In the wild corners of Andalucia, Doñana National Park and Andújar Natural Park are the last remaining refuges of the rarest cat in the world, the critically endangered Iberian lynx.
An expert at slipping through scrubby habitat unseen, the Iberian lynx is the smallest of the world’s three lynx species. One of the hardest European wild cats to see, this trip is designed to maximise the chances, as well as learn about its ecology and conservation. You will spend time enjoying the mammals and birds within two, quite different, Iberian lynx habitats, based in truly beautiful and typical local villages which add an extra magical experience to the journey.
Read wildlife travel writer Brian Jackman's blog on his very own Iberian Lynx Quest
Fly to Seville, transfer to Andújar Natural Park
Fly from London to Seville and transfer to Andújar Natural Park, some three hours away.
Accommodation: Complejo Turístico Los Pinos, Andújar, 3-nights
Full day lynx, bird & mammal spotting in the Andújar Natural Park
Andújar Natural Park has some of the best preserved Mediterranean forest in the Iberian Peninsula. Amongst the oak forest that clads these hills are grassy glades and secluded valleys where the lynx hunt rabbits, rest amongst the rocks, and raise their young in ancient, hollowed oaks. Here live the majority (perhaps 70% or more) of the world’s remaining Iberian lynx. Perhaps here, in a refuge from the modern world, it has a chance of survival.
In this quiet and relatively unpopulated region, Spain’s wild animals thrive. As well as Iberian lynx, there are otters, wild boar, mouflon and red deer to be found. These mountains also hold a large population of griffon vulture, as well as good numbers of the rare black vulture and Spanish imperial eagle.
We'll explore these habitats slowly, watching for tracks and signs of lynx, and hoping for a sighting. But even if we are not lucky with lynx, there is plenty of Spanish wildlife to see in this wonderful habitat.
Drive west to El Rocio & Coto Doñana
The extraordinary village of El Rocío fiercely preserves its own totally distinctive appearance and character. The wide sandy streets are lined with white houses, many of them ornately decorated by the religious brotherhoods from surrounding villages that come here at pilgrimage time. Often described as looking like a ‘Wild West’ town, El Rocio seems more reminiscent of old Mexico: the main form of transport is still horseback, with hitching rails provided outside the bars, shops and even the private houses. In the evenings riders pause outside the bars to sip sherry and chat on horseback, while pallid swifts and red-rumped swallows wheel about overhead.
Just beside our hotel lies one of the Coto’s fabulous marshes, which, even when dry, attracts birds. In the autumn, red deer stags can be heard roaring from the marshes in the early mornings.
Accommodation: Hotel Toruno, El Rocio, 4-nights
Lynx and mammal spotting in Donana National Park
The remainder of the Iberian lynx population lives in and around the Doñana National Park, a quite different environment of flat grasslands and pine forests where just a few individual oak trees or remnant patches of Mediterranean oak forest are to be found. This is an area besieged by the marching tide of Spain’s EU-funded agricultural revolution… and a noose of roads grow ever tighter as Seville and its suburbs expand.
Despite a slowly increasing population, the chance of seeing an Iberian lynx by chance here is very small, so we'll enlist the help of local guides, who will take us for excursions into the National Park and adjacent Natural Park areas where they know the best places to find tracks and signs of lynx.
With such an intensive itinerary, we also take a break from our lynx quest and head down to the coast for a day’s birdwatching along the shore and in its adjacent lagoons and saltpans. With a wealth of wintering and migrant birds, it’s always a rewarding experience, including flocks of greater flamingos plus numerous waders and gulls, and even with a good chance of Mediterranean chameleon too.
Return to Seville & fly back to the UK