Arrival at Cordovilla de Aguilar. Dinner and then a talk to welcome guests and inform them of their accommodation.
After breakfast we leave the resort at 8h (this time is subject to change according to the time of year when the tours are held). The excursion lasts all day with a picnic at lunch-time. We will be taken in an S.U.V. to vehicle restricted areas within the natural park with our expert guides, Tino and Laura. Once we reach the heart of the bear’s territory, we will begin the safari along the eastern foothills of the Cantabrian Mountains. The route will take us through different habitats progressing across different stratus.
The oak forests on the mountainside are accompanied by holly and rowan and provide a refuge for forest fauna such as the middle spotted woodpecker and the pine marten. The forest also provides a great amount of fruit, although rarely on consecutive years, which serves as an important source of nourishment for the brown bear. At all times, we will be identifying and describing the characteristics of the different species with the help of both our accompanying naturalist and local guides. Depending on the substrate, we will go on discovering the footprints of the extraordinary community of carnivores - wolves, bobcats, foxes, pine martens and polecats, badgers, weasels, and in the depths of the forest, the great lord of the Cantabrian forest, the brown bear. The hoofed animals residing in the park – deer, roe deer, wild boar, and even micro mammals such as mice, shrews and dormice reveal the secrets of their day-to-day life. We can also interpret the diet of the great Cantabrian wildlife by observing the remains of their feasts or looking at their stools.
The bear harvests the most in the mountain, taking advantage of the most abundant resource available during each season.
Breakfast and departure at 8am. Half-day safari in which we will visit the emblematic cirque glacier of Peñalba. Our route will take us along alpine and subalpine areas to observe the high biodiversity which is found there. In these environments it is possible to see rare species unique to the high mountain such as the snowfinch. Return to camp around 13h.
Lunch We set off towards Sierra de la Culebra. Our target will be the most densely populated lupine area in Western Europe. In the mountains where Zamora, Orense and Portugal meet, one finds one of the greatest wolf populations in the world. The regional conservation reserve amasses, within its limits, much of this population. Next to packs of this large carnivore live the biggest wildcats, badgers, martens and roe deer on the Iberian Peninsula.
A border in many ways, it divides the humid and Mediterranean parts of Spain which results in us finding species native to both environments. The reptiles and amphibians of the Atlantic are represented in great number by the common frog and the Iberian emerald lizard. The towns which border la Carballeda are the heirs of Celtic forts which stood in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula. The stone and slate houses display balconies full of flowers, and evocative corners where walls, doors, doorknobs and stone benches have stood the tests of both time and harsh weather of Zamora. They offer travellers the chance to savour the rural and traditional spirit of these lands. Upon arrival at Villardeciervos, we will settle in to our rural hotel and have a brief talk with our naturalist guide and local guide who will let us peer into the best kept secrets of the mountain and the animal that we have come in search of: the wolf (Canis lupus signatus), the most legendary of all Iberian animals.
BIG FIVE TOUR - 9 days / 8 nights
Tours start on a regular basis from several cities.
You can go on your own to the meeting point of every tour.
During September tours, you can hear the animal calls.
From the Cantabrian mountains to the wild marshes on the boundaries of Europe, crossing the ancient lands of the Mediterranean, the mountains and the beautiful countryside. Following the footprints left behind by past breeds of livestock, which bind the Iberian ecosystems, we go in search of the bear in the mountains of Palencia, the wolf in Palencia general, the black vulture and the imperial eagle in Monfragüe and lynx in Doñana, along with thousands of other species throughout the area.
We will be treated to the rich Spanish cuisine that is so ingrained into the culture of these rural areas. Inspired by the spirit of traveling naturalists such as the British ornithologists Chapman and Buck, we are going to cross the Iberian countryside as they did. We have agreements with the owers of private estates within the national parks and we have access to restricted areas in the nature and game reserves, offering you a unique experience.".
