October 15 - The Camargue Nature Reserve

The Camargue Nature Reserve in Provence has some of the most fascinating wildlife and surroundings in all of Europe. Wild flamingoes roam the marshes and salt water ponds while milk white horses and black bulls graze in the green pastures. The combination of wildlife and magnificent landscapes make the Camargue enticing for people all over the world.

The Camargue is most famous for its flamingoes, horses, and bulls, but it also is a bird watcher's paradise with egrets, herons, and many other species of birds. It contains large salt marshes, sand dunes, lakes, and pastures creating Europe's major wetland area which covers over 346,000 acres! The small and numerous islands are truly unforgettable - both the sandy and pink ones (the flamingoes huddle together for protection against the wind and create small pink islands in the middle of salt marshes). The flamingoes are just wicked cool! Their long necks and legs are unbelievable. I love how they dip their heads into the water and sleep by retracting their necks into their body, which makes it look like they have no heads at all. Adventures in the Camargue have allowed us to see and experience all its hidden marvels of nature.

During our two trips to the Camargue we ventured into its depths by bicycle, car, and 4x4 vehicle. We also walked in the marshland and napped on the windy beaches with fine sand and massive waves. I especially liked our bike ride through the marshes. Our destination was a small lighthouse 8 ½ miles away through rocky and sandy trails. Along the way we spotted many wild flamingoes, egrets, and gulls. We were surrounded by water on two sides which made me feel like I was on a narrow straight in the middle of an ocean. The trail was regularly interrupted by areas of deep sand which we were forced to walk through. Our butts were extremely sore by the end of our trip because of the hard seats and everlasting bumpy trails! This already sounds like a hard ride, but of course it just had to get harder. Right as we started our ride, the mistral (strong winds that run through Provence during fall, spring, and winter) picked up, and turned out to be a wicked force. These winds nearly pushed us off our bikes and made it impossible to keep a consistent speed. We eventually made it through this adventure, and gratefully made our way home.

We also drove through the Camargue on our first stop to check out the area. On this drive we encountered our first flamingoes (which I am proud to say I spotted) and huge mountains of salt from evaporating lagoons. The huge mounds of salt seemed to go on forever past the horizon. Mound after mound after mound, hundreds of them scattered throughout the isolated lagoons. It was amazing!! I then spotted our first pack of flamingoes, which we saw fly off into the distance. They were even more spectacular flying with their thin bodies and bright pink wings. During our next trip into the park, we decided to take a 4x4 safari. It wasn't that great considering we drove mostly on highways and the driver spoke very little English, but still a good experience.

The Camargue Nature Reserve was a wonderful experience for the whole family. We all enjoyed seeing our first wild flamingoes, horses, and bulls. This is just a taste of what I am looking forward to on our trip to Africa!