Estrecho Natural Park

Estrecho Natural Park

The Estrecho National Park covers an area of nearly 19,000ha and consists of coastline and its costal waters.  It starts from Cabo de Gracia in the west near Bolonia and finishes at Punta del Carnero in the east, south of Algeciras. This means that he east coast of the park is on the Mediterranean and west coast is on the Atlantic Ocean. The Strait of Gibraltar, which links these seas and separates Europe from Africa, is the main crossing point for migratory birds as the distance between the two continents is only 14 km. The location of this park makes it a unique environment of exceptional biodiversity of extraordinary interest. The climate of the area is characterized by mild temperatures and a dry season and a total lack of rain. Also included in the National Park is the Duna de Bolonia Natural Monument and the Playa de los Lances Natural Area. The park is located to the south of Los Alcornocales Natural Park.


Within the park there are many archaeological sites.  The Roman town of Baelo Claudia about 22 km northwest of Tarifa is the most well known.  The town dates from the late second century BC and represented the main seaport that connected Europe with the city of Tangier in Morocco. Claudia Baelo may have had some functions as an administrative center, but was a port city mainly dedicated to fishing and salting of tuna. These activities took place during the summer months and the city attracted many seasonal workers, a fact which partly determines the characteristics of some of its buildings. The town was renowned for its fish preservation and in particular a fish sauce known as ‘garum’ which was produced from tuna and mackerel. 

Another interesting site in the park is the bronze age Necropolis of the Algarve. This consists of a multitude of artificial caves carved into the sandstone. The necropolis was excavated between 1967 and 1972 and many artefacts recovered including: pottery vessels, pieces of bronze, ivory and gold, carved and polished stone and ornamental pendants made of perforated discs.

The park is home to around 30 caves. Substantial amount contain rock paintings. Also worth visiting are the defensive watchtowers along the coast. In several places in the Natural Park of the Strait there are sets of anthropomorphic tombs, considered late Roman, Visigothic or high-medieval. An interesting example is the necropolis of Betis.

The Estrecho National Park has an impressive range of variety of habitats; a total of 18 range from mobile sand dunes, cork oak woodland and offshore submerged sand banks.



Early Humans
The Strait of Gibraltar has been related to the spread of early man from Africa to Europe because of the short distance between the continents at this point. The region has been populated by humans since the Lower Paleolithic period (2.7 million to 200000 years ago). Archaeological studies conducted in Benzú Cabililla on the African shore of the Strait of Gibraltar suggest that there was human traffic between Africa and Europe during this period.

The most important cave in Estrecho Natural Park is the Cueva del Moro which has a multitude of prints of horses and some abstract designs dating from the Upper Paleolithic period (40,000 to 10,000 years ago). According to researchers at the University of Cadiz there is increasing evidence that Neanderthal man came to Europe through the Strait. The Campo de Gibraltar was one of the last known habitats of Neanderthals. Excavations in nearby Gorham's Cave on Gibraltar suggest that Neanderthals became extinct only 24,000 years ago which means that they were a contemporary of modern man, who arrived in Europe 40,000 years ago.

Birds are the most prolific and important fauna in the Estrecho National Park. Due to its location (the narrowest point of the Strait of Gilbraltar), it is used by many hundreds of millions of migrating birds as they cross from Europe to Africa and back again.  Over 350 different species have been recorded here.   

The National Park is a bird watchers dream.  Nearly the whole of the stork population passes through here during migration along with a huge amounts raptors and swifts.

The area is a permanent home to bonnelli's eagles, goshawks and kestrels along with many others.  During migration you’ll find herons, storks, flamingos, spoonbills, honey buzzards, golden eagles among many more species. Griffon and Egyptian vultures and the seabirds gannets, kittiwakes, razorbills, puffins are also found here.

The park includes some areas of sea which are home to sponges, jellyfish and a huge number of molluscs and crustaceans. The largest limpet (patella ferrugiea) in Europe is found here! There are also sea turtles, dolphins and whales.

The Estrecho National Park has diverse habitats which provide home to many different species of plant.  These include dense cork oak woodland at the Sierra de la Plata and Mediterranean scrubland. Around Bolonia and the Sierra de la Plata is home to a huge amount of wildflowers which in spring put on a spectacular display.  These flowers include wild tulips, Spanish irises, palmate anemones and several endemic species of narcissus. Stone pines, phoenician and junipers are found around Punta Paloma and Punta Camarinal.  The dunes at Cerro del Estrecho provide an ideal habitat for rock samphire, sea asters and marigolds.


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