The Canaries, a Spanish archipelago, lie just over 60 miles off the coast of north-west Africa and about 680 miles south-west of mainland Spain. At their western extremity stands the beautiful and unspoilt island of La Palma. About half the size of Greater London, it is one of the lesser known Canary Islands, mostly visited by those on walking holidays in search of tranquillity. La Palma boasts a remarkable variety of habitats in a relatively small area and a rich accompanying flora and fauna that has been relatively little explored by visiting naturalists. Like the other Canary Islands it is entirely of volcanic origin, resulting in the waters dropping off rapidly to depths of more than 1,000 metres within a few miles of land, and this attracts a wealth of marine-life, including cetaceans. On this new 8-day holiday we will explore the special land and marine-life of La Palma, making leisurely day walks, and boat trips, in search of dolphins, whales, birds, butterflies, wild flowers and other wildlife, against a backdrop of dramatic volcanic scenery and deep blue Canary Island seas.
Our holiday begins with a direct flight to La Palma. We will base ourselves in Puerto de Naos, a small and relaxed holiday resort on the island’s sunny south-west coast, that comprises a long sandy beach dotted with palm trees and bordered by a restaurant-lined boulevard. Our hotel in Puerto de Naos will provide a first opportunity to explore the mixture of endemic, European and North African species that characterise the island’s fauna. Its grounds and surrounding areas offer Plain Swift, Berthelot’s Pipit, Canary Island Chiffchaff and Atlantic Canary, whilst Cory’s Shearwater, Bottlenose Dolphin and Short-finned Pilot Whale are regularly seen offshore. The grounds are attractive to butterflies too, with Canary Blue, African Grass Blue, Canary Speckled Wood, African Monarch and Monarch all possible.
During our stay on La Palma we will aim to make boat excursions on alternate days, weather permitting, from the nearby port of Tazacorte in search of whales and dolphins. By basing ourselves on the relatively remote and undeveloped island of La Palma, we will avoid the large-scale, largely unregulated scrum of whalewatching operators that is, sadly, now a feature on some of the other Canary Islands. The deep, food-rich and unpolluted North Atlantic waters that envelope La Palma support Bottlenose Dolphins and Short-finned Pilot Whales, as well as such charismatic species as the petite and playful Atlantic Spotted Dolphin. Rough-toothed Dolphins are found in the waters around La Palma throughout the year, while during the summer months Bryde’s Whales visit the islands. Blainville’s Beaked Whales are also regularly seen around the island, though we’d have to be fortunate to see one of these widespread, but little-studied, beaked whales during a short trip.
On land, La Palma is home to more than 870 native plant species, as well as a wealth of other endemic and Macaronesian endemic species and sub-species amongst its flora and fauna! We will explore its semi-desert, lava flows, scrub, wetlands and native pine woodland in search of such gems as: Canary Longeared Bat; butterflies such as La Palma Cleopatra and La Palma Grayling; the La Palma Giant Lizard (rediscovered in 2007 having been considered extinct for some 500 years!), and birds including La Palma Blue Tit, Bolle’s Pigeon, Stone Curlew, an endemic subspecies of Chaffinch and at least eight other Macaronesian endemics. As La Palma is the most north-westerly of the Canary Islands it can provide first landfall in the autumn for migrating birds from North America displaced across the North Atlantic; rare species turn up annually, especially waders and gulls. European wetland birds are well represented too, with a wide variety of species occurring, including Curlew and Wood Sandpiper. Las Salinas, in the northeast, is a good area for Barbary Falcon and Spectacled Warbler, whilst Lesser Short-toed Lark can occur in the surrounding volcanic landscape and the seawatching is good here, too.
This is a Canary Island getaway that offers peace, tranquillity and some of Europe’s best whale-watching, combined with an enjoyment of the island’s other rich flora and fauna, in the islands’ famed warm and pleasant early autumn sunshine. The volcanic landscape and wonderful deep blue of the sea add to La Palma’s wildlife attractions and should make this a most enjoyable holiday.