Situated in Andalusia in the provinces of Seville and Huelva, the Doñana National Park covers 543 km2 (337 sq mi) of marshlands, sand dunes, lagoons and scrub woodlands. Established in 1969, it’s also a UNESCO biosphere reserve and World Heritage Site, and a Ramsar Wetland Site for its incredible importance to birds.
This varied landscape supports a huge variety of ecosystems and protects an almost unique biodiversity within Europe. Up to half of all bird species found in Europe live in or visit this area during the course of the year, including a host of African migratory birds like the Ruddy Shelduck. Threatened bird species seen here include the Spanish imperial eagle, the marble teal and Adalbert’s eagle. Mammals include Spanish red deer, wild boar, the Egyptian mongoose and the endangered Iberian Lynx.
This area, once a private hunting ground for Spanish royalty, has been much exploited throughout its history with marshlands being drained for agriculture and urban development. Despite the huge importance of its ecosystems and its protected status, the area is still very much at risk, mainly due to the continuing negative impact of agriculture and the demands of tourism. Access to the park is therefore strictly controlled, to avoid disturbing the fragile landscape and wildlife.
Curiously, the site may even contain the location of the lost city of Atlantis. A team of US archaeologists claimed in 2011 that it is located under mudflats approximately 5 miles inlands from the coast in the Marisma de Hinojos salt marsh, having been destroyed by a giant tsunami.