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News in brief: Maldives, India, Trinidad & Tobago, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka & the Canary Islands

Manta Ray (Chas Anderson)

Manta Ray (Chas Anderson)

In The Maldives …

The highlight, for most, on our February whale-watching cruise to the Maldives was the group’s encounter with a group of Manta Rays (writes tour leader Sara Frost). We enjoyed a morning’s excitement as the Mantas appeared and disappeared, with most of the group getting fantastic close-up views! On most mornings and evenings, the group enjoyed a pre-breakfast and pre-dinner snorkel on pristine reefs, where the colour and variety of fish and other marine-life was staggering. Regal Angelfish, parrotfish, sea cucumbers, pufferfish, many different types of butterflyfish, Maldive Anemonefish, reef squid, triggerfish, Moorish Idols, both White and Black-tipped Reef Sharks and Hawksbill Turtle were just a few of the highlights. Back on board, while cruising between atolls, islands and reefs, six confirmed species of cetacean were seen: large groups of Spinner Dolphins, small pods of Pan-tropical Spotted Dolphins (occasionally mixing with the Spinners and all taking it in turn to enjoy pole position on the bow wave), Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins, Common Bottlenose Dolphins, Risso’s Dolphins and Pilot Whales.

Our 10-day Mantas, Dolphins & Coral Reefs – A Maldives Cruise departs Thursday 22nd February 2018. Please call Paul Stanbury on 01962 733051 or email paul@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.


Snow Leopard (Sujan Chatterjee)

Snow Leopard (Sujan Chatterjee)

In India …
 
Clients on our February ‘Ladakh – A Snow Leopard Quest’ tour in India were rewarded with daily sightings of Snow Leopard (writes tour leader Sujan Chatterjee). Highlights included views of these iconic cats through falling snow, and a female Snow Leopard making a kill then guarding it – and keeping it warm under her belly! We also had great views of a male Snow Leopard close to our camp. He walked along a distant ridge, scraping the ground at various places, scent-marking stones and rolling around in the snow! We were even treated to the sight of him doing a ‘back flip’! On our final day the male appeared again, but this time he had a female following behind. He waited at intervals for the female to catch him up as he walked and then the pair disappeared behind a ridge, which made a wonderful finale to our trip! In addition to the Snow Leopards, we also saw Pikas, Urial, Siberian Ibex, Red Fox and the beautiful Mountain Weasel, while the birdlife enjoyed included Ibisbill, White-winged Redstart, Mongolian Finch, White-browed Tit-warbler and Chukar Partridge.

Our next 14-day Ladakh – A Snow Leopard Quest holiday departs Thursday 15th February 2018. Please call Rajan Jolly on 01962 733051 or email rajan@naturetrek.co.uk for further details about this holiday.


Birdwatching over coffee from Asa Wright Centre (Rob Murray)

Birdwatching over coffee, Asa Wright Centre (Rob Murray)

In Trinidad & Tobago ...

Highlights from our ‘Trinidad & Tobago’ holiday in March (writes tour leader Rob Murray) included a cacophonous dawn chorus led by a loud Cocoa Thrush and bickering Oropendolas; Bearded Bellbirds, White-bearded Manakins and cave-dwelling Oilbirds encountered along rainforest trails; Red-breasted Blackbird, Potoo, Magnificent Frigatebird, Pygmy Kingfisher, a roosting Northern Waterthrush and White-tailed Nightjar. A boat ride through the Caroni Swamp must rate as one of the world’s most spectacular birding experiences – we saw thousands of Scarlet Ibises descending to roost in mangrove trees. One of the highlights of a stay at the Asa Wright Centre in Trinidad is sitting on the verandah watching a dazzling array of birds (and bats) arriving to take advantage of the feeders. We saw Long-tongued Bats, and a host of brightly coloured hummingbirds, honeycreepers, Bananaquits and tanagers at very close quarters! The second part of the holiday is based on Tobago where highlights included Red-billed Tropicbirds, Red-footed and Brown Boobies, Chachalacas, hummingbird nests, Green Turtles, Red-tailed Squirrels, Tent Bats and Agoutis.
 
Please call Dan Free on 01962 733051 or email dan@naturetrek.co.uk for details about our next 14-day Trinidad & Tobago holiday.


Gelada Baboons (Tim Melling)

Gelada Baboons (Tim Melling)

In Ethiopia ...
 
Our ‘The Best of Ethiopia’ holiday in February started off in the spectacular Simien Mountains where we sat among a troop of 300 Geladas as they fed on grass, behaving as if we were part of their group (writes tour leader Tim Melling), while over the nearby cliffs we were eye to eye with Lammergeiers and Lanner Falcons. Also in the Bale Mountains we watched an Ethiopian Wolf (the rarest dog species on the planet) lie down for a snooze within 20 metres of us before setting out to catch Big-headed Mole Rats. In the lower grasslands we watched Warthogs feeding alongside rare Mountain Nyalas and Menelik’s Bushbucks, but the highlight was watching an elusive Serval at close range. Ethiopia’s high altitudes mean there are many endemic birds and we managed to see a good many of these. All in all we managed to see over 400 species of bird, including two that are potentially new for Ethiopia. Highlight birds included seven different kinds of owl, Verreaux’s Eagles, thousands of flamingoes, dazzlingly coloured Sunbirds and the huge, rare Crested Eagle which feeds on monkeys.

Our next 19-day The Best of Ethiopia holiday departs Saturday 14th October 2017. Please call Dan Free on 01962 733051 or email dan@naturetrek.co.uk for further details about this holiday.


Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher

Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher

In Sri Lanka …
 
A total of 215 species of birds, 25 mammal species and 14 species of reptiles and amphibians were recorded on our February ‘Sri Lanka – Wildlife & History’ holiday (including the ‘Blue Whales’ tour extension). A very close encounter with a Leopard, plus Brown Fish Owl, Chestnut-backed Owlet and the very elusive and rare Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher were among the highlights for the main tour, while Blue Whales and Spinner Dolphins along with a rare sighting of a black morph Booted Eagle were highlights on the ‘Blue Whales’ extension.

Our next 17-day Sri Lanka – Wildlife & History holiday departs Saturday 4th November 2017. Please call Rajan Jolly on 01962 733051 or email rajan@naturetrek.co.uk for further details about this holiday and about our Blue Whales extension.


Cream-coloured Courser

Cream-coloured Courser

In the Canary Islands …
 
Avian highlights on our ‘The Canary Islands’ holiday in February, which visits the islands of Tenerife and Furteventura, included Kinglet, displaying Houbara Bustards, Blue Chaffinches, Bolle’s Pigeons, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Cream-coloured Courser, Fuerteventura Chat and Monk Parakeet (writes tour leader Andrew Bray). We also enjoyed sightings of lizards and geckos, including the newly discovered Tenerife Speckled Lizard. In total, we saw 66 species of bird and many endemic plants, as well as a good selection of invertebrates and mammals.

Our next 8-day The Canary Islands holiday departs Saturday 11th November 2017. Please call Andy Tucker on 01962 733051 or email andy@naturetrek.co.uk for further details.