Summertime. The right time for the beach,
to get this lovely, sexy tan, for "il dolce fa niente". In fact, this is the main reason (apart from the Ibiza nights,
of course) for the great majority of visitors to endure all
the hassle and flight delays.
For the ones who want to explore the seashore
and to take back a little bit more then just sunburn and sore
eyes, here's a little bit of knowledge about this very rich
Ecosystem, as the Pitusan littoral is.
I recommend you walk, swim, or - even better
- do both, along the coast, out of the sandy beaches, by the
rocks, and take a proper look into the little pools and in
between the rolling stones of the shore.
Life begins to flow into your eyes. Crustaceans
like prawns and shrimps "Palaemon serratus", common
prawn "Crangon crangon" brown shrimp, are the most
common. Crabs ("Carcinus maenas", "Carcinus mediterraneus", both common shore crabs, "Maja squinado"
spider crab, "Macropipus puber", swimming crab,
"Eriphia verrucosa" also a shore crab). All edible,
especially the "Maja" and the"Eriphia",
a somewhat furry creature, 10cm. maximum size, dark-green,
solid, hairy legs and powerful pincers. Its flavour is considered
very good indeed in the South of France where they are used
for the "Soupe de Pélous" and the price is
not cheaper than lobster.
Molluscs Gastropods like limpets "Patella
caerulea" is the most common, but there are a few more
species, the delicious abalone "Haliotis tuberculata"
which used to be plentiful, but are difficult to find nowadays,
the top-shell snail, "Trochocochlea turbinata" and
the horn-shell "Cerithium vulgatum" are still easy
to see in good numbers, The murex "Murex trunculus"
"Murex brandaris" "Murex erinaceus" by
themselves attracted the Phoenicians from Tyre, the Greeks
and the Romans, boats and sailors to the coast of Ibiza-Formentera.
It could very well be that Caesar's purple imperial cape or
the purple sails of Cleopatra's warship at the Battle of Actium
were stained with purple dye ("Purpura") made from
the murex of this island.
Bivalves, like cockles "Cerastoderma
glaucum" and the carpet-shell "Venerupis decussata"
used to be so abundant in the sandy beaches of Sant Antoni
bay, up until the "Tourist Boom", that nobody sold
them, because nobody had to buy them. In the summer school
holidays, children used to collect both types and sell them
to the bars for the first tourists whom flew into our new
airport. The price was one peseta for two dozen. Something
similar happened, a bit later on, with the oysters "Ostrea
edulis" (and other local varieties). Teenagers would
dive for them and they were sold in restaurants at five pesetas
each. "Pina nobilis" fan mussels were also abundant
in those days in the prairies of "Posidonia" all
around the island. The fan mussel has two beautiful pearly-yellow
shells that can reach almost three feet long; a shell this
size could sell for a hundred pesetas each. A good diver could
collect ten or more in no time at all, far from the shore,
15-30 feet deep. Anyway, those were the days, my friends.
By the rocks you can find, among others,
the tasty date-shell "Litophaga litophaga" "Mytilus
galloprovincialis" the common mussel, Noah's ark "Arca
noae" all good with pasta and a pretty shell.
Cephalopods, specially octopus and cuttlefish
"Octopus vulgaris" "Sepia oficinalis"
are far more abundant than we think, and they come very close
to shore, sometimes out of the water, but you will need a
well -trained eye to spot them. The way they can change colours
and camouflage them with the seabed makes them almost invisible
if they don't move. There are also plenty of squids, "Loligo vulgaris" which are very difficult to see in the water
and believe me, they don't look like onion rings.
Other sea creatures that decorate the seabed
and you can be easily seen by the seashore are "Actinia equina" and "Anemonia sulcata", two of the
most common anemones. Equnodermos like the sea stars "Asterina
gibosa" "Asteria rubens" "Pentagonaster
granularis". Sea-urchins "Echinus esculentus" "Paracentrotus lividus" are both edible, the tiny
mouthfuls of their rose or orange roe is excellent, just with
a drop of lemon juice. The Catalans and especially the French
will agree. (They invented a kind of big scissors known as
"coupe-oursins" just for the purpose of cutting
them in half to reach the roe or "corals" with a
teaspoon). Even so, make sure that you don't step on them,
the spines are very painful and they send quite a few patients
to doctors every summer. Jellyfish, celentéreos of
different species, sometimes appear in hundreds of thousands
along the shore, leaving a ribbon of dead bodies along the
The fish. "Muraena helena" the
moray eel, conger eel, "Conger conger" breams like
"Diplodus vulgaris" and similar species, red mullet "Mullus barbatus" several species of labrus "Labrus
turdus" "Labrus mixtus" "Coris julis"
blenny and goby "Blennius" "Gobius", grey
mullets "Mugil cephalus" scorpion fish "Scorpaena
porcus". We will need a thick catalogue to name them
all, so, I hope you don't mind if I leave it there for today.
The bad news for us (good news for them)
about all these beauties and gastronomic treasures is that
you can only look but not touch. The fines to catching a single
crab, shrimp or limpet can be up to 15,000 pesetas. The same
amount if you get caught fishing without a licence and even
more if you use more then three hooks on the line. To dive
and fish with air-bottles has severer consequences for locals
For the ones who prefer to barbecue themselves
on the beach or by the pool, it can be good to remember what
local doctors say about sunbathing. Don't expose yourself
longer then 15-20 minutes, and do it before 11 o'clock in
the morning or after 7 o'clock in the evening, especially
for the first two or three days. Doctors say that if what
you want is to get a lovely tan without damaging your skin,
you shouldn't be any longer, and, there is no need for it.
The "Melanin" - the pigment that turns you brown,
as everyone knows - stops being produced by the body after
15-20 minutes of Solar-radiation exposure. After that, you
just get burnt. It will take a few hours to be active again,
the practice increases the production of it, and yesterday's Melanin protects you from today's sun.
The Good News
The good news this week is about the Red
Cross volunteers who look after the security on our beaches.
With very few professional lifeguards, these young boys and
girls spend a good amount of their free time to help others,
and they do it very well. Over two hundred and fifty rescues
operations and first aid services in the waters of Ibiza-Formentera
last summer prove it. Recognising the irreplaceable job they
do, the government has provided them with a larger security
plan with more equipment and two new rescue ski-jets. One
is in Ibiza, at the "Playa den Bossa" and "Es
Cavallet" area, the other is in Formentera, by the coast
of "Es Trocadors" which is one of the most dangerous
spots along littoral, with fatalities every year. Let's hope
that this new plan and equipment can help to save lives.
God bless and thank you Red Cross volunteers
for your enormous generosity and for the lives saved.
Telephone number for any local emergencies
José P Ribas