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France - Provence in Spring

Tour Code: FRA10

An 8-day holiday focusing on the wonderfully rich spring flora, butterflies and birds found in Provence and the Camargue.

8 days from £1495(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1375 SRS: £160


This 2-centre holiday is based initially in the charming countryside of the Vaucluse, in the hills between Provence’s coastal plain and high mountains to the north. We’ll have the opportunity to explore many different habitats, at varying altitudes and all within a relatively small area, from our two comfortable, family-run hotels. In spring, Provence is carpeted in wild flowers including the fragrant maquis blooms, an impressive array of colourful butterflies will be on the wing, and by the time of our visit a host of summer migrant birds should have arrived to join resident species. Two days in the Camargue, from our second base at Saint-Gilles, will be a highlight.

  • An ideal spring holiday for the keen all-round naturalist
  • Enjoy a great diversity of species at a leisurely pace
  • Over 70 species of butterfly possible
  • Cleopatra, swallowtails & Spanish Festoon plus local specialities
  • Alpine flora including sedges, rock jasmines, & Mount Cenis Violet
  • Raptors include Eagle Owl, 4 species of eagle & 3 species of vulture
  • Tasty Provençal cuisine & legendary Naturetrek picnic lunches
  • Magnificent architecture & scenery in a tranquil region of France
  • Led by an expert naturalist guide
 

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

Two charming hotels in Sault and just outside Arles, with private facilities and serving excellent local food.

Les Dentelles de Montmiral  (Mark Galliott)

Les Dentelles de Montmiral (Mark Galliott)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Marseilles and drive to the Luberon region of Provence

Day 2/4 Daily programme of natural history walks and excursions in the Luberon region of Provence

Day 5/7 Daily excursions in the Camargue

Day 8 Fly London

Situated in the south-east of France, and with a Mediterranean coastline, spring comes early to Provence, heralded by a veritable carpet of colourful wild flowers. This is truly a region of contrasts, from the commercialised coastal fringe and the famous Camargue marshlands in the delta of the Rhone, to the high mountains of the Alps. Between these extremes, there is another Provence that is not so well known, an area away from the main throng of tourists, where small villages cling to craggy hilltops, and where one can be at peace with the magnificent scenery. This is the charming countryside of the Vaucluse, where the hump-backed range of the Montagne du Luberon rises up parallel to the coastal plain to the south. From here the views are magnificent. To the north, across the high Plateau de Vaucluse, stands the mighty Mont Ventoux, its dark wooded flanks rising to a barren white limestone summit at 1,909 metres; to the west lie the jagged and spectacular rocky crags of the Dentelles de Montmiral.

During this 2-centre holiday we will first stay at a small, family-run hotel, set in a delightful and picturesque village setting, and enjoy tasty local Provençal cuisine. From here we will make daily excursions into the surrounding countryside — as often as possible on foot — in search of flowering plants, butterflies and birds. Our location, in the hills between the coastal plain and the high mountains to the north, will give us the opportunity to sample many different habitats at varying altitudes, all within a relatively small area.

This time of year is the peak flowering period for the extremely rich Mediterranean flora of southern France, with fragrant herbs being particularly numerous in the maquis. Spurges, brooms, tree heathers, thymes, sages and colourful Cistus are all characteristic of this habitat, while many orchids include Provence, Lady, Elder-flowered, Violet Limodore, the very impressive Giant Orchid, and a bewildering variety of early flowering Ophrys species. Amongst the birds of the area, such summer visitors as Hoopoes, Golden Orioles, Bee-eaters, shrikes and warblers should have arrived to join the resident species, and an impressive range of birds of prey is present. Amazingly, over 70 different species of butterfly have also been recorded on the wing in April here. These include such colourful species as Cleopatra, Southern and Scarce Swallowtail and Spanish Festoon, plus others such as Rosy Grizzled Skipper, Chapman’s Green Hairstreak and Provence Chalk-hill Blue which are restricted in France just to this area.

On Mont Ventoux, in effect the most westerly extension of the Alps, we will find a good mountain flora, including alpine sedges (Carex sp.), the rock jasmines Androsace vitaliana and A. chaixii, the exquisite little blue Mount Cenis Violet, an Alpine poppy (Papaver aurantiacum) and the endemic little white candytuft (Iberis candolleana). Birds on these high slopes include Snowfinch, Alpine Accentor, Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting and, on the tree-line, Citril Finch. Lower down, Crossbill, Crested Tit, Siskin and even Hazelhen may be found in the pine woods, whilst Goshawk, Redstart and Black Woodpecker favour the deciduous woodland.

Through the limestone Plateau de Vaucluse, rivers have carved their way through the soft rock to form spectacular gorges over the millennia. These provide nesting sites for many raptors, including Eagle Owl, Peregrine, and Golden, Short-toed, Booted and Bonelli’s Eagles, together with Egyptian, Griffon and, occasionally, Black Vultures. The latter two species are starting to re-colonise this area from elsewhere, and at one particular spot we should be able to (unusually) observe them from above as they glide effortlessly by below us. The flora of these calcareous rocks is also very rich, with typical species including Montpellier Milk Vetch, Martagon Lily, Nodding Star-of-Bethlehem, pink, yellow and white flaxes and various orchids, whilst nearby meadows hold sheets of white Poet’s Eye Narcissus and the little yellow Narcissus requienii.

