PARC NATURAL DE MONDRAGÓ
The Mondragó Natural Park is located in the south of Mallorca, in the municipal area of Santanyí, and has a surface area of 766 hectares. While 95 hectares of the Park are public property, the rest of the park sits on privately owned land and estates, which, often divided into plots, are generally occupied by extensive dry crop cultivation. Mondragó was declared a Natural Park in 1992.
It is also a Natural Area of Special Interest (ANEI) and forms part of the Balearic contribution to the Natura 2000 Network as an Area of Special Protection for Birds and a Site of Community Interest (SCI).
Centuries of agricultural and livestock activity have undeniably shaped and defined the landscape of this area. The many architectural features found here include dry stone walls and the rustic sheds that served as temporary shelters for those who cultivated the poor fields, the rotes. These structures are often made of beams or bear a conical roof, locally known as curucull. Less common are the stone hillside terraces, which sit alongside streambeds and in gullies. Other traditional structures, such as waterwheels, irrigation ditches, water collection ponds and cisterns, are associated with the use of water.
Here there are also constructions that bear witness to the use of the forest. These include charcoal mounds, the charcoal makers’ sheds and lime kilns, as well as other features, such as slipways for boats, sandstone quarries, small defence towers and smugglers’ hiding places.
The name of S’Amarador evokes a past use of the ponds as retting sites, where bundles of flax and hemp were submerged for different lengths of time to attain plant fibres. Tree trunks were also submerged here, making them more resistant, for later use as construction materials in boats and as beams for houses.
PARC NATURAL DE MONDRAGÓ
- Please remain on the marked trails and proceed quietly, so as not to disturb the fauna and other visitors.
- You are in a forest-fire hazard area. Please do not light fires under any circumstance.
- Please remain on the marked paths and park vehicles in the authorised parking areas.
- Dogs can disturb the Park’s fauna and the other visitors. If you have them with you, please keep them on a lead, and do not walk them on the beaches.
- Dispose of all waste in the designated litterbins and containers. We appreciate all efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle waste.
- Please be respectful of private property and be responsible in your use of public property.
- Please respect the work of those who were here before us. Be careful not to damage any of the Park’s ethnological features.
- Camping is not permitted.
- We appreciate your cooperation in the conservation of the Park and welcome your suggestions for the improvement of this protected natural area.
PARC NATURAL DE MONDRAGÓ
Is located in the south-east of Mallorca is placed in the coast, in the navies of Llevant, in the municipal area of Santanyí.
You can arrive, for the Palma-Santanyí road (Ma-19). The accesses are signposted: from Santanyí, from S'Alqueria Blanca and from the road in Figuera creek.
Parc_Mondragó:_How to access
PARC NATURAL DE MONDRAGÓ
For the most part, the surface of the Park is made up of parched, poor, stony fields known as rotes. Here, dry farming crops mingle with trees and herbaceous plants on small plots that are generally delineated by dry stone walls. Particularly abundant are the almond tree (Prunus dulcis), the carob bean tree (Ceratonia siliqua) and the fig tree (Ficus carica), as well as cereal grains such as barley, oats and wheat.
The dry climate and the poor soils make for the predominance of scrubland, primarily consisting of the wild olive grove (Oleo-Ceratonion), with species such as the wild olive tree (Olea europaea var. sylvestris), the Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), the mastic (Pistacia lentiscus), the mock privet (Phillyrea sp.), the rock rose (Cistus sp.), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), heather (Erica multiflora) and lavender (Lavandula dentata). Pine groves line the silhouettes of the streams, coming together with savins (Juniperus phoenicea) in the areas nearest the coast.
Worthy of note among the scrubland plants and within the Park’s pine groves are the different types of orchids: the giant orchid (Barlia robertiana), the pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis), the Serapias sp. and different species of the Ophrys and Orchis genera.
The animals that inhabit the Park include mammals such as the Algerian hedgehog (Atelerix algirus), the common weasel (Mustela nivalis), the genet (Genetta genetta) and the pine marten (Martes martes), as well as rodents like the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), the Iberian hare (Lepus granatensis), the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) and the garden dormouse (Elyomis quercinus).
Yet it is birds that abound the most, as the Park is a refuge for the stone curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus), the wood pigeon (Columba palumbus), the turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur), the kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), the hoopoe (Upupa epops) and many other smaller birds including the great tit (Parus major) and the warbler (Sylvia sp.).
Some holm oaks (Quercus ilex) appear at the bottoms of gullies. Yet more striking is the presence of an important dune system at S’Amarador, which is inhabited by the sea holly (Eryngium maritimum), the sea spurge (Euphorbia paralias) and the sea daffodil (Pancratium maritimum).
Two brackish ponds are formed at the end of the S’Amarador streams and the fountain, Font de n’Alis. Inhabiting these pools are the common reed (Phragmites australis), the spiny rush (Juncus acutus) and the statice (Limonium sp.). Occasionally found here are mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos), common moorhens (Gallinula chloropus), common coots (Fulica atra), and herons (Egretta garzetta and Ardea cinerea). The ponds are also the home of the viperine snake (Natrix maura) and the Iberian marsh frog (Rana perezi). The fish commonly seen here include the mullet (Mugil cephalus), the mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) and the eel (Anguilla anguilla).
With the exception of its beaches, the rocky cliff-lined coast is an ideal nesting ground for the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus). Also found here is the European shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) and the Audouin’s gull (Larus audouinii). The plants most commonly found in this rocky terrain are the Crithmo-limonietum, where sea fennel (Crithmum maritimum) and statice (Limonium sp.) also abound.
Both the rocky landscapes and the many dry stone walls are favourite resting spots for certain reptile species, including the Moorish gecko (Tarentola mauritanica). The entire seascape is inhabited by the false smooth snake (Macroprotodon mauritanicus), the Hermann’s tortoise (Testudohermanni), and the Balearic toad (Bufo balearicus).
PARC NATURAL DE MONDRAGÓ
The Park’s information centre and the shop are located near the Ses Fonts de n’Alis parking area, and the administrative office is located in the town of Santanyí, at C/ de Can Llaneres, number 8.
The areas of S’Amarador and Ses Fonts offer public parking, and there is a recreational area nearby, before reaching the coves.Public toilets are also located in these areas.
The parking is managed by s'Estel de Llevant association.
Parking fees per day: cars 5 €, motorbikes 2 €, caravans 9 € and buses 12 €.
Mondragó also has different signposted itineraries and trails, and offers a guided tour service all year round.
- Park Information Centre. Carretera de cala Mondragó s/n. 07691 Santanyí . Tel./fax: 971 18 10 22. Schedule: opened every the day of the week from 9 to 16 hr, except the day of Christmas and New Year's Eve.
- Park Office (Can Crestall) C/ de Can Llaneres, 8. 07650 Santanyí. Tel.: 971 17 60 65. Fax: 971 64 21 30. Schedule: from Monday to Friday ofthe 8 at 15 hr.
PARC NATURAL DE MONDRAGÓ
People who are unable to access the area due to any physical or mental difficulties, can request to do the routes in a Jöelette chair. For more information see leaflet www.caib.es
To choose between the itineraries on offer, you can contact the Estate Information Point, they will suggest various options. (Contact phone number for the park: 971 18 10 22)
To set a date for a visit, please contact the Red Cross volunteers, at least three weeks beforehand. (Red Cross helpline telephone number 971295000, 24hrs).
The visit can be set as long as there are volunteers available.
The loan of the chair is totally free.
The Project is fully financed by “La Obra Social de La Caixa”.
What are Jöelette chairs?
They are a kind of all-terrain chair with just one wheel that allow people with reduced mobility to take part in excursions over rough terrain with the help of three or more people to lead the chair.
Protected natural areas made more accessible
The protected natural areas in the Balearic Islands offer many opportunities for us to enjoy nature, but access to them is impossible, in many cases, for people with reduced mobility.
Now, the Jöelette chairs will allow people with reduced mobility to have first-hand contact with nature.
An offer of 12 chairs.
We have 12 Jöelette chairs that can be used in the protected natural areas of the Balearic Islands: eight chairs in Majorca, two in Minorca, and one in Ibiza and another in Formentera.
And a group of volunteers has been formed to lead the chairs.
Who can go on an excursion in a Joëlette chair?
