Area: total of ~2 km2. Cavallo: 1.1 km2. Lavezzu: 0.64 km2
Location: South of Corsica, Strait of Bonifacio
Number of inhabitants:
Yearly: 300 on Cavallo
Seasonal: 1,500 on Cavallo in summer
Number of visitors:
Tourists: 44,000 per year
Protected island: yes
Terrestrial protection status: Site of Community Importance (SCI), Special Protection Zone (SPA), Specially Protected Area of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI)
Marine protection status: Straits of Bonifacio nature reserve (except Cavallo)
The Lavezzi archipelago is located in the extreme south of Corsica, about 2 km from Bonifacio. There are two main islands (Lavezzu and Cavallo), 34 islets and numerous reefs, which make it a particularly dangerous place for navigation.
The Corsica Environment Office manages Lavezzu Island within the framework of the Strait de Bonifacio Nature Reserve. Only the island of Cavallo (Cavaddu) is inhabited year round.
This archipelago, with its arid vegetation, is particularly remarkable for sheltering the nesting sites of birds such as the gray shearwater or the Mediterranean cormorant.
Lavezzu Island, like the small surrounding islets, is of low altitude: its highest point is 40m and is surrounded by shallows (bathymetry: 20m). It is made up of granite domes and chaos, small earthy spaces covered with lawns and small beaches around the edge. The coast is very indented and is in the continuity of the reefs that outcrop.
The island of Cavallo is also flat: its maximum altitude is 32m. There are some cliffs and granite chaos in balls, with cavities called “tafoni”, on a Variscan base. The soil on which the vegetation grows is very rich in sand and not very thick. The coasts are also very jagged, mostly rocky with some sandy beaches.
The Lavezzi Islands are now mainly frequented by summer tourists. Regular shuttles connect Bonifacio and the two main islands during the summer. Many boaters make their own way to these islets.
The island of Cavallo, the only island in the archipelago inhabited year round, is frequented exclusively by the owners of the island.
Roman remains and wrecks can be found on several islets in the archipelago. In the world of navigation, this archipelago of the Strait of Bonifacio is known to be one of the most dangerous places in the Mediterranean, because many reefs flush. Since ancient times, the Romans have exploited the archipelago by extracting granite from it. Mining quickly stopped, but between 1872 and 1874, granite was used to build the Lavezzi lighthouse.
A few centuries ago, shepherds came to these islands with their flocks, but there are no agricultural activities today in the Lavezzi.
With the exception of Cavallo, the Lavezzi Islands are not urbanized. On Lavezzu, there are a religious building, a lighthouse, and a small port where boaters can disembark. The island of Cavallo is more built, there are an airstrip (dormant) and more than a hundred luxury villas linked by roads. There are also some unfinished buildings and many abandoned material areas.
This archipelago is protected, in particular as a major site for the conservation of the Mediterranean Crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) and Gray Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) (approximately 40% of the national breeding population). It is also a very important site for the passage, parking, and feeding of the Yelkouan Shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan).
Lavezzu Island is dotted with coastal scrubland with a remarkable association of Thymeleo and Helichrysitum.
The marine areas of the archipelago are mainly made up of Posidonia meadows in very good condition.
Waste management on the island of Lavezzu is currently evolving, with the conduct of a pilot “zero waste objective” expertise within the framework of the ISOS project. Due to the summer tourist frequentation, this action must be accompanied by a strong communication campaign and visitors’ awareness of this theme.
The built heritage of the island, in particular the Chapel of Santa Maria, is today in poor condition and therefore little valued. A workcamp of young volunteers must restore the chapel over the next few years in order to remedy this situation.