As sub-archipelago of Madeira itself, the Desert Islands are of volcanic origin, presenting as Natural Reserve of Desertas Islands and as biogenetic reserve, awarded by the Council of Europe.
These islands consist of the Ilhéu Chão, Deserta Grande and Bugio, part administratively the municipality of Santa Cruz.
Known since the fourteenth century, these islands contain the singular name of “Desert Island”. Just between 1420 and 1421, these islands were explored by João Gonçalves Zarco, making a general recognition of the islands. For colonization various attempts have been made, but without success, because of its dry conditions.
Between 1894 and 1971, these islands were private property of two English families who live in Madeira. Years later, these were obtained by the Portuguese State and began the process of environmental protection and conservation which granted them the great current renowned nature reserve.