We had a great day at this animal park but it could have been even more fabulous, save for a silly mistake we made. We were parked just a couple of hundred metres from the Eastern entry gate in a lovely parking area set aside for motorhomers. Our van was looking out over a lake in an area of beautiful countryside.

Entry to the park was quite pricey at €31.50 each but the park was open from 9.30am to 8.00pm so that’s not bad for an all day visit. Inside the park you could drive around in your car, motorbike, motorhome, or bicycle, or you could walk around, but who would want to that on a scorching hot July day and over such a massive distance! You could drive to each animal enclosure and park up and walk over and have a look and then pop back in your car.

We decided to take our moped as there were places in the park where a motorhome would not fit, either certain roads or certain parking areas. Once we got inside we parked up in the first car park and very excitedly jumped onto the first cable car ride. The cable cars were a very novel way of seeing the animals and their beautiful Spanish habitat. There were two separate systems, one in the shape of a triangle and one which was out and back, and a total of 4 stations where you got off.

A view of 3 elephants from the cable car.

We went on all of the cable car rides first of all so we got a great overall view of a lot of the park. When we were nearly as far as possible away from the moped Nige noticed he only had one set of our two moped keys. Oh dear! That meant he had left one set still in the ignition which was not good news. If anyone noticed, they could just drive the moped away and that would be the end of that!

We returned to the beginning where we got on the cable car, and thankfully from above saw the moped was still there and had not been nicked. Gotta love Europe – that would’ve been gone in seconds in the UK.

However, in all our excitement to see the animals, like the kids we all are, Nige had not just left the keys in the moped he had left them turned with the lights left on. Argh! Would the moped start? No, we had a completely flat battery. And our moped doesn’t have a kick start so that was that. Nige pushed the moped up a small slope and freewheeled it downhill to the motorhome. Now if we wanted to still see all the animals we had to WALK. There were 12 miles of roads in the park, it’s a very big park, and it was very hot and sunny – urgh. But with €63 paid out, we weren’t just going to call it a day and go home.

It is 750 hectares or 1900 acres or nearly 3 square miles. There are lots of steep-sided hills and relatively flat valley floors. The area used to be an open-pit mine but there really is hardly any evidence of that except in a small area near the North gate. The park was opened in 1989 and it has two roles, one is the conservation of endangered species and the other is environmental education.

The nature park is home to a hundred animal species from five continents living in what is described as semi-free conditions. The animals are not free but they do have huge areas to roam around in and the enclosures are very nicely laid out to look as natural as possible for the main part. The areas for the elephants, giraffes, hippos and tigers were very big and for their size the Guinea Baboons area was gigantic.

The semi-free conditions as they are described as also means except for food provided to them, the rest of the animal’s activities are marked by their almost total freedom. This does lead to almost all of the animals fighting for control of the females which happens in nature particularly in the mating season. The facilities for the animals are internationally recognized as one of the best there is that exists in the world. It was still a zoo as such but it just felt so so much better for the animals.

We started off by visiting the elephant area which is the first area that we had passed over earlier on the cable car. We counted at least 17 elephants including 3 young ones.

More elephants from the cable car near their nighttime shelter

The elephants had a great big place for them to sleep at night which is shown above.

Where the elephants roamed around there were also some water buffaloes and lechwes (antelopes). The photo above shows the small group of water buffalo near the lake. Now you know how big those animals are and in this photo they are tiny. The area they share with the antelopes and elephants is about 8 times as big as you can see here, excluding the tree-lined area and hills in the background.

So although these animals aren’t free the place that they roam around in is very spacious up against most zoos, especially city zoos.

What a little tubber.

After the elephants, we found the Pygmy or Dwarf hippopotamus. They come from the African equatorial jungle where they live in swampy terrains, lagoons, mud bogs and water flows.

They move through the jungle either alone or in pairs. We saw two at the Cabarceno Park although there may have been more in the big pond they had to live in.

How many bears?

Twenty minutes later we found a very exciting enclosure, one we had seen from the cable car. It was the Iberian Brown Bear enclosure. In the wild, their habitat has been reduced to a small population in the Pyrenees and two isolated nuclei in the Cantabrian mountain range with a total population of 160 to 185. That is terrible news, however, between 1989 and 1992 the affected communities presented a species recovery plan.

