From small sea to large pond, this area has had many names but all describe the natural formation that we see today at Mal Menor, its name translating as “minor sea”. Europe’s largest salt water coastal lake is located on the Iberian peninsular near Cartagena and home to 170km2 of sun warmed salt water. Not only does it provide an amazing view, but is a great location for water sports such as stand up paddle-boarding, windsurfing and kite boarding.
La Manga (meaning sleeve) is the area that separates the salt water lagoon from the Mediterranean sea. A strip of land full of holiday apartments and hotels provide a modern looking tourist resort that can be easily spotted from the main land. Originally the bay was open and La Manga was the natural end of the salt lake. Over many years, the volcanic reefs at either end of the bay started to hold back sand and sediment in between two meeting seas, the Menor and the Mediteranean. Now, La Manga is the result of that natural phenomenon. The resort has been being built since the 60’s and now very commercialised.
The mainland side of the Mar Menor lagoon, looks out to sea and to the right of us are the blue and purple silhouettes of the mountain ranges. Taking our first outing from our volunteering stint with Galgos del Sol, we ventured to Mal Menor as it looked interesting on the map.
Mar Menor and it’s ecological importance
The northern end of Mar Menor still has salt flats and these now include a wetland protected by the regional government and is a special protection zone (known as a Zepa in Spanish) for bird life. It is a humid area with its own micro-climate. It has been included in the list of wetlands of international importance since 1994.
With reeds standing 15 ft tall, sea lily, sea thistle and more, a broad representation for varying flora can be discovered here providing all sorts of food and habitats for the wildlife. With birds such as the grebe, large cormorant, black neck grebe, stilt, plover and tern for example, there are also reptiles including the Iberian skink, red-headed lizard (which we didn’t see) and common chameleon (which we could have looked straight at but not seen). Endangered insects, crustaceans and fish also live her and mammals such as shrew, weasels and bats.
There are more than 8km of beaches around the Mar Menor lagoon. Three most popular beaches are Las Salinas, Beach Barraca and Punta de Algas although there are many more options for quieter locations depending on what experience you are looking for.
We headed to a location given to us, just the other side of Murcia airport and near a couple of motorhome campsites. They were full of holiday makers even in early March so that was a good sign for us! After a few failed attempts we finally located Kinita restaurant and beach club and found somewhere to park.
Visiting the conservation area
Walking through to the beach was like looking at a postcard, blue sky, warm sunshine and palm trees lined our way as we walked through to the beach. Although not golden sand like the Caribbean, the beach was small but a great location to keep an eye on little ones! The sea was a bit mucky today but that could have been tidal so don’t take our word that it is always like that as we don’t know and we have had a few storms recently in the area.
At the end of the beach we noticed some steps and what looked like a little wooden footbridge so went to explore. This was the entrance to the conservation area. Wooden boards and railings lined the footpath to keep all visitors in designated areas instead of walking anywhere and damaging the reserve. A look out tower and some viewing platforms made for great photo opportunities. We saw some birds hopping around in the shallow water and watched them for a while. It took around 15 minutes for us to take a gentle stroll for us to reach the other side and onto the next stretch of beach. It was here we swapped wooden boards for a paved esplanade next to the sandy beach.
Playa de Los Narejos
Kite suffers lined the horizon as we looked out towards La Manga and beyond, twisting and turning in the breeze. Children played in the sand and groups of people were gathered in the communal areas (If you know what I mean!). A few bars and watersports schools lined the path as we took in the sights and aromas of Spain.
As we walked around looking at the area, we heard a chirping noise above us. We tracked it down and found out that it was a green parrot, sat in a tree!
We really enjoyed our afternoon off in Mar Menor and took a drive through San Javier on the way back to base camp. As the sun started to go down, a chill in the air bought welcome relief to what had been a hot day when out of the wind. With the breeze on the sea front, we forgot quite how stong the sun was and burnt a little but even though we were wearing sun cream.
A nice relaxing evening of sorting out our laundry and cooking some dinner (first time we had properly cooked in 2 weeks for an evening meal!) before we head off for an early night. Although we enjoyed our afternoon off we really missed the dogs and cant wait to see them again in the morning.
We heard just now that Maria Jose has caught another stray this evening that will be coming to us after her vet check and we will be making sure she feels safe and loved. Add on to that our ever growing list of favourite dogs (Bonjo, Marie, Javi, Fiji, London, Peugeot, Joaquim, Kissy, Libby, Penny, Wella, Violetta, Tania, Blossom, Isabachi, Tomi, Montanna, Quid, Madrid, Moschu Anton and Twinkles – oh dear….) its going to be more than 10 days before we want to take any more time off!!!
Your donation are saving lives
With the money you have donated, we have been able to help care for the site whilst Tina and Nat have been off assisting with rescues as Galgos del Sol. Yesterday they caught a poor galgo that had been seen with a nasty trap around her stomach. After saving 3 other dogs the day before whilst trying to catch her they finally succeeded. She is now safe and being taken care of. We saw her ourselves today and she will be looked after medically and emotionally as she recovers.
We are so grateful that you helped us get here to the front line and you honestly don’t know what a difference you have made to the lives of these dogs just by helping us. We are dedicated and cant wait to bring you Marie’s story soon. But for now, we have to go and finish a few things around the centre for our night duty before we try to get a few hours shut eye and wake up ready to bounce into kennels in the morning!