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News in brief: Maldives, Brazil, Holland, Sri Lanka & Dominican Republic

Whale Shark (Patrick Morton)

Whale Shark, Maldives, Feb 2016 (Patrick Morton)

In the Maldives …

The second of our two February groups enjoyed a relaxing overnight stay (and snorkelling) at the lovely Bandos Island Resort before boarding the Ari Queen, their home for the next week. They soon settled into the daily routine of early morning and evening snorkels, days spent searching for cetaceans or relaxing, and listening to evening talks by Chas Anderson, who has 30+ years of experience living, working and studying in the islands. Highlights included regular sightings of Striped, Indo-Pacific Bottlenose and acrobatic Spinner Dolphins; a pod of 30 to 40 False Killer Whales which played around the boat one day; swimming with graceful Manta Rays; and a curious young Whale Shark. The diversity of colours, shapes and sizes of the reef fish and other marine-life was delightful.
 
Our next 10-day Mantas, Dolphins & Coral Reefs - A Maldives Cruise holiday departs Thursday 16th February 2017. Please call Kerrie Porteous on 01962 733051 or email kerrie@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.
 
In Sri Lanka …
 
Mammalian highlights on our February ‘Sri Lanka – Wildlife & History’ holiday included Asian Elephant, Golden Jackal, Torque Macaque, Grey Langur, Purple-faced Leaf Monkey and Indian Hare. Among the special birds seen in Nuwar Eliya, the Horton Plains and Victoria Park were Indian Pitta, Kashmir Flycatcher, Sri Lanka Whistlingthrush, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon and Dull-blue Flycatcher, while in Sinharaja, our group enjoyed the endemic Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Serendibs Scops Owl, Sri Lanka Spot-winged Thrush, Sri Lanka Spurfowl and Sri Lanka Green-billed Coucal. Time spent in the tea estates and the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Sigiriya also captivated clients as they learnt about the island’s rich history and visited archaeological sites in the ‘Golden Triangle’. Those opting for the ‘Blue Whales’ extension were treated to sightings of Blue Whales on both days out at sea, as well as Spinner, Bottlenose and Risso’s Dolphins, and Bryde’s Whale.
 
Our next 17-day Sri Lanka – Wildlife & History holiday departs Saturday 5th November 2016. Please call Rajan Jolly on 01962 733051 or email rajan@naturetrek.co.uk for further information.
 
In Holland …
 
This short break goes in search of wintering geese, ducks and other birdlife, and focuses on two main localities – Zeeland and Friesland. Our group this February was treated to the sight of Lesser White-fronted and Red-breasted Geese among tens of thousands of Barnacle Geese. An Eagle Owl just 10 metres from our group, a close Smew, White-tailed Eagle, Black Woodpecker and Crested Tit made this an exciting and packed trip. Rare vagrants Siberian Rubythroat (5 metres away!), plus Lesser Yellowlegs and a male Bufflehead, were the icing on the cake!
 
Our next 5-day Holland in Winter holiday departs 22nd February 2017. Please call Tom Mabbett on 01962 733051 or email tom@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.
 
In Brazil …
 
Clients on our ‘The Best of Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest’’ tour in early March enjoyed a wonderful week during which they recorded an impressive 235 species, of which 68 were Atlantic forest endemics! This is a 2-centre tour, based at two very comfortable lodges situated within easy reach of Rio de Janeiro. The first of these lodges is surrounded by Atlantic rainforest at an altitude of 1,200 metres and its grounds and nearby trails offer fabulous birding opportunities, including endemics! The second lodge is located in lowland Atlantic rainforest and offered a very different flora and fauna – highlights at the latter included Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth, Tufted-eared Marmosets and Capybara! Avian highlights during the holiday included Plovercrest, Brazilian Ruby, White-throated Hummingbird, a displaying pair of Yellow-browed Woodpeckers, Red-legged Seriema, Spot-billed Toucanet, Brassy-breasted Tanager, Gilt-edged Tanager, Red-necked Tanager, Rufous-capped Motmot and no less than 20 different species of antbirds!
 
Our next 10-day The Best of Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest holiday departs Friday 4th November 2016. Please call Dan Free on 01962 733051 or email dan@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.

Humpback Whales

Swimming with Humpbacks, Dominican Republic, Feb 2016

In the Dominican Republic …

In March Naturetrek staff member and tour leader Tom Mabbett accompanied our group to the Silver Bank, situated 70 miles off the coast of the Dominican Republic, to swim with Humpback Whales. The North Atlantic population of Humpback Whales congregates in these waters each winter – females give birth here in the sheltered waters of the Silver Bank, and then mate before returning north to their feeding grounds. Our group witnessed a wide range of behaviours both above and below the water … sometimes without even leaving their cabin! With thousands of whales present each winter on Silver Bank, there are plenty of animals at any one time in the water surrounding Sun Dancer II, our group’s home for the week. It’s not unusual to open the curtains in the morning and see a breaching whale, or to be enjoying a relaxing sundowner on deck in the evening and to a backdrop of whale activity such as lob-tailing or ‘pec-slapping’ (slapping of pectoral fins)! Our group enjoyed some superb ‘topside’ whale-watching, with whales seen often at just an arm’s length away from their small tenders. However, it was activity under the waves that they were most interested in; being in the water with a 35-tonne female Humpback and inquisitive calf is a truly mind-blowing experience. It is a real privilege to be trusted to watch such behaviour and the close bond between mother and calf was mesmerising. Our group was approached by young males during a brilliant mother, calf and escort interaction, and were all in awe as they looked down on a singing male just metres below! There is just one focus on this tour, to swim with Humpback Whales, and it’s an unforgettable experience!
 
Our next 10-day Dominican Republic – Swimming with Humpbacks! holiday departs Friday 17th March 2017. Please call Kerrie Porteous on 01962 733051 or email kerrie@naturetrek.co.uk for further information.