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Gran Canaria – now a World Biosphere Reserve

Gran Canaria’s natural resources have always been an endless source of bliss for the local population. The first of so many happy moments comes with the fine weather enjoyed here throughout the year, which makes life friendly and quiet. But this is certainly not all that nature has to offer on this island.

Roque Nublo. Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria is a miniature continent, a sampler of quite uncommon sceneries in the middle of an extremely diverse archipelago. This is why UNESCO awarded the island the Biosphere Reserve label, to actively support the conservation of the pieces that make up this puzzle of natural settings, a different and very peculiar micro-world. Nearly half the island’s geographical space has been included in this reserve, comprising six rural communities linked to traditional activities.

A girl hiker on the higher reaches of Gran Canaria

But what has nature in Gran Canaria done to deserve UNESCO’s recognition? In the first place, the island is a theme park focused on the peculiar and magical Macaronesian flora. An open park that treasures plants and flowers that grew apart from those of the rest of the world, under the distinct seal of the Macaronesian region. A natural world that has breathed its own air for centuries within the island’s changing topography.

The beach, Playa de Güi Güi

This, the island’s relief and its special geomorphologic configuration, is where lies yet another of Gran Canaria’s distinct features. A vast depression caldera, the Tejeda Caldera, governs the centre of the island, draining rainwater that zigzags along ravines to reach the sea. In all, Gran Canaria may be viewed as a massif that rises from sea level up to 1,949 metres at the top of Mount Las Nieves.

Pine forests in the Biosphere Reserve

The island’s altitude and sharp relief allow for a myriad of microclimates and habitats. The south-western region of Gran Canaria has preserved its natural environment throughout the centuries. Deep Canarian pine woods are found in that area, this tree being unique in the entire planet. Human activity has been respectful to nature, blending in with the island’s original environment, and thus yielding a special landscape mosaic now under care for the generations to come. It becomes hard to distinguish the elements that were introduced from those that have always been there.

Blue skies and waters off the coastline of Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria's essence as land of contrast is also evident in its coastline. From there up to 300 metres of altitude, the environment is arid to hyper-arid, filled with thistle and euphorbia. The bottom of ravines and valleys are home to palm trees, salt cedar, and willow groves.

The coastline, with wide immersed deltas, underwater volcanic gorges, tall cliffs, and interconnected sand banks… such natural blend affords a rich biodiversity, home to the loggerhead turtle, the bottlenose dolphin, and Risso’s dolphin. Every day they all meet for a new performance. One thousand climates and a million natural species all dancing together on an island that is a Biosphere Reserve.

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