Rabbit Beach without the rabbits

Monday, February 25, 2013

Rabbit Beach - Baia dei Conigli, Lampedusa


Just looking at the colour of that sea is probably why people voted it The Best Beach in the World on Tripadvisor recently.    The award usually goes to somewhere in the Caribbean or one of the Sardinian beaches, but as Baia dei Conigli is getting more well-known – which could actually be bad news – visitors have decided that there is nowhere else in the world quite like it.


Lampedusa is the largest of the Pelagie Islands, which belong to Sicily, and the furthest south of all the Italian islands.   In fact it’s nearer to Tunisia – just 70 miles away – than it is to Sicily which is 109 miles.


Until now it was better known for the desperate boat loads of illegal immigrants arriving from the Middle East, Africa and lately Libya and Tunisia, seeking political asylum.   There is a big detention centre here where they are interned until the Italian authorities decide what to do with them.   Just because of its geographical position the US Coastguard installed a transmitter station here in 1972 and after the American bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi in 1982, Gadaffi lobbed a couple of scuds onto the island in retaliation.   Luckily they passed over the island and landed in the sea.  The island inhabitants were certainly not amused.


There is some confusion over the origin of the name Baia dei Conigli (Bay of the Rabbits) with Isola dei Conigli (Rabbit Island) lying just 30 metres from the beach of the same name.   On the British nautical maps from the 18oos it is referred to as Rabit Island which probably led to the improper translation.   It is most likely that ‘Rabit’ comes from Arabic meaning ‘link’ and referred to the isthmus  that used to link the little island to the bigger one.   Today the isthmus has disappeared but as the water is only about 30cms deep it’s  easy to walk from the beach to the island and round it a short way until it gets too deep.


The Caretta Caretta Turtle


The other reason why this beach has become so popular is also because every year in Spring the Caretta Caretta turtles come to lay their eggs on the eastern part of this beach which has very fine white sand.    In August the eggs hatch and under strict protection from local environmental groups, the babies scuttle down the beach into the sea.


To reach this beach is not too easy as there is no public transport to take you there so you either have to hire a car or take a taxi.   Part of the road down is unmade so most taxis drop you at the beginning and the rest is up to you!   Also when you do actually get to the cliff edge the path down is very uneven and rocky in places so you need to be physically fit as it’s a long walk back up at the end of the day.   But if you make it, we are sure you will feel it was worthwhile!


Reaching Lampedusa is not a problem, however.   There are ferry connections from Porto Empedocle, near Agrigento and, in summer, there are frequent flights from both Palermo and Catania airports.


Just one more thing.   Don’t tell too many people about this place!!!



Rabbit Island, Lampedusa

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