Malpaís Grande Protected Area

Thousands of people travel to Fuerteventura every year to discover the unique Majorero landscapes. Our island is a geological wonder. Not in vain is it considered by the International Geological Union as one of the places of greatest geological interest in the world. 

Fuerteventura has 13 protected natural spaces. A large part of them are closely linked to the volcanological activities of the island. 

One of these enclaves is the Malpaís Grande, to which we dedicate these letters today. 

But, first of all, and for all those who do not live on the islands or are not familiar with volcanic landscapes.

What is the malpais? 

Malpais is the extension of volcanic terrain formed thanks to the cooling and consolidation of lava emitted during a volcanic episode. 

The name malpaís is usually used to generally define those volcanic regions characterized by the presence of little eroded rocks, with a scoriaceous appearance and whose surfaces are called “aa”.

Where is the Malpaís Grande Protected Area located? 

The Malpaís Grande Protected Area is located in the Central Plain of Fuerteventura. It has an area of just over 23 square kilometers, and is located between the municipalities of Antigua and Tuineje. The southeast of the Malpaís Grande adjoins the Los Cuchillos de Vigán Natural Monument, while to the northwest it borders the Caldera de Gairía Natural Monument. 

The Malpaís Grande lava field and its surroundings make up a spectacular landscape of lava plains, which stand out for their unique beauty of intense black colors, dotted with whitish, ocher and yellow tones. This extensive area of badlands was originated by the following four emission centers:

 

– Caldera de La Laguna, 100 meters high from its base. 

– Caldera de Los Arrabales, with a little more than 100 meters high from the base and a crater with a depth of 108 meters. 

– The Liria Volcano, with a height of about 70 meters. 

– La Calderilla, barely thirty meters high from its base. 

These four volcanoes are aligned from north to south and are approximately 100,000 years old.

What is the most representative fauna and flora of the Malpaís Grande? 

The predominant flora that we can find in the Malpaís Grande is small. They are species that adapt quickly to arid lands and with little humidity. Among them we highlight the tabaibas, gorse, little hearts, barilla, cosco, and saladillo. Also for a few decades, we can see invasive plants such as Moorish tobacco and the silk tree, which are gradually colonizing the badlands. 

In terms of fauna, birds are the most significant species. The Canary stonechat, the Majorero guirre, the aguililla and the Canarian crow are the easiest birds to observe. Steppe species such as the stone curlew or the Saharan runner also inhabit and nest in the Malpaís Grande. And, although the Barbary falcon lives in these places, it is very difficult to see it. 

The Moorish squirrels have also colonized a landscape as wild as the Malpaís Grande.

The human habitat in the Malpaís Grande. 

Although currently in this protected landscape there are two population entities: Tequital and Casas de Tenicosquey, since before the Franco-Norman conquest the mahos already inhabited the Malpaís Grande. 

Despite this being an inhospitable space to live in, the mahos chose various sectors of the Malpaís Grande to establish their settlements. A clear example of an aboriginal village, built in the badlands, is the Town of Atalayita, located in the final section of the Pozo Negro ravine.

The essential reason why the mahos decided to build their homes in this type of lava flow is because it provided them with perfect mimicry with the environment. Even being a few meters away it is difficult to see the houses. In addition, the aborigines of Fuerteventura were used to walking through the badlands, so, in case they were discovered, they had a great advantage over their enemies, because they advanced much faster than the conquerors. Let us remember that the Franco-Normans were dressed in heavy armor, spears and all kinds of supplies, not at all recommended for moving through such a wild place as Fuerteventura.

In the Malpaís Grande, the hornitos stand out: small holes through which the gases of the volcanic eruptions were released. Some of the hornitos have formed small caves with vertical entrances. They are so spacious that they have been used by the inhabitants of Fuerteventura since Pre-Hispanic times. Remains of a bird that is now extinct, a shearwater that the aborigines of Fuerteventura fed on, have been found in different hornitos. They also hunted and ate a kind of quail. 

After the conquest, and the subsequent Castilian colonization, the new settlers continued to live in the vicinity of the places inhabited by the mahos. In fact, Tenicosquey and Pozo Negro were among the first stable settlements on the island.

The Malpais Chico 

And finally, you may be wondering, if there is a Big Malpaís, then… is there also a small Malpaís? Indeed, the Malpaís Chico is located northwest of the Malpaís Grande. This lava field occupies an area of about 10 square kilometers. It comes from the Caldera de Gairía, one of the most beautiful volcanoes in Fuerteventura and whose visit is worth it. 

In the Malpaís Chico, the ovens also stand out. The most important are found to the southeast of the Caldera de Gairía, in what is known as Hoya del Cernícalo.


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