The blue of the ocean, the green of the mountains and the white of the sands are mixed in a colorful wild landscape that characterizes the protected area of Cerro Verde and Islas de la Coronilla, a natural jewel that the Uruguayan department of Rocha (east) is looking for Discover tourism, but in a responsible way.
This coastal-marine area, located about 300 kilometers from Montevideo and almost 30 from the border with Brazil, has a land portion of almost 1,700 hectares and includes hillocks and plains associated with coastal dunes, gullies, rocky points, sandy beaches and formations plants, such as the coastal scrub of Cerro Verde.
The route to get there is not easy, thanks to the "high degree of naturalness" of the place, and it is necessary to face a winding road in the middle of the native mountain and dirt roads and sand, onboard all-terrain vehicles, to reach the starting point of the varied trails that can be picked up walking to know the native mountain and the beaches that surround and connect with nature.
"From the top of the hill, beyond the landscape and what the Coronilla Islands have, you can also see the flora and fauna of the place, which is really wonderful," stressed the director of Tourism of Rocha, Ana Caram.
In Cerro Verde, the remnants of the Atlantic Forest in Uruguay are clear, and it is also one of the main feeding and development areas of Green turtles – a species in danger of extinction -, especially those that are younger and that come from 10 nesting beaches of the Atlantic Ocean, reason why the specialized NGO Karumbé carries out an intense work in the region.
In addition, the town, which became part of the National System of Protected Areas in 2011, also has a marine portion of more than 7,000 hectares and includes a complex of oceanic islands, such as the Isla Verde – the most extensive and close to the coast- or the one of La Coronilla.
"This protected area has two emblematic places, one of them is Las Piedritas, which is the best fishing ground in Rocha and was the fifth in the world at some time, it is a place where big beach croakers are fished, but that, It has incredible beaches, "added Caram.
Considered of "great interest" for the conservation of the fauna and flora of the country, Cerro Verde and Islas de la Coronilla has endemic and threatened plant species and is home to the Southern Right Whale and the Franciscan dolphin, as well as sea lions, migratory birds such as plovers, terns and shorebirds.
It also houses cartilaginous fishes, such as the gatuso, the sarda and the hammer and endangered species such as the Big White Viudita bird and various species of capuchin monkeys.
Given its great appeal, Rocha chose the venue as the setting for the launch of its summer season this December as a way to boost tourism and raise awareness among Uruguayans and foreigners about the importance of conservation, through a town that still looks little in the department that has the largest number of protected areas in the country, five out of a total of 15.
"It is a very new green protected area, which is a territory to discover," said Caram.
However, the objective is to improve tourist infrastructure and access to attractions, but always respecting nature and seeking to achieve a flow of visitors that does not compromise the environment.
As explained to the press by the mayor of Rocha, Aníbal Pereyra, as part of the launch of the season on December 15, this is one of the battles of the department: achieving balance between "the beautiful proposal" of nature and that the people enjoy it.
"For what is nature but to enjoy? Now, we have to be tourists and all responsible and take care of our personal actions to enjoy it and not depredate it," said Pereyra.
In this sense, the department of Este has the support of the Ministry of Tourism, which has supported various projects for the development of local infrastructure and considers it an "emblematic" destination in Uruguay, highly appreciated by local citizens and also by Argentines and Brazilians who usually vacation in Rocha.
For the national director of Tourism, Carlos Fagetti, the department of tin has many peculiarities, "starting with its territory" and going through its history and gastronomy based on dishes made with fish, seafood or rice.
"A large part (of the territory) is a biosphere reserve contemplated by Unesco, but the entire coastal strip has a series of beaches and lagoons (…) In addition, it has two military forts, the fortress of Santa Teresa and the fort of San Miguel, which had a lot to do with the delimitation of this area and the fight between Portuguese and Spaniards in these territories, "he explained.
"(Also) has an area of palm trees of 70 thousand hectares that can be visited on any day of the year, because Rocha has its main focus (sun and beach), but has been developing what is bird watching or those traveled by the interior, "he concluded.