A visit to Corvo island
The Azores island archipelago straddles the mid-Atlantic ridge. The islands of Flores and Corvo are remote from the rest of the archipelago and are on the North American tectonic plate. As the North American and European plates are moving apart at about 2.5cm per year, they are slowly but surely cementing their position as the most remote of the Azorean islands!
The islands of Flores and Corvo are however close to each other, close enough that it’s possible to have a great day trip to Corvo from Flores. There’s an inter-island ferry that makes the journey in the morning and evening, which works perfectly for such a day out. The journey time is 40 minutes and whilst the schedule is busier in the summer months, in the winter the morning/evening service still operates twice a week.
There’s a much more exciting way to experience the crossing. The ferry makes a bee-line from Santa Cruz to Vila do Corvo – this direct route rather ignores an aspect of Flores hidden from the land, the spectacular cliff scenery of the eastern coast. The best way to experience this scenery is from a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB).
Boarding the RIB on a choppy day, and donning a lifejacket, I began to suspect what sort of trip lay ahead. The RIB with it’s 16 passengers departed from Santa Cruz and headed out rather sharply into the ocean amongst flocks of sea birds. From here the boat swung left and into view in the distance came Corvo island – a dramatic sight, with cloud cover striking the central Caldera peak at a jaunty angle. We swung further left and Corvo moved right on the horizon – however all eyes on the boat now turned to the approaching eastern cliffs of Flores.
Flores is an island of waterfalls and the east coast is no exception. Here there are secret coves with tumbling waterfalls, steep and verdant cliffs and sea caves. The boat captain expertly – perhaps even flamboyantly – piloted close to the walls and through rather narrow gaps between towering islets and the main cliff face. We swung towards a bay and kept going into a vast sea cave, the cliff walls spreading overhead, before dashing out again to the more open water.
The tour of the eastern cliffs was jaw dropping and an amazing experience. You can watch a video of part of the trip here! Towards the end I started to wonder where Corvo had got to and eventually we turned away from the cliff scenery and pointed towards the sister island. From here the crossing to Corvo was a rather exhilarating rodeo ride – as although the pilot skilfully moderated power through the swell, each wave peak and trough required physical involvement to avoid being bumped around.
Corvo slowly became larger in the field of view and suddenly we were upon it, entering a calmer area of waves where the RIB could comfortably pick up speed and glide into the harbour at Vila do Corvo.
We disembarked and were given the time to meet back at the jetty. Taxis awaited the visitors and for the €5 each-way fee I took this easy option to the central caldera. Corvo caldera is rightly famous – a vast amphitheatre in the centre of the island, hidden from view until you crest the rim at the head of the tarmac road. It’s a beautiful patchwork of walls, crater lakes, cliffs and wonderful curves, remote in the Atlantic.
There’s a waymarked path down into the caldera which reputedly requires an open minded attitude to having wet feet. Today, I walked part of the caldera rim and then strode down the mountain road back to Vila do Corvo – it’s a lovely 6km tarmac walk, all downhill with stunning views to Flores and of the southern part of Corvo. It was hard to stop taking photos on the way down!
Entering the village, after wandering through the network of alleyways in the old town I headed for the ‘BBC’ café for a steak sandwich and chips. Something solid to set me up for the return to Flores…
After a good day out on the island, the RIB departed bang on time. We steeled ourselves for the return journey but needn’t have bothered – the wind was following us making the journey much smoother on the way back.
If you only have a day spare then this trip is a good addition to your time on Flores. If you’ve more time to spend on Corvo then stay at the Commodore guest house to make a longer trip of it – time to walk into the Caldera and back down the mountain, and then time to explore the town.
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