The south of the Camargue is dominated by the sansouires, vast clayey and salty plains that flood at the slightest shower of rain and dry out and crack in summer. The vegetation here is stunted, having adapted to the salti-ness of the earth and the strength of the mistral wind. Typical flora of this environment is salicornia and "engane" (prairies of salicor-nia) which give off red reflections in autumn; along with sea purslane; and the common sea lavender, known as saladelle in the Camargue, which, with its little blue flowers that bloom in August, has become the em-blem of the gardian (bull herdsman specific to the Camargue region).
Etangs (small salt water lakes) and marshes take up 20,000 hectares of Camargue land and constitute rest stops favoured by many migratory and sedentary birds.. The Étang de Vaccarès alone, surrounded by reeds and tamarinds, takes up 6000 hectares.
Woodland represents only a tiny part of the Camargue coastline :
- the riparian forest found alongside the Rhone, and
- the Bois des Rièges (Rièges Wood) to the south of the Étang de Vaccarès, inside the national reserve, provides shelter for many mammals (rodents, foxes, wild boar). It is made up of mastic shrubs (pistacia lentiscus), greenbrier shrubs, spurge olive, buckthorns, wild rosemary, and Phoenician juniper.
In lower Camargue, beyond the seawall, are some very fragile mobile dunes, protected by fences (made from chestnut wood which hold the sand in place). A unique variety of vegetation flourishes here (marram grass, couch grass, euphor-bia, sea-lilies etc.). The dunes can be seen along a large part of the Camargue coastline, stretching from Beauduc to Saintes-Maries de la Mer and right up to l'Espiguette.
In the commune of Le Grau du Roi is l'Espiguette, one of the most beautiful sandy beaches in the Mediterranean. This sandy area stretches out over several kilometres. A large car park runs paral-lel to the beach, facilitating access. A word of warning to holiday makers though; one part of the beach is for naturists.
Camargue landscape and wild horses
Landscape of salt meadows and glasswort in autumn colours
Rice fields in the Camargue
Kite buggy on the beach of Beauduc in the Camargue
Shades of pink in the salt flats of the Camargue
Flight of birds along Vaccarès lake
The Espiguette lighthouse
Rancher's cabin and its reed roof