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.
Always I describe Almeria say that it is the most mountainous region in Spain; indeed it is. The elevation of the mainland due to the tectonic plates crash has lifted up the territory in different areas, so that Almeria is run from East to West by different ranges of mountains (sierra = saw) in all its area: the main ranges are Gador, Alhamilla, Cabrera, Filabres, Nevada and Estancias, but there are also smaller ones with their own identity and beauty, their hidden villages and their own culture.
This is one of the main aspects to be considered while travelling to Almeria. It is a land where you will find always mountains beyond mountains, where it can be enjoyed the unique experience of travelling from sea level up to 2000 metres in less than 40 minutes; take breakfast at the sunny coast of Cabo de Gata and enjoying a bottle of spanish red wine one hour later in the highs, hidden in the middle of nowhere, at undiscovered high peaks that kiss the sky with their genuine pure air.
In these heights I feel myself free, totally human… with the World at my feet, only missing a couple of wings; and this is what I share with visitors travelling with me. Although Almeria is also the driest area of the Iberian peninsula, with its unique desert of Tabernas (Desierto de Tabernas) it is not something rare to be in the middle of the snow at any moment, either in a snow-storm or under a snowed brilliant blue sky. Because of this we locals like to say that… everything is possible in Almeria; also travelling by excellent secondary roads of mountains and more mountains beyond mountains.
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.
Almeria landscape generally, and mainly Cabo de Gata National Park… are highly linked to botany; dwarf fan palm tree, fig tree, pome granate, almonds and olive trees, sparto grass, prickly pear or agave plant are common shrubs and trees found everywhere in this nice south-iberian region.
The agave plant, also known as Century plant in North America or pita and pitaco in Spain, is really not originary from Europe, although it is so present in our arid landscape that it would be very different without them. Century plant´s nameis given to the Blue agave (Agave americana) because it spends a lot of time before finally blossoming (after blooming, the plant dies). It is just the time that the plant needs to store all the required energy nutrients for when favorable weather allows it to develop the long sticks that will bring up with blooming.
For this Agave plant a dry and hot hot hot summer as this one we are suffering in 2015 is the greatest moment for blooming. It is just time for doing that: agave blossom time.
In Almeria lands there can be mainly found three species of Agave plants: Agave furcroydes and agave sisalana, planted in past times for taking the so-called sisal fiber, and Agave americana that is a bigger shrub than others and has been used for different purposes, as building corrals or ladders with its sticks, fences with the plants by themselves or agave sirope with blossoms´ honey.
The problem with sisal was that at the same time that first entrepeneurs begun to manage big plantations for obteining the fiber, just then plastic fiber was discovered and comercialized under a cheaper price; so the pita growths (pitares) were abandoned just at the beggining, before they could show if were profitable or not.
From these abandoned plantations come the actual agave landscape that can be found in the area of Nijar and Cabo de Gata National Park. It is something that must be mentioned that this plant, after blooming, develop small plants on the top of the sticks, that afterwards are blown by the wind, generating new plants. So Almeria province is actually a wild agave forest, deared by many people and not so much by others, that see in the agave-plant an invasive species in competition with local vegetation.
In any case the agave plant or century plant is highly linked to Almeria´s landscape; so much that we can say that agave bloom is a part of Almeria´s cultural and human landscape so as part of its natural history, although it is happening in the area only since few centuries ago.
When it is hot hot hot in Almeria it is time to look for the agave bloom; ideal moments for photographers so as naturalists and for every person in love with natural mediterranean landscape. Almeria, come and see.
Almeria is one of the most important destinations for wildlife and nature photographers from all Europe and some parts of North America, South Africa and Australia. Advanced travellers and professional photographers that do not want to lose their holiday-work time. So it is very important to know what are you looking for (birds, architecture, land formations, landscape, sunrises/sunsets, perhaps others??), so important as knowing well the language of the place your visiting and what places are allowed to visit or not; all these clues will improve your time for being used in the real thing that you are looking for when travelling: taking your pictures.
Weather in Almeria is unpredictable for anyone that is not a local, and sometimes it can really ruin your day. You need to learn how to move yourself in a windy day or with flash-floods risk, so that you finally reach your goals succesfully, and although almost times visitors coming to Almeria they enjoy a nice weather with clear and intense blue skies, you will never be exempt of storms and gales… also so usual here, and as said before… unpredictable.
Wind: When wind is blowing, you must know that Almeria lands are abundantly mountainous, so you can shelter yourself always at one or other side of the hills (poniente versus levante), and do your work at the other slope of the valley in which wind is blowing from.
Sea storms: Sea is always nice for painting and art, so as for photogaphy and photographers; but always take care of the shore level when you are in the middle of a gale; shore level can change in a moment and ruin all your work; on the other hand tides are not relevant in this side of Mediterranean Sea.
Flash floods: keep always far away of ramblas (temporary seasonal riverbeds); they never will warn you that they come-down with tons of water and bolders in only some seconds/minutes; keep always a security distance from these floodable places.
