Bird Holidays is one of the UK's leading birdwatching and wildlife tour operators. Established in 1991, we have many years of experience in organizing exciting trips to all corners of the globe.
Our main assets are our five professional bird guides. Paul Willoughby, Andrew Woodall, Roger Barnes, Phil Palmer and John McLoughlin will, between them, lead all of our holidays. By keeping the total number of principal leaders to just five, we are able to maintain a ‘house style’ - relaxed but professional, experienced in birding and tour management, but most importantly, ensuring the holiday is a fun experience for all.
Our office is manned by the same five tour guides, giving you the opportunity to speak to them before booking if you wish. Attention to detail is paramount when making travel arrangements, and no one is better suited to do this than the tour guide. He knows the itinerary intimately and knows that if he fails to make the correct arrangements he will be the one on the ground who has to pick up the pieces.
We hope to see you on a tour soon. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us, or read more about us below.
Paul, Andy, Phil, Roger and John
Whilst our prices are competitive in comparison to other bird tour companies, at first glance you may consider them to be more expensive than a conventional package holiday. However, the prices we quote are fully inclusive, with no hidden extras. There are absolutely no extra charges for participating in all the holiday activities. Furthermore, our programmes are so full there just isn't the time or inclination to spend much money.
When comparing our prices to those of a self-organised trip you must remember to add on the cost of midday snacks, drinks, evening meals, car hire, petrol, road tolls, boat trips, local guides, drivers, bird information, maps, reserve entrance fees, airport taxes, etc. We believe that you will find the difference is not as much as you first thought and will be justified by the high standard of service that we provide. Of course, self-organised trips are not protected by ATOL either.
Although specific airlines have been named in this brochure we reserve the right to use alternative ones due to schedule or fare changes. Flight times are correct at the time of going to press, but are subject to change when airlines publish new schedules. In most cases, the leader will accompany you from the moment you meet up in the UK airport to the moment you get back. However, there are occasions when the leader will travel to the destination in advance, and occasions when he will remain in the country at the end of the tour. In such circumstances, clients will not be accompanied through the airports. If being accompanied through the airport is a major consideration for you, please call us to check the position on your chosen tour before you book.
We realise that a good hotel is just as important as good birdwatching. The best birdwatching in the world can be spoilt by run-down hotels, inedible food or noisy music in the middle of the night. That is why we carefully select every hotel, not only to be close to the best birdwatching sites, but also to be of the high standard that our regular customers have come to expect. If a lack of choice forces us to use a hotel of a lower standard than our customers have come to expect then this is made clear in the brochure. Given the choice, we use locally owned hotels, to increase the benefit of eco-tourism to local communities.
If you are travelling alone you may wish to consider the benefits and reduced cost of sharing a twin bedded room. Clients who are happy to share should leave blank the box headed 'Tick if single supplement required'. If you book more than three months prior to departure and we are unable to match you to a room-mate, you get the single room without paying the supplement. If you book less than three months prior to departure and no one else wishes to share, then you will have to pay the single supplement.
EXTENDING YOUR STAY
We recognise that many of you will want to extend your holiday, or fly out early, for some independent travel. It is possible to do this on any of our tours. Please call us to discuss your requirements. We make no additional charge for arranging this, unless there is an increase in air fare that we will have to pass on to you. You must, however, let us know at the time of booking, because once we have booked the flights it may be impossible to change them.
We usually use mini-buses or small coaches to travel around in. Again, quality is the watchword. To ensure maximum safety and flexibility we use local drivers we know and trust, or the tour leader does the driving.
We know that the smaller the group the more each individual gets out of the holiday. We have given a specific maximum group size to each tour, which you can find at the end of the tour write-ups. Tours which involve a lot of forest birding will have a smaller maximum than tours to see colonies of penguins. In practice, group sizes are often smaller; our average group size for the last two years was just over nine clients per tour.
We ask you not to tip the Bird Holidays leader. Where a local guide or driver has been particularly helpful we may organise a collection, but donations are never obligatory. Your leader will give you some guidance on amount if you wish. Tipping of hotel and restaurant staff, as well as porters, is completely at your discretion, and again, your leader will be able to suggest an appropriate amount. In the US and several other destinations, tipping is expected in restaurants, and your leader will pay this. On cruise ships, the level of tipping is rather high, driven by the American tipping culture. However, on the ships we use tipping is anonymous and completely at your discretion.
OUR SMOKING POLICY
We operate a no smoking policy in the vehicle, in confined spaces (hides, etc), at meal times, close to other group members in the field, and in shared accommodation. None of our principal leaders smoke. We always reserve non-smoking rooms when possible.
