Some years ago I worked in a big company and one of our brand´s marketing slogan was Keep Walking; later I remember proudly all the effort that our team kindly invested in this succesful campaign and I took the decission of launching my own Walk, my own Desert Walk… so I begun to be a lonely Desert Walker running here and there the Tabernas desert and badlands. I had everything I needed: time, enthusiasm, a big desert with highs of 2200 metres above sea level and inmense dry badlands areas for starting my activity.
Walking in a desert is an experience that need to be planned calmly; winter is cold there and summer is sometimes too warm. Wind, snow and intense rainfalls can ruin your trip and what is worst, risk of flash-floods is always on your rucksack.
But to live the experience of discovering ancient galleries, film locations, spot rare birds or understanding geology cycles it is much than more for going down the ramblas and start walking and discovering the secrets of the desert. People have been living here along times, and still they do it in some places although actually in a different way, more modern and comfortable; life here for a family was so cruel and hard that nearly all the population emigrated in the last decades down to the coast, looking for a better way of life for their children (ourselves) in the new business of plastic green-houses.
Deserts walker that have been travelling with me down in the badlands know perfectly of what am I talking about, and what is the real experience there, at Kingdom of Silence.
But the experience of the desert do not end down in the dry seasonal riverbeds (ramblas). Up the mountains there it is a unique experience walking in the snow of these arid lands, reinventing yourself and looking down to the world underneath your feet in a different way than usual.
That is the desert, that is the desert walker experience…. and much more.
Nowadays anyone talk here and there about green-tourism, eco-tourism, responsible tourism and more and more and more ridiculous concepts and ways of continuing doing the same unsustainable activities than in the past, but washed up with a green name. Under the name of responsible tourism destinations I have seen in recent times how so many natural habitats have been destroyed and how many local populations have been economically ruined. So when we are talking about Responsible tourism and Responsible tourism destinations, what are we really supposed to be talking about?.
In past times people travelled not as tourists but as travellers; this healthy concept changed in the last decades and indeed persons became objects to be profitably and easily commerced with. In this way, big resorts were built everywhere by big companies with the only purpose of doing quick money, selling sun and beach in the best case, but really always looking for profit, more profit and again more profit, and never looking for achieving good and unforgetable experiences for clients, that now they have been changed their status for bieng considered simply tourists. The local populations changed also their roles and they were promised lots of work and jobs with this new way of economical activity that changed forever their lives, their culture and their lands. Work was finally low quality employment and no more, and once the european economical recession begun, everything became worst and worst.
Big companies business grew up and up till finally it was collapsed by its own weight, and tourists begun to think by themselves again, and said NO to this situation; they were and are always the owners of their money and their time, and it was unlikable to be treated as a consum object. This was the real start of Responsible tourism, trying to change everything and understanding the concept under four points of view:
– I am not a tourist, I am a person travelling and looking for new experiencies and alive knowledge.
– I choose where I go and what I do at any moment. I am the owner of my money and my time.
– I want to collaborate with the local populations I am visiting, so they can see tourism not as an industry but as a way of life, as something positive also for them, as a real way of life that helps them to preserve their culture.
– I love local culture and wild Nature in the places I want to visit, and I will not allow none of them to be destroyed in my name.
So a responsible tourism destination must be really implicated in respect to Nature, sustainable growth of population, economical return to locals and full respect for people travelling in the territory, always considered as travellers and never as tourists. Nature and local culture in one hand, experience and knowledge in the other one; that is indeed responsible tourism, also known as ecotourism or green tourism.
The problem is that this new concept has also been discovered by the big monster of the macro-economical system and they are trying to put their claws on it, doing things finally again in the same way as in the past were done, but with different names and under different concepts; in spanish we have a proverb for that situation, and is that we have the same dogs but with different collars.
I will never understand responsible tourism destinations if they are not leadered and leaded by local persons living in visited lands; I know it is a very long way to achieve it, but really it is the only way for sustainable tourism in a responsible way.
Since our activity as Wildlife Guide Almeria started in 2010 we have been always looking for meeting points among travellers and locals, so both of them feel a part of the tours activity; since we started we have been spreading the word of conservation and sustainability although sometimes it could have had a bad effect in our profit; since we started enjoying really with what we liked so much, we have been allied with local schools and education for building a better world and helping to fix the young population to the lands where they were grown up.
Is all this stuff to create a Responsible tourism destination?. I don´t know really… it is perhaps your time to say if it is good or if it is not. Anyway we/I will continue walking by the same way and in the same direction.
If you want to organize a free talk about Almeria and/or responsible tourism destinations, please do not hesitate to mail us. Only transport and extra expenses would be required to be covered, mainly for other countries different of Spain. Thinking in a different way. Almeria: come and see.
Cabo de Gata coastline in Almeria´s eastern bay, is basically formed by a beach line; to understand this long shore we can say that in some places what we see is really the active sand generated by erosion and movement of particles broken by the sea water, under an intense and continuous activity; in other places we will find fossil beaches and in only a couple of places there happen some marshes with permanent water, called estuaries (ramblas).
The littoral steppe of Almeria bay (Cabo de Gata = Gata cape) has been invaded by the sea along the last 5 millions of years. The continuous raising up of Alhamilla mountains (at the north) has generated from these geological times its ongoing retreat till 900.000 years ago aproximately… that placed the coast line in a similar position than actually.
Along all this time lots of sediments of the newly emerged mountains were collected here at the seabed; these sediments were afterwards exposed after the retreat of the water; so the fossil coastline of old ages has been perfectly preserved and can be seen with lots (also perfectly preserved) of creatures living here in this past coastline. Some of these fossil records have been dated in between 250.000-95.000 years ago. Among these records there it is a creature whose latin name is Strombus bubonius, that actually live in tropical coasts at the african Atlantic coast, reporting us valuable information about what was the weather in Almeria coast 200.000 years ago.
The estuaries of some ramblas (ouads = temporary seasonal riverbeds) are also conditioned by geological processes as erosion-sedimentation or the presence of faults. These places store natural water with different compositions, but mainly it is highly brackish, and they are very important places for sedentary and migratory birdlife (resting and feeding areas); the dynamic acivity of these estuaries change along seasons, attending to dryness or flashfloods activity.
Around the estuaries there can be found natural habitats formed by sand dunes and specific vegetation capable to fix this sand to the ground (by the roots) and avoiding so that it is transported by the wind, generating loss of soil and problems in neighbour usable lands; in past decades this sand was taken away for building greenhouses in the new and prosperous business of intensive agriculture; actually all the ecosystem is protected.
The saltmarshes of Cabo de Gata in Almeria are by themselves one of the environmental most valued ecosystems in Andalucia (southernmost Spain´s region with 8 provinces, including Almeria), and also one of the most important in the Mediterranean coast. One of the few places in the iberian coast where it can be found a healthy population of greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus), using the territory along all the seasons, also in summer… although they don´t breed here.
3.000 years ago the littoral coastline was nearly in the same position than actually. Sediments transported to the bay and coming from the nearby Andarax river (delta is in Almeria town) and the dominant wind of West… generated the formation of a permanent sandbar, that was slowly growing till it enclosed totally a small portion of the ancient bay, building so a small enclosed sea or gulf: the actual marshes and pans.
Once the gulf was totally enclosed, people of cultures living here from very old times ago (romans/phoenicians/amazighs), learnt to use the deposits of salt for their own interest; these deposits were generated naturally after the sea storms, and so on it has been done till actually, when salt is still worked/mined here, but in a different way, adapted to profitability in modern times… transporting directly the water from the sea at the actual Cabo de Gata coastline and taking technical control of all the process and timing used in it.