Ile Lavezzi, a damned archipelago on the Mediterranean

This little explored archipelago is in the Strait of Bonifacio that separates Corsica from Sardinia and boasts a number of secluded beaches and coves. They are relative easy to access and most boat companies operating out of Bonifacio will gladly take you there. There are no hotels on the Lavezzi Islands. No cafes, either. Not even a single toilet. And that’s precisely why people come.

Classified as a Natural Reserve by France in 1982, the islands, in the strait between Sardinia and Corsica, have been protected from development. But there hasn’t been any shelter from the wind. Without buildings to break them, gusts have whipped the islands’ granite into fantastic shapes. In the coves between the rocks are protected spots of empty, sandy white beach. The clear water is teeming with anemones and fish, particularly grouper , which explains why divers know the islands as Merouville.

The winds also caused one of the Mediterranean’s worst shipwrecks. On the 160-acre main island (the only one that’s more than a pile of rocks), a hiking path leads to a 46-foot-tall pyramid-shaped memorial for the sinking of the Semillante in 1855. The disaster took the lives of 700 sailors and soldiers. Sémillante took part in the Crimean war from 1854 as a transport. In February 1855, under Captain Jugan, she departed Toulon with a crew of 301 and 392 soldiers as reinforcements for the French army. On 15 February 1855, in the Strait of Bonifacio near the Lavezzi Islands, Sémillante was caught in a storm. Lost in a thick fog, a gust of wind drove the ship into rocks on Ile Lavezzi, the 200 ha main island of the archipelago. The ship sank around midnight with all hands.

Once you leave your suite and you get to the International Marine Reserve at the Lavezzi islands, all you need are flippers, tube and snorkelling mask to discover an underwater universe of remarkable plant and animal life. Studied extensively by the scientific community, this heritage site has, since 1982, sheltered a variety of sea life species.

The inhabitants of this exotic world are not afraid of man and so divers along this exceptional route will find that they have company in the form of the curious silver bream, rainbow wrasse and black tail. From the beach at Achiarina, visitors take the plunge in a convivial and friendly ambiance and the underwater visit, accessible to everyone above the age of 8, takes roughly 45 minutes.

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