A rhythmic clanging interrupted the soothing lapping of the water against the boat as we glided slowly through the shallow sea in the soft morning light. It was the sound of the rakes used by the mariscadoras, the women who were collecting shellfish at low tide on a sandbank under the bridge that links Arousa island to the southern side of the Ría de Arousa in O Salnés.
The Ría de Arousa is 25 km long, making it the biggest of the estuaries that form the crinkly coastline of the Rías Baixas on the Atlantic ocean in Galicia in the north west of Spain. The rías have similarities with the fjords of Norway and the firths and sea lochs of Scotland. The mix of fresh and salt water creates optimum conditions for cultivating shellfish and the area is of great ecological interest.
Cormorants and herons perched on rocks as we drifted down the ría, gazing at the blue mist on the horizon. We were sailing on the Amare Un, a small boat owned by Gabi Comojo Cristobo, who used to be a full-time fisherman but now runs Amare Turismo Nautico. He takes groups out to cruise around and swim, snorkel, dive and fish. If you like, you can get off the boat at one of the fabulous beaches on Arousa island or one of the other tiny islands along the ría.
“You can walk or cycle around Arousa island,” said Gabi, as we sailed past a coastline of empty sandy beaches flanked by dunes and dense pine forests. “This southern part is the Carreirón nature reserve.”
All along the ría there are wooden rafts – more than 2,000 – which are known as bateas and are used for cultivating mussels and oysters. On previous visits to the Rías Baixas I had seen them from afar, but this time we were sailing right up to one of them. “There are about 500 ropes with mussels attached to them, dangling into the water from the platform – a lot more on an oyster raft,” said Gabi, leaning over to lift up one of the ropes for us to see, as seagulls circled and squawked overhead. “You can just eat the shellfish straight from the sea here. There’s no need to purify them as the water is so clean.”
We sailed right around Arousa island and arrived back in the harbour feeling very chilled out indeed. As we got off the boat and walked back along the jetty, thoughts turned of course to lunch. It was time to devour a large portion of those fabulous mussels – and some clams and crab too.
A trip around the island with Gabi costs from just €15. Have a look at Amare Turismo Nautico to see all the different things you can do. See the O Salnés site for more information on what you can see and do in the area.