Any person, whether resident of the Islands or not, who cannot access the natural areas due to physical or mental difficulties can request an excursion in a Joëlette chair in the protected natural spaces of the Balearic Islands.
The use of the Joëlette chairs is limited to people who weigh under 120kg.
What itineraries can be done?
The protected natural spaces of the Balearic Islands offer a wide selection of routes. Check which one is best both for its features and difficulty level as well as for the time of year. The staff of the protected natural spaces can give you extensive information in this regards.
In Majorca: Tel. 971 29 50 00 (24h), Red Cross in the Balearic Islands.
In Minorca: Tel. 971 17 77 05 from 9am to 2pm Monday to Friday.
In Ibiza and Formentera: tel. 971 30 14 60 from 9am to 2pm Monday to Friday.
The request must be made at least three weeks before.
Depending on the availability of the volunteers a date will be set for the excursion.
If you have a team of people trained in driving Joëlette chairs, the availability of the chair/s will be confirmed when you put in the request.
Education centres that book activities from those offered as educational resources by the natural protected areas can request the chairs, making a note in the inscription form of how many they will need.
The use of the Joëlette chair is subject to availability of the drivers.
The loan of the chair is totally free.
PARC NATURAL DE MONDRAGÓ
- Itinerari del mirador de ses Fonts de n'Alis
- Itinerari de la volta a sa Guàrdia d'en Garrot
- Itinerari de la punta de ses Gatoves
- Itinerari de S'Amarador
PARC NATURAL DE MONDRAGÓ
Itinerari del mirador de ses Fonts de n'Alis
This is a very pleasant walk that links the Ses Fonts de n’Alis car park with the beach. The itinerary takes you to the beach through the woods, skirting the pond Sa Font de n’Alis. It is an opportunity get to know many different landscapes in a short space of time and a good alternative to the road, since this agreeable walk lets you avoid traffic altogether. This walk begins at the Ses Fonts de n’Alis car park, next to the park information centre. If you get here during opening hours the centre is a great place to stop and get information about anything to do with the park. The path starts towards the back of the car park, through a narrow gate. You step out into an old farming area where vegetation progressively changes to become marine, or coastal scrubland. This kind of vegetation is known locally as ’pletes’.
Nowadays the kind of farming done in this region on Mallorca’s east coast, and inside the park itself is of little importance, if not in the sense of actual farmed land then in intensity. These are fields dedicated to non-irrigated crops, mainly arboreal (almond trees, carob trees and less commonly fig trees), sometimes complemented by pasturelands for sheep. Further on you will be able to see signs of old irrigated land in the Ses Fonts de n’Alis torrent: torrent beds were used for vegetable gardens or citrus trees. Near the S’Amarador torrent in the area known as the S’Hort des Metge, there is an old waterwheel and a canal system that shows how farmers were able to take advantage of the torrents. The farming of almond and carob trees is not productive any longer, especially in land that is so parcelled up as that here in Mondragó. Much of the farmland you can see is not used; the trees lose productivity and spontaneous marine vegetation takes over the abandoned fields.
Wild olive trees and pine trees characterise the woodland you descend through on your way towards the coast. A dry-stone wall to your left separates the woodland from plots with carobs and almond trees. The path offers a mild descent in the beginning and gets steeper as you get nearer the sea. It is not a difficult itinerary, easy to follow and the route is very straightforward. Being an easy, short walk it is suitable for children as well. You are now walking through a marine area where Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) dominate, sharing the land with mastic (Pistacia lentiscus), wild olive trees (Olea europaea silvestris), Phoenician juniper (Juniperus phoenicea) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). Take your time at this point to get to know the landscape and to see details you might miss otherwise: what seems like only trees at first will slowly reveal other plants, moss, lichen, nests and insects. The sounds of nature are there to accompany you on your discovery (birds chirping, crickets creaking and even waves beating on a windy day). Some pine trees feature a formation known as a witch’s nest, or a witch’s broom. A dense mass of shoots grows from a single point to create this deformity of unknown origin. The formation is used by some bird species as a nest, for example the long-eared owl (Asio otus). Also note the slim shape of the pine trees around you. Charcoal makers traditionally used their lower branches, which gave them this shape. Nowadays pinewood is not used for this purpose, the pruning is more selective and the trees have a natural tendency to adopt shapes that are more robust, more rounded. Walking past a second opening in the dividing walls between plots of land, bearing slightly right, you will see a viewpoint offering a view of the Ses Fonts de n’Alis torrent and the valley it runs through.
