Aerial view of Estero Natural La Voz
Paradise has a name and it can be found in the Bay of Cadiz in the south of Spain

Paradise has a name and it can be found in the Bay of Cadiz in the south of Spain

Estero Natural, located in the marshes of Puerto Real, is the only company in the country with an aqua tourism licence

José María Vilches


Tuesday, 16 April 2024, 10:52


Paradise is a dream that can come true. And in Andalucía's Bay of Cadiz it even has a name. Estero Natural, located in the marshes of Puerto Real, is the only company in Spain with a licence in aqua tourism. In the heart of the Bahía de Cádiz Natural Park you can enjoy seeing all the flora and fauna, visit the traditional farming of Gillardeau oysters, go fishing for some of the best fish, attend a variety of workshops, try out different bathing areas... everything and more, in a privileged, unique environment.

Estero Natural grew as a family business operating in the Belén de Levante and Poniente salt-pans. Their main business is aquaculture (the breeding, rearing and harvesting of fish, shellfish and more in a water-based environment), but without neglecting a sustainable tourism offering too. Salvador Algarín passed on his passion to his sons and they convinced some friends who were also biologists to join them. The team specialised in the breeding and export of Gillardeau oysters, (often just known in Spain as 'French oysters', although Gillardeau is just one variety of oyster farmed in France).

The latest to join the project team is Eugenio Belgrano. This entrepreneur from Cadiz knows better than anyone that tourism is a great invention for this area and has joined this team made up of great professionals and lovers of marine fauna and flora. "This year we obtained the first and only aqua tourism licence in Spain, which allows us to practise tourism in the estuaries, and so I signed up", says Belgrano.

He goes on to explain: "We are now preparing everything to bring the two activities together: aquaculture and tourism. We have been organising small events for a while, but now we are improving the facilities to create an experience that can really bring the visitor 100% in touch with this wonderful environment".

Putting all hands on deck, that makes more than a dozen pairs of hands, seven business partners (four biologists, an expert in estuaries, an economist and Belgrano himself on the tourism side), plus work, a lot of work, on an area covering about 270 hectares.

Eugenio Belgrano acts as spokesperson for the company while acknowledging "the great work" of all involved. The Cadiz native explains the project to this newspaper in the very heart of these wetlands. Hither and thither, he flits from one path to another, scanning the environment, showing us this, that and the other, giving answers, asking more questions.

"I have many business interests and I've been involved in around 1,000 projects, but this is one of the ones I've fallen in love with the most", Eugenio Belgrano confesses from the bottom of his heart. "From here you can see Cadiz city, San Fernando, Chiclana, Puerto Real... and everything is in the natural park. We can see La Carraca armoury, Cuatro Torres prison... ".

How did you get involved in this, the nth project in your business dealings? "I brought some important clients, they wanted to witness a 'despesque' [traditional fishing with nets in the estuaries], I contacted a company and here we are. We held the event in a little house on the estuary. They had a great time. The day before they had been to Doñana and they told me that they saw things here that they hadn't seen there, they were amazed", says this entrepreneur from Cadiz, who is always coming up with new initiatives on the horizon.

"The truth is that I often take people to Doñana and five minutes from Cadiz you find a spectacular biodiversity and ecosystem. There are all kinds of birds. I, for example, had never seen a black stork. Well, now I have. Here black storks, flamingos, grey herons, spoonbills, plovers... co-exist. It is one of the places where you can see the most species of birds", he stresses, hardly stopping to draw breath before jumping to the next topic..

"I am new to this world. My biology team-mates are in charge of the fieldwork, the fish, the plants, the birds.... I'm co-ordinating the tourism, making sure everything runs smoothly. The place needs improvements and we are working on that. But the potential is enormous: even a wedding has been held here. The sunset photos couldn't be more beautiful. We are improving the access roads, making all the sluice gates of the estuaries fully operative, a task that is very important to keep the water coming in, to keep it flowing through all the channels we have. We are preparing places for activities, places for bathing, cycling routes to see the whole area, which is unique".

"The activities will focus on schools and groups of tourists in general: workshops to identify tracks left by wildlife, to look for different birds, plants and algae...", Belgrano rambles on, thinking aloud.

"There are 270 hectares of marshland, lots of different estuaries. There is oyster farming, shrimp farming, breeding of sea bream... all natural. The fish are not fed with just a feed or anything artificial, they feed on the same biodiversity that exists in the estuary, on the shrimps and molluscs and nutrients within these estuary waters: it is a perfect ecosystem. That's why these are exquisite, wild fish. We let the young fish in, regulating the floodgates and the water levels: we let them in so they can eat from here. It's one hundred per cent organic fish".

Aquaculture, tourism, leisure...

"The aim is to organise days out to delight the senses. You can enjoy a great day with magnificent activities: a walk through the estuaries, aquaculture workshops, falconry, identification of animal tracks, seafood rice dishes, a platter of cooked fish .... even a food truck, drinks and music. Aquaculture, tourism... and leisure. All hand in hand".

"The activities consist of taking people to see the estuary, to observe the different birds that live in the area. After the fishing demo is done with trammel nets, they can see the invasive species such as the blue crab. And the impact is explained to them. It's non-stop sensations, entertainment and learning".

"And then there is the most important thing, what everyone comes for," Belgrano says: the experience of tasting these natural products.

"Personally, ever since I tried it, the fish I like the most is mullet: it's a real delicacy. The biologists encouraged me and I owe them one. It is different from the mojonera [another type of smooth fish] we know in Cadiz. It's a delicacy, not even the gilthead bream can match it", he points straight to his tongue.

There is a small beach for bathing and getting muddy, a viewpoint with binoculars for visitor use... "In springtime the birds come to roost and we can observe them".

"Here you have a unique experience: from how the fish is caught, how the shrimps are harvested, the tasting itself... what you eat here is done as it was done in the marshes in the old days: making a circle with the plants, setting up the fire to die down to the embers, the fish being placed on the cooking slab - a gilthead bream, for example. And from the sea to the fire and from the fire to the table", he says.

"Unique views of Cadiz city and the bay, boats entering the marshlands and there will be excursions. We don't really know just how much we have here...", concludes Eugenio Belgrano, using his finger to write those three dots to underline how infinitely wonderful this place truly is. Paradise.

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