TARIFA , spreading out beyond its Moorish walls, was until the mid-1980s a quiet village, known in Spain, if at all, for its abnormally high suicide rate – a result of the unremitting winds that blow across the town and its environs. Today it’s a prosperous, popular and at times very crowded resort, following its discovery as Europe’s prime windsurfing spot. There are equipment rental shops along the length of the main street, and regular competitions held year-round. Development is moving ahead fast as a result of this new-found popularity, but for the time being it remains a fairly attractive place. Its ecological value lies in the fact that on days when winds are unfavourable, huge quantities of birds of all kinds congregate here to wait for suitable wind conditions in which to cross the strip of water between the Straits of Gibraltar. The beach is open and covers 226 hectares, offering views of the Straits of Gibraltar and the African coast on one side, and of the coastal sierra of the Tarifa mountains on the other. Salado Stream and the Rivers La Verga and Jara flow into the sea here.

A new attraction in Tarifa is popular whale and dolphin spotting excursions to the Strait of Gibraltar which leave daily from the harbour. The trip is a fairly steep ?27 (reductions for under 14s), but this includes another trip free of charge if there are no sightings. Places must be booked in advance from either of two non-profit-making organizations: Whale Watch, Café Continental , Paseo de la Alameda (tel 956 684 776), or FIRMM (Foundation for Information and Research on Marine Mammals; tel & fax 956 627 008, or mobile tel 919 459 441) at c/Pedro Cortés 3, slightly west of the church of San Mateo, off c/El Bravo.