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The Cota Doñana National Park is a bus and short ferry ride from Jerez.
It used to be the hunting grounds for the Kings of Spain until General Franco came along. Fortunately he did hardly anything to it and it now belongs to the state. It remains one of the few untouched landscapes in Spain with wetlands, pine forests, beaches and dunes where wildlife can flourish.
Doñana comprises delta waters which flood in winter and then drop in the spring, leaving deposits of silt and raised sandbanks and islands. These conditions are perfect in winter for geese and ducks, in spring they attract hundreds of flocks of breeding birds.
In the marshes and the cork oak forests you've a chance of spotting grey herons, lanner falcons, ring and turtle doves, partridges, oxpeckers, cattle egret, storks and vultures. You may catch a glimpse of a Spanish Imperial Eagle, (now only to 14 breeding pairs).
The only way to view the park is by guided walks. The riverboat, Real Fernanando, leaves from Sañlucar twice a day in high season and once a day November to February. It tours the coast of the national park and makes several stops for everyone to get off and go on guided walks to select places that does not disturb the wildlife.
You must book in advance. Imprescindible haver reserva. We got the hotel receptionist to do this on our behalf and she put the cost of the ferry trip on our hotel bill.
To visit the principal visitors' centre at El Acebuche, take the A483 south of Almonte and about 12km from El Rocío is the signposted turn at Km29 for Centro de Recepción El Acebuche (959 44 87 11), 1½km from the main road. Alternatively, you can drive 3km north of Matalascañas to the turn-off at Km29.
Address: Sañlucar beach (to catch ferry)
Directions: Take a bus to Sañlucar from Jerez bus station. A 5-10 walk from the bus station to the beach.
Updated May 13, 2010
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