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Island Ecology

Island Ecology

by José P Ribas

Sailing Along San José Coast


Ibiza Ecology

We'll take the boat in San Antonio's harbour and sail along the bay following the Sun to the West.

The South coast of Sant Antoni de Portmany (from the Roman "Portus Magnus", meaning great harbour) actually falls within the San José Municipal District. The county border starts at the beach of "Es Puet", about a kilometre from the town centre of San Antonio.

San José possesses more then fifty per cent of all Ibiza's beaches on just over a third of the island's coast, which has made this once small village and the people (together with Calviá, Mallorca) the richest Town Hall "per capital" in Spain.

We'll sail along the built-up coast of "Cala de Bou" till "Port des Torrent". The beach of "Cala Bassa" comes next. After turning "Punta de sa Torre" and leaving behind the early 17th century tower, from where the population was alerted with fire and smoke if a suspicious boat was coming to shore, we are then in "Cala Conta" and by the little islands that shelter the bay from the west winds.

The scenery, the light and the colours around this area are really splendid.

"Conejera", the largest of the uninhabited islands around Ibiza, is the one you see, five miles away, when you watch the Sunset from San Antonio. Its name means a place where rabbits live, and there are quite a few living on it. There is also a pretty blue lizard "Lacerta muralis". Seagulls of different species "Larus argentatus" and "Larus ridibundus" form colonies on it. On its cliff, different kinds of falcons can be seen "Falco peregrinus", "Falco eleonor" and "Falco tinnunculus". By the coast we find groupers, "Serranus gigas", black breams "Cantharus lineatus", morays and conger eels, among a lot of other fish.

There is a local legend about Conejera that Hannibal, the great Carthaginian general, was born on it. His mother was sailing around by these waters when the boat had to put to shore because of stormy weather. They sailed around Conejera to the East; the inner side, safe from the big waves and strong winds. She could not wait for the hospital to be built and the place was as good as any other. "Ebessos", Ibiza, was then the most important colony and city of the Balearics. One of his ancestors, General Magon, founded the city of Mahón, in Menorca, where he sheltered with the rest of the Carthaginian fleet, after being defeated in Sicily and Sardinia by the Romans. So, who knows? One thing we can be sure of, his elephants were not from this island.

Nearby the sands of Cala Conta there is "S'illa des Bosc" which seems to be easy to reach, but has very dangerous waters, with strong currents and reefs around it. The seabed is covered with historical wrecks. In the Punic Museum of Ibiza we can see plenty of amphora and other relics rescued from them. Locals used to augment their amount of proteins by collecting eggs of seagulls and chickens of "Virots" (a type of autochthonous albatross) on it.

About three miles out to the West there are five little islands known as "S'es Bledas". After that, the seabed drops several hundred metres and there is open sea for seventy-five miles till mainland Spain. There is a very rich ecosystem in the waters between the islands. Tuna "Thunnus thynnus" Amberjack "Seriola dumerili" Barracuda "Sphyraena sphyraena" Scorpion fish "Scorpaena scrofa" Weevers "Trachinus draco" "Trachinus araneus" Comber "Serranus cabrilla" "Serranus scriba" Spiny lobster "Palinurus elepha" etc.

We'll sail now to the South, along the West Coast of San José or the "Sunset Riviera" as some call it.

"Cala Tarida", "Cala Corral", "Cala Molí" and "Cala Vadella" were solitary, sandy beaches forty-five years ago, with not even a single house in miles. Now thousands of apartments and some big and expensive villas surround them. This is how the people of San José made the first money, by selling and building on the entire littoral, where before they earned practically nothing from these "bad" lands, comprising the rocky, wild, windy and dangerous coast. But how beautiful and full of life it was.

Two or three miles from the shore there is the island "S'espartá", with interesting rock for its Flora. There is a protected endemic plant on it ("Limonium ebussitanum"... I think), Asparagus "Asparagus officinalis" and "Stipa tenacissima" Esparto, that gives its name to the island. Locals used to go every year to collect it, to make ropes, bags and carpets with its fibrous leaves. There are also seagulls, falcons and cormorants. The lizards on this island, even though they are the same species as the rest of the islands, are black. (Charles Darwin probably could have come to the same conclusions as his "Theory of Evolution" by visiting and studying the lizards and terrestrial snails of these different little islands. The old Ibicenco sailors could tell from which island every lizard came, just by its colour).

After Cala Vadella's cape we change course to the south-east, suddenly in front of your eyes, twelve hundred feet of vertical rock rising from the sea, is the island of "Es Vedra". By the side, its little brother "Es Vedranell" looks like a bit of the Moon on Earth.

What can we say about this magic rock that hasn't been said? Perhaps, the best thing to do is to experience personally the emotions that grow within oneself just by watching its changing colours in the Sunset's twilight.

Being a bit more academic, we can speak about goats, seagulls, lizards and the rest of Fauna and Flora that live on it.

Goats (the autochthonous Cabra pitiussa) have been living wild on Es Vedra (on and off) for hundreds of years, some say thousands. Once or twice a year, they swim ashore and scale the cliffs chasing the new-born Kids (I must admit that they are delicious).

Es Vedra's population has to be kept under control, or there is the risk that they will eat all the plants and die, as has happened in the past. Now more then ever, because someone brought rabbits to the island and we all know how fast they grow in number. The local government takes care now to protect the autochthonous plants ("Crithmum maritinum", "Mesembry anthement" and the very rare "Cynomorium coccineum" among others) and keep the goats in viable numbers for the environment, as well as the rabbits, and the seagulls, which are becoming a real problem for the aeroplanes.

In the surrounding waters, apart from the fish already mentioned, there are Turtles "Chelonia Midas" and "Careta careta". Sharks "Lamna cornubica" "Prionace glaucus" Hammerhead "Sphyrna zygaena". Dolphins "Tursiops truncates" is the most common, "Delphinus delphis" is also easy to see, racing with the boats.

Back on the seashore are "Cala Carbo" and "Cala d'Hort" two of my favourite beaches. Both always have crystal clear waters, enough room, and the best and absolute freshest fish in their seaside restaurants. Come to think of it, I'll stop here for today. And that's what you should do, if you happen to be lucky enough to be nearby, like good fish and can afford it. "Bon profit".

The Good News

The good news this week is the number of "Blue Flags" that the islands keep achieving. The Blue Flag is the symbol of the best quality beaches. Ibiza and especially Formentera lead the Mediterranean. The Tour Operators voted the beach of "Ses Salinas" as "The Best Mediterranean Beach" again. Congratulations and thank you very much to everybody that made it possible. Only one regret... To have bigger beaches doesn't mean they are better, only that you can put more people on them. There is enough extra sand added to the shore. In my opinion, the Blue Flag or any other colour flag, should not be won at the cost of losing the Natural Wild Life.

José P Ribas