The island of La Gomera, in the Canary Islands, is part of the 42 World Biosphere Reserves that the International Coordinating Council of UNESCO’s Programme MAB has awarded Spain. This recognition has been closed with the certificate with which the international body accredits this title, handed at an event held on the island.
In the case of La Gomera, this distinction is added to those already granted to the island because of the Garajonay National Park, which was declared a World Heritage Site in 1986, obtaining the highest honor that a protected natural area can reach, and the Silbo Gomero, a whistled language that is considered Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
The 17 protected areas in that coexist in La Gomera occupy a third of the island, resulting in spectacular landscapes that are increasingly attracting nature lovers and hikers.
Lush laurisilva forests that show us how vegetation was extended several million years ago in Europe and Northern Africa, and a morphology full of steep ravines, create La Gomera’s hallmark.
But this explosion of green and rock is accompanied by much more. By a very special islander culture, whose symbol is the Silbo Gomero, that also treasures a simple, exquisite cuisine, besides folk and craft expressions that are worth knowing.
Moreover, there are also numerous endemic species of flora and fauna, including the giant lizard of La Gomera, one of the world’s most endangered species and that is currently in a process recovery through a specific plan that aims to restore this reptile population in the coast, where it originally inhabited thousands of years ago.
Precisely the island coast, stretching over 90 kilometers, has numerous charms and it is dotted with numerous coves and pristine and peaceful beaches, which are home to whales and dolphins that can be observed in the wild. Also on the coast there is a natural monument known as organs, a spectacular cliff created by lava that erosion has exposed as impressive giant organ pipes jutting into the depths of the ocean and that draw another surprising landscape.
Being Biosphere Reserve also means valuing the hospitality of the people from La Gomera and their idiosyncrasies, forged through an interesting historical background that finds its peak in the fifteenth century, when Christopher Columbus made his last stop towards the Indies at the port of the capital, San Sebastián. Hence, La Gomera is also known as Isla Colombina.
All this natural and cultural wealth defines the islanders and visitors, of whom we must highlight its strong commitment to conservation and sustainable development.
UNESCO MAB Programme
In 1971 Unesco started the ‘Man and Biosphere’ project, commonly abbreviated by its acronym MAB, which aimed to reconcile the mentality and the use of natural resources, outlining the current concept of sustainable development.
As part of that project, there are selected geographical locations which are representative of different habitats on the planet, covering both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. These places or areas are known as Biosphere Reserves. These Biosphere Reserves are internationally recognized and are selected because of their scientific interest. Their goal is, in addition to conservation and protection of biodiversity, economic and human development, research, education and exchange of information between the reserves that conform the global network.
Today, there are about 600 Biosphere Reserves worldwide in over a hundred countries.