica which is part of the larger peninsula of West Antarctica.


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An archipelago is a form of the Earth’s surface that symbolizes any close and contiguous group of islands. Indonesia has the world’s largest archipelago, called the Indonesian archipelago. Archipelagos usually result from volcanic eruptions. 

The Malay Archipelago is the world’s biggest archipelago with more than 25,000 islands between the Pacific and Indian Oceans in Southeast Asia. The Malay Archipelago also contains thousands of islands that form Indonesia and Malaysia. 

Scotland and the Philippines for example, have more than 700 islands each, surrounding them that make up the archipelago and put them among the list of the world’s largest archipelagos. 

The largest archipelago country in the world, by area and population, is Indonesia. The archipelago that contains the biggest number of islands is the Swedish East Coast Archipelago, as it contains the Stockholm Archipelago which connects the second largest archipelago in the world in Finland.

Famous Islands around the World

Islands are spread all over the world, some of them are more famous than others, we will be giving you a glimpse  at the world’s most famous islands and archipelagos in the following:


The archipelago of Indonesia consists of more than 17,000 to 18.000 islands. Indonesia is considered the world’s most earthquake-prone region because it is located within the Pacific Ring of Fire. Java island is the most populous island in the world. The three main islands of Indonesia are the Sunda Islands, the Moluccas, and the island of New Guinea.

The Sunda Islands consist of Greater and Lesser Sunda. The Great Sunda Islands are in turn divided into four islands; Java Island and Borneo which is divided between Indonesia (Kalimantan), Brunei and, Malaysia. In addition to Sumatra Island, Sulawesi Island, Lesser Sunda Islands, Moluccas, and New Guinea which is divided between two provinces in Indonesia.

The islands of the archipelagos of Indonesia are islands of a larger archipelago, the Malay Archipelago, which includes Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines, Brunei, East Timor, Papua New Guinea, and Singapore. So, the total island population is between 25,000 – 30,000 islands.


Japan consists of about 3000 islands, five of these islands are the largest and the most important of all; Kyushu, Shikoku, Honshu, Hokkaido, and Okinawa. Japan suffers from serious natural disasters, such as earthquakes, typhoons, and volcanic eruptions because it is situated within the Ring of Fire. The capital is Tokyo which is the largest city in Japan.

Japan has a total of 6,852 islands stretching along the Pacific coast of East Asia. About 73 percent of Japan is mountainous forest, unsuitable for agricultural, industrial, or residential use. As a result, the habitable areas, located mainly in coastal areas, have a very high population density, which makes it one of the most populous countries in the world.


The Philippines consists of an archipelago made up of 7,641 islands. Most of the mountainous islands are covered with tropical rainforests, which are mostly volcanic in origin. The islands witness repeated seismic and volcanic activities, about 20 earthquakes are recorded daily. Due to the volcanic nature of the islands, there are many abundant mineral deposits. 

The great ecological diversity of the Philippines owes to its rainforests and broad coastline, which makes it one of the ten most biodiverse countries in the world. There are approximately 1,100 species of wild vertebrates in the Philippines, including over 100 species of mammals and 170 species of birds believed not to be found elsewhere.

The islands of the Philippines are estimated to have the second largest gold reserves after South Africa and one of the largest copper deposits in the world. It is also known to be rich in zinc, chromium, and nickel.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom consists of several islands, including the archipelago of Great Britain, the northern part of the island of Ireland, and many small islands including the Isle of England, the Isle of Wight, and the Isles of Scilly in the sea. Scotland contains nearly 800 islands, and Wales has several islands off the mainland, the largest of which is Anglesey in the northwest of the country.

New Zealand

New Zealand is an island country located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, consisting of two main islands; the North Island and the South Island. In addition to a group of about 600 small islands, most notably Stewart Island and the Chatham Islands and a number of other smaller islands located near the center of the water hemisphere. The northern and southern islands are separated by the Cook Strait, which is 20 kilometers wide at its narrowest point.


The archipelago of the Bahamas consists of 29 islands, 661 cays, and 2,387 islets (rocks). The islands are located in the Atlantic Ocean. All islands of the Bahamas archipelago are low and flat, with hills usually not higher than 15-20 meters. A group of islands from the West Indies. The capital of the Bahamas is Nassau, located on New Providence Island, an archipelago of islands in the southeastern Florida peninsula.


