May 31, 2012
Somewhere along the rocky coastline between Cassis and Marseille, the Calanques can be found, a touch of coastal utopia. Nobody could deny the intense natural beauty of this stretch of coastline, these deep rocky inlets, possessing tiny harbours and beaches between high white rocks, that have provided a safe haven from storms for fishermen and sailors for centuries.
The Calanques stretch for more than 20 kilometres and despite of their irrefutable breath-taking aesthetical utopia of transparent water lapping limestone cliffs, have failed to reach the recognition they deserve, until recently that is.
The Calanques have recently become France’s tenth national park, being officially recognised as a place of “outstanding natural beauty”, an announcement which, for many, has been long overdue.
Situated just 22 kilometres from the city of Marseille, after the national parks close to Sydney and Cape Town, Calanques is only the third natural park in the world that is situated on the fringes of a major city.
In spite of its close proximity to cities, rare and adored sea creatures, reptiles and fish, such as turtles and dolphins, can regularly be seen shooting out of the ocean, causing gentle ripples to ripple across the crystal-clear water, meaning marine life enthusiasts are in heaven at Calanques, and justifiably the French government has set up an anti-fishing law in the region. When it was announced that the Calanques were to be made into a natural park, Francois Fillon, the French Prime Minister said that by the year 2020, he aims to have at least 20 percent of the coastlines, rivers and lakes in France, protected by schemes such as natural parks.
Asides being home to some remarkably impressive and rare sea creatures, the Calanques also boost exceptional biodiversity, with some 140 protected species of plant and wildlife being found here, including the last remaining pair of Bonelli eagles in France.
This relatively undiscovered Cote d’Azur region of intense tranquillity and rural beauty is also home to cave paintings that date back almost 30,000 years, which can be found in several of the caves at Calanques.
Although despite its relative anonymity now, tourism is expected to rise at the Calanques since it officially became a Natural Park.