Its name comes from the impression of the first navigators, Greek and Latin, which include their letters with the name of Colubraria or Ophiusa, admired by the abundance of snakes that were found there. The island was burned down to end with the vipers (the last were seen at the end of the nineteenth century). Only visited by fishermen, smugglers and pirates until the early nineteenth century, the colonization of the archipelago occurs in the mid-nineteenth century with the construction of the lighthouse on an island (1856-1860).
The Columbretes are presented as one of the small island spaces of most ecological interest of the Mediterranean. They consist of a series of islets and reefs located within 30 miles of the coast of Castellón, about 56 Km., and gathered into 4 groups, whose name is given according to the largest of each one of its islands: l’Illa Grossa, that is the only one inhabited, the Ferrera, Foradada and Carallot. Seated on a bottom located about 80 meters of depth, the Columbretes represent the best example of volcanism in our land. L’Illa Grossa, formed by various craters chained, and Carallot, which, with its 32 meters above sea level is the testimony of the geological remnants of the central fireplace of a volcano. The Marine Reserve that surrounds the archipelago currently has a surface area of 5,543 ha.
It is dominated by the nesting seabirds colonies. The Audouin’s seagull, the shearwater, the Eleonor’s falcon and the Mediterranean shag, found in these islands the only point of nesting of the Valencian Community. Among all the animals stands out, in particular, the group of arthropods with 10 endemic insects. The singularity fauna culminates with the presence of an endemic species of lizard.
The interest of the islands is multiplied when we immerse ourselves in its seabed. The complex topography of these seabed, filled with pitfalls, banks and low is the natural refuge for many species exploited by the fishing in our sea. In addition to an exceptional species richness and variety of benthic communities, singularities appear as red coral and the alga Laminaria redriguezi, very scarce in our sea.
Plants take advantage of the low rainfall in order to bloom and disperse the seeds quickly. Between March and early June, depending on the rains, we will be able to enjoy a burst of colors and smells on the island that will need to be imagined if we visit it during the summer.
There are two endemic species: maritime cress of Columbretes (Lobularia maritima columbretensis) and arboreal alfalfa (Medicago periodot). The predominant plant is the fine soda (Suaeda, vera) that covers mostly “l’Illa Grossa”. Other notable marine are the sea carrot (Daucus gingidium), sea fennel (Crithmum maritimum), a brier (Lycium intrincatum) and paternostrera (Withania frutescens).
VISIT TO L’ILLA GROSSA: ITINERARY FROM THE PORT OF TOFIÑO TO THE LIGHTHOUSE
Because of the fragility of the islands, it is only possible to visit to l’Illa Grossa. The itinerary is done in small groups of people always accompanied by the monitors or by the guards, who will give an explanation of the most relevant aspects of the reserve. The tour lasts between one and two hours. The walk will take us from the stairs of the port of l’Illa Grossa to the lighthouse, passing through the Visitors’ Center, where there is an exhibition of human history and fishing in the environment of the Columbretes. During the trip we can observe many and the most representative birds and marine birds, lizards, insects and plants flora of the island; all this nestled in a majestic volcanic landscape.
VISIT TO THE INFORMATION CENTER
The Information Center of the Natural Reserve of the Columbretes Islands is located in the Planetarium of Castellón. It has an exhibition on the islands and on the world of fishing. You can operate in a self-guided with the voice-overs of a fisherman as the thread of the explanation. There is a projection and conferences room where you can see videos, audiovisual and do talks.
Organise your trip to the Columbretes Islands