Cabo de Gata natural park.
Cabo de Gata is situated on the western extreme of the Bay of Almeria, has an extension of 34,000 hectares, spread out between the coastal area and the Sierra de Gata.
It is reached by the local road of Almeria to San Jose and its fork to the district of San Miguel of Cabo de Gata, forty minutes away from the capital.
Cabo de Gata is a cocktail of beaches, cliffs, sea and light, combined in perfect harmony. If there is something besides these four features which calls the attention, it is the lack of crowds and the wildness of the landscape.
To the east of Almeria a traditional fishing port, Retamar and Torre García, we enter the Cabo de Gata – Níjar Natural Park.
The contrast begins: the up-to-now straight road begins to snake in often tight bends, the superb flat beaches of San Miguel and la Almadraba move on to often steeply-dropping beaches, and the peace and quiet of the flamingoes, golden dunes and whitewashed arquitecture of San Miguel de Cabo de Gata (with its echoes of Africa), are replaced by the high cliffs worn away by the violence of the sea. The lighthouse and vantage point of Cabo de Gata appear before us; 150 metres below, the sea strikes against and wears down the rocks. In the midst of the seaspray, the Mermaid´s Reef stands dark and ghostly. The south gives way to the east, and the coastline begins to climb north. Before stands the “Vela Blanca” watchtower against the backdrop of the Mediterranean.
The track which leads from here to San José is prohibited, so we therefore make our way back to the main road around the Sierra. San José is the most important town within the Park area, after Carboneras. It is a fair-sized whitewashed town with an enormous beach, two coves and a well-implanted tourist infraestructure. Its marina, sheltered by the cliffs gives lovers of the sea the chance to practice many different water sports.
From San José, after going inland to visit Níjar, we pass numerous routes down to the sea leading to picturesque spots. This is a diver´s paradise.
The road now moves among a different, drier landscape, inland towards Rodalquilar, a former mining village vilage. Walking along the coast, or from the sea, one finds natural pools, fascinating coves and caves hued from the rock, old dens for monk seals. Some of the cabes contain amethyst.
At Las Negras, another small village within the Park, a campsite close to the sea serves as shelter for nature lovers. A boat service is available to take you to the San Pedro cove.
The uneven clifftops mean that the visitor to Agua Amarga has to take the round about route. Set amongst high cliffs, the centre of the village looks out over its promenade to a family beach with makeshift beach bars and sailing craft catering to a gentle, non-crowded tourism.
The flora of Cabo de Gata the species adapted to bearing the absence of water during long periods of time are the ones that predominant.
Species like Jujube and Cornical, which are only developed here and in the arid regions in the North of the African continent, and also important formations of the only autochthonous palm tree in the European continent, the Palmetto, stand out.
The birds are wide and varied due to the location of this natural park, to the ecological peculiarity which means the presence of a swamped surface of more than 300 hectares, and with many ravines and cliffs. Enthusiasts of ornithology have a paradise here.
In The Salinas alone you can contemplate more than 80 species throughout the year. In all of the park exist more than 169 recognised species ; the pink flamingo stands out with more than two hundred of them.