Every vacation destination on the planet has a “must visit” location; that one spot that will turn your vacation into a living fantasy. If you are touring Spain, this mystic spot is located far to the south in Andalusia.
Doñana has been an ecological preserve since 1969 and invites visitors to experience an ever-changing landscape of marshes, dunes, wetlands, beaches, and forest. No matter what time of year you visit this park has a magical nature that shifts with the seasons.
Visiting the park will allow you to experience first-hand some of the most diverse wildlife in all of Europe. The unique habitats created within the preserve provide homes for more than three-hundred different species of birds that can reach populations of in the millions. These habitats are created thanks to Doñana’s proximity to the Strait of Gibraltar, the gateway to the Mediterranean Sea, which lies right along a prime migratory route for the birds.
Aside from the vast aviary population, the park allows visitors to view animal species from across the Northern African and European regions. This includes the Iberian lynx, the most endangered of the world’s big cats. The lynx’s only natural habitat is the Iberian Peninsula, and the best place to see it in the forests of Doñana.
If big cats aren’t your thing, Doñana also is home to two species of indigenous horses, camels, and deer. Not to forget the numerous reptiles and other small mammals who patrol the park. This wonder of nature isn’t exactly a zoo, but thanks to the conservation efforts in the region visitors for years to come will be able to enjoy all these animal species in their natural habitat.
Touring the park
An integral part of preserving Doñana is the series of wooden pathways that have been installed throughout the park. The walkways feature observation areas for bird watching, and information panels to educate curious travels about the gorgeous and rare flora and fauna in the park. Pathways are free to visitors and begin at each of the parks five visitor centers. Each visitor center is staffed to provide assistance in planning your park visit. They also have audiovisual presentations and displays that give additional insight to the wonders of Doñana.
At the visitors centers throughout the park tourists can also gain access to touring via horseback and bike. These options add another bit of magic to your vacation and create memories that cannot be duplicated anywhere else in the world.
If walking is not your speed, or you want a more structured tour, you can book a guided bus and boat tours of the preserve. The tours give access to areas not readily open to the public and offer a leisurely adventure through a true natural-world gem.
A need for more protection
Even though Doñana has been a preserve for almost fifty years, it still faces pressure from surrounding areas. Nearly eighty percent of the preserves natural water supplies to marsh drainage, water pollution caused by mining, and water draining to support agriculture. By visiting and support the parks conservation efforts, visitors can help slow down the degradation of the park and help keep this land a treasure for generations to come. Your personal contributions to the park will also continue to maintain habitats for the endangered Iberian lynx, and the millions of birds that depend on Doñana for a home.