Parc naturel régional de Carmague (PNRC), or Regional Nature Park of the Camargue, is a protected area which was designated in 1970 along the shoreline of the Camargue. The park protects a wetland environment and an adjacent marine area.
The boundaries of the park have been expanded to include a lagoon called the Étang de Vaccarès.
The Camargue is also the site of a national nature reserve, and has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and a biosphere reserve.
You can watch my 1 min 27 sec Video Camargue Saintes Maries de la Mer out of my Youtube channel.
We take the D570 from Arles down through the Camargue. Just above Stes. Mares de la Mer is the Parc Ornithologique. Stop, park and walk through the park. There is a very small zoo there with some exotic caged birds and a few other animals, but the big draw is along the walking path. You will see wild flamingoes up close and personal. The numbers vary by season but we have always seen lots of them. If you have small children, a baby backpack (or frontpack) is ideal for this sort of activity. We backpacked our kids until they could hike it themselves which didn't take too long.
You will see all kinds of birds other than the bright pink flamingoes. You will also see ragondins (my favorite) a muskrat-type water beast and all kinds of water birds. Then as you get farther back on the trail, you will see Camargue horses and at a distance the Camargue bulls.
When you've finished, check out the little museum there (only takes a few minutes) and then hop in your car and continue down to Stes. Maries de la Mer where you can park for free right beside the ocean. There will probably be flamingoes in the lake opposite there too. You can walk the beach, wade in the ocean or walk the quaint little town. It's very small so this doesn't take long.
Hop back in the car and head to Aigues-Mortes. Return north on the D570 and then turn west onto D58. It's well signposted. Park right outside the ramparts of Aigues-Mortes and walk through the very old city gate. You can walk the ramparts and get great views of the town below and look out to sea (and see mountains of salt nearby). Walk through the quaint little town, try the candies you see in the local shops, sit on the square (Pl. St. Louis) and have a coffee or ice cream and you will have had a great day in the Camargue.
This is a wonderful nature reserve in the Camargue. They have marked off several paths through the area and you can observe whatever wildlife is staying there in that particular season. It's fun if you travel to the south of France reasonably often to do the walks at different times of year to see the different migrations.
The park is famous for the pink flamingo and they are spectacular, especially flying overhead. There are also swans, all manner of water fowl, the white Camargue horses and the black Camargue bulls and my favorite, the elusive soggy ragondin (muskrat) that we've only seen in autumn so far.
The trails are not long so it's fun to incorporate all three so you don't miss anything.
The natural reserve is organized on the huge area in tens thousand hectares. It appears, immemorial pink flamingos nested in this place for a long time. Thousand flights of these noble birds live at bogs of Camargue.
Hundreds wild white horses and black buffalos live there. And, really, passing on highway among boundless bogs I have seen both a flamingo, and buffalos.
About 5000 PINK FLAMINGOS have long ago made La Camargue their habitat. Flamingos like to live in lagoons, where there is lots of mud and water, The depth of the water is especially important not only for feeding but for nesting. A Flamingo's pink colour comes from its diet, which is high in alpha and beta carotene. Their diet consists of seeds, crustaceans and mollusks and in some locations - shrimp. Flamingos use their large beaks to filter small food items from the water. It lowers its head into the water and goes from side to side collecting the food/water mixture. It is quite a comical sight to see these large birds with their heads completely submerged under water, as shown in my pics.
Flamingos usually live in large groups called colonies. Within a colony, Flamingos breed in pairs and are able to reproduce by the age of about six. When they do nest, they typically lay one large, white egg. Both parents will take turns incubating the egg for 26 to 31 days. Newly hatched chicks have gray or white down feathers, a straight red bill and plump, red or pink legs.
Consisting of over 350,000 acres, PARC NATUREL REGIONAL DE CAMARGUE is an area south of Arles and is full of freshwater marshes. Situated on the Rhone Delta, La Camargue is a wetland of significant importance. Here you will see Pink Flamingos, Wild White Horses and Black Bulls. It really is a fascinating one-of-a -kind place/
The Camargue bird park is very nice to visit. Apart from the omnipresent flamingos you'll see herons, storchs, raven, eagles and other birds of prey, different kinds of geese and ducks, owls etc. Some are locked up, some are flying or sitting around in the open.
There are also many musquashes swimming around in the small lakes.
The beautiful white, rose or pink flamingos live in the Camargue in the wild. If you are not lucky enough to see them, visit the bird park - there are hundreds of them living there. They are not enclosed or locked up, they obviously simply like to stay here.
The black bulls from the Camargue are the ones in French or Spanish arenas for bull fights.
The difference between French and Spanish bull fights is that the bulls are not killed in France. There, men try to collect some strings bound to the bulls' horns and not to be hit by the bull.
A very good way to see the Camargue is to go horseriding. There are tons of horse stables along the street from Arles to Saintes Maries de la Mer and the neighbouring areas.
It's not necessary to be a horse rider, there are also excursions for beginners. If you're experienced you should ask for an experienced group otherwise it could get a bit boring.
But the landscape is fascinating - there are rice fields, lakes, colourful flowers and you can see Camargue horses, black bulls and lots of birds like flamingos, herons, birds of prey and much more.
When you are at Les Saintes Maries de la Mer, you should go and see the relics of St. Sarah, a black saint, and the patron saint of the gypsies.
Her relics are to be found in the crypt underneath the local church. The roof of the crypt is black from the smoke of numerous candles that have been lit here over the years.
Saint Sarah is said to have been the maid servant of les Saintes Maries, the two Holy Maries (Mary Jacobe, a sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus) and Mary Salome.
Riding on one of the beautiful Camargue horses is a GREAT way to see La Camargue...its land, its flora, its fauna and the Mediterranean Ocean!!
Riding in 'La Camargue' is mostly Western-style: long stirrups, long reins kept in one hand only. You don't have to be a perfect Western rider to enjoy this kind of riding as it's easy to learn.
Besides, as one riding stables puts it:
"For those who don't like to ride, we have horses that don't like to be ridden." :>)
Three recommendations of stables to hire a horse...and guide:
Pony Ranch - 06.07.43.10.29
Domaine du Daladel - 04.66.73.52.08
Le Relais Oguste - 06.21.73.69.74
If you love gardening, especially with bulbs, this is a great place to visit!
Lauw is originally from Holland, and came here to start a bulb farm specializing in botanical species of flower bulbs that are indigenous, and adapted, to the Mediterranean climate.
Call first and make an appointment to see this interesting Bulb farm...and guest Mas (where you can stay if you are interested in exploring this area of Provence).
When you get to the small town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer there is no way you can (or should) miss the beach!
Bring your swimsuit, towel, sunscreen, sunglasses, beach umbrella, camera, and enjoy a relaxing few hours on the sand watching the waves of the Mediterranean curl along the shoreline.
You could also just walk along the beaches, but this is best done in the evening or early morning, otherwise the walkways are too crowded. At least for me they were!
Les-Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, the capital of the Camargue, is situated on the Mediterranean coast in the heart of Camargue's 'Park Naturel' with a small population of about 2300.
The Provençal Legend
Around the year 40 A.D. , a boat was launched from Jerusalem, without sail, oars or supplies, and drifted across the Mediterranen until it drifted ashore at this site. The refugees in the boat were Mary Jacobe, the mother of James and the sister of the Virgin; Mary Salome, the mother of the apostles James Major and John; Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary Magdalene and Martha; St. Maximus; Cedonius, who was born blind and cured, and sarah, the servant of the two Marys.
After landing safely, the group built a small oratory to the Virgin. The disciples wandered off their separate ways. Mary Magdalene went to St. Baume, and Martha went to Tarascon. Mary Salome , Mary Jacobe and Sarah remained in the Camargue, and were later buried in the oratory. The tomb of these three saints became a cult object, and has been the attraction of pilgrimages for the past 19 centuries. They were reburied beneath the chancel during the Barbarian invasions, and then removed and enshrined in 1448 by Good King Rene.
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