The region also provides crucial nursery or feeding habitats for 34 species of marine mammals, including the endangered humpback whales that migrate from Antarctica each year into the warm waters off eastern Africa to give birth.
The depths of the seas are little known, as specialist equipment is needed to explore and study this dark and hazardous world. It is almost certainly the case that animals unknown to science are still waiting to be discovered here.
For example, the coelacanth, once believed to be extinct, is now known to live at depths of 50-400m in southern Mozambique and northern South Africa. Deep-water sharks, lantern fish and giant squid may also be found at these depths.
The coast, still doesn't interest many
The geographical extent of the coastal habitats of eastern Africa is something that is often difficult to grasp. Most people live in the big cities and towns along the coast with very little access, or interest, in other parts of the coastline. As a result, very few people have a broader view of the extent of mangroves, coastal lagoons or coral reefs.
Since coral reefs live below the surface of the sea, even fewer people, perhaps only spear-fishermen or scuba divers, have any idea of the incredible diversity and variety of animals and plants that live together to form the coral reef habitat.
From the shoreline, the line of breaking surf is usually the only indicator of the presence of coral reefs. Migrant fishermen and airline pilots probably have the best overview of the geographical extent of the coastal habitats in the region.
The view from an aircraft window, for example, will reveal that coral reefs form only a narrow strip, usually fringing the land or islands, and mostly not much wider than 1,000m.
Typically the coast of the eastern African ecoregion is comprised of a mixed array of the coastal habitats described above. These various habitats are often closely connected physically and are linked both through the coastal waters and by the species they comprise.