Across the River Durance, les Alpilles, another lower range of limestone hills, rises up precipitously from the plain, with the picturesque village of les Baux-de-Provence clinging precariously to its flanks. These are also good for birds of prey, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin and Rock Thrush, as well as being a well-known site for the elusive Wallcreeper.

We will spend the second part of our tour exploring the Camargue. With its herds of white horses and black bulls, interesting coastal flora, orchids, and rich selection of wetland bird species, including Greater Flamingoes, Slender-billed Gulls, Temminck’s Stint and Spectacled Warbler, there will be plenty here to occupy us before it is time to return to Marseille for our journey home.
This holiday offers the chance for the all-round naturalist to enjoy a great diversity of species at a leisurely pace, whilst at the same time appreciating the magnificent architecture and scenery of one of the most beautiful and tranquil regions of France.

Colorado (Ian Small)Greater Flamingoes (Ken Williams)Les Dentelles de Montmiral (Mark Galliott)The Nesque Gorge (Mark Galliott)Mallow Skipper (Ian Small)Provence Chalkhill Blue (Ian Small)Provence Orange Tip (Ian Small)Southern White Admiral (Ian Small)Spring Ringlet (Ian Small)Mount Cenis Violet (Ian Small)Orphrys saratoi (Ian Small)Giant Orchid (Mark Galliott)Globularia alypum (Mark Galliott)Tulipa praecox (Mark Galliott)Carmargue White Horse and Cattle Egret (David Morris)Common Buzzard (David Morris)Coypu (David Morris)Coypu (David Morris)Greater Flamingo (David Morris)Greater Flamingoes (David Morris)Griffon Vulture (David Morris)Stripeless Tree Frog (David Morris)Wallcreeper (David Morris)One of the bedrooms of our hotel in Provence for the last two nightsOne of the bedrooms of our hotel in Provence for the last two nightsOne of the bedrooms of our hotel in Provence for the last two nightsOur hotel in Provence for the last two nights
J.M.
Cornwall
I particularly enjoyed being in a small like minded group. Both Neil McMahon and Graham Poynter were excellent in their particular fields and I very much enjoyed visiting the remoter areas of Provence. I have taken walking holidays with various companies over the past years and am new to wildlife watching and found the bird life particularly interesting. I was continually amazed at the way Neil could spot a well camouflaged bird in remote scrubland with such ease. Both Neil and Graham put in an enormous amount of energy into making the holiday such a success and I was very impressed by their knowledge and also their never ending patience and hard work, they never stopped.
S.E.
Cornwall
I was delighted with the holiday. The first time I had been away with experts and I certainly learned a lot.
Mr. W. & Mrs. H.
Essex
All the French people involved were particularly helpful and very nice people. The lady who owns the hotel made every effort to accommodate my difficult food requirements.
C.A.
Leeds
Le Louvre' had a remarkable set of menus and we received a very warm welcome from the patron and staff.
C.H.
Hertfordshire
The leaders were both good. Philip's knowledge is excellent on both birds and plants. Keith was excellent as a driver and to support the group. The picnics were well chosen and met the needs of the group. The hotel was typical French old style, but with modern facilities with a nice location and excellent food.
G.H.
Dumfries
Both leaders were very good indeed, and a great laugh was had by all.
U.M.
Wiltshire
The leaders were knowledgeable and very helpful. In general I liked the mixture of walks and drives, with breaks.
M.B.
Kent
Mark was a good, knowledgeable and considerate leader of our group. I certainly enjoyed all the walks every day in all the areas we went to.
P.P.
Nottinghamshire
This was our fourth Naturetrek holiday and once again very enjoyable. The weather was excellent. The tour leaders were very patient and determined to show us as many birds and plants as possible.
C. & M.S.
Devon
I would like to say that my wife and I enjoyed the trip immensely. Of course, the fine weather helped but our two leaders were excellent and took us on a wonderfully varied series of expeditions, and their knowledge was superb. The hotel was great fun and the food and service very enjoyable. We both thank you for a memorable holiday.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Thu 19th April 2018 - Thu 26th April 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: £1375 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: France

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Andy Tucker
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01962 733051

Tour Focus

Wild flowers

Tour Leaders

Tour Reviews

I particularly enjoyed being in a small like minded group. Both Neil McMahon and Graham Poynter were excellent in their particular fields and I very much enjoyed visiting the remoter areas of Provence. I have taken walking holidays with various companies over the past years and am new to wildlife watching and found the bird life particularly interesting. I was continually amazed at the way Neil could spot a well camouflaged bird in remote scrubland with such ease. Both Neil and Graham put in an enormous amount of energy into making the holiday such a success and I was very impressed by their knowledge and also their never ending patience and hard work, they never stopped.
J.M., Cornwall