Travel info for Bouches de Bonifacio Nature Reserve in France

Corsica island of splendour


Bouches de Bonifacio Nature Reserve, Bonifacio, France

GPS: 41.415690698169, 9.1730438939494

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Located at the southern end of Corsica, the Bouches de Bonifacio Nature Reserve extends as far as Sardinia, covering an area of 800 km². On the land side, it stretches along the entire coastline between the Roccapina cove (at the town of Monaccia d’Aullène) and the town of Porto-Vecchio. With a strong marine component, this large biodiversity zone was founded in 1999 to protect the natural resources of the Bonifacio Strait. This strait is popular with yachtsmen as it represents the only passage in the Mediterranean Sea linking the Sea of Sardinia in the west to the Tyrrhenian Sea in the east. The Bouches de Bonifacio Nature Reserve is the largest protected natural area in mainland France.

The creation of the reserve has a double objective: to protect it from the growing maritime traffic and to cope with the increasing number of tourists. Spread over five communes on the southern coast of Corsica (Bonifacio, Figari, Porto-Vecchio, Monacia-d’Aullène and Pianottoli-Caldarello), the Bouches de Bonifacio Nature Reserve is home to more than a third of the remarkable species of the Mediterranean, including many endemic species that are limited to a few islets. Together with the Iles Cerbicale Nature Reserve and the Tre Padule De Suartone Nature Reserve, located on the edge of the Bonifacio Strait, it is directly managed by the Corsican Environment Office. The southern part of the archipelago has a very ancient human occupation dating back to prehistoric times. During antiquity, this region was occupied by the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Greeks and then the Romans. Because of its strategic location, it was the object of numerous military sieges for the control of maritime traffic. It was the Genoese who developed the region from the 12th century onwards and built the first fortifications with the citadels of Bonifacio and Porto-Vecchio. Like the rest of Corsica, this territory was ceded to France in 1768 and opened to tourism from the middle of the 20th century.

After merging in 2012 with the Italian national park of the La Maddalena Archipelago, the reserve is now in the French sector of the new Bonifacio International Marine Park, established between Corsica and Sardinia. With its scenically beautiful landscapes, it also offers underwater scenery for observing a wide variety of fauna and flora. The idyllic beaches, steep cliffs and wild coves of the Bonifacio Nature Reserve provide a habitat for many birds. Each year, these natural environments attract more and more visitors and yachtsmen who are captivated by the splendour of the Corsican coastline.

