Ilha da Berlenga: A geological and biological jewel


Ilha da Berlenga, often referred to simply as Berlenga, bears the traces of an ancient and tumultuous history. This island, the survivor of a chain of land masses, broke off around 180 million years ago when the Atlantic Ocean formed. This event has given it a unique, rich and rare geology.

The island's structure is remarkably made up of three types of granite. One is a delicate pink, very rare in Europe, offering almost fairytale-like hues in certain parts of the island. Red granite predominates over most of the island, giving it a rustic yet majestic character. Finally, whitish granite completes the trilogy, adding luminosity and contrast.

Berlenga is a veritable sanctuary for biodiversity, particularly birds. Four bird species find their migration limit here. Troil's guillemot and the black-legged kittiwake, for example, nest nowhere else in the world further south than this island. On the other hand, the grey shearwater, for which Berlenga is the only breeding ground in Europe, and the Castro's storm-petrel consider this island to be their northern border. In all, seven species of seabird choose this unspoilt spot to breed.

The island's terrestrial fauna is just as fascinating, although less varied. There are just four species of vertebrate land animals. Among them are two mammals: the black rat and the wild rabbit, which have adapted to the island's particular conditions. The two lizards present are also interesting specimens for herpetology enthusiasts.

But Berlenga is not just a natural history; it is also a land marked by human history. The fort of São João Baptista is a prime example of this. Built between 1651 and 1656 by order of King John IV of Portugal, this imposing structure is a reminder of the island's strategic importance at the time. Today, although no longer used for military purposes, the fort remains a vestige of the past, bearing witness to the ambitions and conflicts of Portuguese history.

Another major building is the Duke of Bragança lighthouse, also known as the Berlengas lighthouse. Built between 1836 and 1841 during the reign of Queen Maria II of Portugal, it stands proudly on the island, guiding and protecting ships from the dangers of the surrounding waters.

Berlenga Grande is just one of the archipelago's pearls. Two other groups of islands complete the picture: the Estelas islands, which include Estela Grande, Estelão, Pedra do Manuel Jorge and Os Parados, and the Farilhões and Forcadas. Although less well known, these islets contribute to the region's ecological and scenic richness.

Ilha da Berlenga is a geological, biological and historical treasure trove. Whether it's its unique rock formation, rich biodiversity or cultural heritage, the island continues to fascinate and attract those looking to explore Portugal's hidden wonders.

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