*Maximum 4 pax
*Single Extra Fee 150 €/pax
*Maximum 4 pax
*Single Extra Fee 150 €/pax
Optional Flight or Train back from Sevilla to your city (not included)
INCLUDED IN THE PRICE:
• Eight night’s accommodation
• Full board beginning with dinner on the first night through to lunch on the last day
• Expert local guide
• Transport for the excursions
• Telescopes – one per vehicle
• Basic insurance
NOT INCLUDED IN THE PRICE:
• Personal expenses
• Drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) or food not mentioned in the program
• Transport to and from the camp needed on arrival and departure day
• Personal insurance policies for cancellations, repatriation etc.
- Rain coat
- Mountain shoes
We get up before dawn, have breakfast and depart by vehicle towards the interior part of the mountain in wait of more wolf sightings. The wolf is important but we must not forget the incredibly high biodiversity in la Sierra de la Culebra. It is possible to observe other carnivores like the fox, the wild cat, or hoofed animals like deer and roe deer, which in these mountains we find the most impressive examples.
We will be looking for the wolves in the areas they hold most attachment to, depending on the time of year. The different seasons affect their behaviour in different ways. Whether it is mating season, or if they are rearing their young, and the cohesion of the pack will also vary.
Following the wolf watching and then a snack in one of the areas most traditional bars, we will go on an interpretative walk along the mountain, recognizing the landscape, the fauna and the flora. We will identify all the birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and footprints that we come across. We pay particular attention to the impact of the wolf: its territoriality, its footprints, how we can differentiate its trails from other canid species, and we will gain an insight into its nourishment through its excrement. We have lunch at the hotel and then we return to the mountain for our third sighting period which will again last until twilight. As the sun goes down the packs come to life, and remain active during the whole night. Dusk is the wolf’s hour, the brief window of time most suited to observing these animals.
After this we will return to camp to rest and before dinner there will be a briefing to resolve any doubts or questions we may have. Our professional naturalist will also give us advice and techniques necessary for tracking which we will use on our final excursion the following morning.
Upon the mountains Valdecebollas, Pamporquero or Peñalba, among the heath, and with the best view of the park and Los Picos de Europa, we have a strategic vantage point from where we can witness the steady steps of the bear, the sprightly trot of the wolf and mighty eagle as it soars through the air. We will also see the revered birds of the mountain, such as the alpine accentor, the ring ouzel or the bluethroat.
We then return for dinner and during coffee we will have the opportunity to share which species we were able to observe.
Following the talk we will go out to one of the lupine territories in wait of a sighting. Our naturalist will initiate us in the ecosystem of la Sierra de la Culebra and the interaction between humans and the local wildlife.
Accompanied by our local guide who specializes in this species, we shall wait until twilight to observe the passing points, resting points and hunting grounds of one of the eight packs of wolf which inhabit the mountains.
We then return to the hotel.
We rise early again to look for the most active animals. Whilst we wait and observe, we always keep with us viewing equipment and personnel who can explain and interpret what we see. But the most important thing we can do is remain silent and aware of all the movements we notice in our surroundings. If our previous excursions have produced numerous wolf sightings then we can opt to look for another characteristic carnivore - the otter, found in rivers and reservoirs in the mountains.
We return to the hotel for an early brunch before embarking on the next stage of the trip: Monfragüe, a haven for Mediterranean raptors. Monfragüe is a natural space which magnificently represents the most unique feature of the ecosystem along the Iberian peninsula: the meadow. The woodlands in the area, which have been modified by man, but made entirely sustainable, are able to conserve both their original fauna and that which has been added, which are animals better suited to open spaces.
