Cazorla Segura y Las Villas National Park
On arrival at Malaga international airport, you will be met by your zoologist escort and your local biologist guide. When leaving Malaga we will head away from the stunning coastline towards the interior of Andalucia in our private AC vehicle. Our destination today is Segura y Las Villas National Park but on the way we will visit Fuente de Piedra Lagoon (~45mins). This wonderful salt lake is the largest natural lake in the Iberian Peninsula and home to the second largest breeding colony of greater flamingos in Europe. There is a wealth of birdlife here and all year around with black-winged slilts, Montagus harriers, white-headed ducks, red-crested pohcard and black-necked grebes all readily seen here alongside the dazzling pink backdrop of thousands of flamingos. We will stay here for a while and try and get sightings of most of the common species here before heading on to the accommodation, level – 4* guest house (Hotel Rural la Calerilla) (3.5 hours). After settling and having some lunch we will head out into Spains largest protected area and one its most extensive forested areas. This park contains over 1,300 species of plants but you do not have to be a botanist to enjoy the immense and magical forest of tall pines that reach up to 20m in height or the sweet-scented profusion of thyme, rosemary, marjoram and lavender that waft through the hills and forests; and that is all without mentioning the brilliant colours of the wildflowers such as gladioli, peonies and orchids. Whilst we are here we will be scanning the thermals rising from the mountains here and it is possible to see up to 29 species of raptor and vulture soaring among these peaks. We hope for golden eagles, Bonellis eagle, short-toed eagles, kestrels, goshawks, sparrowhawks, peregrine falcons, griffon vultures and Egyptian vultures before looking into the trees and spotting coal, great & crested tits, firecrests, azure-winged magpies and dozens more species in the forests. After some birding in this spectacular park we will have our evening meal at the hotel and enjoy the stunning views as we enjoy our first night in our Andalucian wildlife wonderland.
Cazorla Segura y Las Villas National Park
Over the next couple of days we will further explore this park from the base of the accommodation, level – 4* guest house (Hotel Rural la Calerilla). During one of the days we will walk to Cerrada del Utrero Canyon and the Linarejos waterfalls (walking distance 1 mile). This is a short walk but will take a long time as we will be stopping all the time as we search out the huge and brilliantly coloured lammergeyer, mountain loving mouflon and Spanish ibex as well as pretty common fallow deer, white-bellied dippers, alpine swifts, Eurasian kingfishers, crag martins and griffon vultures. After arriving at the Linarejos waterfalls you will be encouraged to try some of the crystal-clear spring water which later flows down to unite with the Guadalquivir. On the other day here we will travel up into the sierra and take advantage of the views at the El Chorro viewpoint. These amazing views across the forested mountains combined with dramatic deep gorges are so enchanting it is impossible not to fall in love with these places.
Sierras de Cardena y Montoro National Park
This morning we will leave Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas National Park and head towards Sierras de Cardena y Montoro National Park (2.5 hours) via Alto Guadalquivir Natural Protected Area, as we pass through the Guadalquivir wetlands we will keep our eye out for birds, lesser kestrels, European rollers, European bee-eaters, marsh harriers and Montagus harriers are all commonly seen around here. We then carry onward to our accommodation, level – 4* guest house (Tierra de Linces) which is located in the heartland of the Iberian lynx. We recommend just taking in the incredible scenery here and relax as tomorrow we will head out early to try and find one of the elusive lynx in this area.
Sierra de Cardena y Montoro National Park
Today will require an early start, in fact the earlier we are out and spotting and the later we can stay up and perhaps even spotlight after dark, the better our chances of finding Iberian lynx and other mammals here. The Iberian lynx was once widespread throughout most of the Iberian peninsula but hunting, habitat destruction and die offs of their main prey (rabbits) have led to huge declines in range and number. However sightings are on the increase and we expect our luck to continue. We have a great record in spotting lynx here (80%) and what makes this park amazing is the amount of mammal and bird life that is found here. Along with the Iberian lynx watching we will also be searching for Eurasian badgers, Eurasian wildcats, red foxes, Eurasian otters, stone martens, least weasels, Egyptian mongoose, wild boars, roe and fallow deer as well as dozens of bird species including golden eagles, Spanish imperial eagles, black vultures, long-eared owls, white and black storks and golden orioles. Whilst the morning will be set aside for lynx watching we will save the afternoon for birding. Then after dinner at the accommodation, level – 4* guest house (Teirra de Linces) if local conditions allow we can try some spotlighting for some of the above mentioned mammals.
