The Desertas consist of three small islands - the Ilhéu Chão, Deserta Grande and Bugio - all of volcanic origin.
These islands are uninhabited due to the inhospitable conditions and lack of fresh water. They were declared protected area in 1990 and five years later they became a natural reserve for which an authorization is needed if you wish to visit it.
Although the initial protection scheme was for the benefit of the sea lions living there (The Desertas Islands are the last refuge of the monk seal species), it now covers the complete ecosystem of the islands. The existing colony of sea lions, currently counting around 23 members with a steadily growing population, is one of the last remaining in the world.