Lanzarote nature & wildlife
The extraordinary landscapes of Lanzarote, which range from the lunar volcanic landscapes of the lava flows or malpais (the badlands) of the Timanfaya National Park, to the sandy scrub of the Monumento Natural de los Ajaches and the islands of the Chinijo archipelago provide many different habitats and ecosystems for numerous endemic species of both flora and fauna.
Aquilino Romero, who works on the vineyards
"We have volcanoes – the Montañas de Fuego are almost unique. We have the extraordinary landscape of black lava and green hills and golden beaches"
With the coastline of Morocco only 100 kilometres to the east, Lanzarote is a regular port of call for many birds migrating to breeding grounds in the north, or returning to their southern winter locations in Africa. Waders and small passerines use the wetlands of the Al Janubio salt pans or the abandoned salt works beneath the high cliffs of Famara to rest and feed on their long journeys.
Four of the five islands of the Chinijo Archipelago are uninhabited and form an avian paradise for both resident and migrating bird species. The shearwater, once hunted by islanders for its fatty meat, now nest safely in their thousands on the high cliffs of the island of Alegranza. Here too resident pairs of Eleanora’s Falcon and osprey hunt the clear waters and steep cliffs, and sea eagles are often seen from the Mirador del Rio which overlooks the island of La Graciosa.
On Lanzarote itself, the Houbara Bustard nests regularly in the sandy scrubland of the Monumento Natural de Los Ajaches– the oldest volcanic formation of the Canary islands. An estimated three or four pairs of Barbary Falcons are resident in the Timanfaya National Park, breeding in the craters of the Montañas del Fuego and preying on rabbits, partridge and other small birds and animals which live in the harsh terrain of the volcanic lava flows.
The Marine Reserve around the Chinijo archipelago is one of the largest in Spanish waters. Comprising the five islands of Alegranza, Montaña Clara, La Graciosa, Roque del Oeste and Roque del Este the reserve covers 90 square kilometres which teem with fish and where many species of sea bird live and breed.
Bottlenose dolphins and pilot whales are regularly seen here and only recently a pod of large killers whales in pursuit of their favourite prey, blue fin tuna, were sighted close to the archipelago.
Of the five islands only La Graciosa is inhabited, and with access to other islands either restricted or totally banned the archipelago is an ideal breeding place for sea birds and other avian species. Boat trips to visit the waters and caves of the islands depart from the port of Orzola in northern Lanzarote.
Find out more about La Graciosa and the islands of the north in Lanzarote
One of the most unusual, and perhaps the smallest of the remarkable fauna of Lanzarote is the tiny blind white crab found in the waters of the lava tube at the Jameos del Agua.
Barely two centimetres long, the albino Munidopsis Polymorpha which resembles a miniature lobster complete with claws has existed in total darkness for so long that it has no eyes and forages for food in the clear water of the cave. These crabs are unique to the island of Lanzarote.
Now one of Manrique’s Centres of Art Culture and Tourism, visitors to the Jameos del Agua can walk through the huge lava tunnel. Here, these tiny crabs can clearly be seen feeding on the bottom of the natural rock pools.
Find out more about Jameos del Agua
The National Timanfaya Park is one of Lanzarote’s major attractions. Here, where volcanic eruptions took place barely three centuries ago, rocks close to the surface are heated to 400 degrees centigrade by magma chambers deep beneath the island. The visitors centre in Mancha Blanca, has a series of excellent displays and videos about the volcanic eruptions and their extraordinary impact on Lanzarote’s history.
A novel way to view the landscape is from the back of camels which wait in a special area on the boundary of the park. Seats slung either side of the camel’s hump take two passengers at a time, and the long procession winds its way over the hill above the centre to viewing points which look over the twisted formations of the lava flows of the National Park’s extraordinary lunar landscape.
Find out more about Timanfaya National Park
Find out more about Lanzarote's nature reserves