For nature lovers, one of the most popular activities in Spain is a trip to see the Iberian Lynx in Andujar Natural park. During my most recent trip to Andalusia I knew I had to venture out to see these majestic animals.
Considered the rarest cat in the world, the Iberian lynx numbers just barely over 1,000 individuals. In fact, in 2002 there were only 94 individuals left, which spurred the Spanish government into action.
While staying in Granada this year we decided to take a few days trip to Banos de la Encina, an historic town at the base of Sierra de Andujar.
Getting to Banos de la Encina from Granada took a bit of research as we don’t have our own car here in Spain. However for those of you who drive it is only about an hour and a half along the highway north.
Choosing A Tour Company
While the road through Sierra de Andujar to see the Iberian lynx is public access, I highly suggest going with a guide. The locals know the best spots at various times of day to hang out and observe these beautiful wildcats.
I booked my excursion with Birds&Lynx Ecotourism. I’ll say right now that I highly recommend them as the quality of the tour was great.
Iberian Lynx Trip Report
Pick-Up and Drive up Sierra de Andujar
At 7 am I was picked up outside my hotel by Fernando, my guide for the day. There were two other people in our group that day and after welcoming them to the car a few minutes later we were off.
It was still dark this time of year so the drive up into the mountains was calm. Fernando told us about the day’s schedule and what to expect this time of year. Of course, I had done my research about the birds I wanted to see, but it was great to see how knowledgeable Fernando was right at the beginning of the trip.
By the vehicle’s headlights we were able to spot a few deer along the side of the road. There are two deer species in this park; large Red Deer and the smaller but perhaps more beautiful Fallow Deer.
As this trip was in the middle of October we were right at the end of rutting season. This is the time of year when the deer bellow loudly (seemingly non-stop). Observing this activity is one of the highlights of this Sierra de Andujar ecotour.
At about 8:20am we reached a viewpoint near the top of the mountain. Well, it is not so much a viewpoint as we stopped along the side of the road and Fernando said ‘here we are’.
‘This is the best spot to observe the Iberian Lynx’ he repeated as we three must have looked a bit unsure in the wee hours of the morning.
As the sun crept over the mountain behind us the land was aglow with early morning colors. It actually was a beautiful spot to sit and wait – after all, you can’t force nature to come to you.
Since it was still early and there was not enough light for high quality wildlife photography we had our breakfast. Fernando opened up a cooler with prepacked foods and drinks for us to enjoy.
I particularly enjoyed the lemon cake and the fact the coffee was still piping hot. There was also milk and sugar for the coffee, orange juice, and some bread with a bottle of some of the best olive oil I’ve ever tasted. Of course, being in the olive oil capital of Spain should ensure you try the best there is.
Morning Light & The First Wildlife Photography
When the sun crept high enough to illuminate the area we were waiting in, we began to set up our camera gear and look for the animals.
Of course, even though this was a tour to see the Iberian lynx there is no actual guarantee you will see them. You cannot control nature.
As we observed we started hearing plenty of birds like the Iberian Green Woodpecker, a few Sardinian Warblers, and an absolute TON of Magpies (both the regular and the Iberian).
However by 11 am there was still no trace of the elusive Iberian lynx, and I was getting a little disheartened if I’m being honest. I knew there was no guarantee, but I did really, really want to see one.
As the minutes dragged on Fernando spotted a Little owl on a post about 100 meters away. It was surprisingly easy to photograph due to my telephoto lens and the amazing light at this point. (Fortunately later in the day we found one much closer!)
Yet by noon there was not a single instance of an Iberian lynx in Sierra de Andujar.
In the center of Sierra de Andujar is a place called Area Recreativa del Encinarejo. This public picnic area sits along the Jandula river downstream from a dam. This is where we planned to have lunch, and perhaps see more wildlife.
Within a few minutes of arriving we had spotted a few Kingfishers, a Great Cormorant, and many more Iberian Magpies.
Lunch was a classic Spanish tortilla (potato omelette) along with some chorizo, manchego, and crackers. To drink there was water, milk, and orange juice.
During lunch we of course wanted to see more animals, but as the weather was getting hotter we knew most animals would go into siesta mode. We even walked closer to the dam to see the otters, but they must have all been hiding from the midday heat.
After lunch we drove to another cafe at the base of the road up the mountain for a cold beer (or coffee for those that weren’t drinking), before resuming the drive back up to the Iberian lynx watching point.
Back Up The Mountain
The ride back up the mountain to the lynx observation area usually takes around a half hour, but we decided to spend this time looking for wildlife along the way. This meant many stops, but even more animals to spot.
Early on we spotted a Hoopoe which is a bird I really wanted to photograph, but as soon as I exited the vehicle a dog began barking and the bird flew away. Sadly we didn’t spot any more Hoopoe that day.
Next we passed an area where they raise bulls and on this plains-esque area we saw some Red-Legged Partridges, a European Stonechat, and a playful Mistle Thrush hopping along on the ground.
Around halfway up we saw a few mouflons in the distance, but a gorgeous male Red Deer right along the roadside under the shade of a tree. Fortunately he was rutting so the bellows could be heard from quite the distance. Seeing the rutting Red Deer was at this point the highlight of my trip.
After the deer we saw another little owl even closer so I was fortunate to get a much better photograph. However that was it for the remaining 20 minutes up the mountain.
Searching For The Iberian Lynx Part Deux
After arriving back atop the mountain view overlook we felt the midday heat dissipate. Yet the animals mustn’t have noticed as there was very little activity. Apart from a couple wild hoglets seen at quite the distance we didn’t think we would have much luck.
Yet roughly 20 minutes in, at around 5:30pm Fernando quietly called us all over. At 300 meters give or take were three of the elusive Iberian lynxes. A mother and two juveniles.
Immediately the camera equipment came out in force. And once that happened the 4 other people searching for lynxes along the road came over to observe with us.
We had figured the mommy lynx would begin looking for food for the younglings so for the next hour we were glued to the telescope and binoculars watching…hoping they would make their way closer.
We moved about 100 meters down the road to a better position. Unfortunately all three lynxes kept returning to a point behind a large bush so we only saw them for snippets at a time, however once the mother emerged with a dead rabbit clenched in those powerful lynx jaws.
Every single person kept fixated on the three lynxes until sunset around 7:40pm when it was finally too dark to see clearly, or photograph any more.
While I would have liked to photograph a lynx closer than 300 meters, I have to admit I was happy to see one at all. One of the number one rules people seem to quickly forget when searching for wildlife is, “you can’t control what you see” so the fact I was able to observe not one, but three of the rarest wildcats in the world is something I won’t soon forget.
We packed up our gear and got back in Fernando’s Toyota Hilux for the trip down the mountain. The next hour consisted of sharing photographs straight from our cameras as well as swapping Instagram accounts and other social media.
It isn’t hard to stay in contact with the people one meets during birding or other wildlife excursions, as these are the kindred spirits who have likely done stuff you want to do.
I had offered contacts for an amazing trip in Colombia to spot antipittas and in return was given some tips for a night trek in Malaysia I am dying to go on. While the main goal of visiting Sierra de Andujar was to see the Iberian lynx, it is always great to meet other animal lovers. You probably won’t see each other ever again…but never say never.
Animal Spotting Review
Iberian Green Woodpecker
Red legged Partridge
Long tailed tit
One thought on “Looking For The Iberian Lynx”
Comments are closed.