The marine protected area (MPA) of Rocha do Navio lies off the northeast shore of Madeira Island and spans from Ponta do Clérigo to Ponta de São Jorge, from the high tide line to a depth of 100 meters, making a total surface of 1710 hectares. Like Garajau, this reserve is exclusively marine, with exception of the two small rock islets Ilhéu da Rocha das Vinhas and Ilhéu da Viúva.
Rocha do Navio is a single zone partially protected area where commercial and recreational fishing are allowed and regulated as well as diving and other non-motorized activities.
Why is it important?
It harbours a very delicate marine ecosystem and due to its exposure to the prevailing waves, there is a great concentration of certain fish species, some of them with commercial interest such as the white seabream (Diplodus sargus), the striped seabream (D. cervinus) or the Mediterranean parrotfish (left, Sparisoma cretense). Other highly fished large species include the dusky grouper (Ephinephelus marginatus), the comb grouper (Mycteroperca fusca) or the barred hogfish (Bodianus scrofa).
The area was put under protection in 1997 due to great damages caused to the ecosystem by illegal fishing practices with explosives. Today it is recovering well, with many areas regenerating. In addition, sightings of the shy Mediterranean monk seals have been increasing in the past years. It also serves as home for seabirds such as the common tern (Sterna hirundo) and the Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris borealis).
Access by water is very limited due to sea conditions and regulations of the marine park. The best access is by land from the viewpoint Miradouro Rocha do Navio (located outside the town of Santana) where you can enjoy the stunning views of the epic rock formations and the wild Atlantic.
If you are up for a thrilling 5 minutes you can take the cable car down the cliffs. For people that fear heights it is recommended to walk down by foot. Contact the “Instituto das Florestas e Conservação da Natureza” to see if they have any educational activities going on for the public to learn more about the Reserve.