Two inhabited islands form Madeira Archipelago: Madeira, with nearly 250 thousand inhabitants and Porto Santo with 5000 inhabitants - and by the sub-archipelagos/nature reserves of Desertas and Selvagens Islands. The archipelago is situated between the latitude 33º 07’ N and 33º 24’ N and the longitude 16º 17’ W and 17º 16’ W.
Desertas islands, as the name say, are 3 uninhabited and arid islands that lay from NNW to SSE as a continuation of Ponta de São Lourenço but lined up 12 nautical miles apart by Ilhéu Chão, Deserta Grande and Bugio islands.
Selvagens Islands are a group of small islands and islets with the three main being Selvagem Grande, Selvagem Pequena and Ilhéu de Fora. These “wild” islands, as the Portuguese name states, are situated 160 nautical miles south of Funchal, between the meridians 15º 56’ 15’’ W and 16º 03’ 05’’ W and the parallels 30º 01’ 35’’ N and 30º 09’ 10’’ N, and all together, in low tide, they comprise about 3.3km2.
Madeira archipelago was discovered in 1419 when the Portuguese navigators João Gonçalves Zargo and Tristão Vaz Teixeira got to Porto Santo (holy harbour) and only by 1420 they set foot in Madeira (island of wood).
As for Selvagens Islands, these are geographically closer to the Canary Islands than to Madeira, so they were probably discovered by the same time as that Spanish archipelago, but the first record of the Portuguese on Selvagens dates from 1460.
Madeira was divided into two parts, and João Gonçalves Zargo and Tristão Vaz Teixeira were each responsible for starting colonizing the capitals of each area, respectively Funchal and Machico. King João gave Porto Santo I to Bartolomeu Perestrelo who had the hard job to colonize this arid island.