Malpelo Island (Spanish: Isla de Malpelo) is an island located 235 miles (378 km) from Colombia's Pacific coast, and approximately 225 miles (362 km) from Panama's coast. It has a land area of 0.35 square kilometres (86 acres). It is uninhabited except for a small military post manned by the Colombian Army, which was established in 1986. Visitors need a written permit from the Colombian Ministry of Ecology. The island is part of Cauca Department.
The island consists of a sheer and barren rock with three high peaks, the highest being Cerro de la Mona with a height of 300 metres (980 ft). The island is surrounded by a number of offshore rocks. Off the northeast corner are the Tres Mosqueteros. Off the southwest corner are Salomon, Saul, La Gringa, and Escuba. Malpelo Nature Reserve, a plant and wildlife sanctuary, is defined as a circular area of radius 9.656 kilometres (6.000 mi).
Malpelo is home of a unique shark population; swarms of 500 hammerhead sharks and hundreds of silky sharks are frequently seen by diving expeditions, making it a very popular sharkdiving location. Malpelo is one of the few places where the Smalltooth sand tiger has been seen alive, in the dive site "El bajo del Monstruo" it is frequently seen.
Malpelo has been interpreted as a portion of oceanic crust, probably a local manifestation of a "hot spot". It is composed mainly of pillow lavas, volcanic breccias, and Tertiary basaltic dikes. At first glance, the island seems to be barren rock, devoid of all vegetation. But deposits of bird guano have helped colonies of algae, lichens, mosses and some shrubs and ferns establish, all of which glean nutrients from the guano.
On July 12, 2006, Malpelo was declared by UNESCO as a natural World Heritage Site. A Colombian foundation is trying to preserve the biodiversity of the site.
Counting as a separate "entity" for amateur radio credit, the island is rarely activated. A DX-pedition is planned for February, 2012.
Located some 506 km off the coast of Colombia, the site includes Malpelo island (350 ha) and the surrounding marine environment (857,150 ha). This vast marine park, the largest no-fishing zone in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, provides a critical habitat for internationally threatened marine species, and is a major source of nutrients resulting in large aggregations of marine biodiversity. It is in particular a ‘reservoir' for sharks, giant grouper and billfish and is one of the few places in the world where sightings of the short-nosed ragged-toothed shark, a deepwater shark, have been confirmed. Widely recognized as one of the top diving sites in the world, due to the presence of steep walls and caves of outstanding natural beauty, these deep waters support important populations of large predators and pelagic species (e.g. aggregations of over 200 hammerhead sharks and over 1,000 silky sharks, whale sharks and tuna have been recorded) in an undisturbed environment where they maintain natural behavioural patterns.