The major wetland reserve of El Hondo (‘the deep’) de Elche is of international importance, both as a breeding site for rare and endangered species, and as a wintering and migration site. If you are able to enter the reserve, several hides are available, as well as a very good observation-platform, and a good variety of birds can be seen year-round, with winter or early spring possibly the best times, as raptors are numerous.
In order to obtain permission to visit the reserve, you can either call at the reserve’s Visitor Centre Reservee, situated near the hamlet of San Felipe Neri, just outside Catral. The Centre is well signposted, and the office is open Tuesday to Friday from 9am to 2pm, Saturday from 12.00 to 2pm, Sundays and holidays 9am to 2pm. The San Felipe reserve itself is open at all times. You can also obtain access by telephoning – 966 678 515 – and giving a day or two’s notice. The helpful staff speak English. Visits can only be made on Saturday mornings between 8.30 and 11.30. You have to be there at 8.30 and you cannot leave until 11.30.
Outside the reserve, the road immediately to the south (known as the Vistabella Road (SAT NAV N38 09.813 W0 44.156) has many good vantage points. From here many raptors have been seen, including such rarities as Long-legged Buzzard, Lanner Falcon, Spotted Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite and Red-footed Falcon, whilst the fields across the road are annually visited by Dotterel, Little Bustard, Common Crane and sometimes Red-throated Pipit.
Two new hides are now accessible from the Vistabella road. You need to park before you get to the Vistabella house with El Hondo on your right. A small bridge enables you to cross the water channel and you then need to walk back along with the canal on your right until you get to a break in the reeds and a sign marking the entrance to the first hide. Walk a little further on to access the second hide which is approached by way of a narrow boardwalk which extends out into the lagoon. The whole area repays frequent watching, at almost all seasons of the year.
Directions to the North (main) gate. From the N332 take the CV853 La Marina to Elche road then turn left onto the CV851 and follow the tourist signs for El Fondo or El Hondo.
Palm Farm Track (CV860/CV855 roundabout) – SAT NAV N38.09.555 W0.42.210
Lo Chicharra (Santa Agueda Platforms) SAT NAV N 38.10.357 W0.46.538
These are four rough maps of some of the roads and tracks around the El Hondo.