Located just a mile off the coast in front of L’Estartit beach, The Medes Islands archipelago is part of the Montgrí, Medes Islands and Baix Ter Nature Park.
The Medes archipelago has seven islets and a surface area of about 23 hectares. The Medes Islands are today one of the most important marine flora and fauna reserves in the western Mediterranean, as well as being a popular scuba diving destination. Twenty years of protection have brought about a spectacular recovery of the wealth of the seabed, the marine environment and the islands themselves.
Companies operating in the area offer attractive trips in glass-bottomed boats around the islands and along the equally stunning Montgrí coast. The wide range of water and underwater activities available must comply with the regulations that have enabled the preservation of this natural space.
The Medes Islands ecosystem is deservedly classified as the best natural reserve in the western Mediterranean.
The diversity of depths provides dives for all levels. In the shallow areas, we find a dense mantle of well-lit seaweeds and over a hundred brightly coloured species. At depths below 10-15 metres, we find light-deprived seaweeds, great rocks surrounded by coral, starfish, gorgonia, octopus and lobster. Below 20 metres we enter a darkness of coral and miniature forests of bright colours inhabited by over 600 species of fauna. The different depths provide diving opportunities for everyone from professional divers to absolute beginners, and all will enjoy the colourful spectacle of underwater marine life.
Numerous caves and tunnels indicate that the limestone archipelago was attached to the Montgrí Massif over ten thousand years ago. Nowadays caves around the Medes Islands and the Montgrí coast provide outstanding opportunities for expert divers: Vaca, Sardina, Dofí Nord caves and Pedrosa tunnel, among others.
Near the islands, we find the Reggio Messina, the largest ship that divers can visit on the Costa Brava, sunk deliberately in 1991. The Avenire, also known as the Marmoler, sunk near Cala Montgó cove in 1971 with a cargo of marble in its hold, is the only wholly conserved underwater ship in the area.
The Medes Islands are today one of the most important marine flora and fauna reserves in the western Mediterranean.
The yellow-legged gull is undoubtedly the most common species on the Medes Islands, home to the largest colony in the Mediterranean. However, the sheer numbers of gulls may mask the presence of other interesting bird species, such as the large colony of Ardeidae (cattle egrets, little egrets and night herons), the second largest of its kind in Catalonia. On the islands, we also find peregrine falcons, pallid swifts, alpine swifts and blue rock thrush, among other bird species, and in the rock pools, there is a small colony of common European shag. Nevertheless, it must also be said that the true inhabitants of the islands are the many different species of insect, with the mallow bug as the most significant.
The Medes Islands and the Montgrí Massif are both parts of the same geological unit.
The Mediterranean climate includes long periods of drought often coinciding with the heat of the summer. The dry land cannot then easily absorb water and, when it rains, a lot of the water slips away through the cracked earth. In response to this, plants like the prickly pear and the restharrow contain water reserves that enable them to survive in the driest places. The prevailing Tramuntana north wind and Garbí south-west wind carry drops of salt sea water to the islands, where the vegetation includes shrubby sea-blight plants that eliminate excess salt through their leaves. Caucus gingili and rock sapphire are other salt-resistant plants.
On the other hand, the island flora was modified by men by the introduction of exotic species such as agaves and the tree of heaven.