Discover the MPAs, Marine Protected Areas, near where you go
Many of Fairbnb.coop’s pilot cities are on the Mediterranean, close to some Marine Protected Areas that have been created to conserve cultural and biological diversities: take the opportunity to get to know the extraordinary ecosystems surrounding our communities.
Your next holidays could be an opportunity to discover the immense riches of the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and immerse yourself in naturalistic contexts with unique biodiversity. In the Mediterranean pilot cities of Fairbnb.coop you will find safe holiday lettings that will be the perfect base for an unforgettable sustainable travel.
- Enjoy an eco travel experience
- MPAs near Granada: Natural Park of Cabo de Gata-Nijar; Maro-Cerro Gordo Reserve
- Marine Protected Area near Valencia: Columbretes Islands
- MPAs near Barcelona: Medes Islands Integral Nature Reserve; Natural Park of Cap de Creus
- MPAs near Marseille: Blue Coast Marine Park; Embiez Archipelago
- MPAs near Genoa: Marine Protected Area of Portofino; Pelagos Sanctuary for the Conservation of Marine Mammals
- Marine Protected Area near Venice: Miramare MPA
- MPAs, key to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals
Enjoy an eco travel experience
MPAs are stretches of coastal sea in which the protection and safeguarding of living species is guaranteed, but fruition activities are also allowed. However, the latter must be carried out in full compliance with the regulations of each Marine Protected Area.
To guide visitors in carrying out the permitted activities there are some authorized subjects, often cooperatives, who demonstrate particular sensitivity and respect towards nature and who are therefore able to educate and sensitize the visitors.
You will then be offered environmentally friendly experiences such as swimming, snorkelling and rowing. If you want to move in total autonomy and tranquillity, discovering the secrets of caves and small coves, you can take advantage of the experience of local guides, who often also rent kayaks and small boats.
Always remember that MPAs are fragile ecosystems, habitats of endangered species: you will have to approach with the utmost respect for living species and local cultures and follow all the rules established by those who manage these MPAs.
MPAs near Granada
Natural Park of Cabo de Gata-Nijar
The Natural Park of Cabo de Gata-Nijar is a wild and isolated landscape with some of Europe’s most original geological features. Designated a Unesco Biosphere reserve in 1997, the park shelters an extraordinary wealth of wildlife, including many rare and endemic plants and endangered fauna.
The eponymous mountain range is Spain’s largest volcanic rock formation with sharp peaks and crags in ochre-hues. It falls steeply to the sea creating jagged 100m-high cliffs, which are riven by gullies leading to hidden coves with white sandy beaches, some of the most beautiful in Andalusia. Offshore are numerous tiny rocky islands and, underwater, extensive coral reefs teeming with marine life.
In MPAs like this one, you can find also one of Spain’s most important wetland areas for breeding and overwintering birds, called the Salinas de Cabo de Gata: a saltwater lagoon that runs parallel to the beach and is separated from it by a 400m-wide sand bar. The salinas (salt pans) are the only ones still in operation in eastern Andalucia.
Maro-Cerro Gordo Reserve
Maro-Cerro Gordo Reserve runs along breathtakingly beautiful cliffs that run down to meet secluded inlets and coves at the sea. It is a natural habitat that is mostly untouched and stands proudly as one of the only strips of land along the Andalusian coast that has not been commercialized or developed.
Remember: access to the coves by car or any other motor vehicles is prohibited.
An interesting facet of the Maro Cerro Gordo Park is the number of ancient towers that dot the coastline. These towers would have played a very important role in times past when the coast was constantly under attack from pirates and today they offer very panoramic views of the Mediterranean. There are 5 old Roman towers to hike out to:
- Torre Cerro Gordo
- Torre Maro
- Torre de Caleta
- Torre del Pino (in the image above)
- Torre de la Miel
Snorkelers and scuba divers flock here to enjoy the unique, varied marine life of MPAs like this one. There is a great diversity of Algae formations and the variety of fish here is expansive and very interesting. You will find Starfish, Seahorses, baby squid, and jibia (which are similar to octopus).
Marine Protected Area near Valencia
Columbretes Islands consist of a series of islets and reefs located within 30 miles of the coast of the Valencian Community, and gathered into 4 groups, whose name is given according to the largest of each one of its islands:
- l’Illa Grossa, that is the only one inhabited;
- the Ferrera;
- Carallot, which, with its 32 meters above sea level is the testimony of the geological remnants of the central fireplace of a volcano.
The MPAs that surround the archipelago currently have a surface area of 5,543 ha. Because of the fragility of the islands, it is only possible to visit l’Illa Grossa. The itinerary is done in small groups of people always accompanied by the local guides, who will give an explanation of the most relevant aspects of the reserve. The tour lasts between one and two hours.
