Arrecife de las Sirenas in the Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata

Cabo de Gata-Níjar

  • Region: Andalucia.
  • Province: Almeria.
  • Declared a Natural Park: 1987.
  • Park surface area: 49.000 (34,000 terrestrial and 15,000 marine).
  • In 1997 it was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
  • In 2015 it was declared a global geosite.

Points of interest

Cabo de Gata-Níjar is an arid part of the Iberian Peninsular that is molded from volcanic rock giving rise to a demanding habitat for both plants and animals. Domed rock formations adorn the beaches and abrupt cliffs form tiny coves. The deficiencies in the soil have created an area of low growing, drought resistant vegetation.

This combination has lead to limited numbers of inhabitants who could survive off the salt works or fishing, allowing the area to remain relatively untouched to developement untill the tourism boom of the 80’s and 90’s.

The 300 hectares of salt pans are used by numerous species of birds resting on their migrational route as well the breeding and resident species.


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Flora

Dwarf fan palm is well adapted to the harsh demands. Wild olive trees, lentisc and kermes oaks are common vegetation in the scrub zones.

A pink flowered snap dragon (antirrhinum charidemi) is endemic to the park and dianthus (dianthus charidemi) can only found in a few localized area.
Some of the highly specialized plants are;

Verbascum charidemi, Teucrium charidemi, Androcymbium europaeum, Helianthemum alypoides, Linaria nigricans, Sideritis osteoxylla, Ulex canescens.

Saltwort, common reeds and glasswort grow in sandy, saline areas.

Fauna

Grey and purple heron, cranes, storks, black-winged stilts, oystercatchers and avocets can all be observed at the salinas (salt flats separated from the sea by a sand bar), as well as thousands of flamingos.

There are many migratory transitions here as ducks over winter and spring and autumn brings thousands of birds resting during migration.

Sea birds include yellow-legged gulls, razorbills, shags, terns, cory’s and balearic shearwaters.

The rare Dupont’s lark (Chersophilus duponti) lives on the steppe where there are also little bustards.

Italian wall lizards (Podarcis sicula) are the most unusual of the 15 or so reptiles. Others include ocellated lizards (Timon lepidus / Lacerta lepida), grass snakes (Natrix natrix) and Lataste’s viper (Vipera latasti).

The marine reserve protects the Mediterranean moray (Muraena helena), garfish (Belone belone), cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis), and flying gurnard (Dactylopterus volitans) as well as a multitude of crustaceans, molluscs and fish.

The Cabo de Gata-Níjar UNESCO Global Geopark

The geodiversity of Cabo de Gata-Níjar UNESCO Global Geopark is mostly associated with the volcanic range of Cabo de Gata, the most complex and extensive volcanic deposit in the Iberian Peninsula of ca. 16 to 8 million years old. The volcanic complex is classified as intermediate type (andesites and dacites).

The emerged part is comprised of just 5% of the total complex, the rest can be found below the Alboran Sea, following the Carboneras Fault. It is also worth mentioning the scattered Tortonian and Messinian reefs deposits with excellent examples of Tyrrhenian fossilized beaches, and the Quaternary alluvial and coastal plain with a Wetland of International Importance known as Las Salinas.

The exceptional weathering conditions of the territory and the sub-desert dwarf vegetation allow the visitor to enjoy the geological landscape: domes, lava flows, columnar jointing, alluvial fans, coastal cliffs, dykes and fossilized reefs constructions. Inside the UNESCO Global Geopark, 39 geological sites of cultural, scientific and didactic interest have been identified, most of them also included in the Andalusian Inventory of Geological Sites.

The official UNESCO website: https://en.unesco.org/global-geoparks/cabo-de-gata-nijar

Also in the area

You can visit a cave called Cueva Ambrosio and the fort on top of the hill named Cerro de las Canteras.
You can visit a cave called Cueva Ambrosio and the fort on top of the hill named Cerro de las Canteras.

Information/Visitors Centers

Centro de Visitantes los Amoladeras

Los Amoladeras, between Retamar and San Miguel de Cabo de Gata on the AL822 at Km 7. (Approaching on the Murcia bound carriageway of the N-344 from Almería, turn off at the El Alquián exit and continue as far as the Retamar quarter. From there take the AL-3115 towards the village of Pujaire. The entrance to the visitor centre is at Km. 7, just after the intersection with La Rambla de Las Amoladeras)

The exhibitions at the Las Amoladeras visitor centre cover the fauna, flora, geological and cultural aspects of the area. Also, the existence of human settlements in the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Nature Park since the Neolithic period.

The different civilizations which subsequently colonized the area throughout history left their mark on the terrain, and this is reflected in the tour of the centre, which takes in traditional activities and crafts inherited from Arab culture, such as esparto, jarapa rugs and pottery.


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