From the viewpoint and to your left, you can make out the final part of the torrent where it forms a pond before it reaches the sea. To your right you can see how two torrents arriving from opposite directions join up. The one from the east is the Des Jai torrent and the one from the west is the Ses Coves del Rei torrent. Not much grows in the torrent riverbed and it is completely covered in mud during summer, but the hillsides show a varied vegetation cover with mainly wild olive trees. Only the middle section consists of grey, steep cliffs (limestone) where nothing can grow. The flow of the torrent and the waves at sea level shaped the landscape in front of you. The valley was formed when descending water and the sea swept away lighter material, and the canal remains in the shape of a pass tucked in between two small but sturdy rocks, nowadays covered by a layer of soil allowing Maquis shrubland to thrive. Continuing on the path you will slowly arrive at sea level. At the foot of the rocks closing the valley to the left of the trail, you come across lavender (Lavandula dentata) and herb-of-grace (Ruta graveolens).
Once you have descended through the forest and reached the same height as the torrent at the bottom of the valley you find yourself in a very different landscape. You are now close to the Ses Font de n’Alis pond. The water is very shallow and the torrent riverbed quite flat, which means that in summer the pond shrinks to a small puddle in the middle of the riverbed, but in winter there is normally a continuous body of water filling the entire torrent plain. Generally speaking, no water flows. So the water that accumulates here does not have the power or volume to make it across the beach, which functions as a sand barrier. Underground infiltration and the power of waves in rough weather makes the water brackish all year round, even if salt content depends on the influx of fresh water. This pond, just like the S’Amarador pond, is one of the few that remain on the island’s east coast. Most of the ponds formed by torrent outlets dried out as a result of urban development during the second half of last century.
The wetlands are known for their biodiversity, created by the variety of landscapes they contain (salicornia meadows, standing water that is more or less brackish, dunes, flood areas, beach). Also, the western Mediterranean is a key area for many European birds with migration routes running from southwest to northeast during spring and in the opposite direction during autumn. Wetlands have a very important role to play for these migratory birds, similar to the way we use service stations along motorways that cross the continent. The most common birds around wetlands on these latitudes are herons, such as the grey heron (Ardea cinerea), the little egret (Egretta garzetta); charadriiformes, such as Audouin’s gull (Larus audouinii), the common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) and the plover (Charadrius spp.); and the members of the anatidae family, such as the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), the Eurasian coot (Fulica atra) and the common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus). Some species live all year round in the wetlands and torrents on Mallorca and others visit periodically, especially during winter.
Only the sand separates the pool from the sea and this beach is known by many names; apart from Cala Mondragó, which makes reference to the entire region, other names include Platja de S’Amarador. It actually does have two proper names: one is Caló d’en Garrot, a name used by residents of S’Alqueria Blanca and the other one is Platja de ses Fonts de n’Alis, used by residents of Santanyí. The latter residents would get here by walking a trail following the course of the Ses Fonts de n’Alis torrent. The torrent is named after La Font de n’Alis, a natural spring found level with the riverbed itself.
PARC NATURAL DE MONDRAGÓ
Itinerari de la volta a sa Guàrdia d'en Garrot
This itinerary starts and finishes by the Caló d’en Garrot, also known as the Ses Fonts de n’Alis beach. You enter into a pine grove and arrive at Caló des Burgit, a small but very beautiful sandy beach. Its name is derived from the word ’brogit’ (in Catalan it can be written brogit or borgit and it means roar, in the sense of waves crashing against rocks and wind tugging on trees).