Snow:Almeria mountains usually enjoy snow-storms in winter and spring times; be always careful with dirt-tracks and take at any moment notice of how you can leave the place in an alert situation.
Summer:never never never forget to take some litres of drinkable cool water in your car, mainly while travelling in the desert and up the lost mountains.
Winter: Don´t forget to place your warm cloths always inside the car-boot; you don´t know in which moment they will be much more useful than your camera or your own car.
Luggage: Although Almeria is a highly safe destination, never forget to leave nothing inside the car when you park it in lonely places; it is the only way to avoid anywhere uncomfortable situations.
Of course, the best option will be always trust your local guide, because he/she will know what to do at any moment and will ensure that your photography trips or art tours become totally successful and enjoyable along your stay in our lands.
At any case Almeria will make a difference in your photography and art trip. These were only some desert photography ideas for those travelling by themselves, with no external assistance or nature guiding.
Do you want any more desert photography ideas or perhaps do you want to book a trip with me?.
Almeria is the southernmost province of the spanish region named Andalucia, just with 7 other provinces: Cordoba, Granada, Sevilla, Huelva, Cadiz, Jaen and Malaga. Because of the tectonic plates movement, Africa plates are literally pushing up the land in this side of the iberian peninsula… and so Almeria is the most mountainous province of Spain.
Also Almeria is the driest one, and it is because of Sierra Nevada mountains that run just between Almeria and Granada. Rain-clouds usually come from the Atlantic side, and this huge range of mountains (Sierra nevada) stop them just here; because of this reason Granada is a rainy region and Almeria is so dry. Something different happens at the end of summer, when the Mediterranean sea-currents bring clouds from outside the sea. Then is the moment for the well-known phenomenon called flash floods (riadas), that although they can happen along every season, it is something usual to happen at the end of summer, for different reasons.
This aridity, just with the diverse geomorphology of the territory, make Almeria one of the most deared places for running Geography Field Trips; volcanic materials at Cabo de Gata, metamorfic rocks in Nevada and Filabres mountains, limestone and silex in Los Velez lands, evaporitic and marine sedimentary rocks in the desert and the Saint Andrea big fault... are an excellent scene for running a Geography Field Trip to understand the story of Earth, at the same time that we can see all kind of animals and plants living in the most extreme and stressed possible conditions.
Warm and sunny weather in winter help us to be one of most favourite places for running these Geography Field Trips for universities of all around the world, mainly Europe and North America. Just in winter when it is raining and snowing hard in other places, Almeria keeps its well known winter-sunny-days.
A lost paradise in the Mediterranean, a geme for geologists, in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea and just at south Europe; Almeria is the ideal place for running your Geography Field Trip. Look for your quote; we can attend individuals so as groups, always building tailored and flexible trips, attending to your targets.
Almeria is a paradise for birdwatchers, advanced or amateurs… it is a place where we can spot easily african species as the trumpeter finch or the black-bellied sandgrouse. Because of its geography, there are different areas where we can look for different birds: cliffs, shores, marshes, steppes, mountains and much more…
A birdwatching day can give us many surprises here at south Spain, if we travel to locations where some species can be found in its appropriate season; for example look for (and find) the white-headed duck colonies at the western marshes in winter time is not difficult, or spotting the crake in Cabo de Gata marshes at spring time it is simple if you know where to find them.
Some other birds can be easily spotted as the greater flamingo, and other ones are a bit more rare, as the wryneck or the blue rock-thrush.
My experience as an Almeria birdwatching guide comes back from early times; in 2007 I worked proffesionaly for the Spanish Bird Society inventoring winter birds in Almeria and Granada provinces and afterwards I worked along one more winter, inventoring forest-breeding raptors. So what I offer is not only to enjoy a unique birding trip in Almeria (and Granada) but also my own experienceto make easy a birdwatching day… so you can improve your time… and why not??… you can visit the places afterwards by yourself also, with your rental car. Anyway do not forget that in many places you can be required permits by private wardens or environmental public controls.
A birdwatching day with a Bird watching guide is more than looking for birds. My experience with people travelling from different countries along years, some of them very far away, has been amazing till this moment. It looks as if watching birds was only the excuse for going out to the country side with a knowledgable guide to look for plants, butterflies, culture, geology, landscape, snakes, lizards, mammals and everything happening in the trip, just in front of us while travelling… and of course looking for birds.
One day not far ago, a gentle lady travelling with me said: Never tell people that your name is Jesus and that you are a guide, because it could generate some confusion among certain kind of persons. I smiled her slightly and answered that mummy always had said to me since I was a child that the only thing good in me was really my name… but it was a little bit late for changing it , so I continued with the same name (and job) till today.
Mum is actually an elder person and still says to me that those persons that love danger, finally die in it. I have heard this sentence put on her mouth since I was a child, and although I have loved always risky situations… I still keep alive; perhaps Jesus protect me.