At least 10 bears in this photo.

That’s where Cabarceno Park came into play. In the huge enclosure, we counted at least 40 of these magnificent omnivores doing their thing. There were at least 2 young families included, which means the recovery plan is still working today.

It’s bath time!

The very best part of this enclosure was the swimming pool where loads of them were enjoying the cool water on a pretty warm day.

Time for a cool off.

And then there was this one just down below where we were all stood just snoozing in the muddy water.

The next enclosure was a shared enclosure where there were a number of different animals milling about. There were just 3 giraffes.

And in with the giraffes were quite a few Ostriches. These are fascinating birds, the biggest by far in the world but they cannot fly. However, they can run at 60 km/h (37 miles/hour) if they want to.

These weird-looking birds can live up to 30 years old and it is the males, the ones with black feathers, that are usually in charge of incubating the eggs, that are the equivalent size of 20 chicken eggs. Some of the ostriches seemed to like to sit really close to where the fences were, so we ended up getting super close to these two males.

We got just as close to the Zebra who were next. We spotted at least 4 youngsters amongst the adults.

By putting the camera down low you could get great photos of these beautiful creatures enjoying lunch. Up close they made the exact same sound like horses, which we shouldn’t be too surprised about as they are stripey horses I suppose.

How close?

And next, we got so close to one rhinoceros it was silly. It was right up against the fence munching on some juicy grass and we were there just the other side.

There were 5 rhinos in total and they were wonderful to see. When man has eventually done his absolute best to kill all of these creatures in the wild it will be places like this that will save them from extinction. Although that didn’t work for the several species of rhino that have gone extinct or effectively extinct recently. It’s heartbreaking.

After the rhinos, we carried on walking into an area where we shouldn’t have gone. It was an area where you were supposed to be in a vehicle and there were big warning signs about not getting out of the car in this area. Now there were no lions in there to eat us, however, there were two different types of large European fallow deer, which had big antlers and were looking at us in a rather suspicious way. And there were some monkeys which had big teeth but luckily didn’t seem that interest. It was the warmest part of the day and although all the animals looked at us none of them approached us.

We didn’t stop to take any photos and even brisk-walking at a decent pace, it took us over 10 minutes to get to the next safe area. We did see one park warden near the end and we uttered something like “motorbike kaput, sorry”. He didn’t have any kind of weapon with him, just a walkie talkie so we didn’t feel like it was a totally stupid thing to do!

Then we saw a sad sight which you never ever want to see in a nature park (zoo). There was a jaguar pacing up and down in front of where it normally goes at night. For the full few minutes, that we were watching it, the lighter coloured one just kept doing the exact same walk up and back. It was the only animal we saw in the whole place that didn’t look comfortable.

There were also two other near black ones (melanistic) who were just lazing about in the shade although one of them got up for a short walk which was how we were able to get two of them in the same photo.

We only hope it was near feeding time and it was pacing up and down waiting to be fed because otherwise, it was not well.

We were now right at the other end of the park and here we found the reptile house. It was mainly full of venomous deadly snakes. I didn’t know there were so many deadly snakes in the world.

And next we saw the gorillas and our first impression was they had this massive area inside full of loads of things to climb and swing on but surely they deserved an outside area as well.

And of course, they had a lovely big area to chill out in and eat lots of “lettuce”.

And the very last creatures that we took photos of were of 5 cheetahs. They had a pretty decent size enclosure but were very interested in a particular gate. And it turns out they were interested because it was feeding time. By the time we had wandered off and walked by the gate about 45 minutes later, after seeing the wolves, there was a van next to the gate and it must have been dinner time!

There were lots of other creatures that we saw that we didn’t take photos of mainly because they were too far away, like the wolves, tigers, kangaroos, lions, bison and a few where we were a bit tired and forgot. It was a very long day and a very long and hot walk after all.

Overall we had a great time but it would have been better with the moped. We missed out on the “shows” as we could not get to them at the right time. We would have loved to have seen the sea lions and particularly the falconry show which came highly recommended.

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