Cabárceno Nature Park – A wildlife park unlike any other

Cabárceno Nature Park in Cantabria, Northern Spain, is not like other wildlife parks. 75 hectares in size and situated in an old Roman iron mine, it is the biggest wildlife park in Europe and one of the biggest in the world. The former toxic mining zone has been transformed into a wildlife haven, where endangered primates, big cats and European bison can roam in semi-freedom.

I’m not a fan of zoos and aquariums; I don’t like seeing animals in captivity, torn from their homes and forced to live their lives essentially in prison. I don’t like the old argument that it’s a great way to learn about animals – how much could you learn about humans by watching incarcerated prisoners? However, Cabárceno is different. I’ve never seen a wildlife park with such large spaces for the animals – we spent over 7 hours driving around the 20km of roads that circle the park, and still didn’t see everything.

Zebras Cabárceno

Hippos laze happily in quarried lakes, sable antelope gallop alongside ostriches and girraffes. In Cabárceno, unlike most zoos, you’re not guaranteed to see animals, the enclosures are large enough for animals to easily hide. It is also a haven for Spanish wildlife – buzzards, hawks and kites constantly glide overhead, ducks and gulls splash in lakes alongside hippos and thirsty zebras.

Buzzard Cabárceno

Of course, it still doesn’t compare to seeing animals in the true wild. The excitement of walking and stumbling across wild boar, deer or even the knowledge that there are animals and you may or may not see them cannot be replicated. That, in itself, is one of the joys of hiking and climbing – never knowing what may be just around the corner.

Below are some photos from our visit – the highlight for us being the brown bears. What’s your favourite?

European Brown Bears

Bear cub eating

Old brown bear

Bear cubs playing

Brown bear Cabárceno

Bear cub and mother

European brown bear eating

baby bear


Jaguar fight


Baboon eating

Grévy’s Zebra

Grevy's zebra

Close up Grevy Zebra

three grevy zebras

Eurasian Lynx

Eurasian Lynx



Watusi Cabarceno


Cheetah lying


Rhino Cabárceno

Burchell’s Zebra

Young common zebra

Common Zebra

Barbary Macaque and Fallow Deer

Monkey and Deer

 (one-horned) Lechwe

Lechwe one horn

Iberian Wolf

Iberian Wolf

Common Eland

Young Eland


Llama Face

And finally, the most ferocious animal in the park

Ferocious Spaniard

More information


  1. theclosetplebeians · June 10, 2015

    This looks exciting!
    India too has its own share of wildlife parks!


  2. James · June 10, 2015

    I love the monkey!


  3. Sarah Lloyd-Jones · June 16, 2015

    Excellent photos and yes loved the Bears and the Zebras, what a cool place, I’d love to visit it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s