Situated in the middle of the Atlantic, 1,369 km west of the European mainland, the Azores archipelago comprises of nine islands spread over three groups. The volcanoes that gave birth to these islands also created smaller islets, located right off the coast of the main ones. Probably the most famous of these small formations is the Islet of Vila Franca do Campo, located about 500 meters from the coast of the Island of São Miguel, the largest and most populous island in the archipelago. It is named after the city of Vila Franca do Campo, the former capital of São Miguel, which lies across from the islet.
The Islet of Vila Franca do Campo is formed by the crater of an old underwater volcano. The islet which is now classified as a nature reserve is one of São Miguel’s main tourist attractions, particularly since an event in the Red Bull Cliff Diving world championship was held here.
The walls of the crater are lined by endemic vegetation, while inside there is an almost perfectly circular natural lake, which is linked to the sea by a narrow channel. This opening is called Boquete and faces north towards the coast of São Miguel. The canal allows for the circulation of water between the ocean and the lagoon while preventing waves from entering the crater, allowing a rich marine life of crustaceans, fish and algae to thrive.
The islet has been used for a variety of purposes having served as a lookout point for whalers and as a military fort. It was even cultivated as a vineyard. In 1983 it was acquired by the Regional Government and that same year it was classified as a Natural Reserve, in order to protect it and the species that inhabit it from destruction. The islet is home to many species of birds, crustaceans and flora that need to be protected from the intervention of mankind.
Once open all year round, now the islet can only be visited during the high season, between June and September, during which a special boat service takes passengers from Vila Franca to the islet on a daily basis. The crystal clear waters of the lagoon and the lovely beach are excellent for sunbathing, swimming, diving and snorkeling.
A participant of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series dives at Islet Vila Franca do Campo, Azores, Portugal on July 21, 2012
A participant of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series dives at Islet Vila Franca do Campo, Azores, Portugal on September 8, 2012
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