The recreation area Ses Fonts de n’Alis is right where you access the beach and this is also where the path that takes you near Caló des Burgit begins. Walk towards the east, following a forest trail through a pine tree and juniper wood. It is referred to as a juniper wood because of the Phoenician junipers (Juniperus phoenicea), common in coastal areas (in particular where dunes are present), but as you will see wild olive trees and Aleppo pines are the most prominent species. The Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) is very common, being well adapted to most of the environments present on the Balearic Islands. Junipers are actually scarce on Mallorca, which emphasises the importance of the Mondragó natural park. Here you get a chance to study the most representative species of the marine environment; the vegetation is scrubland typical to coastal areas: first of all juniper, for its representativeness, then the Aleppo pine, but also bushes such as the wild olive tree (Olea Europea sylvestris), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), mastic (Pistacia lentiscus), Mediterranean heather (Erica multiflora) and narrow-leaf phillyrea (Phillyrea angustifolia). Underneath a number of herbs like for example Brachypodium retusum you will be able to make out some of the orchid species that grow in this environment (Ophrys vemixia, Barlia robertiana, Anacamptis piramidalis, Serapias lingua…) as well as an abundance of moss, lichen and mushrooms. In truly Mediterranean areas such as this, summer is very dry and hot, spring and autumn are humid with mild temperatures and winter is relatively cold. The variations in weather conditions are marked and this means the landscape changes greatly from one season to another. For example: moss and mushrooms grow in autumn and winter, bushes bloom in spring and many of the herbaceous plants disappear in summer… This kind of vegetation dominates the juniper wood and nearer the cliffs it mixes with species common on stony ground, such as the Launaea cervicornis of the dandelion family, the sea fennel (Crithmum maritimum) and plants of the Limonium family. These species live on coastal rock and are adapted to strong winds, waves and salty air.
As soon as you see Caló des Burgit you will be amazed by its beauty and the transparency of the water, brilliantly reflecting the blue sky on sunny days. This small inlet is near better-known beaches such as the Ses Fonts de n’Alis and S’Amarador, but here you can enjoy a swim in much quieter surroundings even if it lacks the services available on the others. The itinerary follows a path that bears right just before arriving at the beach; it carries on through the juniper wood, nearly parallel to the coast.
This virgin stretch of coastline is irregular and dominated by cliffs, making it nearly inaccessible from the sea. But there are some boatyards still in between cliffs and stone walls. Such boatyards are spots along the stony coastline where adjustments have been made in the form of slopes to allow vessels to be taken out of the water. Fishermen use them. Apart from fishermen there have also been watchmen, border guards, smugglers, charcoal makers, hikers and numerous tourists walking along this stretch of land, every one in their own time and for their own reasons. Between the Caló des Burgit and Sa Font de n’Alis you will come across a machine-gun nest built during the Second Spanish Republic on top of the remains of an old tower used to guard the entrance to the Mondragó, Es Burgit and Sa Barca Trencada inlets. If you look carefully you might spot a smugglers’ secret near the trail.
The coast in this region consists of calcareous platforms shaped underneath the sea during the Tertiary period, in the Miocene epoch, between twenty and five million years ago. After the rock was formed, important climatological changes made the sea level change. Such environmental changes together with the effects of rain, wind and waves have given these rock formations the shape you can see today. Near the machine-gun nest you can clearly make out the different rock layers: some layers — or strata — consist of sand deposits formed on the surface, others were shaped of fine material containing lots of fossilised shells at the bottom of the sea. The cliffs by the sea are low and marine abrasion has shaped steps known as tenasses. Wave erosion often causes horizontal cavities and during millennia they change from simple marks on the rock face to complex coastal cave systems that sometimes reach far into the island’s interior. The Mallorcan coastline is rich in such caves and galleries, often with entrances underneath sea level. Other formations common in the area are blowholes and coastal arches. Just after you have passed the machine-gun nest you will find spots with a fantastic panoramic view of the beaches, sea cliffs and the open sea.
The Mondragó area was formed in a warm sea with plenty of corals. It was shaped as a large platform and rose with a slope down towards sea level and constitutes a marine area: flat, homogeneous and coastal. Along the coast were coral reefs and large stretches of limestone were deposited on top, known in the area as Santanyí stone. Most of the rock you can see on the surface is karstified: rainwater mixed with carbon dioxide from the atmosphere erodes the stone in a process called karstic shaping. During centuries it results in a variety of formations such as torrents running between eroded stone walls, sinkholes, caves, stalactites and stalagmites. The sea cliffs get their shape from the abrasive effect of waves beating against the coast. On some of the walls it is easy to make out layers that consist of fossilised dunes. The quaternary stratum — a younger layer — is shaped by sediment deposits of torrential origin, and they form ground that is better suited for vegetation. Beaches are the result of waves depositing sand that accumulates on the coastline. Sand consists of tiny stone fragments from the coast itself, but many grains are also calcium carbonate: fragmented molluscs such as sea shells and snails that live on the seafloor. Rain and waves leave clear traces on the topography, but the wind also acts as a shaping agent in some areas. We can see its effect at the S’Amarador beach for example, where dunes are formed behind the flat expanse of sand without vegetation.
