The archipelago of Cabrera, which is made up of a group of islands and islets situated around 10 km south of Mallorca, has been a marine-terrestrial national park since 12 April 1991. This island landscape has been kept in its natural state, with a highly valuable ecosystem and one of the best-preserved sea beds in the entire Mediterranean.
The park can be visited without any administrative requirements for one-day visits. Boats leave from the ports of Colònia de Sant Jordi and Porto Petro on Mallorca. It is advisable to book in advance.
If you wish to visit with your own boat, it is necessary to get authorisation from the park administration. Sailing permits of up to one month are granted, though anchoring is prohibited in the evening. In July and August the administration grants permits to stay one night; two-night permits are granted in September and 7-night permits are granted during the rest of the year. It is also necessary to get a permit to go scuba diving, and the park authorities will tell you where you can dive. Mooring at the port of Cabrera is prohibited without a special permit from the military authorities.
The two largest islands are Illa des Conills (also known as Conillera) and Illa de Cabrera, which has a 14-km coastline which is full of coves and inlets, as well as hilly relief, with the highest peak – Puig de na Picamosques – reaching 172 m. The park covers an area of 10,021 hectares, of which 8,703 constitute the marine space and 1,318 represent the terrestrial area of the park. The climate is semi-arid; this conditions the vegetation, with there being an abundance of bushes and some trees, of which pine is the most common. The only mammal which hasn´t been introduced by man is the pipistrelle bat. The most characteristic animal on Cabrera is the sargantana lizard; this small reptile is endemic to the Balearic Islands and has different features according to the island on which it is found, which is due to thousands of years of evolution with no predators. The abundance of fish means that there is a great diversity of marine birds, making Cabrera an excellent spot for the observation and study of birds and their migratory patterns. The sea bed is made up of vast extensions of posidonia seaweed and rock, where a vast variety of fish and plant life exists, as well as various species of dolphin and turtle.
History of Cabrera
Prehistoric remains from the Bronze Age have been found on the island of Cabrera. There are records of the existence of a Paleochristian monastery from the year 398, of which remains have been found in the area of Clot des Guix. During the Classic Period, Cabrera was very important in the routes across the Mediterranean, as can be seen in the remains of Carthaginian and Roman boats which lie in its waters. The natural port is well sheltered and safe in the case of bad weather, though entering can be dangerous when the Tramuntana wind is blowing. The characteristics of the port have meant that it has been used as a safe haven since ancient times, as well as being a stopping-off point at which to stock up on fresh water. By 1410 the Castle of Cabrera had been completed; this was located at the entrance to the port in order to discourage invasions by Saracen pirates, who regularly attacked the Mallorcan coast at the time.
In 1809, during the war of independence against the French troops of Napoleon, following the victory of Bailén and the capitulation of the imperial army, up to 6,000 French prisoners were held on Cabrera, where they remained for 5 years; the conditions in which they were kept were very hard, with illness, hunger and hardship leading to 3,400 deaths. In memory of these men and women, troops from the French navy built a monument here in 1847.
At the end of the 19th century, Cabrera belonged to the Feliu family, which founded the agricultural colony of Vila Cristina, on which 20 farmers lived and worked, cultivating wheat and vines. Livestock farming also took place here, with goats, sheep and pigs being reared on the island. In 1916, following the presence of a German submarine off the island for a few hours during the First World War, the Spanish government expropriated the archipelago and installed the army here, which remained until the establishment of the islands as a natural park. In administrative terms, Cabrera belongs to the municipal district of Palma de Mallorca.
The castle of Cabrera, which was built in the 14th century, stands at a height of 72 m at the entrance to the port of Cabrera. It can be reached by a new stairway, and once inside, the upper floor is accessed via a winding stairway; this floor houses an exterior area and rooms containing the chapel and the Governor´s Chamber. An exterior stairway takes you up to the highest level, which affords magnificent views; it is possible to read an inscription left by French prisoners here: “Fleury, Grapain, prisonnier 1809 et 1810”. At the small cemetery, which is located on the way up to the castle, is the grave of the German airman Bochler, who came down in waters around Cabrera in his ME-109 plane on 1 April 1944. At the port there are various constructions, such as the Commander´s Headquarters, which is now the park information office, the provisions store and the canteen. Behind the cemetery are the Pavilions, which provided accommodation for the commander of the island, the chaplain and the doctor; these buildings are now the police station for the Civil Guard. The old stately home of Cabrera, with the oratory of Santa Peronella, is known as la casa del Rei (the King´s Home) and dates back to the end of the 19th century; it is situated next to the port.
Next to the road which goes from the port to Cas Pagés and the beach of Platja de s´Espalmador, there are military barracks which were built in the 1940s; these are now used as a accommodation for workers and researchers from the park. Cas Pagés is a traditional house which is situated next to the sea, before you reach the beach; it still has its old animal-powered mill and is now a visitor welcome centre.
Towards the interior of the island, in the direction of the valley of La Vall de ses Quatre Quarterades, it is possible to visit Es Celler, which is a remnant from the wine production which took place at the colony of Vila Cristina. It has 3 floors which are linked by spaces which allow visitors to appreciate the height of the building. It is now the Cabrera Visitor Centre and houses an ethnographic and historical exhibition. Near Es Celler is the monument built to the memory of French prisoners held on the island from 1809 to 1813, as well as Can Feliu, which is a two-storey house that was constructed for the agricultural exploitation of the island, next to the only spring with a water flow that is sufficient for crop-growing. The lighthouse of El Far de n´Ensiola, at the extreme southern edge of Cabrera, is a replica of the lighthouse of Formentor; it was built between 1864 and 1868. Additionally, there are also many limestone ovens on the island and there is the cave of Cova Blava, which has an intense blue light and which can be reached by sea.