Friday, 28 July 2017

Canary Islands (1): Lanzarote to Tenerife

Although there were plenty of places I was/am hoping to (re-)visit whilst in Yorkshire, it would have been criminal to have returned to the UK (for some weeks) on any kind of visit and not have ventured out somewhere further afield (i.e. Europe). Absent a car license (surplus to requirement in Taiwan), I needed somewhere where I would be able to rent a scooter easily and which had inexpensive hotels and was preferably cheap to fly to (i.e. somewhere with a good tourist infrastructure). Obviously, the place also needed to have some decent birds (preferably lifers), and, looking at the overall picture, the Canary Islands seemed to fit the bill in all respects best. Initially, I had planned on visiting just the one island, and it was looking like a toss up between Tenerife and Fuerteventura. Then I learnt that it would be possible to sail between the two, adding the potential of seabirds to the mix (so it quickly became at least two islands, plus a ferry). Then I began reading about some of the birds on Lanzarote and quite fancied going there, too (and a good job I did). The eventual itinerary got finalised early on: Leeds to Arrecife (Lanzarote) with Jet2 Airlines (about £90 return) (overnight Arrecife); Arrecife to Santa Cruz de Tenerife by Naviera Armas ferry (about £60) (three nights Tenerife); Tenerife North to Fuerteventura by plane (about £50) (three nights Fuerteventura); Corralejo (Fuerteventura) to Playa Blanca (Lanzarote) by boat (about £25) (two nights Lanzarote); and finally Arrecife back to Leeds. This was all to be done in nine days, using buses where possible to cut down on the cost of longish overland routes, and hiring scooters in the main tourist towns. I arranged everything online before departure with no snags, using Jet2 for flights, Direct Ferries for ferries, Binter for the domestic flight, Booking.com for accommodation, and White Stars and Cooltra for scooters. Generally speaking things went well and according to plan, with just a few minor niggles along the way (chiefly difficulty in finding bus stations).

First stop was Arrecife, and I arrived there from Leeds on time on Tuesday night and took a cab directly to my nearby accommodation (Casa Guacimeta in Playa Honda). Hoping to get my head down for a few hours, I was royally fed and entertained by the colourful Italian owner of the property, hence was asleep a little later than I had hoped! By 08:30 the following morning, I was in Arrecife port boarding the Naviera Armas ferry bound for Tenerife (a total journey time of almost ten hours, including a two hour transfer in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria). Right from the off, Cory’s Shearwaters Calonectris borealis were much in evidence offshore.


Bulwer’s Petrels Bulweria bulwerii started to appear shortly after leaving the strait between Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, and I recorded over twenty between Lanzarote and Gran Canaria (though none after Gran Canaria). Though I was happy to see them, being abundant in Taiwan these were not a top priority species for me (I was more into all the Cory’s TBH). Having said that, they made for a very good addition to my (discontinued) Western Palearctic list!


The highlight of the trip came about half way between Lanzarote and Grab Canaria, when I picked up my first of three White-faced Storm Petrels Pelagodroma marina, my only lifer from the crossing. These were at some distance from the boat, but close enough to watch skipping across the surface of the water, dangling their long legs behind them as they went.


The crossing from Gran Canaria to Tenerife was a lot less eventful than the one from Lanzarote, adding nothing further to the already limited bird diversity, but Cory’s Shearwaters did increase markedly in number after Gran Canaria, with some coming in very close to the boat.


The boat pulled into Santa Cruz de Tenerife just after 19:00, about half an hour behind schedule, and I had a fair few problems getting to the bus station after landing (for my onward journey to Puerto de la Cruz). In the scheme of things, this amounted to little more than a minor inconvenience, and with a lifer in the bag from the first day, the boat had already proven to be a better option than flying! Above photos taken from the Naviera Armas ferry between Lanzarote and Tenerife, Canary Islands 19/7/17.

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