Islas Chafarinas

Isla de Isabel II

The Chafarinas Islands (Islas Chafarinas), also spelled Zafarin, Djaferin or Zafarani, are a group of three small islets located in the Alboran Sea off the coast of Morocco with an aggregate area of 0.525 square kilometres (0.203 sq mi), 45 km (28.0 mi) to the east of Nador and 3.3 km (2.1 mi) off the Moroccan town of Ras Kebdana.
The Chafarinas Islands are one of the Spanish territories in North Africa off the Moroccan coast known as plazas de soberanía.

The islands had relevance in Spanish environmentalist circles during the 1980s and 1990s, as the last individual of Mediterranean monk seal in Spanish territory lived there until it disappeared in the 1990s. Nine out of eleven of its marine invertebrates are considered endangered species and it is the home of the second largest colony of endangered Audouin’s gull in the world.
The islands have been recognised as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International because they support, as well as the Audouin’s gull colony, a breeding colony of Scopoli’s shearwaters, with some 800–1,000 breeding pairs estimated in 2001–2004.



These offshore islands were probably the Tres Insulae of the Romans and the Zafrān of the Arabs. They were uninhabited and unclaimed in 1848, when the French government decided to occupy them, in order to monitor the tribes living in the border area between Morocco and French Algeria. A small expedition under the command of Colonel MacMahon (the future Marshal MacMahon) left Oran by sea and by land in January 1848 to take possession of the islands.

Forewarned by its consul in Oran, Spain, which also coveted the Chafarinas, quickly dispatched a warship to the islands from Malaga. When the French arrived, the Spaniards had already taken possession of the islands in the name of Queen Isabel II.



Islas Chafarinas

The Chafarinas Islands are made up of three islands (from west to east, with areas in hectares):

Isla del Congreso

The Isla del Congreso (Congress Island) is an island located in the Chafarinas Islands, an archipelago located 4 kilometers from the African shore. The island belongs to Spain, and has an area of 0.256 km2.
The island is uninhabited. It has some rabbits and a pigeon colony. The west coast is very inaccessible, with very steep cliffs, while the east coast is more accessible. The island is very rocky, with very little grass or plants. There is one navigable cave.

Isla de Isabel II

Isabel II Island (Spanish: Isla de Isabel II) is the central island of the Chafarinas Islands, in the Mediterranean Sea. The island belongs to Spain. It is located only 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) away from the North-African shore, in front of the Moroccan town of Ras Kebdana. Its area is 0.153 km2 (15.3 ha), and there is a military base and a church.
The name of the island comes from Isabella II, Queen of Spain from 1833 to 1868.

Displaying a rounded shape,  it has a total area of 0.153 square kilometres (0.059 sq mi). Substantially flatter than the Isla del Congreso, it reaches a maximum height of 35 metres above sea level.

Archeological remains found in the island suggest the existence of an outpost intended for sheltering ships by the 1st century BC, a time when the North-African coastline thrived during the reign of Juba II.

Along the other two islands of the archipelago (Isla del Rey and Isla del Congreso), it was occupied in 1848 by Spain, that alleged terra nullius, anticipating French intentions to do the same from Algeria. General Francisco Serrano took possession of the islands bringing two ships from Málaga.

The island of Isabel II suffered a major setback after the passing of a strong storm in March 1849. Between 1910 and 1915 the island was connected through a dike with the Isla del Rey.
Electric lighting was installed in the island in 1922.

The island is the only inhabited island of the archipelago. It currently hosts a military garrison with personnel from the Ministry of Environment of Spain, as the islands are a National Reserve protected because of the wealth of their natural species. Under Spanish control since 1847, there is a 30-man military garrison on Isla Isabel II, the only stable population on the small archipelago, down from 426 people in 1900 and 736 people in 1910. Small numbers of scientists, anti-trafficking police, and other authorized personnel sometimes increase the population to around 50.

Isla del Rey
Isla del Rey (11.6 ha) is one of the islands that are part of the archipelago of Chafarinas, along with the Isla del Congreso and the Isla de Isabel II. It is one of the Plazas de soberanía, located in the Mediterranean Sea, to the north of Africa. Currently, they are administered by the Ministry of Defence of Spain.

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