Saint Paul and Amsterdam Islands

Main attractions

Saint Paul Island
Saint Paul Island / Bruno Navez, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Saint Paul and Amsterdam Islands are remote islands located on the same latitude as Melbourne in Australia. The islands are a part of French Southern and Antarctic Lands - overseas territory of France. Geographically these islands are not a part of Sub-antarctic region, but they are even further away from Australia, Asia or Africa, thus Wondermondo includes them with Sub-antarctic islands.

The mild climate and remoteness of the islands has facilitated the development of distinct ecosystem with endemic species of plants and animals. Unfortunately this ecosystem has been depleted by the forest fires, by cattle and other introduced animals and plants.

The landscape of the islands is spectacular, with very tall cliffs. Both islands are tops of volcanoes.


  • Del Cano (Frandes Ravines) Falls – Amsterdam Island, south west. Two impressive, perennial waterfalls. One is falling down a nearly vertical cliff, another is falling vertically into ravine.
  • D’Entrecasteaux Cliffs – Amsterdam Island, south-west. Up to 731 m tall cliffs, almost vertical. Populated by tens of thousands of birds.
  • D’Entrecasteaux Falls – Amsterdam Island, south-west. Perennial falls cascading down the D’Entrecasteaux cliffs. In strong wind (what is often here) the water is caught up and flies upwards.
  • Grand Bois – eastern part of Amsterdam Island. The only remnant of the dense forest of Phylica arborea – an subantarctic tree. This forest covers 8 ha, earlier, before the human inflicted forest fires it covered large part of the island.
  • Grande Coulée – Amsterdam Island. Very impressive lava tunnel with many collapses, rich with plant life. Unexpectedly exotic walking path in this far southern island.
  • Grotte du Bib – northern part of Amsterdam Island. A lava tunnel. Sinkholes, where the tunnel has collapsed, are covered with vegetation.
  • Plateau des Tourbières – central part of Amsterdam Island, a 500 – 600 m high plateau with peat bogs. The only breeding site for the critically endangered Amsterdam Albatros (Diomedea amsterdamensis). Wingspan of this bird reaches 3.4 m. Only some 130 birds exist. Plateau contains endemic species of Sphagnum moss.
  • Sources Thermales, Saint Paul – Saint Paul Island, bank of Bassin du Cratere. Sources with hot water, heated by the volcanic heat.

List of described attractions

ArrowGrand BoisEcosystems

Map of Saint Paul and Amsterdam Islands

Featured: Grand Bois, Amsterdam Island

Phylica arborea, Amsterdam Island
Phylica arborea, Amsterdam Island / Bruno Navez, Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0

When the remote Amsterdam Island was discovered, the lowland parts of it were covered with a unique Sub-Antarctic forest - a thicket of Phylica arborea trees. The total area of this forest was 1 500 ha (some 27% of Amsterdam Island). Now only 8 ha of the original forest remain, protected from the cattle by a line of cypress trees.

Recommended books:

Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will

The Atlas of Remote Islands, Judith Schalansky’s beautiful and deeply personal account of the islands that have held a place in her heart throughout her lifelong love of cartography, has captured the imaginations of readers everywhere.

The Lost Island

After the death of his father, Alfred Van Cleef-the last of a family of Dutch Jews-learns that he is unable to have children. Seeking the remotest spot on the planet, far from the gleefully reproducing couples of Amsterdam, Van Cleef picks a forbidding island in the Indian Ocean, a bizarrely bureaucratic French weather station, two thousand miles from the nearest continent.

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