To be honest, I had not heard of the Carmague before picking up the guide book in preparation for our trip to the South of France. I read as far as mention of thousands of flamingos and knew we would head in that direction.
Situated to the South West of Provence, the Carmargue is a region and natural park encompassing Western Europe’s largest river delta. It comprises hundreds of square kilometres of briney reed covered marshes, lagoons and low lying fertile land.
Staying in Arles, it was a short hop across the mighty Rhone to enter the Carmargue and then a fair drive south across pancake flat fields before we reached the core to the region. There we found what we had been looking for, hundreds and hundreds of pink greater flamingos.
This is an ideal habitat for this beautiful, if slightly odd bird, with plenty of minute organisms for them to filter through their bills as they awkwardly strut across the shallows. Visiting a well-managed reserve, we were able to get right up close along the reed banks. Only when next door do you realise how big these birds grow and the boys were mesmerised standing just meters away from dozens of flamingos preening themselves, hooting and filtering their beaks through the water.
Chris and I were, if anything more excited, marching around the lagoon to find more and more angles from which to view the birds. At the far side of the reserve we came across a massive cluster, who whirled around in a coordinated prance before taking to the wing en masse and performing what, from our perspective, was a whirry pink fly past. This was all accompanied by a chorus of deep, throbbing hoots. Such a pre-historic, base noise, it made me think of their dinosaur ancestors.
It was a wonderful surprise to find such flambuoyant wildlife up close. A fantastic experience, topped up with sightings of tree loads of nesting herons and the Carmague’s very own indigenous horse on the way back. I am so glad this type of place still survives in Europe.