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The Medes Islands
Illes medes

 Standing 900 metres off the coast, the Medes Islands rise up opposite the town of L’Estartit. They are made up of several smaller islets and seven islands, the main one of which is Meda Gran. This small archipelago of calcareous rock resulting from a succession of karstic processes constitutes a prolongation of the Montgrí range and has many underwater cavities forming tunnels and caves.
The Mediterranean maritime climate has furnished these islands with very special flora and fauna. The Medes Islands are protected under the Plan for Areas of Natural Interest and have a total surface area of 511.2 hectares. Within this area there is another smaller one of 93.2 hectares classified as highly restricted marine reserve area, in which the range of permitted activities is particularly limited.
The flora on the island is made up of species that can stand up well to lack of water and a saline environment, such as prickly pear, catchfly, saltbush (Atriplex halimus), samphire and marine carrot. The only flora to be found in the supralittoral zones are lichens.
For the first few metres under the level of the sea the entry of light permits the existence of abundant colonies of algae, some species of sponges and a large number of animals such as puffers, molluscs, sea worms, etc. At greater depths, where the light is dim, the population in made up of calcareous algae and gorgonians. Near the entrances of the cavities in the rock there form beautiful colonies of red coral, sponges, madreporaria and bryozoans.

Above the water, the presence of sea birds makes this stretch of coast highly attractive. The herring gull is the most abundant bird species, but there are also shags, cormorants and storm petrels. These birds live alongside a small population of ardeidae: little egrets, night herons and cattle egrets.

On the archipelago of the Medes Islands, a hideout for pirates from the 16th century and lookout post used by some armies, there now remains only one building: the lighthouse on Meda Gran.

Within the strictly protected zone activities are highly controlled and limited. Visitors are permitted to alight on land, but on condition that they follow the signposted paths and comply with all established regulations (not leaving refuse, not disturbing the animals, etc.). In terms of the nautical activities authorised – diving, underwater observation and snorkelling, among others – a special permit must be obtained from the Marine Reserve Office of the Medes Islands, as the daily number of immersions is limited and varies according to each particular site. Such permits are not necessary in the protected zone. There is also the possibility of renting skippered or skipperless boats, while there is an extensive range of sea trips to take you to the most beautiful spots on the coast. All these activities may be undertaken alone or through the many companies offering such services.

> The Montgrí mountain range > The Medes Islands > The Baix Empordà marshes > The Gavarres hills > The Cadiretes - L'Ardenya mountain range > The Begur Mountains
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