National Parks of France # 1: Port-Cros National Park

On the Mediterranean, at the foot of the Massif des Maures, the Port-Cros National Park is a preserved gem. First land and marine park in Europe, this exceptional protected territory offers a double immersion in the heart of magnificent ecosystems, and the history of our country.

Dince 1963, the coastal archipelago of the Hyères islands in the Var department has benefited from a high level of protection due to the number of protected species hosted within it. But also the richness and diversity of the remains found there. A concentrate of biodiversity and history just a stone's throw from the Provençal coast. Port-Cros National Park includes a large part of the island of Porquerolles, the islands of Port-Cros and Bagaud, the islet of Gabinière and the rock of Rascas, as well as the surrounding waters, ie 1 land hectares and 700 marine hectares. Bagaud Island et the islet of Gabinière are integral reserves, access to which is strictly prohibited.

Since 2016, Le Pradet, La Garde, Hyères, la Croix Valmer and Ramatuelle have joined the National Park charter and constitute the adhesion area. The coastline of these five towns on the Var coast is preserved and populated with particularly rich flora and fauna. The landscapes offered by this coastline are breathtaking.

Grouper on Gabinière Island in Port-Cros National Park

Biodiversity of the Port-Cros National Park

The creeks and coves of Diawling are home to many animal species. Beneath the surface, the king grouper and its legendary calm can be discovered by divers. Large nacres, posidonia and coralligenous… As well as 180 species of fish, 265 species of crustaceans and a number of sponges. But also sea urchins and shells, more than 300 species in all, live in the heart of this exceptional ecosystem. In snorkeling or in bottles, divers marvel at the richness of this biodiversity. On earth, walkers are not left out. They can discover 12 species of mammals, 177 species of birds and a multitude of reptiles, batrachians, insects and arachnids. Certain endemic species benefit from special surveillance.

Cetaceans cross off the coast of Port-Cros National Park

Since 1999, the Pelagos sanctuary protects Mediterranean marine mammals. Fin whales, sperm whales, ziphius, pilot whales, Risso's dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, blue and white dolphins or even monk seals, swim off the Var islands. A natural wonder, protected by enthusiasts. The creation of Pelagos sanctuary truly focused the attention of the Park towards the open sea, where a diversity of cetacean species live in complete freedom.

Historical patrimony

Roman remains, wrecks and military forts are silent witnesses to a tumultuous past. On the island of Porquerolles and the island of Port-Cros, no less than 18 forts and batteries reveal the military past of the place. Among them, the Estissac in Port-Cros and Sainte-Agathe in Porquerolles, are open to the public. At the bottom of the water, the wrecks bear witness to ancient commerce. Lequin wreck is absolutely unique because of its cargo. It was indeed transporting Greek vases intended for sale in the Far East. In regards to the two wrecks of the Palud, one of them exported Gallic wines from Marseille. The other was carrying a shipment of amphoras from North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Fort on the island of Port-Cros

The "La Baleine" flute, discovered in 1979 tells a much later story. That of the Commander of the flute of the navy of Louis XIV, "the Whale". The sailor abandoned the ship after having set it on fire in a very uneven battle against several ships of the Anglo-Dutch fleet.

Over 50 years of major projects

Since 1963, many projects have been initiated within the Park, which has gradually become a scientific research area major and an important documentation and archives center, whose database is available online. The Park supports and develops a number of initiatives linked to the natural, cultural and landscape heritage. The first underwater trail de France was born in Port-Cros in the bay of La Palud. In Port-Cros, populations of groupers, cetaceans and Posidonia meadows are protected and carefully studied. Population inventories are carried out regularly. It is also in Port-Cros that the devastating and invasive exotic Caulerpa taxifolia was discovered. However, years of research and effort have made it possible to eradicate it.

Find in video the history of the National Park of Port-Cros, as well as the account of the many initiatives and projects developed within it for 50 years.