It is absolutely forbidden to go ashore without the accompaniment of the park guardians.
The walk will take us from the stairs of the port of l’Illa Grossa to the lighthouse, passing through the Visitors’ Center, where there is an exhibition of human history and fishing in the environment of the Columbretes. During the trip we can observe many and the most representative birds and marine birds, lizards, insects and plants flora of the island; all this nestled in a majestic volcanic landscape.
MPAs near Barcelona
Medes Islands Integral Nature Reserve
Only 1 nautical mile far of the Catalan coast we find Medes Islands, an amazing archipelago formed by 7 islands and extends over 21.5 land hectares and 511 marine hectares, making it an area of outstanding value and one of the most important MPAs in the Mediterranean.
Its wealth and diverse sea bottom make Medes Islands a place of a big beauty to practise scuba diving.Some of the highlights that can be found on this seabed and in the underwater caves are the populations of seaweed, the Posidonia meadows, coral reefs, many species of fish, crab and starfish.
Scuba diving is regulated, but can be done from your own boat or through one of the authorised and licensed centres, who have also developed marine itineraries with commentary, where you can do more gentle dives (flippers, snorkel and goggles) or the scuba diving itinerary (in groups, with a theory session beforehand).
Historically the Medes have been a site that has always enchanted humans, drawing them towards the land from the sea as the numerous shipwrecks found in waters surrounding them bear tragic witness to. In fact, sunken Greek ships have also been found, whilst on the islands remains have been located that have lain hidden for centuries but which indicate that they may have been used as a necropolis.
Natural Park of Cap de Creus
The Cap de Creus Natural Park lies at the easternmost side of the Iberian Peninsula, it is a space of great biological, geological and scenic importance, comprising two very different elements: land and sea.
MPAs like Cape de Creus are of exceptional biological, geological and scenic quality, which required protection with a special care regime. The geological configuration, unique in the world, and the rich vegetation, in which Mediterranean and continental elements coexist, have led to numerous strange species, some endemic. The area also has a high potential for faunal recovery.
The Marine ProtectedArearanges between 1.3 and 0.2 miles out to sea. The waters are clean and pure, and the wealth of underwater life is exceptional, with species such as corals and seaweed meadows.
In addition to the unquestionable biological and geological value of the area, is the exceptional scenic beauty that it offers: wild, varied and colourful. Abrupt cliffs, dark rocks furrowed by the wind and salt, islands and secluded coves.The architectural heritage of the Creus cape is first rate. The most notable example is the Sant Pere de Rodes monastery, today the park offices, where you can find information about the regulations and the different routes and activities that are organised.
MPAs near Marseille
The Blue Coast Marine Park
The Blue Coast is located in the foothills of the Estaque Mountain and extends over 25km west between the port of Marseille and the Gulf of Fos. It was unknown by tourists for a very long time as its beauty was the most closely guarded secret by the Marseilles inhabitants. Composed of ivory-sanded beaches and small resorts, it’s a quaint haven where sheds embellish tiny calanques. This coast was named after the azure water that adorns its limestone massifs. What an enchanting contrast !
Also known as the “Chaîne de l’Estaque” or “Chaîne de la Nerthe”, this mountain houses a luxurious vegetation of pine trees and kermes oaks, it goes through numerous coves very different from one another made of ports and lovely beaches (Establon, Niolon, Méjean, la Redonne…).
All these coves, plateaus and cliffs give the hikers magical rides and trails, like the path of the border officers linking Martigues and Marseille. The mountain bike is perfectly appropriate to such an expedition in this delicious land. But the most indolent people can take the coloured small train of the indigo coast without reserve to enjoy the stunning view: from the top of the hills, the huge bay of Marseille and its string of islands can be admired.
Real paradise for divers, the Blue Coast takes care of its exceptional natural heritage with wisdom and prudence, and it has superb dive sites : the “Bois de Carry”, the Sécan, the Petit and the Grand Mornas… Indeed, The Blue Coast Marine Park ensures the protection of the marine environment and makes sensitive the followers.
The Embiez Archipelago – Six Fours
The Archipelago consists of the island of Embiez, Gaou island, the islands of Petit and Grand Rouveau, and the Magnons islets. By foot, bike, or on the little train, the Embiez Archipelago is the perfect place to escape, and enjoy a little break from the rest of the world. Whether you’re feeling adventurous, or you’d simply like to relax and rejuvenate, the choice is yours.
Internationally recognized destination for divers and sea lovers, the Embiez Island is also known for its Oceanographic Institute, which harbours the Paul Ricard Institute Aquarium. Birds visible on the island include the avocet, the plover, the grey heron, the cormorant and the kingfisher.
The island has a strict environmental policy and its port was the first in the Var department to be awarded ISO 14001 certification. The island also has Blue Flag beaches and the surface is protected under Natura 2000.