The indigenous breeds of cattle coupled with the additional species make up a biodiversity difficult to equal. The richness and variety found here stems from the rare combination of the oak and cork trees that find themselves situated amongst both rocky terrains and the rivers Tajo and Tietar. This region is protected as a national park and in it we have the best area in the world for the gigantic black vulture (Aegypius monachus) and one of the largest populations of Spanish imperial eagles (Aquila adalberti). Amongst these species that reign over the Extremaduran skies, one finds a wide variety of raptors with griffon vultures, Egyptian vultures, black-winged kites, short-toed eagles, Bonelli’s eagles, golden eagles and booted eagles. The rock walls are a great place to watch the Eurasian eagle owl and the timid black stork which seeks shelter here. One of the ornithological rarities most sought after by enthusiasts is the white-rumped swift, an African bird who has recently expanded its territory to parts of Southern Spain. The northern goshawk and the Eurasian sparrow hawk also live in these woodlands. Among the mammals, the deer, the otter, the bobcat and the mongoose stand out most since Monfragüe is one of the most recent places to see the disappearance of the Iberian lynx in Extremadura
Continuing in the spirit of WildlifeSpain, we have made agreements with estates situated within the national park, restricted from the general public, where we will be able to enjoy the experience of being immersed in the flavours of the rural life of Extremadura, where man has lived in harmony with nature for centuries. Once we arrive at Monfragüe we will settle into our accommodation in our country house called La Parilla. We will dine in the old farmhouse which has been restored and renovated. This property is run and maintained according to several traditional customs.
Typical of the Mediterranean forest is the uncorking of oak, goat herding and cultivation of native livestock, with the Iberian pig breed standing out the most.
We set off early and visit the best observation points of the national park from where we will look for its fauna. Depending on the time of year and recommendations from our local guide and accompanying naturalist, we will choose the best option for watching the wildlife. We will watch the imperial eagle breed, and raise its young in the canopy of the cork oak tree. We will look out for its aerial duels with the cinereous vulture, its quarrels with the black kite over the fish along the river banks and we will also observe the evasive black stork nesting in the rocks or fishing in their groups. We will try to find the mimetic Eurasian eagle-owl in its castle of rock. There are some magnificent viewing points from where we can see griffon vultures, cinereous vultures and Egyptian vultures flying in our line of sight. We will look for the rare white-rumped swift, admire the zeal of the deer during mating season, and observe the otters in the river.
We return to our accommodation for a lunch typical of the region of Extremadura. Following the after-meal chit-chat, we begin another route through another privately owned estate, Los Majadales. It is a pasture for livestock, serving as another example of the enormous biodiversity of the ecosystem. We will see its richness via the sylvan birds of prey. There is an area for breeding used by the booted eagle. We will track and try to observe small and medium-sized mammals. Foxes, small-spotted genets, polecats and mongooses, patrol the forest clearings in search of voles and garden dormice, living under the old stumps and logs. In these hideouts we can also surprise the amphibians native to the Iberian Peninsula, such as the rare Iberian ribbed newt, our largest newt, and the beautiful southern marbled newt. Other reptiles and amphibians complete the range of possible animal sightings in Monfragüe. Upon our return, as the day darkens, it will be a good opportunity to observe the little owl, the small bird of prey which begins its day as ours ends.
We return and have dinner.
In the morning we will make our way towards the centre of the national park, along the mountain of La Parilla. We will track the otter along the banks of the river Tajo and we will observe the deer in its most authentic habitat: the Mediterranean forest. Following our route, we will spend the morning observing birds from inside the observatory of Las Pozas, built specifically for wildlife-watching in a remote part of the grounds of the farmhouse. In comfort and out of the animal’s view, we will be able to watch and photograph the birds as they approach the observatory to drink from the pond nearby. We will see over fifteen bird species, such as the common kingfisher, the Eurasian jay, the hawfinch, the cirl bunting, the red-legged partridge, and the Eurasian sparrowhawk, amongst others. There will also be amphibians like Perez’s frog and the common toad, reptiles like the viperine snake and others, such as the Spanish pond turtle.
We return to the country house at midday, have lunch and prepare for departure.
We move onwards to the following stage, the most important natural space in Europe - Doñana.