The excursion finishes near the Ses Fonts de n’Alis beach. This little beach is shaped at the mount of a torrent and functions as a barrier between the torrent and the sea. Behind the beach you can see the lower part of the Ses Coves del Rei torrent. It is a small flooded, brackish area. The pool is almost completely dried out in summer, but in winter this is a very interesting wetland.
PARC NATURAL DE MONDRAGÓ
Itinerari de la punta de ses Gatoves
If you would like to walk through a typical Mediterranean costal wood, see the effects of the waves on the coast line and the wind on the vegetation, if you would like to come across traces of traditional exploitation of the wood and see what the main use of it is in our days, if you would like to know what the walls that define the enclosures in Mondragó are like, what the views are like from the east coast and what the beaches, that attract thousands of visitors every summer are like, then you will enjoy this itinerary from the Punta de ses Gatoves.
If you drive to the park, aim for the Ca sa Muda car park, 500 metres from the S’Amarador beach. You access it from the Cala Figuera road. Start the excursion by heading towards the beach on a very wide tarmac path between two dry stone walls framing the woods. On both sides you see Aleppo pines (Pinus halepensis) mixed with some Phoenician junipers (Juniperus phoenicea). As you reach the beach the path branches off to the right, following the coast. From this moment on you walk through woodland where you must be careful not to make too much noise out of respect to those who live here, as well as other visitors.
You may be surprised by the amount of juniper that grows here. This species lends its name to the wood itself: savinar, or juniper wood. The juniper wood is a classic coastal Mediterranean wood; in the Mondragó coastal area Phoenician junipers (Juniperus phoenicea) and wild olive trees (Olea europaea silvestris) grow amidst an abundance of Aleppo pines (Pinus halepensis) and mastic (Pistacia lentiscus). Enjoy a spectacular view of the park coastline as you walk near the sea and soon you will find a lime kiln. Firewood was stacked in these round kilns, then covered by limestone in a dome shape. There was an air inlet at the base where more wood was added to make the burning last several days. Once the process had calcinated the limestone the resulting quicklime was used in building mortars, to disinfect, to whitewash walls and to fertilise plants. Try to spot all the animals that live in this ecosystem: you will see birds such as the hoopoe (Upupa epops), the Red crossbill (Loxia curvirostra), the common blackbird (Turdus merula) and the red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa), and with a bit of luck you might also be able to spot a peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) or a European shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) basking in the sun on the rocks, or fishing. As for mammals, you will have to make do with their traces throughout the woods, as they are generally creatures of a nocturnal and crepuscular nature: the common genet (Genetta genetta), the least weasel (Mustela nivalis) and the pine marten (Martes martes). The ground on this coast is nutrient poor and with a clear lack of water during a large part of the year. This lack of soil and hydration has shaped plant life in the area; in general they are perennial species with leaves that are small, hard, narrow and thin.
The woodland in the park is no longer used in the traditional sense of the word: there are no charcoal makers here and no grazing pigs, but it is still very much influenced by human action. These days the woods are areas to walk through, to enjoy, where you can pick mushrooms or even hunt, and as such they require certain management. Management mainly involves prevention of forest fires and pest control, as well as re-planting of vegetation in areas where it is scarce. The paths also have to be kept in good condition. The main pest in the forests of the island is the processionary caterpillar, or the pine processionary. They are larvae that travel in nose-to-tail columns, hence the name. It is a Mediterranean species that was introduced to the Balearic Islands during the 50s. They arrived as unwanted guests in root balls from the Spanish peninsula and spread rapidly. They have four life stages: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis (pupa) and moth, but it is in the caterpillar stage they cause most damage. They eat pine needles and can seriously affect the tree if attacks are intense or repeated, or if the tree is already weakened. The risks are not limited to forest only, either. The caterpillar has urticating hairs that will cause an allergic reaction if you touch them or if they disperse them in the air. Diminishing woodland areas causes more erosion and less capacity to clean the air, to attract and hold rain and moisture, essential to life. The pine trees are of great importance as they live in areas where no other species can survive: between rocks and stones, by the sea, in very poor soil… This is why the pine forest is actively managed. The management consists of placing pheromone traps to attract and capture the male moths, eliminating their nests by cutting them down, placing light traps with black light to capture adults and helping the great tit to breed by setting up nest boxes (they eat the processionary caterpillar).
