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Thursday
Apr132017

How Did Tenerife Come To  Be?

Tenerife is an amazing place to be. Everywhere, technically, is unique. Tenerife, however, actually feels unique; it's got a wonderful blend of Spanish culture and African climate, a latitude which warms it and a water jacket (the Atlantic) which stops it from getting too far into 'just wanna sit in a fridge' temperatures. It's got mountains, forest, tons of endemic species and more beaches than you can shake a towel at. This is all in a space about half the size of the county I come from.

So how did Tenerife come to be the place that it is? As a volcanic island, Tenerife's story starts a long time ago and at the bottom of the sea. About thirty million years ago, the volcanic activity that would eventually produce Tenerife began... tens of millions of years later, three volcanoes had risen from the sea: Teno, Anaga and El Roque del Conde, the west, northeast and south of the island. The Cañadas volcano formed and united these bits of rock to fuse Tenerife into a single island. Tiede itself (the huge volcano visible from almost anywhere on the island) formed in the crater left by Cañadas collapsing. Quite a long time later, more exciting stuff started to happen.

The island was ruled by the legendary Tinerfe 'El Grande,' when Tinerfe died, the island was torn by a classic sibling rivalry situation. Tinerfe's nine children rebelled, and in the intense squabbling that followed the island was torn into nine menceyatos: individually ruled provinces. This divided Tenerife remained isolated from the world for over a thousand years before the Spanish conquest in the 15th century. This conquest took nearly a hundred years, with Tenerife being the last island to fall to the Castilian throne.

Tenerife's rulers divided themselves into two groups: the side for peace and the side for war. Those who chose to resist the Spanish invasion did an undeniably good job of it, being outnumbered and outclassed in terms of technology; resisting Castilian rule and even pushing back invading forces before they were finally overcome. For over a century after the conquest, the island was settled by colonists from Italy, Germany and Belgium. Pine forests became fuel, the land where they'd stood became space for fields. Plaintains, wine grapes, cochineal and sugar plantations sprung up, and while I've yet to see a vineyard since I've been here, banana plantations still surround Guargacho, where we're based.

Tenerife was involved in the colonisation of the New World, with hundreds of tinerfeños establishing new settlements in Latin America. The island was isolated, struggling economically and, compared with the economically flourishing South America and southern States, looking like a poor place to make a life. At some point around this period, Nelson had a crack at invading Tenerife and got shot in the arm, which gave him second thoughts. Walter Raleigh also had a go, without much success. It wouldn't be for another few hundred years that the British invaded in force to take all the sunloungers.

In about the 1890s, tourism started to pick up speed. The Spanish, the British and people from all over Northern Europe decided that Tenerife looked like a pretty good place to spend some time in the sun, and so the process of building hotels began. The Spanish Civil War predictable put a fairly savage dent in the tourism industry, but it quickly recovered and today Tenerife is one of the most important tourist locations in the world.

A combination of brilliant weather, a unique position and very steep shorelines makes Tenerife one of the best whale and dolphin watching locations in the world, and the industry has been growing pretty much since the start of tourism in Tenerife. The Spanish government has tightened up regulation and a lot of boats now carry the 'Blue Boat' flag, but a ton of unlicensed boats are still milling around out there and we don't really know what impact this level of interaction has. Nobody has really put in the time to build up data on population levels, the way whales and dolphins respond to the boats or even the proportion of boats which are actually legitimate.

A couple of years ago in 2015, Frontier established the Whale and Dolphin Conservation project to try to get some proper clarity on the impact humans are having just off the coast of this awesome island. And that brings us, pretty much, to the present. Tenerife, the Island of Eternal Spring, is swept gently by the tradewinds, warmed by the sun and cooled by the currents to form the perfect climate, an eclectic mix of cultures makes the island a vibrant and exciting place to live, and the deep water close to the shore makes this place the ideal location to see some cetaceans in their natural habitat.

By Oscar Hawes - Field Communications Officer

Frontier runs conservationdevelopmentteaching and adventure travel projects in over 70 countries worldwide - so join us and explore the world!

See more from our volunteers #Frontiervolunteer

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