In 1987 the Cabo de Gata-Nijar was declared a Natural land and sea park. Later, in 1997, it was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and in 2001 it was included among the Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance. The park joined UNESCO’s Global Geoparks Network in 2006. Other other categories of protection afforded this splendid park include Special Protection Area for birds and Wetland of International Importance – both in 1989.
It is a nature lover’s delight. There are thousands of different species there including the pink flamingo and the rare Italian wall lizard. There are eagles, kestrels, puffins, cormorants, oystercatchers and storks. The extraordinary wealth of wildlife is unbelievable. There are some species that are unique to the park. This includes the dragoncillo del Cabo, which flowers all the year round. Europe’s only native palm tree – the dwarf fan – is to be found here. In the sea, there are bream, grouper, prawn and squid. There are hundreds of species of seaweed, which are home to the many varieties of crustacean, mollusc and fish.
Perhaps the reason for the great variation in wildlife is due to the diverse habitats in this natural park. The 71,500 acres of the Cabo de Gata is volcanic in origin and comprises coastal dunes, steep cliffs, spectacular beaches, salt marshes, saltpans, arid steppe, dry riverbeds and a substantial marine zone. It is probably this ecological diversity that has led to the park being designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve.