Protected island: yes
Terrestrial and marine protection status: heart of the Port-Cros National Park
The island of Port-Cros is part of the archipelago of the Îles d’Or, with the island of Porquerolles and the Levant. Less inhabited and wilder than its neighbors, it has one of the most beautiful diving sites in the Mediterranean. It is bordered by three satellite islets: Bagaud, Gabinière and Rascas, which were classified in 2007 as an integral reserve.
Port-Cros is the first French National Park on land and sea. It was created in 1963, with the support of André Malraux, Minister of Culture at the time. Part of the island was acquired by the Coastal Conservatory and is fully managed by the Port-Cros National Park. Inhabited in winter by only about thirty people, Port-Cros is a typical example of Mediterranean forest, where myrtles, mastic trees, strawberry trees, heather and olive trees reach exceptional dimensions.
Port-Cros, the smallest island of the three islands of Hyères, is the least urbanized with only 30 inhabitants per year.
This island is much more mountainous than its neighbors because of an ancient geological movement. Thus, to the south, there are cliffs that plunge into the Mediterranean and, to the north, plains and small valleys surrounded by chains that form bays when they meet the sea.
Like its two neighbors, the island of Port-Cros experienced intense activity in the Ancient period, as evidenced by the wrecks, which delight divers. Exploited for its strategic military interest, Port-Cros saw forts and fortifications erected (Forts de l’Estissac and de Eminence, Tour de Port-Man). The island retained military interest until World War II, when a German division settled.
A part of the island currently belongs to the Coastal Conservatory and is managed by the Port-Cros National Park. Located in the “heart of the Park”, its activities are highly regulated. The inhabitants live mainly from tourism, with a few small shops, accommodation and catering. Port activity is managed directly by the National Park.
Port-Cros is home to a rare and varied biodiversity, protected and often endemic. The island is greener than Porquerolles because, unlike the latter, it has water sources.
There are more than 180 species of birds, including 30 nesting species (chickadees, finches, warblers, nightingales, etc.), diurnal raptors (hawks, little owls), deep-sea birds (shearwaters) and migratory birds (hoopoes etc.). Just like in Porquerolles, there are species of amphibians (Sardinian discoglossus, phyllodactyl), reptiles, bats, insects and small mammals.
In addition, the island is covered with a forest of holm oaks and high scrub, in the shade of the Aleppo pines. Wild olive and pistachio trees are found on the sunny coast.
Port-Cros is an island where the risk of fire is high, due to the dryness of the vegetation and strong winds.
The balance between preserving its ecosystem and welcoming tourists is delicate and is the major issue in its management.
Finally, the terraces, witnesses of the old agricultural activity on the island, are no longer maintained and tend to disappear. A vast restoration project is underway.