You can see the curious effect nature has on the pine trees as they grow near steep cliff edges and how extraordinarily capable this species is of adapting to various conditions. The lack of soil in which to put down roots (only a very thin layer between the rocks) and punishing winds full of salt cause the nearly horizontal growth of these pine trees, called pins barraquers. Between the pine trees and the sea, on top of the cliffs, there is rupicolous vegetation, characterised by small plants that survive on the scarce soil that collects in cracks between rocks. As you can see when you continue along the coastline the rock features plenty of traces of sea shells and snails. They are the fossilised remains of animals that lived here when the rock was formed. When animals with shells died, their soft body parts disappeared rapidly, but their calcareous exoskeletons filled up with material that fell on top and as time passed — if the conditions were right — that material solidified and the fossilised skeletons were integrated into the compacted sediments to become part of the rock. The fossils you see on these cliffs were molluscs that lived on the platforms that today make up the so-called Marines de Migjorn, shaped on the bottom of the sea during the Tertiary Period. Soon after you leave the inlet behind, look carefully at the ground to the left of the trail to spot a square hole in the ground. This is the opening of a hiding place that was used long ago to hide contraband that arrived by the sea, until it was sold or distributed. These hiding places are known as ’secrets’ and are common along the coast of the entire island. As you continue you meet the path that leads to the beach, where the excursion started.
PARC NATURAL DE MONDRAGÓ
Itinerari de S'Amarador
This itinerary covers the area surrounding S’Amarador, the largest beach in the Mondragó natural park. There is a wetland area here linked to the torrent that flows into the beach itself. The importance is in the biodiversity encountered, as it is one of the few wetland areas that remain in this coastal region.
Near the Ca sa Muda car park, start off in the same direction as for the S’Amarador beach until you get to a fork in the path. Turn left, and this is where this itinerary begins. The trail leads you into a wood consisting of Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), Phoenician juniper (Juniperus phoenicea) and wild olive trees (Olea europea silvestris) as well as numerous Mediterranean shrubs such as mastic (Pistacia lentiscus), Montpelier cistus (Cistus monspeliensis), sage-leaved rock rose (Cistus salvifolius), Cistus albidus, also of the rock-rose family, narrow-leaf phillyrea (Phillyrea angustifolia), Phillyrea media, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and Mediterranean heather (Erica multiflora) and some herbaceous species such as lavender (Lavandula dentata). It continues to the border between woodland and farmed land where there is a pool, or watering hole, of great importance to the wild animals in the area. A little bit further on, leave the track to the left to arrive at a cone-shaped little house built entirely of stone. This construction is known in the area as a curucull. There is a stone enclosure next to it.
Farmers who farmed poor land were known as roters. They normally lived far from estate houses and villages, earning an income or a tithe, a tenth of what the land produced. Barraques are small houses built of stones that hold together without need for mortar. The roof was either made using available vegetation (pine, wild olive tree, juniper) or stones. The houses often had a water tank, inside or outside, or a water reserve or watering hole nearby. These buildings were obviously used to fill various important functions on farming land: as storage for the production of almonds and carob, as shelter for farmers in bad weather, somewhere to keep the flock, an inside space where farm tools could be kept and also as temporary dwellings for the roters during times of intensive work on the fields. There are many barraques all over the island that will have been used by fishermen, border guards watching the coast, charcoal makers and ice dealers… There are many roter houses on public land within the Mondragó natural park, all of them of agricultural origin. The most common ones are the ones with beams and the curucull ones. The former were normally divided into two rooms: one for animals and one for people with a food store, a fireplace and sometimes a water tank. The curucull was usually a place where animals rested and as such they are smaller with low ceilings and doorways, characterised by a round roof, a kind of stone cupola. Buildings like these from ancient times are common all over the Mediterranean, but it was during the 18th century with the decline of pirate attacks that the building of barraques all over Mallorca’s coastal areas really took off.