Doñana is the most well-known and appreciated natural area of Spain, and the biggest ecological preserve in Europe. Its dunes, reserves, seasonal wetlands, lakes and river-side forests are protected by different legal bodies, amongst which the national park and the game reserve are the most relevant. Located in the catchment area of the mouth of the river Guadalquivir, its proximity to the African continent and the influence of the neighbouring seas gives this area a biodiversity of international importance. In these settings, where nature overwhelms the traveller, certain emblematic species find refuge, such as the Iberian lynx and the Spanish imperial eagle, both of which are native Iberian species in danger of extinction. Over the course of the year, more than 340 species of birds can be seen, of which 125 of these will also nest in the area. These nesting species can be aquatic, terrestrial, and come from Europe or Africa. As a place of global importance for aquatic birds, it is home to up to 500,000 members in favourable periods.
The different seasons offer a varying landscape. The winter is spectacular with a concentration of winter birds in its swamps. The spring covers its marshes with a tapestry of multicoloured flowers. The overbearing summer marks a time in which certain species raise their young, and autumn, which waits anxiously for the return of its waters and migrating birds. The history of Doñana is linked to kings and nobles who from the Middle Ages preserved the marshy lands as hunting grounds. The hunters and naturalists Chapman and Buck unveiled these wild solitudes in their book WILD SPAIN, which inspired the famous ornithological expeditions of the 1950s.
They were privileged to exclusively enjoy these Andalusian preserves having leased the rights to them. Thanks to agreements with the property that occupies the northern part of this area, el Coto del Rey, WildlifeSpain offers travellers the chance to access and enjoy restricted areas outside the conventional tourist circuit. El Coto del Rey has within its territory a historical pairing of the Imperial eagle and some of the last Iberian lynxes. In their lakes, peering through pine trees, we can watch black stork fishing, and its marshes allow it to receive large numbers of geese from northern Europe that spend the winter looking for coco-grass roots in the shallow waters. A unique experience for any nature lover, who in this wonderful region, can enjoy its fauna, people, and local cuisine all capped off perfectly with some of the best sunsets one can imagine. Arrival and reception. Our accompanying naturalist will give us a brief talk to give us our bearings and help us settle in to Doñana. We will be staying in the small village of Rocío, one of the most characteristic and unique villages in Andalusia.
From there we can observe the marshlands and its birds, serving as a pleasant introduction to our tour. Following dinner, we will go out to see and photograph one of the most famous sights in Doñana, la basílica del Rocío, fully lit and reflected in the water.
We set off at dawn in our off-road vehicle, driven by our expert guides who will take us into the park. After crossing the famous Ajoli bridge, the unofficial border between Rocío and the reserve, we enter the lynx’s territory, who we will be tracking in the sand, and watching as it seeks shelter beneath the mastic trees. We will cross areas where the centuries-old cork oak trees testify to the reserves ancient vegetation. We have a marshland-styled brunch in la Galvija, the former house to the guardians of el Coto del Rey.
After brunch, we follow the bank where the grounds and marsh meet: an area rich in prey, and therefore in predators also. Rabbits, deer and fallow deer graze along the bank stalked by the lynx. The raptors are plentiful as they patrol their hunting grounds. Among them we find the imperial eagle, the booted eagle, the black kite, the red kite, griffon vultures, goshawks, Eurasian eagle-owls, blue-winged kites, and the merlin bird may be a surprising sight, depending on the time of year.
We arrive at the marshland where we will continue to observe the fauna in a new habitat. This is the kingdom of aquatic life. Flamingos, red-knobbed coots, the squacco heron, anatidae, purple swamphens...it is an endless list of the fantastic birdlife found in the marshes.
Our accompanying naturalist, as well as our local guides will at all times be explaining the ecosystems we visit, and will help us to identify the wildlife we find in Doñana. We return to Rocío for lunch and rest. We depart in the evening, around sunset, to resume our attempts at making a sighting of the Iberian lynx.
We then return to Rocío again for dinner.
After breakfast we will take a new route at dawn along el Coto del Rey, in search of lynxes. The lynx population serves as a source of specimens that repopulate adjacent territories. On our return, we will visit Rocina forest and the historic Acebrón palace.
We will make a journey on foot along one of the oldest and best conserved riverside forests on the Peninsula. In its streams and ponds reigns the otter, which one can see if luck prevails.
Return to Rocío and departure. We end a unique and exclusive tour, which would be any naturalist’s dream.