Flamingoes and a Mediterranean Sunset - Faro de Cabo de Gata and Las Salinas

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Sunday 18 January 2015

Flamingoes and a Mediterranean Sunset - Faro de Cabo de Gata and Las Salinas

Although we had already visited the Las Salinas salt flats to see the over-wintering flamingos and cycle past the lighthouse (Faro) on the tip of Cabo de Gata during our cycle tour of the cape, it was an exciting treat to return to these sites once more this weekend with Esther's parents. The expansive flattened plain which extends all the way from the hills of the Cabo de Gata natural park, heading both inland to the Sierra Almahillas and along the Andalusian coastline to Almeria before the ground rises into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada rests in stark contrast to those surrounding mountains. With miles of sandy beach combined with spectacular views and distant horizons, we were looking forward to visiting again and showing them some more of the diverse beauty of this south east corner of Spain.

Arriving in our hire car, we first stopped at the bird hides overlooking the salt water lagoons of Las Salinas where we gazed out over the shimmering water trying to spot the well camouflaged flamingos. Although their bright pink feathers are easily visible when in flight, whilst wading and foraging their other more pale plumage is on display, making them very hard to spot against the blue grey waters of the lagoon. But as our eyes adjusted we began to make them out, with several lone birds nearby but mostly larger flocks of birds visible in the distance.  From our look point we also enjoyed being able to see so many of the places we'd visited such as weather station on the summit of Mina and the distinct observatory at Calar Alto which we had visited on our car tour to the Sierra de Filabres and Sierra Nevada the previous day.

Moving on from the salt flats we headed south-east along the ALP-822 road cutting across the narrow strip of land separating the Mediterranean Sea on our right from the salt flats. Passing through the tiny town of La Fabriquilla we began to ascend the winding section of road that would lead right to the most southerly part of the natural park at Faro de Cabo de Gata. Although only climbing less than 100m, the view behind us across such a flattened plain was magnificent, looking right along the miles of sandy beach all the way to Almeria, with the snow capped mountains beyond. It was stunning, despite the grey clouds that had begun to gather in the afternoon sky.

Faro de Cabo Gata and Arrecife Las Sirenas

Arriving at the Faro de Cabo de Gata we stepped out of the car to to gaze upon the Arrecife Las Sirenas. This reef, which takes its name from the monk seals which used to inhabit them and which mariners would mistake for mermaids, are actually made up of ancient volcanic chimneys which rise above the water and are one of the most photographed and iconic views of the natural park.  With crystal clear waters revealing the mosaic of blue and green on the sea bed it was a magnificent outlook over the Mediterranean Sea, even on this slightly cloudy afternoon.

Driving back north west from the cape beneath a now threatening strip of cloud marking the coastline we decided to pay a visit to the town of Cabo de Gata, where the cloud ended allowing the bright afternoon sun to warm us while strolled along the beachfront before pausing for a very peaceful hour and a half and enjoying a mint tea (or two) in a restaurant. As we sat chatting the clouds even begin to disappear and so as the sun sank lower in the sky we could clearly see the increasingly red/orange ball dipping towards the distant horizon and casting its soft light on the few clouds that remained on the surrounding mountains.

It was such a stunning setting we couldn't resist taking an early evening stroll onto the sandy beach to listen to the waves lapping at the shore as the sun slowly set into the Mediterranean sea to mark the end of our wonderful afternoon touring together. This was actually one of only three sunsets we had enjoyed over the sea during our adventure (the others at Kijkduin and the Carmargue Nature Reserve) and one of the few places in Spain where this is possible at all thanks to west facing beach and the nearby cape creating such a long and sweeping bay. The horizon felt so close that we could almost touch it. The idyllic setting also bought back that same feeling of feeling of being both tiny and insignificant against such a majestic backdrop, but at the same time part of something enormous and connected to the world around us that we had enjoyed the previous day during our car tour of the nearby Sierras.

The following day would sadly be our last full day together in the Cabo de Gata natural park before Esther's parent returned home. After Esther and I had made use of the hire car one final time for a swift visit to San Jose market, we returned to San Jose again in the afternoon all together for a short perusal of the handful of open stores and another round of mint tea taken alongside the sandy beach and the Mediterranean Sea.

Esther's Mum looking out over the beach, bay and fishing harbour of San Jose

Although a handful of clouds were hanging around, intermittently blocking the sun, it was still a marvelous place to sit and reflect on what had been a wonderful fortnight together, full of both excursions and family comforts, and most importantly a chance to be together and appreciate the calm and tranquil setting as a haven away from the hustle and bustle.

Related Posts:
10 Reasons to Visit the Cabo de Gata -Nijar Natural Park - Andalucia, Spain
12 Places to Visit and Things To Do in Cabo de Gata Natural Park
10 Hiking and Walking Routes in the Cabo de Gata - Nijar Natural Park

Sutset at El Cabo de Gata

Enjoying a round of mint tea at El Cabo de Gata 

Beach Promenade at El Cabo de Gata

The bird hide at Las Salinas

Last day together on the beach at San Jose

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