Just one hour south of Seville, the Doñana National Park is Europe’s biggest best kept secret. Spanning an impressive 540 square kilometres, of which 135 square kilometres is protected, the park is unrivalled in Europe for its biodiversity and huge range of wildlife.
Some say there are similarities with Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue in France – and so it was only natural for the two parks to become twinned.
The unique nature of the Doñana National Park comes down to its rich variety of ecosystems.
From marshes to flood plains, streams and the delta where the Guadalquivir River reaches the Atlantic Ocean, the environment is a haven for migratory birds and endangered species such as the Spanish imperial eagle and the Iberian lynx.
Among the experiences available to guests at Kukutana, our historic farmhouse located in the Doñana National Park, are 4×4 tours around the park.
One of the highlights is seeing the moving sand dunes of Las Marismas (the wetlands).
These mobile dunes, also known as transdunes, are formed by the prevailing winds coming in from the Atlantic Ocean, and are almost non-existent elsewhere in the Iberian Peninsula. The dunes slowly move across the landscape, gradually enveloping and smothering the vegetation, which mainly takes the form of a pine forest.
Each time you visit the dunes, the landscape will have changed according to the way the wind blows.
The pine trees are dominant, but you can also find the remains of the ancient cork-oak forests. Some have marks on the outer bark where the trunk has been carefully stripped by hand.
As for wildlife, the delta provides a lifeline for millions of European and African migratory birds, and birdwatchers flock to the area to see the marbled teal, red-knobbed coot, glossy ibis, red-crested pochard, egrets, herons and the greater flamingo.
The elusive Iberian lynx is a much-desired sighting by guests who stay at Kukutana, indeed our guides enjoy frequent sightings in the woodland by the farmhouse.
The area is also home to fallow deer, Spanish red deer, wild boars, European badgers and Egyptian mongooses.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site 1980, the story behind protecting Doñana dates back to 1969 when the World Wildlife Fund stepped in to ask the Spanish government to protect the park.
The campaign generated worldwide support, and as a result Doñana was established as a nature reserve.
Kukutana is a family home which has been refurbished and is available for private hire. Experiences are all-inclusive with accommodation in the beautiful historic farmhouse, seasonal food cooked in the family kitchen and excursions in and around Doñana National Park.
The Llorente family has owned this unique house since 1987, when the current owner’s father Peru bought it from his great friend Carlos Melgarejo, one of the founding members of the Doñana Biological Station, and one of the greatest defenders of Doñana and its preservation.
I’m struggling to put into words everything that we have experienced these past days, from the very first moment it has all been exceptional. The team and the hosts are marvellous, the experiences unforgettable - we will cherish these days forever.
A unique experience surrounded by friends and hosted by this wonderful family who have poured their dreams and love into this project. The most memorable G&T in history! We will be back soon.
The magic of southern Spain and the warmth with which we have been received have made these days unforgettable. What an incredible project you have created!
Thank you for the most magical few days in this piece of Paradise! It was the most memorable time and holiday that we have ever had. The food was delicious, the horses were beautiful and cannot believe that we saw a Lynx! We cannot thank you enough for all you have done. Hope to see you again soon and best luck for the creation and adventures that you plan.
J&M.H United Kingdom