What many don’t realise about the Canary Islands is that despite their relative small size there is so much to see and do. There really is something for everyone! Because of the superb climate and unique natural beauty, there are a whole host of incredible outdoor activities, adventures and excursions that can be enjoyed throughout the majority of the year. In late October last year I was lucky enough to be invited by Lanzarote Active Club on their amazing boat excursion to the Archipiélago Chinijo marine reserve and island of Alegranza.
After being collected in Costa Teguise in the morning by Heidi from Lanzarote Active Club, we drove to the port of Órzola. There we met with the other company team members, Tom and Alena who would be joining us and the other travellers ready to set out to sea on an amazing adventure. The sky was a beautiful blue and despite it being the end of October, the temperature was just right for shorts and t-shirts. The conditions were more or less perfect for a boat trip as the sea looked wonderfully calm and tranquil.
Despite the slight trepidation I felt as the ferry left the port, my overall feeling was a real sense of wanderlust. While this word has become highly overused, there are certain situations where it completely encapsulates the moment and this was one of them. It’s not everyday you get to head out into the ocean under a gorgeous blue sky, to see ancient volcanic islands and an abundance of natural beauty.
The Chinijo archipelago includes the islands of Montaña Clara, Alegranza, La Graciosa, Roque del Este and Roque del Oeste. Apart from La Graciosa, all of the other islands are uninhabited by humans, but are important sites for flora and fauna. Since 1986 the islands of this archipelago have been part of a natural park, the Parque Natural del Archipiélago Chinijowhich covers a total area of 91.12 km2 (35.2 sq miles) which includes another amazing place to explore, the stunning cliffs of Famara (Riscos de Famara). There is also a separately designated marine reserve which overlaps this area. These designated areas have been instituted to protect the fantastic array of marine and birdlife that inhabits this area.
Our journey to Alegranza took approximately one hour and a half and despite the waves becoming bigger in the open water, the experience was exhilarating. With the wind blowing in our hair, the spray from the ocean and the sunshine on our faces it felt exhilarating being out on the open waves. On board there was an excited mood as flying fish leaped out of the water and flew along into the distance. To see these unique creatures in the wild was simply stunning. While I enjoy a day of relaxing at the beach, these kind of adventures really make me feel alive!
Alegranza is the northernmost point of the Canary Islands and once you reach it you really feel like you are in a different world, with a large volcanic crater of 1.1km diameter, and barren volcanic landscape. The island’s name, Alegranza, is derived from the Spanish word for joy, and was so named, according to scholars, by Jean de Bethencourt, one of the earliest explorers to the Canary Islands after he first spotted land. This is the perfect word to describe how everyone on our ferry was feeling, as we were all having such a great time.
The ferry sailed around to the eastern part of the island where we stopped for a view of the Punta Delgada lighthouse which was designated a historic monument in 2002. Close to the lighthouse is a small house, where scientists stay at certain times of the year to monitor the various bird species that inhabit the island all year round such as Ospreys and Egyptian vultures, and others that migrate and nest there during certain times of the year like Eleanora’s Falcons. In March this area also becomes home to the world’s second largest nesting colony of Cory´s Shearwater, 11000 pairs!
As we sailed around the island there were birds all around us; on the island, resting in the water and flying through the air. Many of the birds flew alongside the ferry in a breathtaking display. Seeing animals out in their natural habitat really is a sight to behold and if you are used to life in many major cities, is not something you experience nearly enough.
The ferry circled Alegranza completely so we were able to see all sides of this impressive island including a glimpse of a cave that is sometimes possible to swim into. When the tide is right and the waves not too big you can swim through this cave to a hidden beach where part of a volcanic crater has collapsed.
As we headed to our next port of call, La Graciosa, we passed Montaña Clara. The island has a striking shape and colour which clearly shows its volcanic origin, and as the ferry passed by merely metres away we were able to stare up at the incredible cliffs of its coast, and catch glimpses of nesting birds. It is also an important refuge for fauna and flora which is why the natural park was created, to protect the wonderful species that exist from human exploitation.
Once more we were passed by flying fish and various species of birds but nature had another surprise in store for us as there were glimpses of pilot whales! Seeing these majestic creatures in the wild is really amazing and everyone on the ferry was clamouring for a glimpse as they surfaced in the distance. The waters around the Canary Islands are some of the best places in the world to see whales and dolphins and we were not disappointed on our journey.
We arrived at the gorgeous island of La Graciosa (the Spanish word for graceful), and dropped anchor alongside one of the beautiful beaches there, Playa Francesa. Unlike the other islands of the Chinijo archipelago there is a small population and thriving tourism. It’s not difficult to see why as the golden sands of the beach looked like paradise. The waters of the strait of El Rio (the river) which divides La Graciosa from Lanzarote were completely calm, and a beautiful blue, sparkling in the sunlight.
While most of those onboard opted to be taken over to the beach in a smaller boat to then walk along to the main settlement of the island, Caleta de Sebo, I chose to join a smaller group led by Tom on sea kayaks. I’d never tried it before and this seemed like an absolutely ideal opportunity. As we kayaked along El Rio towards Caleta de Sebo, I was struck by what an amazing day this had been, and how lucky I was to be there in that moment. To our left were the beaches of La Graciosa and to the right the incredible cliffs of Famara on Lanzarote. This was one of those definite wow moments in life!
The kayaking was a good workout as we struck on through the waters, stopping every once in awhile to dip our toes in the refreshing waters as fish swam around us. We kayaked directly into the port of Caleta de Sebo, to meet the ferry and leave our kayaks there. From there we meandered over to the restaurant where we were set to eat a well deserved lunch. We had easily beaten the walkers back to the restaurant and were able to sit back with a cool, refreshing beer and wait for them.
Once the rest of the group had arrived we all settled down to eat a delicious traditional Canarian meal. After such an amazing day this was a perfect way to end our adventure. Following our meal we had a short amount of time to wander around the sandy streets of the town and even checked out the tiny museum, dubbed the smallest in the world.
This really had been an outstanding day of firsts for me with memories that have lasted long since the excursion ended. I would certainly recommend this trip to anyone who wants to see part of the real Canary Islands!