The Camargue area of Provence is famous for its wild windy coast, its brine lagoons, and its reed-covered marshes. The area, Europe’s largest river delta as the Rhone flows out into the sea, forms a protected natural park (Parc naturel régional de Carmague ) that is a nature lover’s paradise.
There are plenty of reasons to visit the Camargue, including the pretty towns of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and Aigues-Mortes, the beautiful wild horses (well, semi-wild is probably more true nowadays) and bulls, and the numerous rustic guesthouses and restaurants – but undoubtedly one of the main reasons to visit is to get a chance to see Flamingos in the wild.
You can easily do day trips into the Camargue from nearby Arles, if the focus of your holiday is not solely nature walks etc. You can reach the main Flamingo watching areas, by car, from Arles, in just over an hour. Alternatively you can stay in the nearest towns to the main lagoons, Salin des Giraud on one side, or Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer both of which have great tourist offices where they’re happy to provide you with up to date information – note, for example, that some of the dirt-track roads along the various dikes are sometimes accessible, and sometimes not; the tourist office will be able to give you the most current information based upon tides and weather conditions.
Pink Flamingos have been breeding naturally in the Camargue for centuries, but since 1972 an artificial island specifically created in the Etang du Fangassier has facilitated the breeding, and each year between April and September you can view up to 15,000 couples and their offspring.
If visiting from the Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer side, you can go directly to the Parc Ornithologique du Pont de Gau (D570, 5 km (3 miles) north of Saintes Maries de la Mer, Saintes Maries de la Mer, 13460, France) which has an admission fee, and offers the best and most structured way to see the flamingos.
Alternatively, from Salin des Giraud you can take the D36c out of town, and arrive at the Chemin de Fangassier, and the Route de Fangassier which will bring you into an area with plenty of lagoons and flamingos. Note that at a certain point the road turns into a dirt track, so make sure your car (and driver) are adapted for this terrain. You can also rent bikes in Salin des Giraud, or in many of the guesthouses that dot the delta.
Also on the Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer side you can drive around yourself, viewing the lagoons in the area. Ask in the Tourist office for paritcularly good spots to view the pink flamingos.
The breeding season starts between April and June, but visitors to the Camargue through to September will be able to see thousands of Flamingos and their chicks. Unless you’re specifically a bird-watching enthusiast, you may want to tie in your visit with other events happening in Provence – for example the extensive summer festival in Arles, or the Gypsy Festival in Saintes Maries de la Mer