The Petite Camargue is one of the last remaining wild wetlands in Europe. It is home to 150 species of birds, pink flamingos, the famous white Camargue horses, and is famous for its black bulls, bullfighting and the romantic Camarguis way of life. The landscape of the Camargue has a wonderful barren beauty and serenity.
History of the Petite Camargue habitat
The Petite Camargue was once under covered by the ocean. Over 4 million years ago the sea stretched as far north as Lyon. When it shrank back it left behind a salt rich soil and marshland. The land has been inhabited for over & mllion years. In the north of the Petite Camargue the land has been cultivated for agriculture, in particular fruit orchards and wheat. Rice fields have also been created by farmers to filtrate the salt from the fields.
White Camargue horses
In the centre of the Camargue, there is an abundance of bull and horse farms. The famous white camargue horses were thought to have first been introduced to the Petite Camarge by Arabs about 1,000 years ago. The horses are born dark brown and only turn white when they reach maturity. In the South, the Petite Camargue is home to lagoons and flocks of flamingos and birds.
The Petite Camargue is an ornothologists dream. It is home to several species of egrets, sterns, avocets, herons, shelduck, gulls, hoopoes, bee-eaters and oyster-catchers. The lagoons of the Petite Camargue are the perfect habitat for colonies of pink flamingos. The molluscs that the flamingos feed off the birds their unique pink colour. The Parc Ornithologique de Pont de Gau, has a wide collection of bird species and is an oasis for Ornothologists from all over the world.
Flora & Fauna of the Camargue
The pine forests at the edge of the lagoons helps protect the sand dunes from wind erosion. Behind the dune, the lagoon is the home of the rare salicornes and tamaris plants, which are unique in being able to to tolerate the strong salt content of the water. Since Roman times, salicornes have been burned and the ash has been mixed with olive oil to create soap! The Musee Baroncelli, located in Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, is a small museum dedicated to the flora and fauna of the Camargue region
The people of the Camargue, "Les Camarguais", have always been viewed romantically in Languedoc. They are seen as Frontiersmen, tough Cattle-herders and fantastic horsemen. The Musee Camarguais, Mas du Pont de Rousty, Albaron (located on the road in between Arles and Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer is a small museum housed in an old sheep shed that gives a vivid portrait of the traditional local lifestyle.
Camargue tourist information
The Camargue has long been romantically linked with writers and artists. Lawrence Durrell called the Petite Camargue 'Little Argentina' and was a frequent visitor from his home in nearby Sommieres (visit wikipedia for further information about Lawrence Durrell and his peotry and novels). Van Gogh also painted some of the Petite Camargue's desolate scenes (see Van Gogh in Arles). The best way of exploring the Camargue is slowly - either by cycling, horse riding or by boat.
Horse riding: Cabane de Boucanet, situated in Port Camargue offers one-day horseback rides through the Petite Camargue (tel: 04 66 53 25 64); Manade Lebret, located 10km from St-Gilles on the D37, just off the N572 road, provides half-day and full-day horseback and carriage tours (tel:04 66 87 22 04)