The playing of bird sound recordings to facilitate a sighting is a contentious issue, and one to which some people are strongly opposed. Others are grateful for the opportunity to glimpse species that otherwise are near impossible to see. If used responsibly, playback is no different to the normal day to day interaction between birds on neighbouring territories. We believe this is preferable to a group of birdwatchers lingering for an extended time in a bird’s territory, dashing backwards and forwards with each glimpse. All our leaders use playback, but use it sensibly, sparingly and with full regard to the birds’ welfare. In the interest of the birds’ welfare and of other group members we insist that clients do not use playback in the field.
We encourage you to take your camera, to capture those once in a lifetime moments. If you want advice as to which of our tours are most suitable for photography, please get in touch. Our leaders are experienced in getting good views for the group, and this leads to many photographic opportunities. However, the principal objective of our tours is watching, so you should be sensitive to other group members. For example, you should check that everyone has finished watching a bird before you take a few steps closer. Please do not hold up the group too often, and if you do it should only be for a moment. ‘Borrowing’ the leaders telescope to do a little digiscoping is okay if it is only occasional and does not prevent others from looking through it when they want.
As a courtesy to other group members, please set your camera to its silent mode.
Our leaders have little time to take photographs themselves. They will only take photographs after completing their duties as a leader (i.e. after doing everything to ensure everybody has seen the subject as well as possible). We will happily send a copy of any image taken during a trip to the people that were on that trip.
THE HOLIDAYS THEMSELVES
The key to a successful holiday is a carefully planned itinerary giving the right balance between time in the field, time spent travelling, free time and sightseeing. Furthermore, we believe that holidays are about having a good time in friendly company, and in a relaxed atmosphere. A lot of satisfaction can be had from pushing oneself to the limit of one’s physical ability. However, that is not what our holidays are about. Some companies take their clients 'twitching' from dawn till dusk and simply ignore all non-bird 'distractions'. Others believe that the most important factor in deciding where to birdwatch is the provision of a coffee shop and having rolled up at 10am they stop for elevenses. There is, of course, a wide range in-between these extremes and it is always important before booking a holiday that you know exactly how it will be run.
We believe that we have got the balance of our holidays just right, listening to the comments and suggestions of our clients. The emphasis throughout the holidays is on birds (not ignoring other wildlife), but when the opportunity presents itself the leader will accompany you to a local place of interest. The key to it all is flexibility and our leaders have great experience in judging what each group wants. Pre-breakfast birdwatching is normally low key and optional. However, we usually take breakfast quite early so that everyone is out in the field whilst the birds are still at their peak of activity. Packed lunches or picnics are generally the order of the day as they have the advantage of convenience and flexibility, and can be enjoyed outside in beautiful scenery. Whenever possible, we will plan toilet stops at visitors’ centres, service stations etc. However, this isn’t always possible, so you should be prepared to use Mother Nature’s facilities on some occasions!
No two destinations are exactly the same with regard to the amount of effort required to join in all of the excursions. For this reason we have given each holiday a paragraph or two explaining the pace to be expected. This can be found at the end of each holiday description.
The pace of the birdwatching also varies from site to site within the same trip. Whenever possible we will walk through an area, but, especially around large wetlands, this is not always practical. In this case much of the day will be spent in and out of the vehicle, but this type of watching is kept to a minimum. Most of the holiday is spent walking through good areas at a sensible pace. Birdwatchers, by their nature, are usually quite fit, and after a full day in the field the feeling is usually of pleasant tiredness. Anyone with basic fitness, capable of taking regular short to medium walks, including some gentle uphills, whatever their age, is perfectly capable of joining in most of the activities on any of our holidays. If a steeper walk is required to see a particular bird, this is clearly explained. Of course, it doesn't matter whether you are an expert birder or a complete beginner. We are happy to cater for all abilities on all our holidays.
A day's birdwatching will normally finish about one hour before the evening meal to give you time to relax and change. Dinner times vary depending on local custom but average around 7.30pm. On some trips when there is a chance of owls or nightjars we will bring this forward an hour or so, and have a special trip out afterwards. These evening trips can be very special indeed!
We differentiate clearly in the brochure between those trips that can be described as tours (where there are regular hotel moves) and those that are single or twin centre. In all cases, we plan our itineraries to avoid unnecessary hotel moves. For those people who do not want to 'live out of a suitcase' we try to find destinations where a one or two centre holiday will provide a sufficiently wide range of habitats to ensure a rewarding experience. By joining us you can be sure of seeing lots of birds in a variety of habitats, at a pace that allows sufficient time to appreciate and enjoy what you are looking at.
Of course, if you wish to do something besides birdwatching there is absolutely no obligation to join the group on every excursion.
Now that you know everything there is to know about us please read through our selection of exciting holidays. We look forward to seeing you soon!