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on sailing along the edge of pre-history: la réserve naturelle de scandola and les calanches de piana

High on my list of places to see in Corsica were les calanches de Piana and the Réserve naturelle de Scandola, both on the west central coast.

If you locate Porto on a map of Corsica, and use the finger to trace the coast to the south, that is where the calanches de Piana are located. They do not extend far from Porto. Assume they stop around the village of Piana.

Note: on the main land of France, the word for calanches is calanques. On Corsica en langue corse, the word calanches is used.

Move the finger back to Porto and walk them in a northern direction to a large peninsula where the Île de Gargali is located. There you will find the coast of the Réserve naturelle de Scandola. It is the peninsula that is about half way between Calvi and Porto.

Before arriving on Corsica, I had heard, and I was told by my French Corsican tutor, that the Calanches and the Réserve were stunning and should not be missed. I was using the Michelin Guide Vert (book, French version) to help plan the voyage. It gave both locations a three star rating, a must for visitors to Corsica

How do you visit the calanches de Piana and the Réserve naturelle de Scandola? You can drive through the calanches de Piana. They are half way between Porto and Cargèse. Or, from Porto, Calvi, and Cargèse, you can join a boat tour and go out for 1 ½ hours or up to five to six hours, depending on how much you want to see and your time restraints.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

For the Réserve naturelle de Scandola, you cannot drive into it. It is a UNESCO protected area. You must pay a boat tour company, which will take you out for a short trip or one that lasts for much of the day. The longer trip will take you to the small village, Girolata.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

I took two boat trips: one that went along the calanches de Piana that lasted about 1 1/2 hours; and then two days later I took an extended trip out of Cargèse that included the calanches de Piana and the Réserve naturelle de Scandola. The boat stopped in Girolata for two hours where we could swim, hike, or eat at one of several restaurants. Girolata is an unusual small village. No roads go to it. Access is only by a hiking trail or by boat.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

Taking a boat involves some planning. Do you want a small boat that will take you out and back rather quickly? You must sit during the entire trip and you will have no cover or a bathroom. These boats cost less.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

The bigger boat–la vedette–has a cabin, bathroom, and shelter from the spray, and you can stand and walk, if you wish. Refreshments may be offered. These trips cost more.

In addition, will you take photographs? Will that be of major importance? For me it was. Not everyone had thought about the best place(s) to be for taking pictures. Many passengers struggled to take photos that did not also have a head or raised arms in their pictures in addition to the scenery.

Hint: on boarding the boat, and try to be one of the first in line, find a spot outside (no windows) that will be facing the land. On the west coast of Corsica and going north, for example, I made sure I was on the right side of the boat. Going south to the calanches de Piana, I found a good seat on the left side.

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