Southern France, Camargue
July in the south of France.
It’s hot. As soon as night falls, a deafening concert of croaking frogs starts, followed by a chorus of crickets buzzing in the background. The night sky is our only light source. We sleep in perfect isolation in a wooden hut at least ten kilometres away from what some call ‘civilization’.
Mosquito nets and fans are supposed to keep little buggers out of our bed.
This is the Camargue, a marsh area in the south of France, and Salin-de-Giraud is the nearest village. There we find, except salt, restaurants and an ATM for much-needed cash.
The Big Five in the Camargue
We drove here to watch animals, the ‘Big Five’ of this nature reserve. The main objective of this trip is to spot the white Camargue horses in the wild. But, alas, after close inspection, the animals appear more grey than white and not so wild any more.
The horses seem to be domesticated. Most even spend the night in a stable. In fact, the animals are up for rent. For a fee of 32 euros, we can ride one. Starting from Domaine de la Palisade, we make a two-hour journey on horseback through the swamp. During the ride, we see wild boars, black bulls and vast flocks of flamingos. That is four out of five under the belt. But that is not all. We also see some smaller fry: dragonflies, herons and a swimming beaver.
Camargue Nature Reserve
The next day we drive tens of kilometres through wetlands and forests by car. Finally, we arrive at a secluded beach via a dirt road that is only passable at low tide.
At the seashore, we find the missing number five, the biggest animal. At least in the urban jungle, the Homo sapiens.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, set up camp here. Yes, this crowd lives in ‘the wild’, sort of. No sanitation, no bar, nor a pool in sight. Only beach, tents and people. The next village is at least an hour’s drive away. Believe me, I am the first to applaud camping in the wild, but here in the middle of nature on a beautiful beach, I can’t help but wonder:
How do these people do their business?
In the sea, or perhaps behind a non-existent bush? The charm of camping in the wild, surrounded by so many people, eludes me in this beautiful place. I rather go back to our frog concert in an almost comfortable bed, away from the rest of humanity.
This is the Camargue, a marsh area in the south of France, and Salin-de-Giraud is the nearest village. It’s hot. As soon as night falls, a deafening concert of croaking frogs starts, followed by a chorus of crickets buzzing in the background. The stars are our only light sources.
- Saintes Maries de la Mer is a town in the middle of the park. Here are most of the facilities and hence most tourists.
- Saline de Giraud is on the other side of the Camargue and is much less touristy.
- Arles, the city of Van Gogh, is a stone’s throw from the park. It’s a beautiful place and forms a good base for visiting the park.
Find out why you have to visit Le Mans. Tips for family visits, sightseeing, the 24-hours museum, accommodation and food.
This recipe for Quiche Loraine is simple and delicious. It is easy to prepare once you know the tricks. Great as a snack or with a soup as a main course.