based: London, UK
Tailor-made African safaris and African honeymoons. Africa Odyssey specialises in remote safaris to Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia, and beach breaks to the Indian Ocean islands including Zanzibar, Mauritius and the Seychelles.
| animals/safari | walking/trekking safaris | horseback safaris | birdwatching | diving/snorkelling | sea fishing/angling | wedding/honeymoon | family | Africa |
Aigas Field Centre
based: Inverness-shire, Scotland, UK
Discover the wildlife of Scotland on ready-made or tailored nature and wildlife holidays, including animal and bird watching, wildlife and nature photography; see pine martens, badgers, otters, beavers, dolphins, red deer, capercaillie, red squirrels, ospreys, red kites ... Accommodation is in timber lodges in the arboretum of the House of Aigas. Specialist small group tours also catered for.
| animal/safari | whale/dolphin watching | birdwatching | photographic | Scotland |
Bird ID Company (The)
based: Norfolk, UK
Offering a variety of birdwatching tours across East Anglia, visiting well-known reserves and other birding sites in Suffolk and Norfolk. Scheduled tours range from 1 to 5-days and cater for all abilities, from novice birdwatchers to the more experienced, who may be targeting specific species.
| birdwatching | England |
Cambrian Bird Holidays
based: Ceredigion, Wales, UK
Small family-run travel company offering tours to view the bird life and natural history of Ireland and Wales, guided by a professional ornithologist. Holidays will feature the key West Wales resident birds including red kites, peregrines, stonechats, choughs, ravens and dippers, and will include a boat trip to one of the Pembrokeshire islands, Skomer or Ramsey to visit seabird colonies.
| birdwatching | Wales | Ireland |
Catalan Bird Tours
based: Barcelona, Spain
Guided birding breaks in Catalonia in NE Spain, bespoke or scheduled group birdwatchers holidays, in an area offering a wide range of habitats and an ideal location to observe bird migrations.
| birdwatching | Spain |
based: London, UK
Cuba travel specialists, whether for an all-inclusive Cuban holiday, a family trip or a romantic honeymoon. Offering an extensive collection of accommodation, resorts, attractions and tours and creating bespoke holidays to suit specific requirements; including Havana holidays; beach breaks; salsa dance holidays; scuba diving; birdwatching; history, heritage, culture and food holidays.
| tailor-made | sightseeing | salsa | gastronomic | birdwatching | diving/snorkelling | historical tours | honeymoon | family | Cuba |
based: West Yorkshire, UK
Independent specialist tour operator and travel agency offering a friendly personal service, Footloose has been successfully planning specialist holidays for nearly 20 years, they craft tailor-made itineraries, organised with help from highly experienced in-country local agents. Tours cover activity and adventure, cultural experiences, honeymoons, natural wonders, frozen landscapes and wildlife encounters.
| tailor-made | sightseeing | honeymoon | walk/trek/hike | trekking peaks | animals/safari | birdwatching | white water rafting | Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis | family | singles | Worldwide |
G Adventures Featured Site
based: Canada, London & Worldwide
Unique and authentic global adventure travel experiences for those willing to go beyond conventional tourism. Wide range of trips for animal and nature lovers, such as game and wildlife viewing, safaris, Galapagos trips, Antarctica, rainforests, cloud forests, volcanoes, hot springs, bird watching and river journeys. Ethical and sustainable tourism at its best.
| birdwatching | Africa | South America | Asia | Worldwide |
Mid-Wales Birdwatching Holidays
based: Ceredigion, Wales, UK
Escorted bird watching breaks from a base at the western edge of the Cambrian Mountains, offering a rich variety of birdlife throughout the year, with accommodation in a small, country hotel offering comfortable rooms and good food. Holidays are led by an experienced local guide and birdwatching novices are welcomed.
| birdwatching | Wales |
Rufflets Country House Hotel
based: Fife, Scotland, UK
A 4-star country house hotel just 1 mile from St Andrews, offering a variety of short breaks, including weekends, romantic and Valentine, Christmas and birdwatching breaks and golf packages. Rufflets has been in the same family ownership since 1952, and offers a relaxing atmosphere to get away from it all.
