Marseille & Provence Chapter 6 : White horses and pink flamingos of the Camargue

After the late night arrival from Cannes in day 3 I thought I’d stay some more time in bed in the morning. But I wanted to visit the area of Camargue and also Arles, so I got up around 9 and headed out. I got a quick breakfast and then on the road.

The Camargue is a unique area, defined by the two branches of the delta of the Rhone. It lies just south of Arles and the whole of it is a Parc Naturel Regionel which means the French state tries to maintain an equilibrium between the indigenous ecosystem on one hand and human activities such as agriculture, light industry and tourism on the other. It is an area than consists of lagoons, wetlands, drained land and “houses” unique animals and plants such as the trademark white horses, the pink flamingos and the black bulls

The trip from Marseille to the Camargue, passing by the outskirts of Arles is usually around 1,5 hours. I got out of Marseille without any issue, thankfully it was a work day but I was delayed due to huge traffic a little before Arles. The traffic occured because of an accident, a truck had gone out of the road and one lane was closed. This ‘cost’me around 30 minutes

After Arles, the main road to Camargue heads south, going to Stes Maries de la Mer, the only sizable town of the area which is situated at the beachfront as the name suggests. Before getting there, of course, there are several places to visit and actually Stes Marie is a typical lively beach town, to understand what the Camargue is about you have to wander outside of it

My first stop was in a horse farm along the road. Camargue horses are famous for their white colour as well as their stamina, strength and agility. Actually they are born grey but as they age, they grow more and more white hair so that adults are almost all white.

You can go horse riding in backroads and lagoons, it is a well known activity in the area. In the place I stopped there were some families with kids that were also looking at the horses. I spend some time there, took some good photos and moved on to my next destination the Parc Ornithologicue du Pont de Grau

This park is a great stop for anyone interested in the birdlife of the Camargue. It contains five lagoons, well marked paths around and reaches up to the large “lake” Etang des Gines. It also houses an information center with drawings, charts and diagramms of birds and bird life. You can easily spend a whole day and even more if you follow all the paths.

Initially I wanted to spend just around 1 hr there. But I was captivated and stayed much longer, around 2.5-3 hours. Of course the main attraction were the pink flamingos (which at this time of year are not completely pink). They are magnificent. Almoste everybody was looking at them, including some SERIOUS birdwatchers with huge lenses

I wanted to walk around the three lagoons and the bigger lake, but the place is huge. I needed more than one day ๐Ÿ™‚ So I settled for going around two lagoons, following the paths and also getting up the woodeen observatories which provicede a somewhat better view. There were many people around, many family with kids and ‘professional’ birdwatchers with the relevant equipment (cameras, binoculars, ultrazoom lenses)

Apart from the flamingoes, there were some other birds : some herons, a couple of ducks and an owl that was nesting during the day in its nest. But the kings and queens of the show were the flamingoes as you can see from the galleries

After leaving the park I travelled south to St Maries. I didn’t stop because I wanted to go back, visit Arles and then head to Marseille for dinner with my friends. But I didn’t just turn around, I took another road back to Arles, a backroad actually where I passed by several farms with white horses and even black bulls (though unfortunately I didn’t see any of the latest)

I arrived at Arles in the afternoon. I’d really have liked to explore more of the Camargue, but the beauty of the flamingoes consumed my time (deliciously I might add). Maybe one day I’d like to come back and spend more time there, preferrably a couple of days.

After that, it was time to visit Arles. But that is the next chapter of the story …


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