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  • The fabulous landscapes of the coastline; lagoons worthy of the Tropics; the Lavezzi and Cerbicale islands, among the most beautiful in Corsica; the Moines islets and the Bruzzi peninsula; the island of Cavallo (the only inhabited island in the Lavezzi archipelago); the Razzoli, Budelli, Santa Maria and Caprera islands of the Maddalena archipelago
  • The high limestone cliffs and granite rocky chaos, including the enormous boulders of Grain de Sable and Gouvernail near Bonifacio (the site of Gouvernail contains tunnels built by the French military)
  • The turquoise waters, wild creeks, and countless white sandy beaches; the creeks of Arinella, Catena and Tavonatti; the gulfs of Santa Manza and Figari; the anchorage areas of Cala Lazarina and Cala di Greco; the richness of the Mediterranean terrestrial and underwater ecosystems; the pink colour of the Spaggia Rosa beach on Budelli Island (Maddalena archipelago)
  • Bonifacio’s heritage: the citadel (accessible on foot via the Saint-Roch ascent), the perched houses, the network of narrow streets of the upper town, the marine cemetery, the Bastion de l’Étendard (historic site of the 16th century), the garden of the remains, the medieval walkway, the beaches (Fazziò, Piantarella, Tonnara and Petit Sperone), the small port of the town and the Escalier du Roy d’Aragon (a staircase of 187 steps hand-cut into the limestone cliff on a 45 degree slope); the magnificent views of the city from the sea
  • The salt marshes, the citadel, the archaeological sites (prehistoric and Roman remains), the Chiappa lighthouse, the Ospedale massif, the Alta Rocca museum and the beaches of Porto-Vecchio (including those of Santa Giulia and Palombaggia); the vineyards (one of the oldest in Corsica) and the Romanesque chapel (12th century) of Figari; the tafoni (natural caves) and the orii (shelters, burials or grain silos sculpted in the rock) of Monacia-d’Aullène; the charming marina and the small beaches of Pianottoli-Caldarello; the old Genoese towers built on the coast (the oldest date from the 14th century)
  • Heritage trails, coastal paths and mountain walks; footpaths leading to the bay of Paraguan (beach and windsurfing site), the bay of Rondinara (superb beach), the cape of Pertusato (lighthouse) and to the salt marshes of Porto Vecchio (8 signposted paths); Romantic walks along the cliffs of Bonifacio (120 kilometres of coastline); horse and mountain bike rides in the hinterland of Bonifacio and southern Corsica; the Monaccia trail (12 kilometres), the Omu Di Cagna trail (30 kilometres) and the U Strittonu walk (8.5 kilometres) organised in August
  • The ponds of Ventilègne and Prisarella; the marine caves of Sdragonato (small dragon) and the cave known as “chapeau de Napoléon” (so called because the shape of the entrance to the cave reminds of Napoleon’s hat) accessible by boat; the cave of Orca only accessible by sea kayak
  • The activities of scuba diving, boating, kayaking, windsurfing, windsurfing, swimming, fishing; the weekly markets of Bonifacio on Tuesdays (all year round) and Fridays (in season); the Sunday market of Porto-Vecchio (local producers); the market of Santa Teresa di Gallura (every Thursday in Sardinia); the other producers’ markets in the villages of southern Corsica; the pastoral and agricultural traditions of the region
  • The great diversity of remarkable species (corals, Audouin’s gulls, crested cormorants, groupers, starfish, endemic orchids)
  • Many shipwrecks have occurred in the waters of the Bouches de Bonifacio Nature Reserve. Some 30 Roman wrecks have been identified. The biggest recent tragedy was the disappearance of the 19th century French navy frigate, the Sémillante, which resulted in the death of 700 men in 1855. Two cemeteries on the Lavezzi Islands honour the memory of the victims in a dangerous navigation area.
  • Giuseppe Garibaldi, the man behind the creation of the Kingdom of Italy in the second half of the 19th century, spent the last years of his life on Caprera Island (part of the La Maddalena archipelago).
  • This region in the extreme south of Corsica has an airport (Figari Sud Corse airport), which is linked to the neighbouring towns of Bonifacio and Porto Vecchio by a shuttle service.
  • Most of the islands, islets and archipelagos are accessible by boat from the port of Bonifacio or Porto-Vecchio (including Sardinia, via Moby Lines and Saremar).
  • Contact the Corsican Environment Office, in charge of managing the Bonifacio Nature Reserve, to find out about marking plans, anchoring areas and regulations relating to fishing and scuba diving (guided tours can be organised by the reserve’s wardens in high season).
  • Recreational fishing is subject to mandatory declaration. In some protected areas, fishing may be restricted or totally banned. It is strictly forbidden to collect plants either on land or in the water within the boundaries of the reserve.
  • A free mobile application, I Scarpi, offers hikes for all levels in southern Corsica. Descriptive sheets of the paths can be consulted online.

Where to eat

  • Daniel Pizza
    (friendly pizzeria)
  • La Cabane du Pêcheur
    (for fish lovers)
  • Restaurant Les Quatre Vents
    (mediterranean cuisine)

Where to go

  • Bonifacio Citadel
    (superb medieval ensemble)
  • Golf of Sperone
    (beautiful setting)
  • Departmental Museum of...
    (ancient heritage of Corsica)

Where to stay

  • Résidence les Lièges de...
    (family housing)
  • Villà Rach-Già
    (pleasant guest rooms)
  • Les Chambres de Mila
    (charming facilities)