The one tip I’d give every visitor to the Canary Islands is to turn round. As tempting as it is to spend your whole holiday facing the sea, it’s a mistake. To give you an idea of just how special the islands are, here’s a statistic. Britain has 47 unique species of plants. The Canary Islands, a fraction of the size, have 600. Almost everything alive that you see in the Canarian countryside is unique.
Before the Ice Ages, a vast forest covered the whole of the Mediterranean and North Africa. But nature is cruel and it died out, trapped between the sands of the Sahara and the ice of Europe. Its plants and animals disappeared for ever. Except in the Canary Islands. Here, protected by the Atlantic Ocean, they just carried on as normal.
But nature doesn't rest on its laurels. Over time the plants and animals of the Canary Islands adapted to the local micoclimates. One species became two and then many.
The animals followed suit. A dozen reptiles, from blue-tailed skinks to giant lizards, evolved to fit their habitats. The chaffinches turned blue and the pigeons went pink.
Stick your head underwater and it’s like being at the carnival. Tropical trigger and parrotfish school with shiny Mediterranean bream. Vivid damselfish and wrasse follow swimmers, and octopus sit in their caves just watching the party.
The waters around the Canaries are the Atlantic Ocean's meeting point. It's why 30 species of whale and dolphin visit.
You don't have to go far to see why the Canary Islands are one of the world's biodiversity hotspots. Chunky dragon trees grow on roundabouts and unique Canary palms rustle in hotel gardens. Canaries roam in melodious flocks and giant lizards bask by the beaches.
As soon as you leave the resorts and head into nature, you’re surrounded by stuff that just doesn’t exist anywhere else on Earth. Every island, every valley even, has it's own unique species. Best of all, many of the plants are beautiful and carpet the islands in flowers during spring. There’s always something flowering.
Nature in Lanzarote has had a torrid history. Eruptions covered much of it with barren lava. It's plants and animals survived on islands amongst the fresh rock. Or took refuge in its caves.
Tip: Head to the high cliffs of Haria for the highest density of unique plants, or into its lava tunnels to see the famous blind crabs.
The eroded folds of Fuerteventura hide natural riches. But you only see them after rain. Then the island explodes in a brief but stunning display of life and colour.
Tip: Walk into the white dunes at Corralejo or Jandia. They’ve been selfie heaven for a long time before Instagram came along.
Gran Canaria alone has over 100 unique plants. Some, such as the recently discovered Gran Canaria dragon tree, only grow in tiny areas.
The pine forests in the highlands confuse your senses. The wind blowing through their needles sounds like waves on a beach.
Tip: Visit the Jardín Canario botanical garden to see the world's best collection of Canarian plants.
Crowned by the world's third largest volcano, Tenerife is the most diverse Canary Islands. It has deserts, alpine plains and huge laurel and pine forests.
The Masca Valley walk is a must, and the vastness of Teide volcano stays with you forever.
Tip; There are so many. Visit Tenerife's pilot whales, walk Anaga in the far north. Buy a snorkel.
The forests of La Gomera defy convention. Ancient but fast growing, broadleaf but green all year round, silent but full of life. A tree-hugger's dream.
Tip: Listen for the cooing of La Gomera's shy laurel pigeons. And go to Valle Gran Rey. It’s where palm trees would go on holiday if they could.
La Palma, said to be the world's steepest island, has two personalities. Forests cover the lush north and its vast Caldera while the dryer south is volcanic. Walk the spine of the island and try and take it all in.
Tip: Walk down from the observatories into the Caldera de Taburiente and watch the choughs surfing the thermals. Relax, you don't need to walk back back up. You can just call a taxi.
The last outpost; El Hierro is where you go to disconnect from the beeps and bleeps of modern life. The ocean has a voice in El Hierro and what it says is a secret. You'll just have to go and hear it for yourself.
Tip: Visit the twisted juniper trees at La Dehesa: You only see photos of the famous one but there are hundreds.