The land is twisted and warped; in some parts there are yawning cavities that look as though a mythical giant has taken a shovel to the maroon earth, in others shallow caves are protected by jagged volcanic teeth. It is an anarchic landscape; a place where Mother Nature’s violent wrath has created something that feels slightly alien. This is Alegranza -one of the Canary Islands that even many regular visitors to the Canary Islands will never have heard of.
Ironically, despite its inhospitable looks, Alegranza means ‘joy’ in English. Popular folklore has it that it was named because conqueror of Lanzarote, Jean de Béthencourt was somewhat ‘over the moon’ at spotting this piece of land after a long sea journey.
The island is uninhabited; home only to sea birds like Cory’s Shearwater, Barbary falcons and Egyptian vultures as well as an old 19th century lighthouse. Although the area is protected and part of Chinijo National Park, it is privately owned and there are ongoing concerns that this tranquil natural bird sanctuary could be exploited at some point in the future.
Our guides from Lanzaroteactiveclub, who are passionate about the environment to the extent that one of them doesn’t even walk through spider webs, are amongst those who worry that Alegranza’s protected status could be in danger…if the money was right. There is a feeling by those who know the Canary Islands and its politics well that nothing is safe if the ‘money is right’.
But for now it is protected and it’s prohibited to set foot on this special land. But we are able to sail around it, marvelling at a mish mash landscape that can quickly change from rugged sheer cliffs to undulating soft contours. It is both masculine and feminine; the result of an explosive tryst.
The boat weighs anchor beside a smoothly curved volcanic cone; at its base is the entrance to a hidden lagoon with a small beach. Blended into the undulations in the pumice rock, the casual observer would never spot the opening in a hundred years.
There are two ways to get to the hidden lagoon – by swimming or by zodiac. The idea of swimming through a tunnel to reach a secret lagoon really appeals to the Indiana Jones in me…but on the other hand I want to get some photos. The zodiac option wins.
We edge our way carefully through a narrow dark tunnel using our hands to keep the zodiac away from the rough walls until it widens out enough for the zodiac captain to be able to steer. After a few moments we emerge into bright daylight again and a small emerald coloured lagoon. It is totally enclosed by sheer walls that rise in distinct layers whose colours change from green to battleship grey to pink to mustard.
The beach, being a tiny shelf of smooth black sand probably big enough for two people to get cosily prone, is not exactly of Alex Garland proportions. It doesn’t lessen the impact of finding myself in a secret lagoon in an island that is close to some of the most popular holiday destinations on the planet and yet remains relatively unknown.
The feeling of being off the beaten track whilst on what is generally thought of as a well trodden beaten track always gives me a buzz.
As we bob silently, gently, absorbing the experience of being in this little green lagoon protected by multi-layered and multi-coloured walls, there’s only one word to describe how I feel… it’s alegranza.
Buzz Trips explored Alegranza courtesy of Lanzaroteactiveclub. For anyone interested in exploring Lanzarote and its islands with guides who are passionate about conservation and the environment as well as being knowledgeable and good fun, we’d thoroughly recommend these guys.