Canoe down the River Lay and discover a land that constantly changes all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Touring is probably the best way of exploring all the facets of South Vendée Atlantic. You’ll come across hikers, anglers, picnickers and naturalists in love with our area. But above all, you’ll observe the rich diversity of the plant and animal life that deserves a closer look. Breathe in and breathe out, following the rhythm of your paddle strokes as the pureness of the air helps you forget everything else. A change of scene that we guarantee you won’t forget!
Leaving from Château-Guibert, the woodland landscape is green and hilly. The river winds becomes more and more winding as you approach Mareuil-sur-Lay-Dissais and the willows weep into the water. You’ll go past dikes and pass under bridges. Then as you approach Grues, the river widens. You’ll see geese, swans and barnacle geese as the Pont du Lay bridge emerges in the distance. Don’t stop now whatever you do, you’re almost there. A little further, and the Baie de l’Aiguillon and the Pointe d’Arçay offer a fauna-filled 360° panorama that’ll take your breath away.
Baie de l’Aiguillon
The Baie de l’Aiguillon comprises salt marshes (called “mizottes”), mudflats and dunes. That makes it a key natural site in South Vendée Atlantic. The landscape evolves to the rhythm of the daily tides in a bay that alternates between the prevalence of enormous mudflats, the emergence of vast salt marshes, and the almost total submersion of the bay under water contained by the man-made dikes. Moreover, it is a classified Regional Nature Reserve. This is indeed one of the most important sites in France when it comes to sheltering migratory water-birds.
The Baie de l’Aiguillon offers several observation points for birdwatchers. You’re sure to come across some exceptional birds, like the greylag goose, the common shelduck, the avocet, the pintail duck, the black-tailed godwit, the redshank, the common teal or the red knot…
Our coastline is also well known for its shellfish. Indeed, this is where the shellfish farmers tend to the famous tidewater mussels. Known as “moules de bouchot”, they are an emblem of the coastal landscape! Don’t forget to pay them a visit, at L’Aiguillon-sur-Mer or La Faute-sur-Mer.
Limestone islands, balconies over the marshes
The ancestor of the Marais Poitevin, the Golfe des Pictons, used to be dotted with islands and islets. Men settled here to hunt and to fish. These high points have resisted erosion. Today, they add a strange relief to the area with their little cliffs and chalky limestone slopes. Clearly, the limestone Île de la Dive is the most characteristic example of this natural phenomenon. Offering a beautiful headland over the marshes, it dominates the crop plains from a height of fifteen metres! The cliffs are home to some famous occupants: a few families of little owl live here! Go in search of the limestone islets of South Vendée Atlantic…
The municipal marshes of the Marais Poitevin are vast natural flood plains that are used as grazing land for herds. They also provide food and shelter for migratory birds. Some of the municipal marshes cover more than 300 hectares… In spring, a huge festival, “Les Touchers du Communal” takes place in Lairoux. A total of no less than 500 cows and sheep graze here. Another original feature of these pastures of green is the ecofriendly supervision of the animals by herdsmen on horseback. At the end of August, you might be lucky enough to spot these cowboys criss-crossing the municipal marsh to separate a group of animals from the herd. As winter approaches and the high tides gradually swamp the municipal marshes, new life forms settle in and go about their business… northern shoveler, black-tailed godwit, black-winged stilt, little egret, grey heron, common shelduck, white stork, etc.
Reserves and sensitive natural areas
South Vendée Atlantic is home to approximately 450,000 migrating and resident birds! In total, there are six observatories, three National Nature Reserves, two Regional Nature Reserves, two biological Reserves and ten classified natural sensitive areas, providing visitors with a chance to discover the riches of this vast land.