Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park is located in the extreme southeast of the province of Almería and is the first natural maritime-land park in Andalusia. It is one of the most protected natural areas of Spain, due to the great geological, ecological, historical, anthropological and landscape heritage that Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park has.
There are many aspects that make Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park a unique natural space, such as being considered one of the most arid landscapes in Europe and the few of protected volcanic origin. Noteworthy are the cliffs and seabeds that are located on its 63 kilometers of coastline, valued among the highest quality of the Mediterranean coast of Spain.
In Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park we find a good example of harmony between humans and nature, because many of the activities carried out in Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park have helped to conserve and maintain of the environment, as occurs with the salt exploitation of the area. In this sense it is necessary to say that the social and economic development of the environment that affects to Cabo de Gata is linked to the conservation of Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park, which makes it necessary to regulate the actions carried out and to go to perform.
The land area of Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park occupies part of the towns of Carboneras, Níjar and Almería, while its maritime strip extends through the Las Salinicas Beach in Carboneras, Rambla de Aguas in Almería city and a nautical mile inside the Mediterranean Sea. There is also a small part of the municipality of Sorbas that belongs to Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park.
The climate of Almería and Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park have a high level of aridity, since the Baetic System prevents the penetration of the storms coming from the Atlantic Ocean. This does not affect the wind activity, which estimates about 307 wind days per year. However, the temperature in Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park does not include large variations, obtaining an annual average of between 18 and 20 °C.
The human presence in Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park dates back more than 10,000 years, but not until the end of the Neolithic period did the first settlements take place. Evidence of this is the archaeological remains found in Carboneras and Níjar, such as El Saltador Bajo or Cerro de la Testa. The Romans left a large number of wells, rafts, fish salting industries, etc. in places such as Torre García, Cerro del Cinto, Los Escullos or San José.
Everything exposed, together with the beaches, make Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park an ideal place to practice rural tourism enjoying a natural and ecological environment. In addition, the proximity to tourist centers of Almería such as Vera, Mojácar or Roquetas de Mar, intensifies the attraction of Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park.
Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park is divided by zones that go from Zone A to Zone D, going through zones B and C with some subdivisions. Zone A are ecosystems of major ecological, scenic or scientific value that are more protected; Zone B are those spaces whose ecological, scientific, cultural or landscape value is compatible with human activity; in Zone C, sustainable use is guaranteed by minimizing the impact on the natural space and degraded areas are restored; Finally, Zone D says that "those areas not included in the previous categories are included, in particular, those urban and developable soils whose development, a priori, is considered possible provided their non-affection for natural habitats is determined and the species that motivated the addition of this natural area in the Natura 2000 Network".
The landscape of Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park is structured, however, in three main physiographic units. The first is the Sierra de Cabrera, where is the highest point of the Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park, La Serrata Peak, northwest of Carboneras. In second place, we find the Sierra del Cabo de Gata, a submarine mountain range of volcanic origin that runs along the bottom of the Alboran Sea that locates its summit in the Cerro del Fraile. Finally, we have the plain of the Gulf of Almería to the southwest of the Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park, where there are abundant fossil remains in the form of dunes and ancient beaches.
Regarding the flora of Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park, it is necessary to distinguish between whether the species are terrestrial or maritime and, within these types, some subtypes have to be differentiated.
Within the terrestrial environment of Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park we find:
It usually highlights the thicket, due to the scarcity of water that suffers the Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park. In this environment the espartales have special relevance, although the cornicales, jujube, sarguitales, palmitales and lentiscales are also very characteristic. All these species are adapted to the aridity of the Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park, so the water that is there is for species such as fogs, borias, dews and maresias.
In the marine environment of Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park, we can appreciate the following species:
Algae predominates in this ecosystem, of which we can find more than 250 different species and which allow the life of a great multitude of marine animals.
Regarding the fauna of the Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park, we have to make the same classification as for the flora, distinguishing between terrestrial and maritime environments and, within these, differentiate between subtypes.
In the terrestrial environment of the Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park, we find the following animal species:
There is a wide range of invertebrates, including grasshoppers, butterflies and beetles. Regarding the vertebrate animals of the Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park we can see inside the mammals, the Moorish hedgehog, the red fox, the weasel, the badger, the genet, the wild boar and the mountain goat. Within the birds we appreciate a wide variety of different species: ducks, teals, malvasias, porrones, silbones, jars, avocets, terns, stilts, sandpipers, seagulls, curlews, storks, spoonbills, egrets, herons, coots, chicks, rails, flamingos, grebes, small plovers, bastard nightingales, common warblers, sparrows, little bustards, oysters, common curlews, terreras marismeñas, ricotí larks, Bonelli's eagles, royal owls, peregrine falcons, yellow-legged gulls, bullfinches Trumpeter, shag cormorants or black cormorants. Meanwhile, in the field of reptiles we find some such as the viperine snake, the tridactyl skink, the bastard snake or the red-backed lizard.
On the other hand, in the marine environment of the Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park there are also different species:
Thanks to the algae, different marine species of animals can coexist in the Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park. Among the invertebrates we find mostly sea sponges, polychaete worms and mollusks; whereas in invertebrates, the loggerhead sea turtle, the lapwing turtle, the striped dolphin, the bottlenose dolphin, the common dolphin, the black pilot whale, the gray pilot whale and the fin whale are common.
A heterogeneous seabed, a wide network of hiking routes and the absence of human activity make Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park an ideal place to practice different sports and carry out active tourism activities.
Among the aquatic activities we can practice diving with what to explore the seabed full of life, kayak trip to explore the cliffs and different places of the coast that are inaccessible, boat ride to go deep into the Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park, paddle surfing, sailing, jet skis, kite surfing, windsurfing and surfing.
On the other hand, as activities between the land area of the Cabo de Gata - Níjar Natural Park we can hike by one of the different hiking routes that offers us or also make a route on horseback, a bicycle route, a quad route or a route in 4x4.