MPAs near Genova
Marine Protected Area of Portofino
Encompassing the area of the sea in front of Mount Portofino, including the underwater portion of the promontory, MPAs like the Marine Reserve of Portofino offer a unique environment for the study of the sea floor and its steep vertical walls and cliffs.
Along the coast there are suggestive views and small inlets with the vegetation that laps the sea. The submerged cliffs that rapidly descend to great depths favour a wealth of microhabitats rarely found in the Mediterranean. The astonishing abundance and variety of marine life makes it a major attraction for diving enthusiasts.
One of the most fascinating dives that can be done in the Marine Protected Area of Portofino is the one that reaches the statue of Christ of the Abyss, a symbol for all divers. The statue is characterized by its bronze structure with a height of over 2.5 meters, with the apical part about 13 meters below the sea level. Diving is relatively simple.
Pelagos Sanctuary for the Conservation of Marine Mammals
The Pelagos Sanctuary is composed of maritime areas situated within the internal waters and territorial seas around Liguria, from France to the coast of Sardinia and Tuscany. It covers a surface of 87.500 km2 and is characterised by extremely rich pelagic life, marked by the presence of pelagics mammals. They represent 12 species, such as the cetaceans balaenoptera physalus and ziphius cavirostris.
What makes the Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals unique is the fact that it includes coastal areas and international waters that form a large ecosystem of major scientific, socio-economic, cultural and educational interest. The entire Sanctuary can be broadly considered to be a biogeographically distinct sub-section of the Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) that is the Mediterranean.
Due to the high environmental value of this zone, the management framework of marine and coastal areas designed for conservation purpose is complex and highly diversified.
Most sightings for mammals species are in pelagic waters and there are no sufficient data in the area to infer population trend, although there is some evidence that the species relative abundance is increasing in a portion of the Ligurian Sea, which is an important summer feeding ground. The local population of Curvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) in the Ligurian Sea is estimated at about 100 individuals.
A boat trip can allow you to spot these splendid marine mammals in their natural habitat, with the guidance of expert biologists ready to reveal many curiosities and all their secrets: an educational and fun experience, which lasts about 4 hours, suitable for adults and children.
The whale-watching boats depart from Genoa, from the pier next to the famous Aquarium, where you can continue your visit: thanks to the extraordinary glass wall and the suggestive underwater tunnel of the Cetacean Pavilion, it is possible to admire the dolphins up close.
Marine Protected Area near Venice
Miramare Marine Protected Area is located in the Gulf of Trieste and it extends around the Miramare promontory, a littoral outcrop embedded between Grignano Marina and Barcola coast, a local seaside resort. The headquarters are located in the “Castelletto of Miramare”. This marine coastal area is characterized by a rocky outcrop with coastal cliffs gradually sloping down in boulders, pebbles and muddy formations while moving towards and below sea level. The maximum water depth is of 18 meters, with rocky and sandy bottoms turning into a muddy seafloor at about 8 meters of depth.
MPAs like Miramare Marine Protected Area are under strict protection regimes. Here the only exception is a one-hectare-corridor along the Castelletto of Miramare cliff, where all scuba-diving guided tours are carried out.
As a Specially Protected Area of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI) Miramare MPA must constantly promote studies aimed at monitoring the conservation status of seabed biotopes, ensuring the preservation of high biodiversity levels.
By carrying out awareness-raising and educational programmes in relevant fields, such as biology and marine ecology, Miramare MPA aim to raise people’s environmental knowledge. Educational offers are not only targeted to schools; indeed, they include a wide selection of activities distributed throughout the year, such as creative laboratories, naturalistic guided tours, eco-recreational and awareness-raising events for families, sea-watching activities and underwater guided visits.
MPAs, key to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals
Over the last decades, several MPAs have been established under the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols to prevent and to the fullest possible extent eliminate pollution in the Mediterranean Sea, in order to ensure a sustainable future for the region consistent with the SDGs included in the UN 2030 Agenda, particularly Goal 14 “Life below water”.
Taken together, these MPAs provide a powerful tool to respond to evolving challenges for marine and coastal environments and to preserve the extraordinary wealth of resources that the Mediterranean offers to the millions of people inhabiting its shores and to the world. However, each of these MPAs has unique characteristics for the endemic species of flora and fauna that populate them and for the cultural heritage that surrounds them.
We still want to underline that in all MPAs it is important to know how to behave correctly, as you are in naturalistic sanctuaries where the environmental conditions must be respected and safeguarded in order to always have the natural heritage, which is a common good.
It is always forbidden to damage, remove or disturb marine organisms.
For no reason should be provided food to the fish: this practice “tames” the animals and can make them unable to feed themselves, condemning them to starve.
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