Why Haven't You Heard of the Lavezzi Islands?

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Sea without the scene

There are no hotels on the Lavezzi Islands. No cafes, either. Not even a single toilet.

And that's precisely why people come. Classified as a Natural Reserve by France in 1982, the islands, in the strait between Sardinia and Corsica, have been protected from development. But there hasn't been any shelter from the wind. Without buildings to break them, gusts have whipped the islands' granite into fantastic shapes. In the coves between the rocks are protected spots of empty, sandy white beach. The clear water is teeming with anemones and fish, particularly grouper (merou in French), which explains why divers know the islands as Merouville.

The winds also caused one of the Mediterranean's worst shipwrecks. On the 160-acre main island (the only one that's more than a pile of rocks), a hiking path leads to a 46-foot-tall pyramid-shaped memorial for the sinking of the Semillante in 1855. The disaster took the lives of 700 sailors and soldiers.

Between late May and the end of September, three main ferry companies make the 30-minute trip from Bonifacio, the southernmost town on Corsica: Rocca Croisieres (rocca-croisieres.com), Vedettes Thalassa (vedettesthalassa.com), and Vedettes Christina (bonifacio.com.fr/christina). Expect to pay about $35 per person round trip. Keep your ticket stub for the return, and watch the time. The last boat back departs at 6:30 P.M.

Pack everything you'll want--water, food, and sunscreen, of course, but also garbage bags, toilet paper, and snorkeling gear. There are three supermarkets by the Bonifacio marina: Coccimarket, Vival, and Spar.

Reserve employees meet you at the dock when you arrive, then read off a list of instructions. Chief among them: Bring trash back to Bonifacio. Enforcement relies on the honor system--and the utter absence of anywhere to hide.

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