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Sail the Calanques with a Guide Helps Preserve it for Future Visitors

Travelling to Provence with her husband, Amy Kleppinger had some ideas about what to expect. She knew the food would be amazing, the lavender fields might be blooming. They hoped that the towns would be full of history and charm. However, they didn’t expect to come across one of the most beautiful parks they have visited.

Enjoy Amy’s guest post below about sailing day in the Calanques with a local guide, and make sure to read her bio to learn about her company, The Home Green.

Arriving in La Ciotat

Although I’ve always wanted to travel to the south of France, my knowledge of the area was, in hindsight, relatively sparse. My mental image of the trip was heavy on beaches and water, so I booked a nautical excursion without much research. As an over-planner, this was unusual, but wow, did we luck out!

Sail the Calanques Guided trip

The day trip left from the lovely but often overlooked town of La Ciotat. I didn’t know any better, but I learned that as an operational shipyard, La Ciotat is generally overshadowed by its more tourist-friendly neighbour to the northwest, Cassis. We had been staying in Marseille and found the sleepier atmosphere that La Ciotat provided to be a breath of fresh air. Even better, we arrived on a market day which meant we could check out the local produce while we waited for our trip to start.

Guided Sailing in the Calanques

Experiencing Calanques with a local expert

From the market, my husband and I were greeted enthusiastically by our guide Alain Matesi and boarded his sailboat with two (2) other guests. Right away, Alain took us on a guided tour of the coast in Calanques.

It turns out Alain is the President of CoLLecT-IF Environnement, a not-for-profit devoted to preserving Calanques National Park. As a native of La Ciotat, Alain grew up with Calanques as his backyard. His tour was peppered with stories of his youth exploring every inch of the park’s scenic beauty.

Sail the Calanques Guide for a day

This personal connection is why Alain was compelled to start CoLLecT-IF Environment and to preserve his home for future generations. It’s also why he is passionate about introducing the park to visitors. He said he wants others to make mental souvenirs of the park so that they will want to conserve it just like he does.

After a few awe-struck hours cruising along the coast and cliffs, we anchored near a cluster of other boats on the leeward side of Ile Verte (Green Island). This allowed us to cool off in the clear blue Mediterranean and check out the wildlife. Alain supplied snorkels, masks, and flippers for those who wanted them. I was shocked to see how many different kinds of small fish we were sharing the water with, and someone on our trip even spotted an octopus!

Guided Sailing in the Calanques

Around us, others were floating in tubes, paddleboarding, and kayaking, and we saw a few kitesurfers in the distance. One of the things that struck us was that it was relatively peaceful and quiet, despite there being quite a few people around. Each boat seemed to respect the others and kept their own music and activities to themselves, which made it possible for everyone to enjoy the day.

Our own moveable feast

Once we all had an appetite, Alain called us for a home-cooked lunch. We started with bread and an assortment of oils, olives, peppers, and dips. Next, we enjoyed a gluten-free vegetable lasagna al forno with a fresh mixed salad, and to top it off, we had an apple clafoutis. Oh, and Alain also kept the rosé flowing throughout lunch and coffee for those who wanted it after we were done.

Sail the Calanques Guided trip

The food was fantastic, almost all homegrown and prepared by Alain’s family. Nothing’s better than a home-cooked meal (especially this one!), but what really sticks with me is the atmosphere of the meal. It was one of those rare moments in life where you feel like you must be doing it right to have found yourself floating among gorgeous scenery, enjoying a beautiful day, great company, and generally savouring life.

Once we were all stuffed to the gills (literally, we had so much food that even the fish enjoyed some), we spent the next few hours engaged in some real sailing. One of the things that was so great about the small number of people on the trip is that it made it more interactive and allowed us to customize our experience. For anyone interested, it was also a hands-on sailing lesson and the opportunity to learn the basics of the sport.

Ile Verte Guided Sailing in the Calanques

Booking a day with Alain

We left our day off the coast of La Ciotat relaxed, browned by the sun (or reddened, in my case), and with the feeling of having had a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We felt like we’d made a new local friend who gave us a more authentic view of what it’s like to have grown up and lived in this beautiful area. As an added bonus, we knew that our fun day also helped protect the beautiful scenery we enjoyed.

We loved getting to know new people and going where the day took us. If this kind of go-with-the-flow experience sounds like something you would enjoy, book a trip with Alain! While the excursion is offered through AirBNB, I don’t believe you have to stay in an AirBNB to book it. Learn more about this amazing experience here.

Author’s bio

Amy Kleppinger is a writer and businesswoman passionate about the great outdoors and interior design. In 2022, she brought these loves together to create The Home Green – a resource for anyone interested in making the place they live a little bit greener. The Home Green focuses on incorporating sustainability into your interior design vision. She hopes you’ll check it out.

More on CoLLecT-IF

“The CoLLecT-IF association, based in La Ciotat, is at the forefront of a continental initiative in France to do away with plastic carrier bags. Their method, based essentially on awareness-raising, has clearly borne fruit.

On October 11, 2005, the French National Assembly voted to ban the marketing and distribution of plastic carrier bags from January 01, 2010, while an agricultural amendment was passed to develop and encourage research into 100% biodegradable materials.” ~ Translated from the CoLLecT-IF website.

Alain Matesi
President and Founder of CoLLecT-IF
Details (in French) on sailing excursions.


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