YOUR HOLIDAY TV
On a boat trip, Marion Ainge takes a watery leap of faith
It's not often I get the chance to jump into a man's arms. So when our small boat moors a little way out from a secluded island, I follow the skipper's command, leap towards him, land with a splash in the crystal clear, turquoise waters, then wade ashore.
Cool customer, Pau from Barcelona, who sports colourful bracelets, beads and tattoos, is a bit of a mover/shaker in his field. As the skipper of a traditional, six-seater fishing boat, called a llaut, he commands just three of us on this trip starting from La Savina harbour in Formentera, which lies just off the southern tip of big sister, Ibiza.
On our voyage, the Mediterranean is choppy with a considerable swell. The boat rides the waves like a mini roller coaster and the spray veers upwards over the side of the craft and on to my open notebook. Fortunately, I can still just about read my damp shorthand notes. In just less than an hour, we moor off the shores of Espalmador. We could be in the Caribbean on this deserted isle, a paradise, uninhabited apart from one impressive property owned by the folk who bought the island for £18m. But anyone can use the white, soft-sanded beaches, apparently. Not ideal for the idyll when huge boatloads of day trippers arrive from Ibiza.
Those wanting bright lights, booze on tap, booming all night, every night life and fast food chains won't find what they crave on eco-friendly Formentera. Life in the slow lane is the key in this, the smallest, quietest, of the Balearic islands, at only 20 km long, with a population of 12,000. After a short bus ride from Ibiza airport to the harbour, we take a 30-minute Trasmapi ferry crossing to the island. It's a haven of natural beauty, with long, sandy beaches and shallow waters, fringed by dunes and palm trees. But if, like myself, you prefer not bare all or see what others choose to reveal, it's best to check whether your chosen beach is one of the naturist havens on Formentera.
A valuable eco-system, the biggest area of Posidonia seagrass in the Mediterranean, covers the seabed and keeps the waters crystalline clear. It is protected by the Ses Salines Nature Park. At some of the nature parks, petrol-fuelled vehicles pay a car park fee. Bicycle travel is encouraged and fig trees are cut down to a level which provides shade for humans and animals. On market day, only locally-sourced fresh fruit, vegetables and other produce is sold in the island's quaint, sleepy capital, San Francesc Xavier.
In La Mola, the family-owned TerraMoll vineyard, is in its 18th year of production in an area of excellent growing conditions renowned for quality wines. Less water equals fewer grapes equals better quality. At 200 metres above sea level and comprising 40 hectares, the vineyard produces around 20,000 bottles per year. We sample the red, white and rose varieties. Their Viognier, one of my favourite white wine tipples, has recently been authorised by the
Council of Agriculture. No chemical pesticides are used here and only 15 per cent of TerraMoll's wine is exported.
Time for lunch and we veer off-the-beaten-track to the charming fishing village of Es Calo de Sant Agusti. Restaurants use local produce to prepare great food in Formentera. Enjoying spectacular, picture postcard sea views, at the popular Can Rafalet restaurant we tuck in to chunks of home-made bread dipped in olive oil, paella, fresh grilled fish, salad and golden chips. We sit alongside families, couples and parties who eat, drink, laugh and chat together.
Chartered boats moor just off the shore at the low key but stylish Gecko Hotel and Beach Club, a renowned yoga retreat. From our base, the Insotel Formentera Playa Hotel, three kilometres from the capital and nine kilometres from the port, we walk along a boarded beach-side track to this oasis of tranquility within stunning gardens. We savour the sublime marinated fish ceviche followed by crunchy croquettes and a bowl of fresh mussels in a sea of fragrant Thai sauce. The red tuna is perfectly cooked and full of flavour. A tangy citrus fruit dessert refreshes our palate. Walkers, hikers, runners and cyclists can explore the secrets of Formentera. Electro engineer, Daniel Aguilera Serrano, of Walking Formentera hails from Barcelona, but in the summer plans guided routes which take in coves, cliffs, forests, streams, caves and caverns on the island.
Formentera was a former hippie scene in the 60s and 70s and, reportedly a windmill, on the eastern side of the island was home to Bob Dylan for a time. This 18th century windmill, situated on a promentary at Pilar La Mola, a small village on the highest point of Formentera, is pictured on Pink Floyd's 1969 More album.
Laid back legends, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix also spent time out on Formentera, now a favourite chilll-out haunt of Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna, Kate Moss
and famous footballers.
If it's good enough for them.........
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