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News in brief: Indonesia, Madagascar, Spain & Nepal


Komodo Dragon

Komodo Dragon

In Indonesia …
Our tropical cruise from Bali to Komodo in September enjoyed 41 sightings of 11 species of cetacean, including acrobatic dolphins (Spinner, Spotted, Bottlenose, Risso’s and Fraser’s) and views of Blue and Sperm Whales (writes Naturetrek Website Manager, Sara Frost, who was a participant on the tour). Some of our group were lucky enough to have rare close-up views of elusive Dwarf Sperm Whales, and we had distant tantalising views of beaked whales (likely Cuvier’s) before they submerged and returned to their preferred depths of 2,000 metres below the surface. The most memorable cetacean highlight for many, however, was a group of 200 to 300 Melon-headed Whales which lazily swam alongside our boat, gently rolling on their sides to inquisitively watch us, seemingly just as entranced with us as we were with them!
 
Our time on land was just as rewarding, with face-to-face views of one of the main target species of this holiday: the formidable Komodo Dragon! Many could be seen lounging underneath the huts of the local villagers, all of whom tolerate their country’s largest land predator (and the world’s largest lizard), living alongside them with respect. We were additionally treated to snorkelling on pristine reefs every day, the kaleidoscopic colours of the fish and reefs proving delightfully mesmerising! Finally, on one memorable morning, the group were fortunate enough to swim with seven reef Manta Rays, all of whom were gracefully gliding through the currents with apparent ease, feeding on the abundant plankton. It was a true privilege to be (literally!) immersed into their world, and they took no notice of us as we stared in awe at their grace and beauty. A truly unforgettable trip!
 
Our next 13-day Bali to Komodo – In Search of the Dragon holiday departs Monday 10th September 2018. Please call Kerrie Porteous on 01962 733051 or email kerrie@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.


Avenue of Baobabs

Avenue of Baobabs

In Madagascar …
This year’s first ‘Madagascar’s Lemurs’ group, departing in September, enjoyed a plethora of memorable lemur encounters (writes tour leader Cathy Harlow). During the 2-week trip our group recorded 19 lemur species, over 100 birds and a marvellous selection of chameleons, geckoes, frogs and snakes as well as over 30 butterfly species and a dozen or more orchids. Highlights at Ranomafana included watching a critically endangered Golden Bamboo Lemur munching on bamboo, a family of Red-bellied Lemurs settling down for a nap and Milne-Edward’s Sifakas bounding from trunk to trunk, pausing to stare us down with ruby eyes. At Anja Community Reserve we watched baby Ring-tailed Lemurs as they began to explore beyond their mothers’ reach. Other highlights included seeing a nocturnal Sportive Lemur in its tree-hole roost at Zombitse, and a Verreaux's Sifaka, while at Ifaty, we waited at dusk to see shy tea-cup sized Rufous-grey Mouse Lemurs emerge from a roost in the eaves of a shed, and, thanks to the expertise of local guides, found rare Long-tailed Ground Roller, Sub-desert Mesite and Banded Kestrel among the baobabs of the spiny forest. Lastly, in the rainforest of Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, we came eye-to-eye with Indris as they bounced to the ground to ingest soil (to neutralise the toxins of a leaf-based diet), and heard their symphony of calls echo through the trees.

Our next 14-day Madagascar’s Lemurs holiday departs Saturday 22nd September 2018. Please call Kerrie Porteous on 01962 733051 or email kerrie@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.


Montagu's Harrier

Montagu's Harrier

In Spain …

1. Go Slow … in Andalucia
Highlights from our 7-day ‘Go Slow … in Andalucia’ holiday included the sight of migrating Booted and Short-toed Eagles, Montagu’s Harriers, European Honey Buzzards, Black Kites, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures and Black Storks passing through the area in their thousands, along with many hirundines, Swifts, European Bee-eaters and other migrant passerines (write tour leaders Simon Tonkin and Niki Williamson). Indeed, from the tranquil surroundings of our base at Huerta Grande Eco-lodge near Tarifa, we were treated to stunning views of migrating raptors simply by looking up from our gin and tonics! On a boat trip into the Strait of Gibraltar we also had breathtaking close views of 9 Sperm Whales, and were surrounded by pods of 50+ Long-finned Pilot Whales and Striped Dolphins. Other highlights – on mountain farmland, wetland, inter-tidal habitat and in cork oak forest – included Northern Bald Ibis, Blue Rock Thrushes, Firecrests, Short-toed Treecreepers, Crested Tit, Kentish Plover, Black Tern, Greater Flamingoes, Audouin’s Gulls, and Cory’s and Scopoli’s Shearwaters.

Our next 7-day Go Slow … in Andalucia holiday departs Friday 21st September 2018. Please call Andy Tucker on 01962 733051 or email andy@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.

Kentish Plover

Kentish Plover

2. Tarifa & Gibraltar: Whales, Dolphins & Autumn Migration
This tour, based at the tranquil eco-lodge of Huerta Grande near Tarifa, took place in September, as the autumn raptor migration was in full swing (write tour leaders Simon Tonkin and Niki Williamson). Both of our groups were thrilled by spectacular close-up views of hundreds upon hundreds of Booted, Short-toed and Bonelli’s Eagles, Montagu’s Harriers, European Honey Buzzards, Black Kites, Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, and Black Storks, while hirundines and swifts also poured through in their hundreds. They also enjoyed excellent encounters with Orcas and long-finned Pilot Whales during our boat trip into the Strait. Other highlights included Red-necked Nightjar, Firecrests, Short-toed Treecreepers, Crested Tits, Kentish Plovers, Black-winged Kites, Whiskered, Sandwich and Black Terns, Audouin’s Gulls, Wilson’s Storm Petrels, Cory’s and Scopoli’s Shearwaters, and European Bee-eaters, whilst a day trip to Gibraltar gave the groups face-to-face encounters with Barbary Macaques and the sought-after Two-tailed Pasha.

Our next 5-day Tarifa & Gibraltar: Whales, Dolphins & Autumn Migration holiday departs Wednesday 12th September 2018. Please call Andy Tucker on 01962 733051 or email andy@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.


Siberian Rubythroat

Siberian Rubythroat

In Nepal …
Tour leader Suchit Basnet has reported some spectacular raptor passage observed on our ‘Nepal – A Birdwatching Tour’ holiday earlier this month, with over 1,500 Amur Falcons seen on the group's drive between Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve and Chitwan National Park, plus the sight of 26 Lesser Kestrels enjoyed at Koshi Tappu. A large male Asian Elephant was also seen at Koshi, as well as around 20 wild Water Buffalo and several Ganges River Dolphins, while the pretty grounds of Koshi Camp produced numerous highlights as usual – amongst them a male Siberian Rubythroat, Orange-headed and Scaly (White’s) Thrushes, Smoky Warblers and a Collared Falconet, with Swamp Francolins, 8 Indian Coursers and a Hume’s Short-toed Lark being amongst the highlights in and around the reserve itself. An Ibisbill, always a highlight of this tour, was seen on the Rapti River at Hetaudha, and Chitwan provided such typical highlights as One-horned Rhinoceroses and Gharial crocodiles, plus a fine Burmese Python, with Grey-headed Fishing Eagle, Slender-billed Babblers and Grey-crowned Prinias amongst the avian specialities.

It's not too late to book a tour to Nepal for this coming winter! The weather will be fabulous, and the birds, mammals and spectacular mountain scenery equally so. Our next 11-day Nepal – A Birdwatching Tour holiday departs Friday 2nd March 2018. Please call Rajan Jolly on 01962 733051 or email rajan@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.