Your Chance to Safari “Out of Africa!”
Doñana National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, home to hundreds of birds and mammals, many protected species, and possibly Atlantis!. Its vast areas of sand dunes, forests and marshlands feed horses, deer, the famous Iberian lynx, spectacular birdlife that migrate to this region and one of the most fascinating nature reserves in this area.
The park’s history goes back to Roman occupation during the second century where fish were salted on the shores of the Liguistinus Lake, now known as the Guadalquivir Marshes. It then became a royal hunting ground and around 1493 Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand donated some of the land near where El Rocio now stands.
The most romantic part of the park’s history is that in 1585 when the Duke of Medina Sidonia purchased the land, and after marrying Ana de Mendoza y Silva, he constructed a residence for her in the reserve and named the park as Doñana – after her. In 1624 King Felipe IV visited and reformed the old hunting lodge into the beautiful Palacio de Doñana.
The national park covers some 543 sq.km, and of that 135 sq.km is protected land. It consists of forests, scrublands, marshes and sand dunes, which make up the area known as Las Marismas and the Guadalquivir River Delta which enters into the Atlantic Ocean. Any visitor will find the diverse flora and fauna fascinating, and trips can be taken on guided tour buses, 4x4s or even on horseback.
The biodiversity of Doñana is unique in all of Europe. With its three main ecosystems it provides shelter for over 360 species of birds, both European and an astounding 6 million birds migrating to Africa each year. A fantastic area for bird watching holidays.
There are 38 different wildlife species which include fallow and Spanish red deer, wild boar, badgers, and mongoose to name a few. It is also home to 32 different reptiles and 20 species of fish. You will not see a lion, but you may be lucky enough to get a glimpse of the Iberian Lynx or the Spanish Imperial eagle, both endangered species.
The nature reserve provides a winter home for over 500,000 water birds and ducks, many of which breed there.
Doñana National Park offers you an incredible variety of flora, from Mediterranean scrubland, heather, red lavender rosemary and thyme. There are forests of shady cork oaks with a wide variety of birds, which nest in them and junipers. The flowers can be breathtaking, vast heaths, wild gladioli and iris, and rockrose. The marshlands in springtime are a delight, covered as they are with an enormous diversity of flowers.
The national park was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994 and it has also been deemed a Biosphere reserve. The wetlands are on the Ramsar Convention list and declared of international importance.
Atlantis in Andalusia?”
Apart from all wildlife and birds you may see, in 2011 a team of American archeologists visited Doñana and declared they had discovered the long lost mystical city of Atlantis in the Marismas de Hinojos (Marshlands of Hinojos) in the very centre of the park.
Just five miles from the coast and hidden under mudflats, it is said that a great tsunami destroyed the original city, but memorials still remain around the site which match with the legend of Atlantis.
The Greek philosopher, Plato described Atlantis 2,600 years ago saying it was an island situated in front of the straits called the Pillars of Hercules – known as the “Straits of Gibraltar” throughout history. A scientific photo of the area does show signs of concentric circles and further excavation is planned to see if indeed Atlantis is on our doorstep.
Of course the flora and fauna change with the seasons, but whatever time you choose to visit, you will not be disappointed! Doñana truly is unique and epitomizes wild Spain. Contact us to arrange a trip for you.