Desertas islands is a chain of three long and narrow islands that stretch over a distance of 23 km north-south. Administratively, the islands are part of the municipality of Santa Cruz.
Deserted (deserted in French) is the name of all three small islands that lie south-east of the island of Madeira: Chão Islet, Desert Grande Bugio. Administratively, they belong to the municipality of Santa Cruz.
Of volcanic origin, these islands dominate the ashes of reddish, yellowish and they have extensive coastline of about 37,700 m, almost entirely very rocky scarps formed very steep and almost perpendicular, which the makes it virtually inaccessible.
The Desert Islands are one of the last refuges of the Wolf marine or monk seal, a colony estimated at 23 animals which is in the process of restocking. Also, this species is considered a flagship species of the Reserve. This space is also an important nesting site for seabirds. North of Deserta Grande Valley in Castanheira, the Tarantula is of desertion (Lycosa ingens), a species endemic to this island. The islands also have a wide variety of plants.
This space has become a protected site in May 1990 under the Regional Legislative Decree No. 14/90/M, which created the Special Protection Area of the Desert Islands, becoming Nature Reserve in 1995 under the Regional Legislative Decree No. 9 / 95 / M, with an area of 9672 ha and includes all islands and islets. The sea surface is divided into Partial Reserve, north, and wilderness in the south. With the recognition of the natural and ecological value of these islands, the Council of Europe has classified Biogenetic Reserve in 1992.
While protection of these islands was motivated by the urgency of taking measures for the conservation of the monk seal, its objective is the protection and preservation of all wildlife and unique flora and includes several species rare and endemic.
The spear fishing is prohibited on any site, and navigation, on the southern part. This Nature Reserve is part of Natura 2000.
Since the fourteenth century, these islands were already known under their current name or by their singular evening desert island, although they have been properly explored after the initial reconnaissance trips by João Gonçalves Zarco in 1420/1421 and under the operation and permanent human settlement in Funchal.
A Portuguese colony tried to settle several times, but always without success, given the conditions of the terrain, mainly due to the marine and wind action, and lack of fresh water.
Historical records indicate that at the end of the sixteenth century they planted wheat and barley on Deserta Grande in order to maintain the pasture for livestock was introduced there. Great on Deserta there is still an area in perfect condition, and Chão Islet vestige of another area.
The islands were the private property of two English families of Madeira, from 1894 to 1971 (as was the case for islands Selvagens), then were bought by the Portuguese State and converted into a Nature Reserve.
For more information, please visit the Madeira Natural Park official website.