Go back a few metres to find the track you arrived on, then continue walking towards the left to find a new, wider path. A little bit further on you pass through a wide opening in a dry stone wall that separates two enclosures. Such walls show that even if you are walking trough woodland this area was definitely used for subsistence not long ago. The walls that cross the region were not just property borders, they also functioned as corrals and the estate walls showed workers up until what point they were allowed to collect resources from the woods: wood, charcoal, game, lime… With a bit of luck, and if you walk quietly, you might be able to spot a Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni), rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and perhaps a Granada hare (Lepus granatensis) or birds such as turtle doves (Streptopelia turtur), hoopoes (Upupa epops) and common wood pigeons (Columba palumbus). You are less likely to see any of the following, even if they are present: the stone-curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus), the common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), the great tit (Parus major), the Balearic warbler (Sylvia balearica) and other warblers (Sylvia spp.), the North African hedgehog (Erinaceus algirus), the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus), the garden dormouse (Elyomis quercinus), the least weasel (Mustela nivalis), the common genet (Genetta genetta), the pine marten (Martes martes), the false smooth snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus) and the European green toad (Bufo viridis). On the slope to the left of the trail you will soon see a roter house next to a so-called claper. The clapers are piles of stone shaped either as a simple mound or in a more or less structured manner. Their purpose was to store rocks removed from the ground to farm the land and also to provide farmers with stones to build new things. Some of them are regularly shaped with small openings and passages that were used when hunting rabbits using European polecats (Mustela putorius). Galeres is another version: large, wide dry stone constructions. A few metres further on, as you keep walking, you will be able to see a more contemporary stone construction: a water tank with a semi-circular neck.
Turning to the right you descend down a set of steps to find yourself by the right bank of the S’Amarador torrent. In front of you is the riverbed and on this stretch there is normally running water all year round. Sometimes a combination of intense rain and storms at sea manages to break through the sand barrier and allow the torrent to empty right into the sea. Just before you get to the dune landscape there is a wetland area, a very different kind of habitat. This area has given its name to the torrent as well as the beach: S’Amarador. This used to be where the inhabitants of Santanyí would soak (amarar in Catalan) flax and hemp to make cloth, and tree trunks for construction work. The process of soaking plants and wood causes a very characteristic smell and people did not much appreciate this spot because of it. Successive flooding has deposited sediment over a long period of time and created a flat, muddy landscape where the flow of the torrent has shaped curves, or meanders. The landform is known as an alluvial plain. The land here has allowed an abundance of vegetation to grow near the pool. The salt content of the water is variable, as it is near the sea, and its continuous presence makes it possible for plant species common in wetland areas to survive, such as for example common reed (Phragmites australis), spiny rush (Juncus acutus), sea lavender (Limonium companyonis) and violet sea lavender (Limonium virgatum), the glasswort (Sarcocornia fruticosa) and tassel pondweed (Ruppia maritima), this last one inside the pool itself. As for fauna, aquatic birds are present here: the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), the common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) and the Eurasian coot (Fulica atra) for example, and they share the space with the viperine water snake (Natrix maura), Perez’s frog (Rana perezi), the flathead grey mullet (Mugil cephalus), the European eel (Anguilla anguilla) and the mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis), the last one introduced in order to combat mosquito proliferation. Many invertebrates live in this area (nearly 40 small molluscs have been identified in the park). Even if they cannot be observed that often, the bird species that rest and eat in these wetland areas during migration season are worth a mention, for example the little egret (Egretta garzetta), the grey heron (Ardea cinerea), the common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), some booted eagles (Hieraaetus pennatus) and ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) as well as several members of the anatidae family such as the little grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis). Continuing along the path, leave the S’Amarador pool behind to reach the end of your itinerary in a flat part of the wood next to the access road to the S’Amarador beach. Please use the road provided to get there since it will damage the vegetation on and around the dunes if you walk over them.