For many migrating birds, Doqana is the meeting ground between Africa and Europe. Northern European birds stop off here on their way to Africa, and African birds sojourn here, frequently to nest. For years this was a mostly uninhabited royal hunting reserve. In fact, the park's namesake, Doqa Ana de Silva, a reclusive duchess, built a residence here to get away from people entirely. In 1969, the land became a national park, taking in 180,000 acres. But development along the park's edges have disturbed its isolation, and even poses a threat. Agriculture has caused disastrous pesticide runoff into the wetlands. Residential development has brought in car traffic and predatory dogs and cats. Sulfur mining upriver clogs the rivers with silt. Like many other wetlands, Doqana National Park seems teeming with lifeand isbut is still very vulnerable.
Times to Visit
Something of interest is always happening in Doqana. November, December and January are the peak periods for waterfowl, and when there's the fewest human visitors. You might even see breeding pairs of Imperial Eagles. Be warned: July and August can be unpleasantly hot, with temperatures approaching 1100F.
The park lies within the delta of the Guadalquivir River. The delta has only one river mouth, the rest having been blocked off by sand dunes. The park comprises three distinctive ecosystems: wetlands, pine forest, sand dunes. Hundreds of bird species visit, breed, or permanently reside here. Even a non-birdwatcher will be astonished, and committed birdwatchers will find themselves transported. Special highlights include flocks of flamingoes, breeding pairs of Imperial eagles and spoonbills.
The park is also home to the last surviving lynxes in southern Europe, and many red deer.
The only sure way to visit the park is through an organized jeep tour. The only starting point and place to book them, is Matalascaqas.
There may be also riding trail, but check with the park authorities before counting on this. If you just want to bird watch, and don't care about touring the park, you can hang out with your binocs on the bridge at El Rocis, or check locally for other independantly accessible spots.
The park provides three official campgrounds -- check with the park office for a permit. The resort town of Matalascanas has 5 hotels open May to September. Since the park is one of the most populous regions of Spain, the park is not far from many other towns with varying accomodations.
You must book in advance jeep tours which leave twice daily from the park's reception center. There are no tours in July or August.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication