Posted by: lasterrazasapartment | June 8, 2011

Murcia’s secrets II

Salinas de Marchamalo


If you’re near the Mar Menor, head to its southernmost point and breathe in the crisp, salty air of the Salinas de Marchamalo. Long under threat by ambitious developers and fighting to keep alive the centuries-old salt-extraction trade that takes place there, the salt lagoons are currently out of danger thanks to an EU conservation order. Indeed, anything else would be sacrilege. You can easily imagine, strolling round this natural paradise, that you were anywhere from a tropical rainforest to a snow-covered sierra. The exotic plantlife, the vast, silver lakes with their hordes of flamingos, and salt mountains, create dramatically contrasting landscapes at every turn.

Easy to reach from the La Manga motorway, taking the first exit for Cabo de Palos, or on foot from Playa Paraíso, the Salinas de Marchamalo is nonetheless another world altogether from the whitewashed apartment blocks and high-rise hotels.

The Salinas are shallow artificial ponds, each one about the size of football pitch, which were used for the extraction of salt from sea water. These days they are maintained as a nature reserve.

With its high salinity the Mar Menor was an ideal source of water and ultimately salt. There is still a dredged channel leading from the beach to a pump house. When in use, sea water was pumped into the salinas and then allowed to evaporate. This was repeated several times until a thick crust of salt was lleft behind, which was then dug out (harvested).

There are always dozens of species of birds to be seen in and around the salinas. The most spectacular are the Flamingos which are attracted by the thousands of fish and shrimp in the salty water. Other wildlife includes hares, snakes and lizards. I am hoping that somebody more knowledgable than myself will write a proper description of the wildlife in the area.

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