Updated on 18 November 2020
Reading time: 3 minutes
On this beautiful summer’s day, we head to a sunny Calvados beach to become paleontologist apprentices. As we explore the stretch of this beach, we are literally transported to a past geological age! It’s such fun challenge to search for fossils on a guided walk. Here’s our story !
THE PALEONTOLOGICAL Site OF THE Vaches NOIRES CLIFFS
Magic happens as soon as we arrive in front of the Paléospace Museum. We are greeted by a gigantic dinosaur on display, setting the tone for an exciting fossil hunting adventure. The whole family is impatient to discover Villers-sur-Mer and the treasures it holds from the Jurassic Period. How could we have imagined that the rocks that made up the cliffs here were so rich in fossils of animals and creatures that were alive millions of years ago? We head off to explore the Vaches Noires cliffs ( Black Cows), a magnificent site in itself whether you’re after history, stunning landscapes, geological wonders or simply capturing epic photos !
A Journey through the jurassic age
The fossil hunting expedition is led by Jonas, a professional expert guide at the Paléospace, with an undeniable passion for Paleolithic archaeology. The walk starts with a captivating talk on the stages of fossilisation and tips on how to find fossils on the foreshore of the cliffs. Prehistory can be one of the most challenging periods for children to understand, but Jonas’ speech is tailored to suit all ages and conjures our active imagination. The kids are fascinated!
We learn that the Vaches Noires cliffs hold an impressive record of France’s prehistoric past, especially showcasing the Dinosaur period known as the Jurassic. Millions of years ago, Normandy was a shallow tropical sea. The fossilised remains of many creatures that lived here, such as ammonites, sea urchins, nautilus but also plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs, to name a few, have been embedded in rock and preserved in petrified form, ready for us to unearth.
On the look out !
Strolling along this beach searching for fossils is a physical “walk through time” experience. The best tools are a keen eye and patience. All of a sudden, Charlotte and Giullia, our daughters, stumble across the fossil of a shark’s tooth and of an ammonite that date back hundreds of millions of years. A rare and lucky finding according to Jonas, who explains that we are free to keep the loose fossils that would otherwise be destroyed by the sea. Following the walk, we delve a little deeper in prehistoric times with a visit of the modern and interactive Paléospace Museum. A combo I definitely recommend as both sites provide a hugely satisfying and thought-provoking experience for all members of the family.
VILLERS-SUR-MER AND THE VACHES NOIRES CLIFFS
Villers-sur-Mer’s coast holds a fascinating record of Normandy’s prehistoric past, symbolised by the gigantic plant sculpture of a dinosaur facing the Tourist office as you enter the town. The paleontological site of the Vaches Noires cliffs between Villers and Houlgate is scientifically recognised for its million years of earth history.
Fossil hunt on the site of the Vaches Noires Cliffs – Paléospace
5 avenue Jean Moulin
DATES AND TIMING
In 2020: Next visits on 26th and 28th October 2020.
In 2021: Several dates available during the year starting in February.
The outdoor fossil hunt lasts 2 hours. The schedule is organised according to the tides and is led by several guides, including Jonas.
7,50 € per adult – 6,50 € per child
Bookings for this outdoor adventure are made at the local Tourist Office.
TIPS and Advice
For the fossil hunt, children should wear boots or wellies and adults sturdy shoes. Bring a little bag or bucket along for the fossils you find and that you wish to take home.
Dates and times may be subject to change.
Originally from the Vienne department, Jonas joined the Paléospace Museum as a scientific mediator in February 2020. His most memorable findings on the Vaches Noires site are some marine reptiles’ bones (plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs, metryorhynchus).