Faial Island is located less than 6 kilometres west from Pico Island and is about 173 square kilometres in size. Following São Miguel and Terceira, Faial is the third most populous island of the Azores with approximately 15 000 inhabitants. Horta, the only municipality is also the name of the largest city with a population of about 7000.
Geophysically, Faial can be considered the westernmost island of Europe (with the Capelinhos Volcano marking the westernmost point of Europe), as the islands to the west are located on the North American Plate and thus, can be considered part of North America. The last eruption of the Capelinhos lasted from September 1957 until October 1958. During 13 months over 300 seismic events were recorded, 300 houses destroyed, over 2000 people needed to be evacuated and the island was enlarged by 2.4 square kilometres.
On and around Faial there are a total of 13 areas that are under special protection and management, forming the Faial Nature Park. Of the 13 areas, five are marine and coastal. Four of these area (Canal Faial-Pico (sector Faial), Castelo Branco, Capelinhos and Cedros) are partially protected areas, where management aims at maintenance of biodiversity while allowing for sustainable use of resources.
The fifth one is the Nature Reserve of Calderinhas, where fishing, boating or diving are not allowed. The Nature Reserve of the Caldeirinhas protects about 10 hectares of coastal area, in the southeast tip of Faial. It is also called Caldeira do Inferno that translates to Hell’s boiler. This reserve consists of two volcanic craters that have been flooded by the sea and have an 8 shape.
Find out more about the importance of this MPA!
Why is it important?
The coast of the Calderinhas provides shelter for several endemic plant species such as the fire tree (Morella faya) or the heather (Erica azorica), as well as for local and migratory seabirds. The water-filled craters are an ideal nursery for marine fish as they offer shelter and food. The salema porgy (Sarpa salpa), as well as the Ballan wrasse (Labrus bergylta) are commercial species that can be found in the area.
Well, you cannot! Due to the importance of this underwater realm, the Calderinhas MPA is under the highest level of protection and does not allow for any underwater recreational activities, except scientific surveys under special licenses.But the surrounding environments are worth a visit!