Greece is a Mediterranean country, on the European side. The Greek islands make up about a quarter of the total area of the county, with a total of about 9,841 islands. The island of Crete is the largest of them, with an area of about 8260 km².

The Greek islands can be divided into three groups: The Ionian Islands located in the Ionian Sea in western Greece, the southern Greek islands (Crete), and the Aegean Islands located in the Aegean Sea in the east and southeast of Greece, which it is also divided into three sections: the Group of Sporades and Cyclades, the Dodecanese group, and the Eastern group of islands.


The island of Hawaii is located in the archipelago of the Hawaiian Islands and follows the US state of Hawaii. The island is located in the south of the volcanic archipelago in the North Pacific region, it is the largest of its islands at all, with an area larger than the areas of all other islands combined. It is also the largest island in the United States of America, with an area of 10,430 km².


Italy is one of the three peninsulas in southern Europe (the other two being the Iberian Peninsula and the Balkan Peninsula). The Italian peninsula is distinguished by its unique shape, shaped by three sub-islands: Calabria, Salento, and Gargano. Most of the Italian peninsula is part of the country of Italy, except for San Marino and the Vatican City. 

Both Sicily and Malta are islands opposite the peninsula and thus geographically follow Italy, however, Malta is an independent republic, while Sicily is an Italian autonomous region. Italy possesses several islands, the largest are Sicily and Sardinia. The third largest island is Elba, the largest island in the Tuscan archipelago.


Denmark consists of a group of thousands of large and small islands, the most prominent of these islands are Bornholm, Loland, and Falster. The Danish capital, Copenhagen, is located on an island a few kilometers separated from the Danish peninsula. The territory of the islands outside the Danish Peninsula collectively exceeds a thousand kilometers.


Madagascar is an island country in the Indian Ocean, about 250 miles (400 km) off the coast of East Africa. It consists of the island of Madagascar (the fourth largest island in the world) and several smaller islands. 

After the break-up of the prehistoric supercontinent of Gondwana, Madagascar split from the Indian subcontinent some 88 million years ago, allowing the native flora and fauna to evolve in relative isolation. Thus, Madagascar is a center of biodiversity. It is estimated that about 90% of Madagascar’s wildlife is found nowhere else on Earth. 

Islands and Human Activities 

Islands are lush, beautiful places where you can disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the city. They are also ideal for vacation and camping spots. People love islands because they allow us to live in a natural environment without damaging the planet further. Plus, we can dive into underwater caves and take amazing pictures. Scuba diving is one of the best ways to explore an island’s secrets.

Islanders must learn how to prepare for such disasters by building homes out of wood or stone. The most beautiful islands look untouched by humans and this makes them even more lovely!

Living on an island has many perks; you get to experience nature as it was meant to be seen. You also have access not to have any crowds while traveling— unless you want to visit other islands. Many vacation spots are centered around islands and offer lots of activities like sea sports or hiking. 

Camping on an island is also fun as there’s nowhere for insects or animals to disturb you while you sleep. You can even find abandoned shacks which make for great camping spots. However, living on an island does require some planning as it is difficult and dangerous without proper preparation.

Scuba diving is one of the greatest ways to explore an island’s secrets as there is nowhere else you can go underwater besides islands. Islands often have caves filled with amazing sea life such as coral reefs and marine life so abundant that divers call it the «white gold». 

Travelers often go scuba diving in tropical climates where the sea temperatures are comfortable enough for diving but not hot enough for fish species growth arrest. The warm water conditions make it easy for them to dive without cold shock and increase their dive time limit. Besides exploring underwater caves, scuba divers also collect data about sea life such as temperature and depth so scientists can study these creatures’ undersea cave ecosystems.

Islands are beautiful places that allow us to disconnect from modern society. They’re perfect for camping, diving, or just relaxing away from everything! However, living on an island is not easy, people would rather live on continental landmasses due to transportation issues caused by water between continents and continents-like landmasses blocking cities from each other. 

Unfortunately, there are not many natural islands left due to people destroying them so they can build cities on their landmass. All things considered, we should protect our remaining islands so we can continue enjoying them, as the most beautiful islands are the ones untouched by humans and this makes them even more lovely and attractive.

If you enjoyed this article why not check out some more Geography Facts and Topics: Mountains, Rainbows, Hurricanes, Thunderstorms, Blizzards, Volcanoes and Continents.

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