. Photography by Stephane Ferrer Yulianti. . Photography by Stephane Ferrer Yulianti.. Photography by Stephane Ferrer Yulianti..Photography by Stephane Ferrer Yulianti.
©. Photography by Stephane Ferrer Yulianti..Photography by Stephane Ferrer Yulianti.|Stephane Ferrer Yulianti

Discover the Cerbère-Banyuls Marine Nature Reserve from Argelès-sur-Mer

Just a stone’s throw from Argelès-sur-Mer lies France’s first Marine Nature Reserve, created in 1974. We plan to go there in the morning. The rendezvous is set for 9:15 a.m. at the port of Argelès. The semi-rigid boat that will take us there is already on site. Olivier, our guide, is busy with final preparations as we enjoy a coffee on the quayside before joining him for departure.

Life jackets are handed over. On the boat are stand-up paddles, which also provide shade. After laying down a few safety rules, Olivier switches on the engine and Bluetooth speaker for a musical jaunt, and we’re off.

Along the way, we stop off in Collioure. We had to stop off for a few souvenir photos in front of the bell tower. Olivier takes the opportunity to recount some of the Citadelle’s history.

Did you know?
The bell tower was once a defense tower, the dome of which was added under Napoleon 1st.

We continue sailing towards Cap Béar. Just a few dozen meters from the lighthouse, a well-protected building stands on its own. It’s the Béar semaphore.A semaphore is a post set up on the coast to communicate with ships via optical signals. The semaphore was built in 1861 and is used by the French Navy. It’s a kind of control tower for ships.

Connected to channel 16, Olivier gives us a communication demonstration.
“Béar Béar Béar, Big Mama Big Mama, Big Mama” for a radio test. Béar being the semaphore’s sector name, and Big Mama the name of our boat. The French Navy immediately replied “Big Mama de Béar, you’re loud and clear”.
This type of communication enables a vessel in distress to be rapidly rescued, either by nearby vessels or by rescue services at sea.

We’re still sailing south. To starboard we can make out Banyuls-sur-Mer. Olivier points out two yellow buoys floating on the water. He decelerates to 8 knots. We finally enter the Cerbère-Banyuls Marine Nature Reserve.

The jewel of the Côte Vermeille, the Réserve Naturelle Marine stretches between Banyuls and Cerbère. A paradise for bathers and diving enthusiasts, this protected natural area is the first Réserve Naturelle Marine in France.
Bordering the rocky coast of the Pyrénées-Orientales region, the Reserve covers 650 hectares of sea, stretching along 7 kilometers of coastline to 1.5 miles offshore.

It was created in 1974 to halt the destruction of the coast by fishing and pollution. Today, the reserve is regularly monitored for posidonia meadows, coralligenous, rocky environments, fish populations and ecological watches.

Diving and swimming are authorized, provided you moor to the buoys provided, to avoid anchoring, which is forbidden. We choose Cap de l’Abeille as our stop-off point: masks and snorkels are provided free of charge, and we explore the incredible world of the Reserve. We catch a glimpse of fish such as girelles and saupes. We even spotted a big grouper.

A lot of rules have to be respected. You can find out more on the reserve’s website.

We now leave the Reserve. On the way back, we stop off at the wild coves of Sainte Catherine. The water is turquoise, and the cliffs plunge into the sea. A handful of old fishermen’s cottages sit there, without water or electricity.

Olivier unties the paddles and explains the safety instructions for the bay. Everyone tries to find their balance, standing or kneeling. We walk along the cliffs, looking down at the underwater life between the rocks. We quietly return to our boat and stow the paddles on the roof.

All good things must come to an end, and we head back to Port d’Argelès with our heads full of memories. It’s past midday and the sport has worked up an appetite. We take advantage of the quayside to sit on the terrace and order a good meal facing the boats, where the day began.

You'll also like