Go qround Vaccarès in 2 days by bike
Cycling along the largest pond in Camargue, is to discover many migratory birds, flamingos, horses but it is also to walk paths with unique vegetation. It is sometimes necessary to listen, to scrutinize the horizon for a few minutes to see the emblematic species of this preserved place. A perfect combination to enjoy remarkable views of the pond and to admire the rich diversity of fauna and flora of Camargue!
The fortified church of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer
True highlight of the Camargue (15 m), the church offers a breathtaking view of the village and all the Camargue. The 53 steps of a spiral staircase lead to the roof of the church where the panorama unfolds in all its splendour : up there, you can take advantage of a wide angle vision on the city, the sea and the ponds. Intense and sparkling blue of the Mediterranean Sea, purple hue of the Imperial pond The wind, the sun, the view of the calm expanse of the sea invite you to discover this landscape.
At the graus level (or passages), communication canals between the sea and the littoral ponds, you will find fish, towards the flooded sansouïre and the ponds or towards the sea. Migrating species include mullet, sea bass, but also sea bream, sole and especially eel. Born in the Sargasso Sea, she joined the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts after a long journey. She comes to grow in the coastal ponds or rivers where she spends several years of her life.
The Departmental Reserve of Imperialists
Classified Departmental Reserve, Imperial and Malagroy Ponds were acquired by the Departmental Council of Bouches-du-Rhone in 1964 to protect these fragile natural environments (2,770 ha) which are home to many species of birds. The fishing, a traditional activity in Camargue, is practiced in the Imperial reserve in a boat without motor which imposes the use, as formerly, of the "partygue" (pole). Fishermen are looking for shrimps, eels.
Le Bouvau d’Aubanel
There are 40 species of mosquitoes but only ten are biting. Females recover protein from the human blood that are necessary for the maturation of their eggs. They lay thousands of eggs on the soil dried up that are waiting, sometimes years, the rise of the waters to hatch. The mosquito is inconvenient for the man but it is useful to many species: dragonflies, fish, bats ... that feed on them. It is therefore an indispensable link in the Camargue biodiversity.
Sweet and reed marshes
The "soft" marshes are characteristic of the upper Camargue, where the influence of salt is less marked. Consisting of a dense and high vegetation (reeds, cattails, bulrushes), they are a sanctuary for many birds (ducks, stilts ...), amphibians and reptiles. The reed beds, interspersed with open water, extend into these slightly brackish freshwater marshes. Habitat of waterfowl, some are cut in winter for harvesting the reed, which is used to cover the thatch roofs.
Ponds or lagoons
The Vaccarès, ruler of the average Camargue, and the lower salt ponds are the heart of the Camargue. Separated from the sea by a sandy cordon, they are in intermittent communication with the sea. A favourite place for birds and fish, they play a vital biological role in the delta and play a major role in water management. Millions of young marine fish come here to spend the first year of their lives before returning to the sea.
The Bois des Rièges
Located in the heart of the Camargue National Nature Reserve, the Bois des Rièges has been classified as an integral reserve since 1927. The wood consists of 8 massive wooded dunes, the last vestiges of a Camargue coastline some 3000 years ago! There is also: large juniper groves, centennial Phenicia and umbrella pines. No incongruous remains that dot so often Provencal nature, the Bois des Rièges is the last space of the Camargue where nature has retained its rights.
The European bee-eater
Representative landscape of the lower Camargue, the sansouïre constitutes an environment where salt exerts a total influence. She lives to the rhythm of the seasons: large body of salt water in winter, mudflats in spring and autumn, cracked ground and salt-white desert in summer. The vegetation, low and sheepish, is brown in winter, green in spring and red in autumn. Only a few specialized plant species develop there, because of the strong presence of salt: salicornia, soda, obione, saladella .
The Camargue National Nature Reserve
The Camargue is both an extensive breeding ground (bulls and horses) but also a field crop area (rice and wheat). Cereal and oilseed crop growing areas occupy the uplands. The strong natural constraints that weigh on these productions require important investments in terms of irrigation and drainage. On the other hand, extensive rangeland systems are spread over natural environments (pastures, reed beds, marshes).
The Camargue Horse
The Camargue horse is a very old breed (1978) and would descend from the prehistoric horse of Solutré. Symbol of the Camargue, with a gray-white dress, short ears and a shaggy mane, it is small, about 1.45 m at the withers. His dark hair of birth takes its final colour white-gray when he is around 4 years old. Raised in the Camargue, he is the companion of the guardian and the working tool for raising bulls. Breeding and reproduction criteria are strict to preserve his breed.
The Little Egret
The Little Egret is one of the most famous birds in the Camargue. White plumage, black legs and yellowish fingers make it easily identifiable. In nuptial plumage, the neck of adults is adorned with two hoopoes about twenty centimeters and their back long silky feathers very thin with separate beards. Today widespread in the southern half of Europe, this species was on the verge of extinction in the early twentieth century, hunted for its feathers that decorated the hats.
The sea lavender
Named "lilac" or "sea lavender", because of its beautiful purple flowers, the saladelle is a plant of the Mediterranean shores which lines the lawns, it is an edible plant. Abundant in the land salted, the sea lavender has long fleshy leaves that we can observe for a long period of the year. This plant is salt tolerant. Excess from the soil is rejected in fine crystals by pores on the underside of the leaves on the underside of its leathery leaves.
The Gacholle lighthouse
The sea wall
The Sandwich tern
The beach and dunes
The black-headed gull
Ponds and salt marshes
Back to the Tourist Office on Van Gogh Avenue, head right. At the roundabout, take the second exit and cross the village towards the Cacharel road for 4 km.
1 - Around the small parking, before the Cacharel farmhouse, take the track of the Five Gorges (said Méjanes) on the right. Continue for 11 km to the Méjanes estate.
2 - After the Méjanes estate, at the sign "give way", go right on the D37 and continue for 8 km. Go along the Vaccarès pond. Pass in front of the observation point of Mas Neuf Vaccarès (set up by the Camargue Regional Nature Park). After the observatory, continue towards Arles and Salin-de-Giraud.
3 - At the intersection of Villeneuve and the snack bar Les Salicornes, turn right on the C134 "Fiélouse" towards La Capelière. Cycle there for 14.5 km. Go along the pond Pass in front of La Capelière, Mas de Fiélouse, then Salin-de-Badon.
4 - Continue straight towards the dike to the sea. Continue on the trail to the Flamingo Observatory.
5 - At the observatory, turn right and take the dike to the sea towards the Gacholle lighthouse (trail accessible only on foot and by bike). Enter the Camargue National Nature Reserve. Pass the lighthouse and continue. Continue on the dike to the sea until Pertuis de Rousty. At Pertuis, continue straight to the village of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer which is located 6 km from there.
Respect the rules of the road on roads open to public traffic.
Stay alert on the D37, dangerous and busy road!
The itinerary being done in 2 days, think to reserve an accommodation according to the distance to be crossed the first day. Contact the tourist offices of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and Salin-de-Giraud.
Several starting points are recommended: The Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, the Domaine de Méjanes or Salin-de-Giraud.
Park your car in a secure location.
At La Capelière, you will find the information point of the Camargue National Reserve.
Envia transport network : Ligne 20 > Arles/Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer byAlbaron (free bike racks) or Agglo 10 > Arles/Salin-de-Giraud by Gageron et Villeneuve >> www.tout-envia.com; Www.pacamobilite.fr
Access and parking
37 km south-west of Arles, by the D570.
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