This is a combined birding and mammal trip, with a special focus on seeing endangered Iberian Lynx in the wild. We think this itinerary is one of the best available for this beautiful yet elusive cat, as it includes two classic Spanish destinations, giving you more opportunities to see the animals than alternative itineraries based solely in Andujar. In our second centre, where Lynx are the main target, we now have access to a private estate where the animals are at their highest density in Spain. This is crucially important to maximise your chances as the animals continue to decline.
You also have the advantage of excellent birding in both places, including many Spanish resident speciality birds, and absorbing birding in pleasant weather is a very enjoyable part of this holiday. Birding in the excellent marismas of Coto Donana, and in Sierra de Andujar, part of the larger Sierra Morena Natural Park, is exceptional.
Join us in two great destinations, for a full week of great wildlife watching during the (usually!) mild winter of southern Spain.
Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus) stands on the brink of extinction, and is perhaps the most endangered wild cat in the world, with only around 200 individuals remaining. Just a century ago, it ranged over half of the Iberian peninsula. As recently as the mid-nineties it was thought to occur in a wide area of south-west Spain. Today its range has shrunk dramatically to just two viable populations within Andalucia, and on this holiday we visit both, with an estimated 15 – 20 individuals in Donana, the rest being in Sierra Morena. Finding this elusive cat is becoming ever more difficult, though Heatherlea have an excellent record. January is the ideal time to see Lynx, active during the cool daytime as animals seek a mate, before warmer months when they become more nocturnal. In 2015 we added a private estate to our existing special locations to maximise our chances.
The first part of the holiday concentrates largely on birding, with slight chances of Lynx. From our base in Coto Donana, we will explore the mosaic of marshes, pine woodland, open heathland and sand dunes at one of the best times to visit. This famous area can be very dry later in the year, but in winter its marshes usually hold water and attract great numbers of gulls, waders and other shorebirds, including flamingos, herons, egrets, White Stork, Black Stork, Glossy Ibis and Spoonbill. Thousands of wintering geese feed in the shallow waters, and we also have the opportunity to catch up with some of southern Spain's specialities, in particular Purple Gallinule, Marbled Teal, Red-knobbed Coot and rare Spanish Imperial Eagle. Some breeding raptors are back on territory, whilst others are passing on migration, and the whole area is just full of life. We have chances of seeing Iberian Lynx, and other large mammals include Wild Boar, Red Deer, and Fallow Deer.
The second part of our holiday is spent in Sierra de Andújar. This beautiful mountain chain holds dense populations of Red and Fallow Deer, Moufflon, Otter, and Wild Boar, as well as the largest remaining Lynx population in Spain. Birds seen here should include Griffon and Black Vultures, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Azure-winged Magpie, and Black Wheatear.
We have taken great care in this itinerary to give you the best possible chances of seeing Lynx. Our days are exciting, with excellent birding and mammal watching in a pleasant climate. Our rural hotels give you the chance to experience real Spain, and we hope you will enjoy our special meals and Andalusian local wines. This is a relaxed holiday, with very little walking.
Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office!
A Heatherlea 'Birding and Lynx' Group enjoy a relaxing introduction to their holiday!
Days 1 – 4: Mon 7 Jan - Thu 10 Jan Doñana National Park
Relax in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, then fly from Gatwick to Malaga where your guide, Cristian Jensen, will meet you on arrival. We drive to Coto de Donana, perhaps with a detour to see White-headed Duck, then passing through the fertile farmland and fruit groves west of the Guadalquivir River.
Our birding begins at adjacent “marismas”, bird-filled lagoons and wetlands at their wintering peak, laden with Flamingos, Egrets, coots, waders and numerous other waterfowl. Birdlife also includes Black-winged Kite and Spanish Imperial Eagle. We also spend time looking for Iberian Lynx, exploring the woodland, marshes, sand dunes and open grassland where we are likely to encounter Iberian Hares, Red Deer and Fallow Deer.
