“Los Alcornocales” Nature Reserve.
“ Los Alcornocales” Nature Reserve occupies some 170.025 hectares, comprising twelve municipalities in the east of Cadíz province and in western Málaga province.
As its name indicates, the most common form of vegetation in “Los Alcornocales” Natural Park is the “Alcornoque” or cork oak, which occupies extensive areas of land of the largest Mediterranean woodlands in Europe.
There are also many gall oak trees, wild olives, European fan palm trees, rhododendrons, elms, wild clematis, white poplars, heathers, strawberry trees, myrtles, etc. can be found.
It´s a true privilege to mountain bike in this beautiful area.
The various areas of the Reserve all have different characteristics, i.e. in the southernmost part the main geographical features are known as “Canutos”, a series of narrow fluvial valleys which form a micro-climate allowing traces of vegetation remains from the Laurisilva forests from Tertiary times, made up of species such as the rhododendron, alder, ash, hazel, holly, ruscus and various types of fern (some of which are of great botanical interest, being endemic to this area).
On the other hand, on the mountain peaks you only find tree-line scrub or burrs. These are infertile areas of land, where due to the prevailing climate, especially the easterly wind, tree growth is impossible. However, some of the most important of the so-called “botanical jewels” are found here, i.e. the carnivorous plants, amongst which the Venus flytrap can be seen.
There are also areas known as “bujeos” or clay soil zones, open land cleared of trees. These clearings are the result of Man´s actions, i.e. there are places where trees and bushes used to grow but which have been ploughed up due to the need for grazing land for cattle.
Naturalists should have pay particular attention to the vegetation in these clay areas. As they are bare of trees and scrub, when the first rains come they become covered with a layer of plant life. A wide variety of annual plants` and bulbs´ life cycle unfolds here until the summer drought causes them to winter away. Only with the coming of the rains will the grasses, leguminous plants, some orchids etc. re-emerge.
“Los Alcornocales” has a rich variety of fauna, the most important of the larger mammals to be found being the red deer and roe deer and the smaller ones being the fox, genet, mongoose, otter, weasel, wild cat and the badger.
As far as birds are concerned, it must be said that there is an important number of birds of prey to be seen, including the short-toed eagle, the Bonnelli´s eagle, the booted eagle, imperial and golden eagles as well as the eagle owl, Egyptian vultures, goshawks, sparrow hawks and one of the largest communities of common vultures. There are also many insect-eating birds to be found, i.e. robins, wrens, tits, and long-tailed tits as well as nightingales, bee-eaters, swifts and swallows.
There is also a variety of outdoor activities (active tourism) to be enjoyed in the Reserve (e.g. hiking), all of which are detailed in a leaflet published by the Junta de Andalucía, giving us a overall view of what we can find and a small map of the route to be followed, as well as routes to be taken on horseback or by mountainbike or simply the various viewpoints from which to admire the scenery… The fascinating strait of Gibraltar.
All over the reserve there are information points and visitor centers where, in addition to finding information regarding routes to follow, regulations etc., there are exhibitions aimed at introducing the visitor to an overall picture of the different aspects of the Reserva (historical, ethnological and ecological).
In short, although one could go into the importance of this Nature Reserve at great length, the main points to remember are:
– It is the last Mediterranean forest from Tertiary times.
– It has the last wild river in Europe.
– It is known as the only “Forest in the mist” in Europe.
– It is, along with Messina (Italy) and the Bosphorus (Turkey), one of the most important migratory routes for birds.
– Probably the most fascinating area in Europe to do all kind of outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking or bird watching.
Keep nature clean and close the gates. Welcome to mountainbike paradise Tarifa.