Taking a closer look at the Indian Ocean

Luxury travel provider Kuoni has released a series of fascinating microscopic images that have captured the fine details within grains of sand from the Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, La Réunion and Sri Lanka. Kuoni’s initiative behind the project is to show travellers the differences between the Indian Ocean islands.

A disc forum grain from the Maldives

Popular photos of the Indian Ocean islands typically show luxurious landscapes of white sand beaches and turquoise waters, which can unintentionally mislead people into thinking that the Indian Ocean destinations are all the same. However, as these photos prove, when you take time to look at the hidden details of each destination, they are in fact very different from one another.

Mauritius sand grains from Trou aux Biches

Mark Fleming, Marketing Manager at Kuoni, adds, “At Kuoni we make sure we pay attention to the small details as they make a big difference to the customer. It’s wonderful to see this thinking illustrated in quite a literal sense in these sand photographs. Mauritius, for example, has white sand beaches but it also has a variety of other coastline features to explore, from wetlands and mangroves to lagoons. This variety of coastline is mirrored in the colourful variety of Mauritian sand grains. Whereas for the Maldives, being coral atolls, all the sand originates on the reef, with parrotfish playing a huge role in producing and distributing coral as sand grains. This is great proof that the Maldives offers more than just sunbathing – it has fantastic reef diving and snorkelling too.”

Green sea urchin spine grain from the Maldives

The astonishing images show sand grains magnified up to 50 times larger than their true size, making visible the extraordinarily fine details and differences between the grains. Kate Clover, author of The Secrets of Sands, identified some particularly interesting grains; she explains that the Maldives sand has a wonderful example of a disc-like foram, a tiny aquatic organism that floats in the ocean before falling to the seabed and gathering in the sand. The sand from Mauritius includes some beautiful gem-like grains including bright pink and purple coloured fragments. The sands of Saint Paul on the extreme west side of La Réunion again show something different, with a mix of yellow peridot crystals and black basalt grains reflecting the island’s volcanic origins.

Saint Paul, La Reunion volcanic sand grain sample

The photographs were taken by macro-photographer Harold Taylor who painstakingly separated the miniscule grains onto slides using a very fine, wetted paintbrush to pick out particularly good specimens. The slides were captured using Canon macro lenses (MPE-65) and electronic strobe flashes. Capturing the images at such high magnifications was difficult due to vibration issues and shallow focus, however Taylor used a ‘stacking’ focus technique to ensure that only the sharpest areas are shown in the final image.

For the full gallery and geological information about each sand sample visit:

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