Madeira Island lies 360 miles west of the African city of Morocco, in the north Atlantic Ocean. Pontinha Island lies just twelve feet from the island of Madeira (well in fact, its now connected to the mainland by a harbour wall!). Nevertheless Pontinha is a true Principality ruled over by a self proclaimed Prince Ranato II. Pontinha is also ruled over by a whole bunch of friendly cats!
The Cats of Pontinha Island (it seems) were the waifs and strays of Funchal town, but they are now in the protection of the state of Pontinha. They are quite well fed and seemed to be in fairly good health if a little weather beaten by the North Atlantic gales.
We happened on this curious country of cats while taking our summer break. At the bottom of the steps we climbed to the lookout tower, the first of these creatures came into view. A black kitten with a beautiful face and a yawn that would swallow a whale. More cats appeared as we climbed further up the fortified tower.
On reaching the lookout platform yet more moggies were taking shelter from the sun. One or two stirred to greet us. Perhaps they know that our small contributions would be paying for their meals of fish scraps.
It is said that as far back in time as 1419 the first voyagers to Madeira took refuge on this tiny outcrop before stepping onto its neighboring island – the Island of Madeira.
Cut into this natural rock formation are several rooms of the ancient Fort of St. Jose which helped guard Funchal Harbour for at least two centuries. Much of the fort was destroyed in the 19th century when the harbour wall was built. What survived was sold under Royal Charter in 1903 and then became an independent State.