Spain has so much more to offer than sun, sea, and sangria. And nature lovers will be surprised to learn that Southern Spain is a mecca for wonderful wildlife, as well as an abundance of beautiful native flora and fauna. There’s so much to see and explore that many Britons visit southern Spain for a holiday to explore the nature reserves, and then move to Spain to immerge themselves fully in its wildlife!
With that in mind, here is a brief guide to the wildlife of Southern Spain, and the wonderful places you can go to explore it:
The Animals to Look Out For
Whilst the term ‘The Big Five’ is most commonly associated with the African Safari community, you may or may not know that Spain has its own ‘Big Five’. The Spanish Big Five are Bearded Vulture, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Iberian Lynx, Iberian Wolf and Eurasian Brown Bear.
The Iberian Lynx is one of the rarest cats in the world, and your best chance of seeing it in its native environment is right here in Andalucia. This is a relatively small cat, standing at around 1 metre long and 60cm from floor to shoulder, and it is well-known for its camouflaging capabilities, making it difficult to spot. The best places to go if you want a glimpse of this elusive creative is the Sierra de Andujar Natural Park, which is just two to three hours by road from Malaga or Seville. Other mammals that are often found in this region include the Ibex; wild mountain goats that move at speed and can frequently be spotted on dizzyingly high mountain paths as you drive from location to location. Wild Boar are also regularly spotted in Andalucia, as they have no natural predators here (except man) so whole family groups can frequently be seen in the hills of the region.
If you’re more interested in birds then there is, arguably, no better place to be. Andalucía is on the migratory route of many of the numerous flocks of birds that travel annually from Europe to Africa and back, so it is well-known for its feathered abundance. Expect to see great views of White Stork, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Honey Buzzard and Montagu’s Harrier. In the wetland areas some of Europe’s and the world’s most spectacular birds such as Greater Flamingo, Cinereous Vulture and Golden Eagle all make their home. Finally of note is the small population of Northern Bald Ibis, one of the rarest birds in the world, which can be found in La Barca de Vejer in Cadiz.
And if you’re looking for life underwater? Well, you won’t be disappointed! Between August and September you can expect to see killer and long-finned pilot whales a short distance from the coast, whilst Common Bottlenose, Short-beaked Common and Striped Dolphins also frequently play off the Spanish shores throughout the year.
The Best Places for Nature Lovers
Andalucia is blessed with an abundance of nature reserves, meaning that nature lovers could visit a different reserve every day for a two week visit to the region, and still not see them all! Here are some of the best places for nature lovers in Andalucia to visit during their stay:
- The Butterfly Park of Benalmadena is the largest climate-controlled butterfly park in Europe and contains over 1,500 free-flying butterflies. Because it is relatively easy to access, compared to many of the regions more-rugged national parks, this is the perfect place to visit with children who want to explore nature in Andalucia.
- El Torcal de Antequera is a World Heritage Site thanks to its unusual rock formations and impressive views. The limestone here dates back to the Jurassic Period and this is a great place to visit if you want to see the Ibis and wild goats leaping from rock wall to rock wall, and performing other death-defying stunts.
- Eco Reserva Ojen is another location where the Ibis are incredibly prevelant, as are the famous Spanish wild boar. You can also expect to see other native wildlife including goats, foxes, deer and chameleon; as this is an eco safari, conservation is also at the forefront of your visit.
- Lobo Park is a wolf haven where you can get up close and personal with these elusive and mysterious creatures. The park’s tenants have been rescued; they are housed in environments that reflect their natural habitat, and many are ultimately relocated back to the wild.
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