Espiguette Lighthouse, a piece of the world in the middle of the dunes

At the end of winter, under stormy skies, you have to hold on to the railing to keep from flying off. On the balcony that surrounds the top of the Espiguette lighthouse, in Grau-du-Roi, in the extreme south of the Gard department and on the borders of the Petite Camargue, in the gusts of the east wind we expect to contemplate the waves of the raging Mediterranean. Instead, a sea of ​​sand stretches out at our feet.

The tip of Espiguette marks the longest beach of fine sand on the Mediterranean coast of France, 12 kilometers without interruption, a white immensity whose special relief forms a landscape and ecological pearl. “It is the only place where you can see the complete dune system without human interference, which makes this site one of the most natural on the French coast”explains Florine Escot, responsible for the lighthouse, who is not bothered by the wind at all.

In the distance, between this headland and the coast, sand accumulates in “mobile dunes”, that we can practically “see movement with the naked eye”, says Florine Escot. Some of them are carried by the wind to the back, where they form clumps on which grow tillers, salt-insensitive plants and a kind of genius of the place. When viewed from above, the oyat looks like tufts of hair. But their roots, which go deep, trap siliceous grains and thus enable the formation of “white dunes”.

With its twelve kilometers, Espiguette is the longest beach with fine sand on the French Mediterranean coast.

“In the case of rough seas, the water overcomes these first two barriers, but stops at the third”, explains the manager, now in the hood. Here are the “grey dunes” that can reach up to 12 meters high here. They are inhabited by sea urchins, sand lilies, sedges and hawksbills. Finally, behind them, the “fossil dunes”, motionless, forested with umbrella pines and junipers, form a belt of shades of green.

Grey-brown plumage

The hollows and bumps of this environment harbor a discreet yet noisy population that knows how to wait for the wind to die down and dusk to come. The cultivated pelobat, a sand-colored toad that can also burrow, lives in small pools that form between the hills. This ecosystem is also home to the plover, a small, nervous shorebird, as chameleon-like as its amphibian neighbor, with its gray-brown plumage. “Here the strip of sand is very wide, there is a place for everyone, for them and for tourists! »exclaims Florine Escot.

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