Torcal de Antequera National Park
Today we leave the land of the lynx and travel south to the accommodation, level – 3* hotel (Hotel Villas de Antikaria) which is located in the wonderful Torcal de Antequera (1.5 hours). Along the way we will be scanning the skies for birds and checking the hills for Spanish ibex and red deer as we drive along. Whilst spending a bit of time around here you will notice the exceptional landscape. The limestone here dates back to the Jurassic period and the wonderful rock formations are amongst the best and spectacular in all of Europe. The weathered rock features now receive permanent protection as the are is home to a wealth or resident and migratory birds such as little owls, griffon vultures, crag martins, peregrine falcons and Bonellis eagles. But also here amongst the steep and imposing slopes of the mountains is the impressive and endemic Spanish ibex. There are also numerous reptile species that can be seen sunning themselves on the rocks in the morning. We will also keep a look out for ladder & Montpellier snakes, ocellated, spine-footed and southern wall lizards.
Bahia de Cadiz & Donana National Parks
This morning you will be transferred in our private AC vehicle west and back to the coast. The destination is Bahia de Cadiz (~3 hours) in the historical harbour town that saw untold millions in gold arrive from the New World. The town is not what it used to be but the history here is tangible and we will lunch here at the accommodation, level – 3* (Hotel Marismas de Sancti Petri) before heading to Donana National Park. This is probably Spains most famous national park and the home to thousands of birds. We will base ourselves on the coast of Bahia de Cadiz and will drive along the coastline to the Donana wetlands. Here we expect to find many bird species including slender-billed gulls, white-headed gulls and many different species of wading and shore birds. Today you will be guided around the 4km long walking route which leads to the awe inspiring viewpoint at 1,339m. From here you will be able to see the whole of the Torcal area and when the air is clear you can also see over the Straits of Gibraltar to the Algerian coast.
Bahia de Cadiz & Donana National Parks
Today will include more birding, this time around las Salinas de Bonanza and la Laguna de Tarelo. Both these salt lakes are excellent places for waders and shore birds. We can also sometimes find greater flamingos here as well as various harrier species and the occasional black kite. After a half day birding we will head back to the accommodation, level – 3* hotel (Hotel Marismas de Sancti Petri). From here the coastline of the Bahia de Cadiz stretches before you and the bird life is also great.
Today we begin our journey back east and towards Malaga. We will follow the coast around from Cadiz to la Janda Lagoon (1 hour). This lagoon is another bird watching hotspot and with Eurasian spoonbills, Caspain terns, godwits, great egrets, purple herons, glossy ibis, northern bald ibis, purple swamphens and black-shouldered kites. After spending some time here and hoping for some of the rare northern bald ibis we will head further south-east around the coast to the ferry town of Tarifa. Here ferries leave for Algeria regularly but there are also plenty of treasures to find just offshore. We will explore this tomorrow and for now you will be transferred to the accommodation, level – local guest house (La Torre Tarifa Playa) (1 hour), where you will have your last evening meal and night in Spain.
Tarifa / Home
Today you will be taken to the harbour in time for a whale and dolphin watching excursion out into the Straits of Gibraltar. The waters here are home to a great array of marine life. All year around there is the chance for seeing common bottlenose dolphins, long-finned pilot whale, short-beaked common dolphins, striped dolphin, fin whales. However from April to July there are female sperm whales that aggregate here to feed on squid in the depths. Another species of marine mammal that can be found off this coastline is the orca. Between July and September there are a couple of pods of transient orca that come closer to shore, they typically follow the fish as they shoal in the shallow coastal waters at this time of year. But there is much more to see here than just the marine mammals. Marine birds include skuas, shearwaters, petrels and gannets and there are also loggerhead turtles than take time out to breathe at the surface and are very obvious, we also look out for oceanic sunfish as they come to the surface (after very deep dives feeding on jellyfish) to have sea gulls and other birds pick parasites from their bony bodies. Once we return to shore (around 1pm) we will head to Malaga in time for any flights leaving in the evening. We recommend arranging a flight that leaves late, so that the whale watching excursion is not missed.
Please note that the itinerary stated above is correct as our planned intentions for the tour. However adverse weather conditions and other local considerations can necessitate some modifications of the itinerary during the course of the tour; any changes will be made to make the best of the time and weather conditions available to us.
This tour is available on different date (subject to availability) please contact us for more details about running this tour on a date which suits you more.