| weekends/short breaks | Christmas/New Year | valentines | romantic | golf | bird watching | Scotland |
Signature African Safaris
based: West Sussex, UK
Go on a safari in Africa with Signature African Safaris – including tailor-made and small group trips to Botswana, Namibia, Malawi and many more beautiful destinations. Also special interest holidays including birdwatching, diving and honeymoon trips.
| animals/safari | birdwatching | wedding/honeymoon | diving/snorkelling | Botswana | Malawi | Mozambique | Namibia | Congo | Tanzania | Zambia | Seychelles |
Voyagers Travel Company
based: Quito, Ecuador
A collective of inbound travel operators in several countries worldwide, who've joined to form a central reservations office for direct holiday and tour bookings. Voyagers Travel offers hotel bookings, train tickets, guide services, concierge services and complete vacations.
| walking/trekking/hiking | archaeological tours | lake & river cruises | bird watching | festivals/carnivals | native peoples | Worldwide |
based: Lancashire, UK
One of the top bird tour companies, offering exciting, friendly, small-group birding holidays.
| birdwatching | whale/dolphin watching | Worldwide |
based: Gardabaer, Iceland
Isafold Travel specialises in personal service and private tours for small groups in Iceland.
| winter walking | birdwatching | freshwater fishing/angling | weather watching | Iceland |
UK: Fair Isle Bird Observatory & Guest House
A bird observatory and guest house in a prime location for British birdwatching, particularly those interested in sea and migratory birds.
They welcome visitors to the Fair Isle in N Scotland, between mainland Shetland and the Orkneys. The new observatory building provides 3-star accommodation for guests between April and October, and also houses a team of wardens and a Ranger.
With so many destinations described as a 'birdwatchers paradise' it can be hard to know where to start when selecting a birdwatching holiday. The Travel-Quest lists are intended to inspire, they're not so much about the rarity of the bird species, but about suitability as a holiday destination for birders. We've split them into three themes and given our top selection for each:
B) THE WETLANDS
THE BIG DESTINATIONS FOR A BIRDWATCHING HOLIDAY
These are the 'must see' destinations for birdwatchers, the ones that should appear of every birders bucket list.
WHY?: The cliffs at Látrabjarg for huge bird populations including northern gannets, guillemots, razorbills and tens of thousands of puffins. Lake Myvatn and it's wetlands for water-birds, up to 16 species of duck in particular. The Snaefellsnes Peninsula and Breidafjordur Bay for a huge range of habitats and wide variety of bird species. The geothermal volcanic landscape of the Reykjanes Peninsula for harlequin duck, great northern loons, grebes, cormorants, kittiwakes and more. The Westman Islands with steep sea cliffs and plentiful sea-birds. Jokulsargljufur preservation area, (part of the Vatnajokull National Park) home to Dettifoss, Europe's most powerful waterfall.
2 Papua New Guinea (PNG)
WHY?: Birding in one of the World's last truly wild and least explored places. Papua New Guinea has earned its place as one of the classic birdwatching destinations, offering habitats from lush mountain forest to coast and tropical lowland. There are at least 760 bird species to be found, from cassowaries and kingfishers to fantails and honeyeaters; in particular it is home to more than 40 species of birds-of-paradise. Papua New Guinea is still building its tourism infrastructure so it might not be the easiest of birding destinations for a a DIY trip, but more and more packaged trips there are now becoming available.
3 Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
WHY?: High on the list of the world's best birding destinations are the volcanic islands of the Galapagos, in the Pacific, 600 miles west of the Ecuadorian mainland. The islands are a World Heritage Site, a World Biosphere Reserve and, because of their remote location and isolation, are home to many unique species. Among the top draws are the Galapagos penguin, frigatebirds, the waved albatross, the red-billed tropicbird, brown pelicans, the great blue heron, and blue-footed booby, Nazca booby and the red-footed booby. Possibly the most well known of the land birds are the Darwin's finches (thirteen species), named for their relevance to the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin.
