It’s early morning on a typical July day at Ibiza’s Camping Cala Nova Playa. Early risers like Sandra, a Dutch tourist who’s been coming here for eight years, head to the beach to take a dip and practice yoga while watching the sun rise. Gastón, a native of Argentina who’s a full-time resident here, opens the bar to start preparing breakfast. Pretty soon, in this bohemian hub on Cala Nova, the tables are filled with coffees, toast, and conversations that might continue until noon. Nicola and her husband Matt, along with their children Zach and Eva, take a seat.
The British family first visited in 2011 and then returned for several consecutive summers. They fell so in love with the place that they decided to leave England behind and move to Ibiza. For six months of the year, they live on the campsite. Their daughter Eva has autism and is gifted with artistic proclivities. «The creative environment here has given her a feeling of peace and calm that British schools simply don’t offer», says Nicola.
At Camping Cala Nova, children still enjoy absolute freedom. It’s a vast interwoven family composed of parents who’ve become regulars over the years. In this very close-knit community people keep an eye on one another. Under the hot summer sun, these youngsters enjoy a type of childhood that is in danger of extinction. Instead of spending hours on a tablet or watching television, they run around barefoot, playing in the trees, making mischief and dashing off to swim and surf at the nearby beach.
The campsite’s 125 pitches in the pine forest offer a range of options, catering to all budgets. Simple tents (many belonging to transient Argentine workers, who are on the island for the season and cannot afford the extortionate rents demanded for apartments) lie side-by-side with other more elaborate and more comfortable set-ups. Nicola and her family’s tented unit resembles a house without walls.
They have four beds, a kitchen with an oven and a huge refrigerator. Her children are so happy that they refuse to consider the possibility of ever living in a house again permanently, even if this means continuing to use the shared showers and bathrooms at the complex. The camp-site also offers more glamorous options, such as caravans overlooking the sea, and wooden bungalows with a television and private bathroom. Beneath the scorching afternoon sun, Cala Nova is a peaceful oasis.
People are relaxing, having a beer, smoking or taking a nap. The silence is broken only by the sound of a guitar and the occasional voice of a resident through the canvas of a tent. In the supermarket at the entrance, the campsite’s co-owner (together with her brother Vicenç) Marga Ferrer works non-stop making fresh sandwiches, handing them over to her customers with a huge smile. It’s perhaps surprising to see an owner working so hard, but it’s in her blood. Camping Cala Nova opened in 1983 and the Ferrer’s parents, both farmers, toiled night and day to get the business off the ground. Marga has followed in their footsteps, working from 8am to midnight, Monday to Sunday, during the high season, alongside her hard-working team.
And she’s not the only one. Matt, Nicola’s British husband, barely has time to sleep, as a rigger and barman for an events company, he works all hours. Matt survives by taking catnaps throughout the day. Nicola has a business that sells plastic-free products, but she works a lot more at Ibiza’s markets over the winter. In the summertime she balances family life with enjoying the company of friends at the campsite.
As night falls, barbecue grills begin to flicker and people start to cook. The Argentinians are the pros at grilling meat. People share their food, and there’s a real sense of community and goodwill. Today is Monday, which means there’s a jam session at 8:30pm. A lot of the residents at the campsite are musicians. When Gastón reopens the bar, all dressed up for the party, it’s time to drink and dance. Anyone who wants to play or sing can get up on stage and join the musicians. The audience, a glowing mix of residents and people who have come from all over Ibiza to join in party until midnight. Sometimes the fun continues later on the beach until everyone finally falls asleep. Tomorrow is another day.
During the season, some 1,500 people will pass through Camping Cala Nova. Most are Argentinian, Dutch and Spanish, although many other countries are represented. It’s a budget-friendly option in a part of Ibiza where five-star hotels are proliferating. The Ferrer’s business is thriving, and Marga and her brother have received a lot of offers to buy. it But they’ll never sell. “It’s not a question of the price. This is our life, it is our family’s pride and joy,” says Marga. She already has plenty of bookings for next year, and before going back to the supermarket, she adds, smiling: “I work hard because I enjoy it so much. I’ll find time to relax over the winter.” Until then, there are many reunions to be enjoyed in this storied little corner of Ibiza.