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Gran Canaria possesses many natural resources in addition to its beaches, which is why this is the perfect place for getting in touch with nature, there being a wide variety of possibilities and activities in which one can participate. Gran Canaria, ( although small  –  only  1,532  square  kilometres )  has  a  widely  varying

topography, climate, flora and fauna. There are species of animals indigenous to the archipelago, along with a rich tapestry of history.

Almost 43% of the territory of Gran Canaria is protected. This means approximately 66,571 hectares of land, which is almost 1,000 square metres of protected land for each inhabitant of the island. Due to the geological formation of the interior of the island, the landscapes of the interior are very different from those of the coast, originating many and varied ecosystems on the island.

An anecdotal piece of information is that only 1% of the island's population lives on protected land. The Parque Rural del Nublo is an interesting case in this regard. This rural park, which stretches over eight municipal areas in the centre of the island and covers a surface area of 26,307.4 hectares (the size of La Gomera island), but it supports a tiny population of around 5,000 inhabitants. This fact is ironic in the light of the environmental problems caused by overpopulation on Gran Canaria, mainly in the Northeast of the island where the greatest part of the population lives.

Topography

The volcanoes that form the islands' backbone saw the light of day at about the time the Atlas Mountains were formed in North Africa millions of years ago. The highest volcano, Teide at 3718 m on Tenerife, is Spain's tallest peak and the third tallest volcano in the world after two in Hawaii. All the volcanic activity has ensured that the soil is very fertile, but there are no rivers and the islands have been periodically plagued by water shortages. Most of the drinking water on some islands comes straight from desalination plants.

Being of volcanic origin, the island's orography has a conical shape that is split in two by the ravines of Tirajana and Agaete, representing the main line of division that separates the enormous contrasts of the North and the South. Numerous ravines gouge their way across the centre of the island in the direction of descent.

This feature, together with the complicated relief and the massif (known as Los Pechos) that runs from the north-west to the south-west, are the main architects of the great variety of climatic conditions that exist on this island and, therefore, the great variety of ecosystems to which the island is host.

Tourism

The inhabitants of the islands have put together a supply of nature tourism that is characterised by an equally deep respect for the environment. This includes everything from century-old country houses that have been renovated, as well as a wide range of leisure activities that include everything from high risk sports, such as rock climbing, to hiking along the "Caminos reales" or ancient network of country pathways, which has been reopened for use by the public and which forms part of the cultural and historic heritage of the island.

Climate

The Canaries bask in an eternal-spring climate, with temperatures ranging from 18°C (64°F) in winter to 24°C (75°F) in summer. On a hot day at the beach, it can still be pleasantly cool if you get up into the mountains, and you'll definitely need warm clothes if you reach any high altitudes during the winter.

Except for Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, the northern side of the islands is sub-tropical, while the south, including the first two mentioned islands, is drier and slightly warmer. There is not much rain except on parts of the windswept northern coasts, and what there is tends to fall on the northern side of the more mountainous islands.

The flat islands, with no mountains to trap rain clouds, hardly receive a drop of rain. On occasion, especially in summer, the sirocco (the hot wind from the Sahara) blows in from Africa, turning day into twilight and coating everything with grime. It's at its worst in the eastern islands, and is known locally as the calima.

In Gran Canaria one can do anything, from hiking through the most beautiful nature areas to taking part in adventure sports, or merely contemplating the hundreds of indigenous species that are unique in the world. In Gran Canaria, anything is possible for those who want to satisfy their need to get in touch with Mother Nature.

The following are some of the nature areas on Gran Canaria that deserve special mention:

Natural Areas

Monumento Natural de Bandama (Natural Monument):
This nature area, which covers a surface area of 325.7 hectares, includes parts of the municipal areas of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (the capital), Santa Brígida and Telde

Parque Rural del Nublo (Rural Park):
This is the largest protected nature area on the island. The 26,307.4 hectares of this park are spread over eight municipalities, namely Tejeda, La Aldea de San Nicolás, Mogán, San Bartolomé de Tirajana, Artenara, San Mateo, Valleseco and Moya

Parque Natural de Tamadaba (Nature Park):
This nature park, which covers a surface area of 7,538.6 hectares, with its pine groves, lies within the municipalities of Agaete and La Aldea de San Nicolás.

Parque Rural de Doramas (Rural Park):
Covers an area of 3,586 hectares in the municipal areas of Moya, Valleseco, Firgas, Santa María de Guía, Arucas and Teror

The long catalogue of protected areas on Gran Canaria is completed by the Natural rural monuments of Montañón Negro, Roque Aguayro, Tauro and Arinaga.

There are also a number of areas that have been declared as "Natural Rural Landscapes", namely La Isleta, Pino Santo, Tafira, Las Cumbres, Lomo Magullo, Fataga and Montaña de Agüimes.

Lastly, there are a number of areas that have been declared as "Areas of Interest", these being Jinámar, Tufia, Roque de Gando and Juncalillo del Sur.

Terrestrial fauna

Reptiles
The terrestrial fauna of the Island is characterised by the absence of big vertebrates and harmful species. Birds and reptiles are the most numerous species of Gran Canaria wildlife. Among the vertebrates we have the Canary Island lizard - endemic of the island and whose abundance is overwhelming, the Gran Canaria skink, Boettger's Canary wall gecko and Osorio shrew.

Birds
Birds have the biggest representation in the Island's wildlife population: specifically, 48 species including the nesting birds of this island, with endemic birds such as great spotted woodpeckers, robins and the blue chaffinch, the latter in the pine forests of Pilancones-Inagua.

The canary bird deserves a separate mention due to its symbolic establishment that relates it both to the Canary Islands and to Gran Canaria in particular. The interesting thing about this bird, with a great singing ability, is that it was bred through crossbreeding with other species, thus producing a great variety.

Besides, the Island is a resting place for many of the migrating birds.

We can point out the birds included in the marine and nesting species.

Marine fauna
The marine fauna of Gran Canaria is very rich and diversified in species, and this peculiarity is a result of the environmental diversity and the geographical situation of the island.

One of the distinct features of the marine settlements of the waters of Gran Canaria is the coexistence of species such as pelagic fish and turtles.

The Caretta species is conspicuously the most common of the family turtles. These species coexist with rays, manta rays, stingrays and angel sharks, swordfishes, big tuna fish or coastal species such as white sea breams, parrot -fishes, goldlines, saddled sea breams, pompanoes, groupers, blacktail combers, john dories or pollacks.

Within the mammals that are found in the waters of Gran Canaria are common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and whales.

 
Canary Islands - Birding Trip Report http://www.camacdonald.com
La Charca Nature Reserve of Maspalomas http://www.grancanaria.com
Photos from Maspalomas & Charca de Maspalomas http://www.fotosdegrancanaria.com
Canarias por una Costa Viva http://www.canariasporunacostaviva.org
   
 

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