WHY?: Penguins of course, the symbol of Antarctica. For birders this is not a destination for counting species, rather for immersing oneself in big numbers of just a few species. Antarctica offers vast, beautiful, icy landscapes inhabitated by the four main penguin species (Adelie, Chinstrap, Gentoo and Emperor) in their millions. Visits to Antarctica are carefully controlled and the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (www.iaato.org) provides lots of information.
5 Botswana and the Okavango Delta
WHY?: For the astonishing abundance and diversity of birds in the world's largest inland delta, which drains huge portions of S Africa. A place to spot over 400 species including the African fish eagle, Malachite kingfisher, shoebill storks, hammerkopand, Pel's fishing owl, etc, etc.
THE TOP WETLAND BIRDING HOLIDAY DESTINATIONS
Without doubt wetlands are one of the most important bird habitats, used for breeding, feeding, shelter and as a stop-over spot along migratory routes and flyways. You'll find wetlands in our Big Destinations list too.
1 The Brazilian Pantanal
WHY?: The world's largest contiguous tropical wetland, the Pantanal, covers a vast area in the south-west of the country; most of the Pantanal is within Brizil, with much smaller sections in Paraguay and Bolivia. It is made up of a complex system of floodplain, marshland, lagoon and interconnected drainage channels, creating a marvellous habitat for birds. Counts vary, but it's considered to be home to at least 700 different species, including birds such as the jabiru stork and the endangered hyacinth macaw.
2 The Everglades and Southern Florida
WHY?: The Everglades have a unique ecosystem of shallow, slow moving rivers of sawgrass marsh, interspersed with cypress swamp, hardwood hammocks and mangrove forest, covering a vast area from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay. The area is well known in birding circles for having the largest concentration of wading birds in America; it's also famous for its alligators! Within the Everglades, the National Park is home to over 360 bird species, including herons, vultures, pelicans, egrets, ducks, storks, pelicans, bald eagles, owls, ospreys, spoonbills and pileated woodpeckers.
3 The Camargue, France
WHY?: The Camargue, in SE France, is the delta of the River Rhone. It is the largest river delta in W Europe and one of its best known wetlands. It offers a huge diversity of habitat to its resident birds and migratory visitors, including shallow lakes and lagoons, reedbeds, marshes, stony desert, woodland, limestone hills and mountains. Its emblematic birds, greater flamingos, can be admired in their thousands in the Parc Ornithologique de Pond de Gau, the bird sanctuary near Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. But the area is home, or a migratory stop-off, for a huge number of species (over 400), including: herons, eagles, owls, bitterns, storks, ibis and terns. The area is also famous its wild grey Camargue horses (Camarguais) and its black Camargue cattle.
4 The Danube Delta, Romania
WHY?: The Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve, on the Black Sea coast, is part of the largest continuous marshland in Europe and has the world's largest reed bed, as well numerous freshwater lakes connected by a network of channels, reed islands, lagoons, marshland, woodland and pasture that attract over 330 bird species. Highlights include the largest colony of pelicans outside of Africa, as well as white storks, spoonbills, herons, ducks, white-tailed eagles, egrets, vultures, cranes, cormorants, warblers, ibis and red-breasted geese. Areas of the wetland can only be accessed by boat or canoe which allows visitors to observe the birds at very close quarters. A permit is required to enter the Biosphere Reserve (included with arranged tours, independent travellers can buy permits from the Reserve administration and Tulcea travel agencies).
5 Kerala backwaters, Southern India
WHY?: Birding in paradise, the Kerala backwaters are an extensive interconnected network of canals, lakes, lagoons and inlets that run along the coast, forming over 900 km of waterway. Fresh water from numerous rivers meets the salt water of the Arabian Sea resulting in a unique ecosystem that attracts birds, other wildlife and lush vegetation. The place to visit is Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary on Vembanad Lake, the largest of the backwater lakes and an excellent spot for seeing migratory birds or breeding resident wetland species, species such as the Indian darter, little cormorant, several egret and kingfisher species, herons and white ibis.