Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra

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How often do you get the chance to walk round a lake where 8,000 flamingos are in residence? Laguna de la Fuente de Piedra is designated a Natural Reserve because it is one of only two flamingo breeding grounds in the western Mediterranean (the other is the Camargue lagoon in France). These most elegant birds migrate from Africa literally in their thousands; the population at the lake is estimated at 8,000 in the peak March - July breeding season. They all hatch their chicks at approximately the same time, then organize nurseries and baby-sitting rotas! So here is a rare opportunity to see 'live' the kind of wildlife phenomenon you only usually see on TV.

The lake is also interesting for the exploitation of its hydrology. Whilst covering 1,554 hectares (4.5km x 2.5km) it's very shallow, usually only 50cm at its deepest and it dries up completely at the end of summer. In the 19th Century its tributary system was manipulated to create a natural desalination plant from which salt could be harvested. Whilst this ceased in the 1950s, the lake (and birds) still disappear by the end of August before being replenished by the winter rains. The birds start to return as early as October, but it's not until January that they reappear in any great numbers.

I can see that the walk itself will not be to everybody's taste as it's long and flat and mostly on tarmac. I can imagine those last few miles back along the south-east shore on a hot day being a bit wearing! However, the roads are always quiet back roads through wonderful countryside - lots of olive farms, vivid soil colours, wildlife, views of distant mountains - and almost always a panoramic view of the lake (take binoculars - in theory you can hire them at the visitor centre, but none were available for my walk).

Alternatives are a short walk to the first viewpoint, Mirador de Vicaria (5.4km return) or to hire bikes from the visitor centre, though this also might be a bit hit-and-miss as there didn't seem to be very many. If by any chance you're a runner then this is perfect for you - fifteen miles of flat track through a paradise.

Please don't be tempted by the paths closer to the lake as they are closed to protect the breeding areas.

Spain - Southern Spain - Malaga - Malaga


Birds, Gift Shop, Great Views, Lake/Loch, Mostly Flat, Wildlife

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