Emerging from the abyss of the Atlantic, the top of a massive six-thousand-meter-deep shield volcano breaks through the great expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. A tip that juts out one thousand, eight hundred and two meters above sea level, forming an island which sits in solitude, far removed from “civilization” but home to a multitude of endemic species of flora and fauna. Living on land along the rocky and unforgiving cliffs facing the shores, or among the mountainous ridge that separates the Island from East to West. A ridge, composed primarily of the last remaining laurel forest on this planet— a natural heritage site, where walking above an ocean of clouds is the norm, delivering the most breathtaking views available to man—or woman. Above the ocean of clouds, but never far from the ocean, with the occasional salty waft from below, a reminder that the mighty blue ocean is patiently waiting just around corner. A force to be reckoned with, its waves dancing their way into the natural rock pools dotting the coast, or against the pebble beaches which adorn the shores. An island so diverse, serving as a prime example of the biodiversity that has come and gone, but also providing hope of what can still become.
Underwater, where all life’s problems wash away with the passing currents, a panoply of fish, crustaceans and cetaceans go about their daily lives, safe from human interference. The Garajau, a natural reserve off the south coast of the island provides sanctuary to these beings. Beings such as the illustrious Ephinephelus Guaza—a dusky grouper, a fish that represents the size of the island’s biodiversity, with its ability to grow up to 1 meter and a half. It does not venture far from the safety of the crystalline reserve, almost as if caught between a rock and a hard place. Further off the coast, the unmistakable sounds of bottlenose dolphins echo through the waters, summoning those in the vicinity to play. Echo’s which vibrate across the expanse, perhaps also bidding farewell to their considerably larger cousins, the whales, who are about to embark on an epic journey in search of warmer waters. The coming and going of the world’s largest mammals are a tribute to the pristine conditions presented around this island, an island which has a lot to offer and provides life for many.
On this historic day, 30th of November 2021, we have finally received confirmation of the highly anticipated creation of Europe’s largest natural marine reserve within the waters of the Autonomous region of Madeira. Covering a total area of 2,677 sqm2 around the Selvagens archipelago— halfway between Madeira and the Canary Islands, this marine reserve is a testament of what we can still do to protect the biodiversity present within the Atlantic Ocean. All species within the reserve will be fully protected from industrial fishing or any other harmful extractive activities. Providing a safe passage to migratory mammals and a refuge to nursery habitats who call these island shores home! There is still time to learn to co-exist and safeguard our natural world with these symbolic small steps. Let’s make them big strides from now on! Generation Clean!