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Dragonflies & Birds of the Camargue

Tour Code: FRA05

An exciting 8-day exploration of the wetlands of Provence (as well as the nearby stony desert of La Crau and the limestone hills of Les Alpilles), one of Europe's premier dragonfly destinations, in search of both dragonflies and birds.

8 days from £1495(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1345 SRS: £160


The Camargue is one of Europe’s best known wetlands – a 'must' for any keen naturalist. We will explore the saline habitats, reedbeds and shallows of the Camargue, and the dry stony steppe of La Crau, and Les Alpilles (a range of limestone hills covered with aromatic herbs and scattered pines), in search of a

  • 30+ dragonfly species, most not found in Britain
  • Banded Darter, Goblet Damselfly & Green-eyed Hawker
  • Summer immigrants such as Vagrant Emperor
  • Enjoy courtship displays of Copper Demoiselles
  • Lagoons laden with Greater Flamingo, Black-winged Stilt, waders & storks
  • Raptors, including Eagle Owl in Les Alpilles
  • Excellent photo opportunities such as Blue-eyed Hooktails resting on rocks
  • Little Bustard, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse & Lesser Kestrel at La Crau
  • Guided by an expert Naturetrek naturalist

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

Comfortable family-run hotel near Arles, serving good local food. All rooms have private facilities.

European Bee-eater (Dave Smallshire)

European Bee-eater (Dave Smallshire)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Montpellier and transfer to Arles.

Day 2/7 Dragonfly/birding excursions from Arles.

Day 8 Fly UK

The Camargue, that vast wetland which lies within the arms of the Rhone Delta, conjures up romantic images of wild white horses and black fighting bulls, gypsy festivals and the best olives in the world. It is also France’s (perhaps even Europe’s) premier dragonfly site where, in July, we may hope to see over 30 species, most of them not seen in Britain. If you seek to be inspired by dragonflies, this is the trip for you, both with the sheer numbers and brilliance of the species that we should see. However, the region is better known to naturalists for its birdlife, and we will not neglect this aspect of the natural world during our dragonfly-quest, enjoying the Camargue’s large breeding population of Greater Flamingoes, abundant herons, egrets and storks, and healthy population of raptors such as kites, vultures and the rare Bonelli’s Eagle. We will make short excursions to the limestone hills of Les Alpilles in search of Eagle Owls and also to the bizarre pebbly landscape of La Crau, not only to watch sandgrouse and Lesser Kestrels, but also to enjoy the top dragonfly river flowing through it. Indeed, we offer the opportunity to understand and enjoy at first hand the quintessentially Mediterranean habitats of the garrigue and maquis and their associated wildlife.

We begin our holiday with an exciting exploration of Les Marais du Vigueirat, a large wetland nature reserve, in search of Orange-spotted Emeralds, Green-eyed Hawkers and Goblet Damselflies. Special permits will allow us to venture further into the reserve than the general public, where we will spend the day wandering through marshes, woodland, open dry meadows and along disused canals; as well as looking for dragonflies, we will enjoy a large colony of egrets and herons comprising eight different species. On another day we will visit the saline lakes where the Greater Flamingoes breed, amongst them such other wetland species as Whiskered Tern, Slender-billed Gull and Kentish Plover before focusing on the canal in the Vallee des Baux where at least 15 species of dragonfly may be found in just a small area, including Southern Skimmers and White Featherleg. If conditions are right we will also make a trip to watch swarms of dragonflies coming in to roost in reedbeds before sunset, and to watch Dusk Hawkers.

Our fourth day will start early to ensure that we see the best of the wildlife, initially focusing on the habitat of dry garrigue and olive groves where Shorttoed Eagles, exquisite Rollers, and various butterflies and Ant Lions may be found. Later we will search a marshy area for the delicate Banded Darter and then head into the limestone hills to observe Alpine Swift and Crag Martins, and to look for breeding Egyptian Vultures in Les Alpilles. Views from the easily accessible summit at La Caume provide amazing sunset panoramas.

On other days we will visit a Bee-eater colony which feasts largely on dragonflies (most probably including Red-veined Darters and Scarlet Dragonflies), enjoy breeding Collared Pratincoles, and check out the rice fields for tree frogs, various darters, Lesser Emperor and Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly. At Saintes Maries de la Mer we will hope for such summer immigrants as Vagrant Emperor or large swarms of more widespread species, whilst the coastal dunes provide yet another contrasting habitat for both insects and flowers. We will also visit the wetlands of La Maison du Parc and the Mas d’Agon Observation Point and rice fields.

Finally we will explore La Crau, a pebbly desert full of life! Here, strange insects such as the enormous bright green EM>Saga pedo/EM>, fairy-like ascalapids, praying mantis and bush crickets may all be found, plus bird species such as Hoopoe, Lesser Kestrel, Calandra Lark and Great Grey Shrike. The Peau de Meau River attracts an incredible number of dragonfly species; Blue-eyed Hooktails pose to be photographed on rocks whilst Yellow-tailed and Copper Demoiselles engage in courtship displays and Southern Blue Skimmers compete for airspace.

We will revisit La Crau on our last day, before returning to the airport, in search of yet more dragonflies, and we will also visit a nearby lake to look for Orange Featherlegs and other species. An action-packed end to a rich and varied holiday!

Copper Demoiselle male (Ian McColl)An interesting specimen (Ian McColl)Sunset over the lagoon (Ian McColl)Ant Lion, Palpares libelluloides (Ian McColl)Black tailed Skimmer, male (Ian McColl)Crocothemis (m) and Wasp Spider, (Ian McColl)Crocothemis (m), (Ian McColl)Les Alpilles (Ian McColl)Lesser Emperor (Ian McColl)Painted Lady (Ian McColl)Praying Mantis with Lesser Emperor (Ian McColl)Southern Skimmer (f) (Ian McColl)Southern Skimmer (m)  (Ian McColl)Southern Tree Frog (Ian McColl)Swallowtail larva (Ian McColl)Wasp Spider, Argiope bruennichi (Ian McColl)European Bee-eater with Black-tailed Skimmer (Dave Smallshire)Vagrant Emperor, Hemianax ephippiger (Dave Smallshire)Saga pedo (Dave Smallshire)Banded Darter Sympetrum pedemontanum m
J.H.
Midlothian
We enjoyed the tour immensely. Overall, the tour was excellent: a very enjoyable and relaxing holiday, perfect for high summer in Provence. The tour leaders and the hotel were outstanding; the hosts were excellent and food was outstanding. Ian and Nick did exceptionally well for the picnics.
M.W.
Lancashire
I really enjoyed the holiday from start to finish and we all had a great time in the Camargue. Thank you very much.
F.H.
Conwy
The leaders were very good. Nick’s enthusiasm for dragonflies was infectious and we felt we learned so much from him. Ian was very knowledgeable about birds; both were really good company and kept us interested throughout the holiday.
C.C.
Cambridgeshire
A really fantastic holiday. The depth and breadth of knowledge that both Dave and Tom had on dragonflies, birds and other wildlife was staggering. Picnic lunches were fantastic. Dave and Tom did a great job making sure all in the group were getting the most out of our trip. The hotel was lovely, run by a very friendly couple. Overall, a really great holiday made special by two very good tour leaders - thank you and I can't wait to book another trip with Naturetrek!
M.P.
Hampshire
he flexibility to take time out of the tour to experience local culture and particularly see local sites of historical interest was appreciated and enjoyed. Both Dave and Ian were excellent leaders not only for their specialist knowledge but also personality and good humour. Certainly a 'top draw' team!
Mr & Mrs M.
Wiltshire
An excellent trip, very well run. Both leaders were most friendly, knowledgeable and helpful and the choice of sites for dragonflies and birds was excellent, including the trip onto the private reserve.
A.A.
Jersey
This recent 'Dragonflies and Birds of the Camargue' trip was just what I have been looking for. Almost everyone on the trip commented at various times through the week how relaxed and enjoyable the days were and what a lovely time they were having. … We were so lucky to have two such excellent leaders in Dave Smallshire and Ian Nicholson, who knew their subjects so well and made the wildlife fascinating. We were greatly impressed by their 'people skills' (vital in the job of leaders we believe). They always put comfort and wellbeing of their group first - so, well done Naturetrek in your choice of these two leaders.
Mr & Mrs F
Preston
The knowledge of the leaders was outstanding.
A.K.
Oxfordshire
I absolutely loved every minute of this trip. As a single female, it is a safe environment to go and explore and learn more about wildlife in. I was impressed that it was all-inclusive, so you can relax once there and not be worried about additional cost. I highly recommend this trip - good value for money; and may even do this one again another year.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Thu 28th June 2018 - Thu 5th July 2018

YES

£1495

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Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are limited. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1345 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: France

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Tom Mabbett
Operations Manager

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01962 733051

Tour Focus

Dragonflies

Tour Reviews

We enjoyed the tour immensely. Overall, the tour was excellent: a very enjoyable and relaxing holiday, perfect for high summer in Provence. The tour leaders and the hotel were outstanding; the hosts were excellent and food was outstanding. Ian and Nick did exceptionally well for the picnics.
J.H., Midlothian