SEAME is based in La Maddalena that is the main island of an archipelago with several granitic islands and islets, in the middle of the western Mediterranean Sea. The La Maddalena Archipelago is an Italian National Park within the bigger MPA of the Pelagos Sanctuary for the protection of cetaceans in the Mediterranean.
Archipelago of La Maddalena
The La Maddalena archipelago, off the northeastern coast of Sardinia, is, made of more than 60 islands and islets, which is thought to be one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world for the characteristics rocks, countless small bays, the Mediterranean vegetation with its typical scents, beaches, seabed and underwater landscapes.
The rocks, older than 300 million years, rule the almost completely granitic landscape of the archipelago. La Maddalena is the bigger Island, surrounded by Caprera, Santo Stefano, Spargi, and northward Budelli, Razzoli and Santa Maria islands. Further south, is the small and picturesque Mortorio archipelago, within the National Park of La Maddalena as well.
This group of small granitic islands, once connected thanks to the lower level of the sea, was a communication route for ancient humans since Neolithic Era. Today, the only permanently inhabited areas are the small town of La Maddalena, the village of Stagnali in Caprera and the only inhabited building of Budelli, the caretaker’s house.
Except a few houses on the island of Santa Maria inhabited only during the summer and other places scattered with small human settlements, the rest of the archipelago is entirely wild and uninhabited. La Maddalena is connected by a bridge-dam with the nearby island of Caprera, built in the late ‘800.
La Maddalena island
After 1778, with the establishment of the first temporary settlements in the island of La Maddalena, the seaside village began to grow. It was inhabited by colonists and later by fishermen come from afar, who spent there part of the year to catch fish, coral and sponges.
Following both the growth of trade and the strong presence of the Italian Navy, the village became a characteristic seaside town, with a particular architectural style: the typical Genoese of late ‘800. The narrow and characteristic alleys of the old town suddenly show a view of the harbor and waterfront.
The story of La Maddalena has crossed that of historical personalities such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Horatio Nelson, Benito Mussolini, connecting several times the archipelago to crucial events of the Italian and world’s history. The hero Giuseppe Garibaldi chose Caprera Island as refuge and burial. Currently La Maddalena has a population of about 11,900 inhabitants and now derives much of its income from tourism.
The town of La Maddalena is just 2 kilometres (1 mile) from the north-eastern shore of Sardinia and can be reached by ferry from Palau, in about 25 minutes.
Caprera is the highest island of the La Maddalena archipelago, with its 212m high Mount Tejalone, although it looks much higher due to its pointed granite peaks. However, Caprera is also the most popular island loved by the local people, who enjoy it as a “green lung”. Caprera was the first island of the archipelago to be a protected area, in the 80s.
The wild and striking Caprera, besides its natural beauty, it’s famous as the residence of the Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi, the general who played a large role in the Italian and world’s history. He has been called the “Hero of Two Worlds” because of his military enterprises in Brazil, Uruguay and Europe. Garibaldi soon fell in love with Caprera and in 1855 bought half of the island, where he spent much of his late years and died in 1882. Caprera hosts the house and the tomb of Garibaldi, one of the most visited museums in Italy.
Moreover, in Caprera was recently built the “Memorial”, a modern multimedia museum that t ells the worldwide story of the Hero. Several hiking trails make Caprera a place where you can do trekking, biking or go horse riding, visiting also the spectacular old historic fortifications, located in high panoramic locations.
These fortifications are magical places, where among the ruined buildings, witnesses of the times of war, nature takes back its spaces. At night in Caprera, you can admire the starry sky and the marine bioluminescence, almost without light pollution.
North of the archipelago, on the island of Budelli, is the Pink Beach. It is one of the most famous beaches of the entire Mediterranean Sea. Although its real name is “Cala di Roto”, the popular name “spiaggia rosa“(pink beach) is given by the particular sand composition, thanks to a lot of skeletal remains of small, pink foraminifera called Miniacina miniacea. These single-celled protozoan lives on the seabed, attached on the Posidonia oceanica sea grass. Once dead, its pink husk come off and is brought toward the shore.
These tiny, pink grains lye against the rest of the sand, which is composed of high percentage of white granules, giving the sand an amazing pink color, looking like brush strokes on a white painting. In 1964 the famous Italian film director Michelangelo Antonioni made his first colour film “The red desert” and shot in the pink beach of Budelli an unforgettable scene, making this beach popular.
In the 90s, thousand people came to this beach during summer, taking away the sand for souvenirs. To protect it from theft of sand, the National Park closed this beach to swimming and walking. This has made this beach the most protected zone and the flag of the National Park of La Maddalena.
Another beach of Budelli is rather available for swimmers: the Beach of Cavalieri, one of the nicest in the Archipelago. The shore faces in a enclosed, shallow sea bay, nicknamed “the Port of Madonna”, protected from the wind by few islets and with a various seabed, sandy and rocky, being very good for snorkeling.
La Maddalena Archipelago National Park
The entire Archipelago of La Maddalena is a geo-marine National Park with a land and marine area of about 180 km² (51.34 km2 of land and 130 km² of sea surface area) and 180 km of coastline. The Park Authority was established in 1996. It was the first National Park in Sardinia and the only one in Italy made up all the territory of a single municipality.
It is a Site of Community Interest (SCI) according to the European Habitat Directive 92/43 CE. It is characterized by several endemic species of flora (over 700 vegetable species and more than 50 endemic) and fauna (e.g. insects, reptiles, spiders, amphibians). It is also thought to be one of the most important areas for the nesting sea birds such as the Audouin’s gull (Ichthyaetus audouinii), the only endemic seagull species of the Mediterranean, the Mediterranean Cori’s shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) and the Mediterranean subspecies of the european shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii).
The waters of the National Park of La Maddalena are inhabited by a population of common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). They usually also move along north-eastern Sardinia coast and in the Strait of Bonifacio.
The marine environment has some of the most beautiful diving sites in the Mediterranean, including the shoals “Secca di Washington” and “Secca di Mortorio. The National Park of La Maddalena with the Natural Reserve of the Strait of Bonifacio (Corsica, France) recently became part of the International Marine Park of the Strait of Bonifacio (PMIBB).
The Pelagos SanctuaryThe archipelago of La Maddalena and the entire Strait of Bonifacio are both part of the Pelagos Sanctuary for the Conservation of Marine Mammals, the largest Mediterranean Marine Protected Area and the world’s first international high-sea MPA (Marine Protected Area). The Pelagos Sanctuary was established in 1999 trough an agreement between France, Italy and the Principality of Monaco in order to protect marine mammals in the Mediterranean Sea.
The word “Sanctuary” means a protected area established for the protection of specific locations or habitat essential to the survival or well-being of individual species of living, resident or migratory wildlife, having a national or global interest. The Sanctuary covers an area of about 96.000 km², consisting of marine areas situated in the territorial waters of the three states, as well as portions of adjacent high seas.
Eight cetacean species are regularly occurring in the Pelagos Sanctuary: fin whale, sperm whale, Cuvier’s beaked whale, pilot whale, Risso’s dolphin, common bottlenose dolphin, short beaked common dolphin and striped dolphin.
Some of these species are year-round residents in the Pelagos Sanctuary area, others migrate, moving into other areas such as the Tyrrhenian Sea, probably for feeding, breeding or to move towards other areas. The Strait of Bonifacio, between Sardinia and Corsica, is the only strait in the Pelagos Sanctuary, which separates the basin of Sardinian Sea from the central Tyrrhenian Sea.