In the harbour of the popular surf town Peniche, we found an old ferry to bring us to the Berlengas Archipelago Nature Reserve. The archipelago consists of 3 islands: Estelas, Farilhões and Berlenga.
While approaching the main island, a spectacular view unfolded before our eyes. Dark blue waves turned white, crashing onto the bright red rocks of the island. This display of a raging force of nature revealed why in 1513 the monks of the order of São Jerónimo established a monastery on the archipelago to offer assistance to the frequent shipwreck victims. However, due to harsh weather conditions, lack of communication and frequent pirate assaults, the monks abandoned the island. In the 17th century, the Counsel of War had determined that a better coastal defence was needed and the Fort of São João Baptista was established on the ruins of the old monastery.
After descending from the boat and crossing a small metal bridge, we set foot on the main quay of a tiny village, comprising no more than 20 houses. The handful inhabitants of this picturesque houses live on the island all year round to operate the lighthouse and maintain the pure, unspoiled nature of the reserve.
While wandering over the narrow walking trails, we came eye to eye with the island’s most notorious inhabitants: an thriving community of seabirds. The island is a nesting spot for an huge population of seagulls, guillemots and other seabirds and serves as a passing point for a wide variety of other migratory birds.