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One of the many pleasures of visiting the Gargano Peninsula is the sheer abundance of its wildlife. The unspoilt countryside and variety of habitats make this the ideal environment for all manner of birds and animals. Even in the towns you will find an unusual number of birds and butterflies as well as the unleashed, but well mannered, dogs that seem to lie on every street corner.

Dog in Vico del Gargano, Puglia
Dogs roam free in every town but are always well behaved!


The Coastal Wetlands

One of the best places to spot birds is around the coastal wetlands, especially the lakes of Varano and Lesina. These are salt water lagoons and they attract lots of birds in search of fish: we spotted cormorants, avocets and gulls but if you are lucky you could see flamingos here as well. We stopped and watched a colony of bee-eaters in a nearby field and I was thrilled to catch sight of a hoopoe (the first I had ever seen).
Cormorant, Lago di Varano, Puglia
A cormorant perches over a basket of fish in Lago di Varano
Bee-eater, Lago di Varano, Puglia
We saw a whole colony of colourful bee-eaters


Hoopoe, Lago di Varano, Puglia
It was too far away for a clear picture, but I was thrilled to spot a hoopoe

Of course the wetlands are not just about birds. We saw small crabs and fishes in the narrow channel between the lake and the sea, and the water is full of the fish and mussels for which the area is famous. And wherever we went little geckoes darted between cracks in rocks and walls.

The Umbra Forest

The Umbra Forest is full of wildlife, but much of it stays hidden. It is said that the forest is home to boars, wildcats and the Gargano roe deer, but they kept out of sight while we were there. We heard lots of different birds but the only one we actually saw was a tree-creeper. What we did see was brightly coloured butterflies and holes in the hillside that could have given shelter to small animals.
However we later spotted a wild cat skulking by the roadside and we saw a couple of boars in a field (although I don’t think they were wild!). And there were some rather tame deer in an enclosure near the National Park Visitor Centre. So we did manage to see some animals in the end.
Boar, Gargano Peninsula, Puglia
It may not have been wild but at least we spotted a boar


Gargano roe deer
A native deer near the Gargano Park Visitor Centre
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