Julian Sykes Wildlife Holidays

Predators of N/W Spain

Iberian WolfOur two-centre holiday is in the heart of the western Cordillera Cantabrica mountain range, one of the remotest areas of Spain. Our primary objective will be to locate one of Europe's rarest mammals - Iberian Wolf, and this natural park holds a good percentage of Spain's total population of 2500 - 3000 individuals. Despite a high density Iberian Wolves are very difficult to see being a naturally shy and distrusting species following decades of persecution from man. Our time will be spent stood quietly waiting & watching for this very elusive mammal mainly at dawn and dusk when they are at their most active and likely to reveal themselves. At this time of year new-born cubs are starting to leave the den and spend time playing withg their siblings under the watchful eye of their mother - an incredible experience.

Cantabrian BearThe second half of the week we drive through to Somiedo, in the western Cantabrian Mountains- this incredibly scenic area is home to the rare and endangered Cantabrian Brown Bear. Sadly through hunting and habitat destruction they have been reduced the edge of extinction in Spain. However these rugged mountains are the last great stronghold for the species and we have a good chance of spotting one amongst the karst limestone rocks and lush vegetation. Southern Chamois can also be found roaming these mountains and can be found carefully picking their way along the steep ridges and scree slopes.

During the week we will also be spending time during the day looking for Wildcat, who hunting in the freshly cut grass fields looking for mice and voles. We will need lots of patience and some good fortune we should find one of these gorgeous predators.


Cantabrian MountainDay 1:- After your arrival into Spain,  you shall be met by your guide and we shall quickly load up our mini-van and drive straight through to our accommodation in the heart of the Cantabrian mountains. Towards the end of the day we shall make our first (of many) attempts to find the Iberian Wolf, which in reality takes a lot of patience and luck, however we will be in one of the best positions to encounter one, due to our hostes local and invaluable knowledge. During our time watching and waiting we should also see other mammals including Fox, Wild Boar, Red & Roe Deer, some of the Wolf's known prey. Our hotel is a newly renovated barn and steading that has maintained it's traditional exterior with an extremely comfortable interior. The en-suite rooms are very warm, bright and clean, with superb vistas over a large garden with local trees and bushes ideal for attracting migrant and breeding passerines. The restaurant offers fantastic three-course dinners each evening  generally soup or salad, a meat or fish dish (vegetarians can be catered for) with local vegetables, followed by delightful sweet, all washed down with a local 'Vino Tinto'. This exquisite base for four nights will be one of the highlights of the holiday as the owner relays tales and shows photographs of wolves he has seen personally whole working with the local ranger service.

Iberian WolfDays 2 - 4:-  For the next three days we will be spending some of the time searching for the Iberian Wolves that reside on the reserve as this is the time when they are most active during daylight hours. The Sierra de Riano forms part of the Cordillera Cantábrica, which hold's most of Spain’s 2500 - 3000 wolves, a marked and welcome increase since an estimated lows of the 1970's. An interesting story of environmental success due to a population decrease by man leaving for the less rural settings of towns & cities. Although a good deal of our time will be spent looking for our major target we shall also be spending a lot of time searching for wildlife around the local village and beyond. Here we should hope to find Sourth-western Water Vole in the streams, along with Marbled Newt, Schreiber's Green and Iberian Wall Lizards, Melodious and Western Bonelli's Warblers, Rock and Cirl Buntings, Wryneck and Common Crossbill to name just a few.

BluethroatDays 5 - 7:- After another pre-breakfast visit to one of the watchpoints for Iberian Wolf we shall return to the accommodation, collect our luggage and head off for the mountains of Cantabria. En-route we shall stop off at an area of specifically developed, low-intensity agricultural land which holds Spain's highest density of Great Bustard in Spain. At this time of year they should be back in their small social groups after breeding making them fairly easy to find in the now cultivated fields. Other species to be found on thise undulating psuedo-steppe could include Black bellied Sandgrouse, Montagu's Harrier, Rock Sparrows, Lesser Kestrel, plus good numbers of larks and finches. We shall also check the lagoons of Villafafila hoping that these seasonal pools still have some water. If so we will find lots of waders and wildfowl, with this being an inland staging post and wintering ground after returning from Northern Europe.

In the heat of the day we shall then make the 2 hour transfer to Somiedo where we shall spend our remaining three nights at another delightful rural hotel, local to the major Brown Bear watching sites.

Cantabrian BearThe next two full days we will drive and walk through this incredibly scenic mountain range in search of Cantabrian Brown Bears. This is a subspecies of the much wider spread Brown Bear that occurs in Northern Europe, Russia and North America. But through hunting and habitat destruction they have been reduced the edge of extinction in Spain. These mountains are the last great stronghold for the species and we have a good chance of spotting one amongst the karst limestone rocks and lush vegetation along with Rebeco (Cantabrian form of Chamois) and Red Squirrel. We will try and find all of these species and hopefully get very good views of the bears during our time here. But even if we fail, this very special place will have you in awe of its wonderful natural beauty.

Day 8:- Depending on the time of the return flight we may not have a chance for an excursion looking for Brown Bear but who knows the return journey to the airport may produce a surprise along the way.

Both our accommodations are in the heart of the Cantabrian mountains and perfectly positioned for easy access to the best wolf and bear watching areas. They are both fantastic places to stay we will be workingg very closely with local rangers who have up-to-the-minute information on the wolves/bears and their where-abouts.

What's been said...

This is the first time we have run this combination holiday and we are very excited about the prospects and chances of success in seeing these two enigmatic species in one week. We hope you are also enthused by its potential.

Julian Sykes



Cost £1495
Based on sharing a twin/double room.

Single Supplement - £105
Deposit - £200
Maximum Group Size - 6

Price Includes:

  • 7 nights accommodation with en-suite facilities
  • All meals
  • All transport costs
  • Wolf watching permission
  • Information pack
  • Daily check list
  • Use of field guides & maps

Price does not Include:

  • Flights to Santander/Bilbao
  • Extra food/drink to normal meal times
  • Travel & contents insurance
  • Items of personal nature
  • Tips/gratuities

Flights are not included in the prices quoted, however we are more than happy to help with finding suitable flights.

Train Travel - Train and Sea travel possible crossing the Bay of Biscay on Brittany Ferries (Portsmouth - Santander)

10th - 17th August 2017

Highlights -

  • Rare mammals in Europe - Iberian Wolf & Cantabrian Brown Bear
  • Wild Cats possibly near the accommodation
  • High mountains for Wallcreeper, Snowfinch and Alpine Accentor
  • Stunning scenery in the Cantabrian Mountains
  • Spanish Ibex, Southern Chamois, Snow Vole, Beech Martin

Target Species:

  • Cantabrian Brown Bear
  • Iberian Wolf
  • Wildcat
  • Wild Boar
  • Southern Chamois
  • Red Deer
  • Roe Deer
  • Red Squirrel
  • Iberian Hare
  • White Stork
  • Black Stork
  • Black Vulture
  • Black shouldered Kite
  • Honey Buzzard
  • Hen Harrier
  • Montagu's Harrier
  • Golden Eagle
  • Booted Eagle
  • Short toed Eagle
  • Goshawk
  • Lesser Kestrel
  • Great Bustard
  • Blk bellied Sandgrouse
  • Scop's Owl
  • Tawny Owl
  • Calandra Lark
  • Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush
  • Dartford Warbler
  • Melodious Warbler
  • Iberian Chiffchaff
  • Western Bonelli’s Warbler
  • Rock Bunting
  • Schreiber's Green Lizard
  • Iberian Rock Lizard
  • Bocage's Wall Lizard
  • European Tree Frog


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