Ilhas Martim Vaz archipelago Island-You Have To Know



Ilhas Martim Vaz archipelago Island


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Ilhas Martim Vaz archipelago (IMV) is a cluster of over 500 islands located in the eastern area of the Gulf of Guinea. The archipelago is well known for its natural attractions, such as the crystal clear waters, white sand beaches, rainforest, and many other types of ecosystems. The islands are also popular tourist destinations, especially for scuba diving and snorkelling.

Ilhas Martim Vaz archipelago Island


The islands of Ilhas Martim Vaz were first discovered by Portuguese navigators in the 1500s. They were named after Prince Martin of Portugal, who funded their exploration. The archipelago was later explored and charted by other European powers, including the Spanish, Dutch and French. The cloves trade drove much of the island’s early economic activity.

In 1949, a group of African refugees fleeing political instability in Angola established a small settlement on Ilha do Pico (Island Peak) which is now known as Colónia dos Palmares. This short-lived separatist colony attempted to establish a new African nation in the island chain.

The Guinean government did not support their claims, and, with Portuguese assistance, ended the colony’s autonomy.

Today these islands are an important part of Guinea-Bissau territory; they are administered by the Mayoridade de Ilha do Pico (Ilhas do Açor e das Donzela).



The climate is tropical, with a rainy season from May to October, and a dry season from November to April.

The temperature varies between 24°C and 32°C, with an average of 26°C. Tropical, peridotite-hosted oceanic crust underlies much of the islands. The island volcanic system is divided into two main types: a submerged island arc clinker, and an overlying continental block.

The lava flows out near sea level rise up, only to subside in shallower water again later on until they are deposited in coastal areas at almost four times pre-subsidence rates (resting depths).

There has been no significant volcanic eruption activity that far north for about 300 million years ago; however this does not mean that there have not been any eru ptions. Recent geologic work supported the theory that in each island, a new magma chamber has been building for about 400 to 200 million years and is still active today.



The culture of Ilha do Pico is a mixture of Portuguese, African and Amerindian influences. The islanders are subsistence farmers who grow cassava, sweet potatoes, maize, peanuts and beans. There is also a small fishing industry. Much of the island’s economy depends on tourism; there are many sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters for swimming and snorkelling.



Ilha do Pico is part of Guinea-Bissau. The island is not a democracy, and there are no political parties. The island’s leader is the Mayor, who is appointed by the President of Guinea-Bissau.

Government services

Government Services

Healthcare is provided by a handful of healthcare facilities on the island. The majority of medical services are provided in mainland Guinea-Bissau. Together with other islands in the Archipelago, e.g. Ilha do Flamengo, they are represented as a municipal district (“Município”) with its own mayor and councillors.

Their island council at L’Ilha dos Templários (old name: Paraíso da Barragem) is responsible for adminising public services including some minor police functions such as traffic control on ferries to/from Bissau-Guinea-Bissau which arrive about once a week during daylight hours from 6 days per week during tourist season being an island of some 7100 hectares made up of 300 fazendas.



Ilha do Pico is a popular tourist destination, with many sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters for swimming and snorkelling. There are also many caves, including the Gonçalves acidic cave. The island has a small fishing industry.


The Ilhas Martim Vaz archipelago (IMV) is a group of over 2,000 islands situated in the North Atlantic Ocean, around 350 kilometres from the coast of Portugal. The IMV was first discovered by Portuguese explorers in the 16th century and named the Santa Cruz Islands. The archipelago was formally declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

Today, it is one of the most important tourist destinations in Portugal, with more than 1 million visitors annually. In this blog post, we will be discussing some of the best ways to enjoy your time on these beautiful islands.


1 . How Big Are The Islands In The Archipelago?

The largest island in the IMV is São Miguel, which measures around 105 kilometres by 50 kilometres. The smaller islands vary in size from a few hundred metres to just a few hectares.

  1. What Makes These Islands So Attractive?

The Ilhas Martim Vaz archipelago (IMV) has many natural attractions that make it popular with tourists. These include crystal clear waters, white sand beaches, rainforest, and many other types of ecosystems – all of which make for pleasant surroundings while on vacation.

Additionally, a great number of historical ruins and abandoned villas still remain on the island. Also, Portuguese is a common language in most places, which makes travelling less intimidating for those who wish to engage in conversation with locals and other travellers visiting these islands.

3 . What Are Some Must-See Sites?

The archipelago offers outstanding scenery, not only from land but also from sea below (including underwater gardens). A few highlights include: Meco Beach – at one time an island resort owned by millionaire businessman Eton Moniz da Costa e Pinares; Vilamovilla – a village situated atop a river cliff, and now only accessible by boat; Sequeira e Castro – the island with the oldest Christian Church in Portugal, dating back to 1587.

4 . Are There Any Beaches That I Should Avoid?

There are no dangerous or rough coasts where visitors can get lost on these islands and this is one of their biggest attractions! However, while exploring some reefs at low tide will be fine (and diving trips here also available), swimming beyond 17 m / 54 ft above sea level may harm/injure marine life if they happen to pass underneath you as it is a safe diving depth for them (and possible to observe marine life). Keep in mind, too, that boats can only go offshore; there is no island-hopping or shore hopping as such.

5 . Are These Islands Protected Areas? If So, By What Laws And/Or Organizations Are They Protected?

ILhas Martim Vaz belong to the Natura 2000 network of 18 strictly protected sites covering 20% of Portugal’s territorial area which aim at ecosistemas representative on various regions within the country. In this case specifically: A non-operational pilot project from the European Commission to provide a legal framework for Network projects.

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