Today’s plan was to go stargazing from a ship and learning more about Salvora Island at the Rias Baixas region in Galicia. But we woke up and it was cloudy and it seemed that the sun hadn’t showed up in Cambados for a week, so we weren’t expecting any stars.
We were expecting the sea to shine the way I see it now, with a blue light that makes the ship glow underneath as we sail through the Ria de Arousa at night, just as if a thousand led lights were highlighting our way. Undoubtedly one of the most surreal experiences I’ve lived lately (and there’s been a few.)
But let’s go step by step, this trip was full of experiences and secrets. Sail with me on our trip through the Ria:
Traveling to Salvora:
As I was telling you, our departure point was Cambados harbour. This village, full of manor houses and history, is just a step from one of the most visited spots in Galicia and deserves a visit on its own, but it was not our destination: we were leaving the land behind and sailing to Salvora Island, probably one of the lesser known island at the National Park of the Atlantic Islands (the one of famous Cíes Islands).
In order to get to Salvora you need to leave the protection of O Grove and Arousa towards the mouth of the Ria. Sailing in between hundreds of “bateas” (where mussels grow) and buoys that prove this to be one of the most important harbours of fresh fish in all Europe.
Note: If you’ve never been to Galicia, you should know that “bateas” are those wooden structures with tons of ropes hanging, where mussels, oysters and scallops grow. And which birds use to stop and overlook every ship that passes by, like this cormoran below or the inquisitive seagulls.
This high amount of “bateas” has a reason: the Ria de Arousa is a rich coast for sea life with lots of nutrients that attracts fish, seafood, birds and cetacean. Yes, you can also see here dolphins, whales and other cetacean every once in a while (some of them are almost extinct.)
And I also said birds because, even though birdwatching is weird for many travelers, Galicia is at one of the most amazing locations for bird photography, with many migration routes passing by. Which is precisely what the Chasula team has specialized: the boat will follow the routes of birds and allow you to picture them at their natural environment. We saw seagulls, cormorans, mascatos… With the help of a biologist that helped us spot the different birds on our sight.
Next stop: Salvora Island
Being honest, if you ever asked me what to see in Salvora (before this trip) I would have said not much: a little village, lots of birds and the colors of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia. It was a big “incognita” for me, just like for everybody else.
Eclipsed by the beaches of Cies, the vitality of Ons and the (sad) history of San Simón, this little island is still ignored by most travelers and deserves a lot more of attention than it gets.
To start, this island was one of the last private islands in Spain (where all the coast belongs to the government), becoming public land and part of the National Park right before a bank offered to build apartments there. It used to belong to the family Otero-Goyanes (also known as the Mariño family) whom are said to be descendants of a Siren and the hero Roland (yes, the one from La Chanson de Roland.)
From them are some of the unique things of the Island: the manor house, an old roof tile oven, the traditional village and a few legends. But I won’t tell you all, you will learn about it at the guided visit (you can only visit Salvora with an official guide from the park.)
But the interesting things don’t stop at the village and the legends, Salvora is also different from the other islands in the park: almost flat and without the cliffs of Cies or Ons, it also has more water and rounder stones. Also, there are more animals there.
On the one side, there are the horses (the island is a reserve of pure Galician horse breed), some deer (it used to be the haunting field from Marqués de Revilla), rabbits, salamanders… And then the plants: wild blackthorn, “fall in love” grass, bushes…
And, as you would expect, it is also a nice birdwatching spot. Just beware you shouldn’t touch a thing, there are no waste bins or other services (don’t expect a coffee-house there, you won’t find a single shop.)
Stargazing in Galicia – Starlight destination and the “burning sea”
It was getting dark and it was about time to go back home and see the stars on our way, but the stars chose not to be there (it had been cloudy all day as you’ve seen in the pictures). A shame, because we had with us an stargazing expert to help us see and the spot has been certified a Starlight destination.
So we had to adapt and, instead of looking for lights above, we found them below:
What you see above are no special effects, it is what they call “Mar de Ardora” (burning sea or ardentia) and was filmed by the team from Bluscus from our ship (my camera is not as good.) A bioluminescence effect that only happens at the open seas.
The reason of these lights shining on our way are the Noctilucas Scintillans (translated, “they shine at night”). Some micro-organism that look red by day and that create a blue-greenish light at night when the water surrounding vibrates. In the old times, they used to help fishermen to see fish at night (they still talk about going to “Ardora” when they sail at night, far from the light pollution of the coast.)
They are usually there in June, July, September and/or October and, while they are bad for seafood lovers, they make and unbelievable sight. Would you sail with us?
This post has its origin on the commemoration of the World Day of Tourism that DMO of Galicia organized around Sustainable Tourism. You can do all of the above with Bluscus and, if lucky, you will see an amazing sky above or the hypnotic Ardora.
Also, the team of Chasula has a blog where they tell you the newest trends and news about the birds and cetaceans at the area.