The Marshes by El Rocío and the varied habitats of El Rocina teem with birds – Spoonbills, herons and egrets fly over the reed beds as Marsh Harrier quarter the vegetation. In shallow water, Greater Flamingo and White Stork feed, surrounded by wintering waders. The unique village of El Rocío lies at the edge of the Parque National de Doñana, and this “Wild West” town, with its white buildings and church, makes an amazing backdrop. Here we are likely to encounter horsemen cantering through the wide, sandy streets, or a mule and cart tied up to the hitching rails outside the houses. Thousands of Greylag Geese and Common Cranes graze fresh grass, while a few wintering Whiskered Tern may hawk over open water, swooping down to the surface to pick off a small insect or tiny fish. In the more wooded areas, Serin and Azure-Winged Magpies seem never to stop looking for food. Purple Gallinule can often be seen and Little Grebes occasionally take a brief swim across to another patch of reeds. A large number of wintering duck include Shoveler, Pintail and of course Marbled Teal.
Days 4 – 7: Thu 10 Jan - Sun 13 Jan Sierra Morena Nature Park
A tremendous contrast, as we head east for a four night stay in the Sierra Morena. To give the best chances of a Lynx sighting, we must spend time scanning from a number of scenic viewpoints. From each we overlook vast tracts of Lynx habitat, and chairs will be provided, as we may have to be patient to see the animals! Here sightings of Lynx are often at long range, or can be quite close at hand. Patience is required to find these beautiful animals. In 2018, we will use the tracks in Los Lobos, a private estate where Lynx are perhaps at their greatest density in Spain. We have to pay extra for this access, but we consider it worthwhile, as we can search for the animals in quiet places away from the crowds looking for Lynx at public viewpoints, though we will do plenty of this too! The scenery in the dehesa, formed by huge rock boulders and extensive scrubland is magnificent, and birdlife is rich, with excellent chances of Spanish Imperial Eagle, Black Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Golden Eagle, Sardinian Warbler, the Spanish race of Green Woodpecker, Hawfinch, Firecrest and Eagle Owl. Our accommodation here is a guest house situated in the heart of beautiful dehesa woodland. All rooms have en suite facilities.
A Heatherlea Group after great views of Lynx!
Day 8: Mon 14 Jan Final Day and Return Flight
Early morning birding before we drive to Malaga Airport to fly home. Arrive London Gatwick late afternoon
More Holiday Information:
Accommodation is in comfortable rural hotels with all rooms en suite.
Food Breakfast is typical of Spain, consisting of a roll with jam and cheese. Fruit juice and tea or coffee is also available. Picnic lunches will include a variety of local produce plus soft drinks. Evening meals are generally local dishes, which are very good but sometimes simple. Food is usually plentiful. Vegetarian and other diets are welcome.
Walking The holiday is not strenuous. Walking is generally easy, on paths and tracks. Most birding is done close to our vehicle, and even on the longest walks we are never far from the minibuses, should anyone wish to go back.
Weather Typically, temperatures will range from -4 to 8ºC in the early morning to perhaps 10-20ºC in the “heat” of the day. Sunshine should be plentiful, but wind, clouds, rain or even snow are possible. Cold weather, with temperatures as low as -10ºC, are rare but possible.
Insects biting insects are not expected.
Group size is restricted to 12 clients maximum.
Flights are by scheduled airline, from London Gatwick. We may be able to offer flight arrangements from another airport and/or or quote without flights so you can make your own arrangements. If you wish to add an extension either before or after your holiday, please contact us and we will be happy to arrange this for you.
What's included in your holiday price:
* return scheduled flight from London Gatwick – Malaga, airport taxes, baggage and hand luggage up to airline included limit.
* airport transfers, ground transportation, accommodation and meals as specified.
* the services of Heatherlea leaders Cristian Jensen Marcet and Jaume Soler.
* The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included subject to terms and conditions. Read more....
What's not included in your holiday price:
* travel to and from departure airport before and after holiday, in-flight meal, baggage above airline included limit
* incidental tips, expenses of a personal nature including drinks and personal insurance.
WHY CHOOSE HEATHERLEA?
Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.
Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.
The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;
* We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for 25 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
* Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
* Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
* All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
* Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
* Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).