The islands are locatit in the Sooth Cheenae Sea consistin o ower 30 islets, sandbanks an reefs wi aboot 15,000 square kilometre (5,800 sq mi) o the ocean surface, an less nor 8 square kilometre (3.1 sq mi) o land surface. The archipelago is approximately equidistant frae the coastlines o Vietnam an Cheenae, 180 nautical mile (330 km; 210 mi) sootheast o Hainan Island, an aboot ane-third o the way frae central Vietnam tae the northren Philippines. Turtles live on the islands, an seabirds hae left nests an guanae deposits, but thare are na permanent human residents except militar personnel an fishermen.
The islands are dividit intae twa main groups. The Amphitrite group is in the northeast an the Crescent group is in the soothwast, an thay are locatit aboot 70 km (43 mi) frae ane anither. Subject tae het an humid climate, wi abundant rainfall an frequent typhuins, the archipelago is surroondit bi productive fishin grounds an potential ile an gas reserves.