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La Camargue

Published: January 2010
last updated: March 2011
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The visit

Like other natural parks of France, La Camargue, situated in the delta of Rhone, is inhabited and cultivated in ecologically responsible way. It is home to hundreds of species of birds. Depending on the season it is a destination for thousands of wild-ducks and other birds migrating through Cabane des gardians de la Camargue Europe, among them pink flamingoes. La Camargue is one of the few places in Europe, where you will see rice paddies, salt “plantations” and the hoards of black bulls and white horses.

One of the most beautiful routes of la Camargue starts on the south-east of Arles: take D36 and then D36b in the direction Vaccarès. You’ll cross la Camargue from its north right to the Mediterranean, discovering on your way magnificent pond Vaccarès, pond Fangassier with one of the largest colonies of pink flamingoes. Your destination is Salin-de-Giraud with its incredible lunar landscape: you’lll observe white and pink mountains of the biggest sault exploitation in Europe. Just next to it on the beach Piémançon you can finish your day by bathing in the sea.

Here are some suggestions for your visit to la Camargue:

Bird watching - take a tour of Le Parc Ornithologique de Pont de La Camargue Gau – six kilometers of virgin territory, where you will see the whole variety of the bird species living in Camargue. You can also ask for a guided tour with one of the ornithologists of the park. this activity is accessible to people in any physical condition. To know more visit the website: www.parc-ornithologique.camargue.fr (in French).

Horseback tour – numerous farms (in provencal mas)and riding schools offer tours around Camargue. We highly recommend this activity, even if you have never mounted a horse before (the horses are well-trained and all tours are made in groups with a guide). You can choose the duration of tour from 1 or 2 hours (for beginners) until a day-tour, which will allow you to access the remote areas of Camargue. To choose your riding school, use the website www.camargue.fr/pages/chesom.html (in french).

Participate in manade – manade is a herd of buffalos or horses, guided by the mounted herdsmen (gardians). Several traditional farms offer you to watch and even participate in this traditional activity. Here www.camargue.fr/pages/torsom.html you will find their contacts (website in French).

There are numerous other opportunities, such as biking and quad tours, canoeing and fishing.

History

Vast, scarcely inhabited lands of la Camargue gave birth to one of the most beautiful legends of Provence. According to this legend, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, his mother, Mary Magdalene and Mary Salome have crossed Mediterranean Sea, looking for new lands and new people to preach to. After a long journey, they have found the land where Rhone met the sea. Three Maries have made their home in Camargue, walking from mas to mas and preaching to the local herdsmen, while their servant Sara was collecting food and wood. For their nomad lifestyle Sara was chosen as the guardian-saint of the Roma people. Until these days, gipsy culture plays an important role in the identity and traditions of Camargue.

Practical information

The route Arles-Vaccarès (by D36-D36b).

You can choose other towns of la Camargue as your destination: Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Aigues-Mortes, Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône, etc.

Although the natural park is open all year round, we suggest you to seriously consider weather conditions depending on the season.
Winter is very humid and windy, making the walk on the plain extremely cold.
In spring and summer season the wind is welcome, however beware of the mosquitoes. We suggest you to take anti-mosquito spray for every member of the group, especially if you are planning a hoarse-back ride and spray everywhere, as you will feel the bites even through jeans.

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