The real thing is that I was baptized as Jesus (Isa in arab); it happened long time ago in the 60´s of past century, and after spending half of my life looking for what to do, I discovered that my goal in this life was to guide people; do not understand please, an spiritual guidance (although sometimes also happens) but guiding travellers (persons) in these fantastic lands were I was born and grown, and in which I took the decission of living in them forever, till my last days. It is not difficult to fall in love with Almeria… and more yet if it is the land were you were born, grown up, educated and happily married.
After leaving the Company in which I had been managing as a thriving salesman for more than one decade, I begun to prepare anything for starting a new future, my small business as self-employed, being the first two things to be done learning intensely about wildlife and about the territory. I read any books that had been written about Almeria flora and fauna and begun to organize up to 10 private flights for taking photographs of my lands from the air, to have my own maps and documents.
Slowly I became an expert in this corner of the Iberian map at south Spain… by land, sea and air, till finally I faced the moment of just starting to work as a nature guide; Jesus the guide/Jesus Guide sounded great for me… but who was paying me for discovering the land?. Local people were starting an important economical recession, that still happens nowadays… so money was not abundant and local people indeed were/are not nature lovers as in other countries.
Time for analysis again; the only profitable option was to improve my second language (english) and looking to develop the touristic market, but thinking in a very different way of the traditional concept of tourism. I didn´t want to show churchs or museums, I really wished to show my lands, the true life of people living hard every day in a very arid country; and this was definitely the start of my company based in ecotourism and responsible tourism.
It is important to say that when I started, nearly all gates were closed for me; nobody believed in this new concept of Green Tourism… but I never gave up. There were very hard moments, and still there are some difficult ones, but when you believe firmly in what you do and you keep yourself constant and doing everything responsibly, finally the miracle to happen, and then it is time of following your star.
Actually I have agreements with some rural houses of local people and alliances with other small businesses working in the same way, and I feel very proud to be helping a little bit to the rural development growth in a sustainable way, focused on fixing the population to the land, based in ecotourism, respect to nature and sustainability… and I feel so happy that other younger ones followed the same steps in different ways.
To be a guide is really one of the most amazing experiences that can happen to a human being; it is a job (not an employment) that makes you feel good and require full passion. And why not?? …. using always as a joke this old and deared nickname of Jesus Guide.
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.
A unique place in Almeria landscape and totally different of others is the Cabo de Gata Sierra (Range of mountains of Gata Cape). Its geological origin is mainly volvanic, and much more younger than other territories in the actual almerian geography. Its age has been estimated by scientists in approximately 14 to 7 millions of years ago.
Indeed the area of Gata Cape (Cabo de Gata) is only a small emerged portion of a wide submerged (under the sea) area underneath the so-named Mar de Alboran (Alboran Sea), between Africa and Europe continents.
Did you know that the tiny Alboran Island is a part of Almeria province?. Actually it is used only for science research and as a spanish advanced military position overseas.
This volcanic activity happened, at least partially, below the Sea level. It has been supposed that what happened was that the volcanoes finally emerged as islands, creating an authentic volcanic archipelago. Around these small volcanic islands, in the middle of warm subtropical sea waters, grew abundantly the corals (Anthozoa – Cnidaria), building coastal atolls and reefs, that still can be seen very clearly in some locations at the National/Natural Park.
Hydrothermal fluids would change later the volcanic rocks composition, so as sometimes happened in the nearby Baetic Mountains, mineralizing them and generating so unique and abundant metallic deposits.
To understand the actual Cabo de Gata landscape we need to understand two different concepts: one is the Plates Tectonic movement, that is responsible of the slow raising of the rocks, so that submerged lands are now totally offshore; the second concept is the dryness of the area in whichit rains very scarcely… but when it does happen, usually water come down from the sky generously in only a moment (some minutes or hours), generating the so usual flash-floods that are the responsible of a high level of erosion, also so important to read and understand the actual configuration of Cabo de Gata volcanic landscape.
The main rocks that can be found in the area are basalts/andesites , ignimbrites/bentonites and lots of conglomerates everywhere. Some metamorphic rocks (micaschist/quartz) also can be found in the ramblas (temporary bed of seasonal rivers) but these materials really have been not generated in this area… but moved along time from the faraway Filabres and Alhamilla mountains, dragged with the water of the mentioned flash-floods.
Gold, silver and lead among other minerals, have been mined in the area along times since the ancient Roman Empire era, so as basalt cobbles were quarried for being used in the past 20th Century for paving roads in Almeria town and other main villages nearby or faraway.
Do you want to discover this amazing place and understand its geological landscape?. Join us in an unforgettable trip to the southernmost place of Europe.
Did you know that in Cabo de Gata National Park there is a place baptized (by me) as The Dwarf Causeway?? Can you imagin the reason for that???
Come and see our Almeria landscape volcanism in Cabo de Gata National Park.