The extraordinary Réserve Naturel de Scandola takes up the promontory dividing the Balagne from the Golfe de Porto. Composed of striking red porphyry granite, its sheer cliffs and gnarled claw-like outcrops were formed by Monte Cinto’s volcanic eruptions 250 million years ago, and subsequent erosion has fashioned shadowy caves, grottoes and gashes in the rock. Scandola’s colours are as remarkable as the shapes, the hues varying from the charcoal grey of granite to incandescent rusty purple.
The headland and its surrounding water were declared a nature reserve in 1975 and now support significant colonies of seabirds, dolphins and seals, as well as 450 types of seaweed and some remarkable fish such as the grouper, a species more commonly found in the Caribbean. In addition, nests belonging to the rare Audouin’s gull are visible on the cliffs, and you might see the odd fish eagle (Balbuzard pêcheur) – there used to be only a handful of nesting pairs at one time, but careful conservation has increased their numbers considerably over the past two decades.Read More
Connected by a mere mule track to the rest of the island (1hr 30min on foot from the nearest road), the tiny fishing haven of Girolata, immediately east of Scandola, has a dreamlike quality that’s highlighted by the vivid red of the surrounding rocks. A short stretch of stony beach and a few houses are dominated by a stately watchtower, built by the Genoese later in the seventeenth century in the form of a small castle on a bluff overlooking the cove. For most of the year, this is one of the most idyllic spots on the island, with only the odd yacht and party of hikers to threaten the settlement’s tranquillity. From June to September, though, daily boat trips from Porto and Calvi ensure the village is swamped during the middle of the day, so if you want to make the most of the scenery and peace and quiet, walk here and stay a night in one of the gîtes.