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Tarifa & Gibraltar: Whales, Dolphins & Autumn Migration

Tour Code: ESP02

A 5-day, short break to observe autumn bird migration from Tarifa and 'the Rock' and the cetaceans of the Straits of Gibraltar.

5 days from £995(inc flights) Land Only Price: £875 SRS: £95


The Straits of Gibraltar are just 16 km wide, providing a host of migrating birds with an ideal point to cross the Mediterranean, while ‘the Rock’ itself acts as a welcome staging post. We’ll arrive during the peak of the autumn migration and make short excursions each day to scan the skies for raptors and other migrating birds by means of gentle walks or sitting in the sun! We’ll also head out to sea on one or more mornings to look for whales and dolphins in the Straits of Gibraltar by boat. We’ll be based for three nights in the small characterful town of Tarifa and then spend one night on ‘the Rock’, ideal locations for viewing the bird migration as well as cetaceans.

  • Up to 18 species of raptor, plus a wealth of migrant passerines
  • White-headed Duck & Purple Gallinule
  • Cory’s & Balearic Shearwaters, European Storm-petrel, gulls & terns
  • Common, Bottlenose & Striped Dolphins plus Long-finned Pilot Whale
  • Fin & Sperm Whales plus Orca possible
  • Barbary Macaque & Barbary Partridge
  • A morning’s ringing of migrant birds such as warblers & flycatchers
  • Evening ringing may include nightjars & Scops Owl
  • Vagrants such as Cream-coloured Courser possible

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

Comfortable eco-lodge just outside Tarifa.

Booted Eagle (Kevin Elsby)

Booted Eagle (Kevin Elsby)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Malaga and transfer to Tarifa

Day 2/4 Tarifa

Day 5 Fly London

The Rock of Gibraltar is famous to some for being a peculiar English anachronism: a ‘little England’ precariously holding on to its privileged position as a last great outpost of the British Empire, whilst steadfastly guarding the gateways to the Mediterranean and North Africa. For the naturalist, though, it conjures up many other associations. This majestic limestone buttress forms a staging post for great numbers of migrating birds, for the Straits of Gibraltar are just 16 kilometres wide and provide the migrants with an ideal crossing point of the Mediterranean. This is especially true for raptors, and other soaring birds, which make use of the thermals along this rugged coastline to gain height before one of the most perilous sections of their bi-annual migration.

We will arrive, during the peak of the autumn migration, on the southernmost tip of the European continent. Our holiday will comprise a 5-day exploration of both Gibraltar and Cadiz Province, based for four nights in a comfortable eco-lodge just outside the small Spanish town of Tarifa, an ideal base from which to enjoy the region’s cetaceans and the bird migration … with minimum travel and maximum relaxation! All the areas we plan to visit are within an hour’s drive of our accommodation, allowing us time both for gentle walks and to sit in the sun as we scan the skies for the next wave of raptors. Our schedule will be flexible, based on the predicted weather for each day, which is crucial if we are to catch both the peak movements of birds and ensure good sea conditions for our boat trips.

On one or more mornings, weather permitting, we will travel out into the Straits from either Tarifa or Gibraltar to look for cetaceans. Three species of dolphin — Common, Bottlenose and Striped — are resident, and are often particularly abundant in September. There are also several resident groups of Long-finned Pilot Whales in the area. These enchanting animals are usually extremely obliging and unconcerned by the approach of the small motor-vessel we will be using. In addition, other species such as Fin Whale, Sperm Whale and Orca occur in the area, and we are likely to see such migrant seabirds as Cory’s and Balearic Shearwaters and European Storm-petrel, as well as other marine wildlife like Ocean Sunfish and sharks. Our boat trips will be two to three hours in duration and will be followed by lunch. There are a number of migration watch-points in the nearby hills which double as handy picnic sites. During September the skies are usually dominated by soaring birds. Movements can include up to 18 species of regular raptors, especially Booted and Short-toed Eagles, with another 10 or so possible, together with Black and White Storks. The views from the hills can be quite superb as raptors wheel around our heads.

After lunch we may continue watching the migration or explore the local area. There are several different wetland habitats within easy driving distance of Tarifa, where we may find passage waders, terns and gulls, including regular species which can be scarce elsewhere, such as Audouin’s Gull and Caspian Tern. If we have time, and our schedule allows, the Bay of Cadiz area is particularly good for a wide variety of species, including such specialities as White-headed Duck and Purple Gallinule, and the coastline is excellent for migrant passerines. We will also explore ‘the Rock’ itself. This is not just a migrant hotspot and the only site in Europe for the famous Barbary Macaque and Barbary Partridge, but also offers a number of sites of historical and geological interest, the most impressive of which is St. Michael’s Cave, an enormous natural limestone ‘cathedral’ in the heart of ‘the Rock’ that provides a welcome break from the heat of the day.

Part of our morning on ‘the Rock’ may be spent at Jew’s Gate participating in a morning’s ringing of the migrant birds that have been caught overnight. This will give us an insight into the rigours of migration for some of these birds, which will probably include several species of warblers, flycatchers, chats and others. If we are really lucky, and the weather is right for grounding migrant birds, we may also be able to take part in an evening ringing session, hoping for Red-necked and European Nightjars and Scops Owls, which often make landfall here.

The beauty of this area at this time of year is that anything can and does happen. A pod of Orcas pops in to check out the local tuna boats, a day of inclement ‘levanter’ winds has migrants bursting out of every bush, a sky that was empty one day is filled with eagles the next or a vagrant Cream-coloured Courser is found on the beach at Tarifa. Whatever happens, we won’t be far away when it does!

Gibraltar (David Morris)Wasp Nest (David Morris)Two -Tailed Pasha (David Morris)Tarifa (David Morris)Sunfish (David Morris)Spoonbill (David Morris)Speckled-Wood (David Morris)Serano Ham (David Morris)Red-Veined Darter (David Morris)Montagu's Harrier (David Morris)Lizard (David Morris)Lang's Short-tailed Blue (David Morris)Hibiscus (David Morris)Grasshopper (David Morris)Gibraltar Sunset (David Morris)Geranium Bronze (David Morris)Fiddler Crab (David Morris)Eyed Hawkmoth (David Morris)Corn Bunting (David Morris)Common Dolphin (David Morris)Common Dolphin (David Morris)Barbary Macaque (David Morris)Barbary Macaque (David Morris)Barbary Macaque (David Morris)Barbary Macaque (David Morris)Banded Groundling (David Morris)Asphodel (David Morris)Tarifa hotel bedroomDinner at our hotel in TarifaOur hotel in TarifaVeranda of our Tarifa hotelBedroom at our hotel in TarifaGibraltarWhite Stork Migration
S.L.
September 2014
The dolphin/whale cruise was a highlight, and the raptor viewpoints were brilliant. The organisation, varied types of trips, and picnics were also very good.
L.E.
September 2014
Obviously, seeing the raptor migration, but also the Bald Ibis and the whale-watching trip were highlights.
S.P.
September 2014
Highlights were: the variety of species seen/heard; Huerte Grande accommodation and environment - beautiful, peaceful and comfortable with friendly staff; enthusiasm and commitment of tour leaders - they worked very hard to help us not miss anything; the group dynamic worked well - everyone shared their sightings and helped others to see eg sharing telescopes; the whale-watching was fantastic - we were so lucky with the weather and calm sea (absolute privilege to see pilot whales); raptor-watching from miradors was very enjoyable.
D.F.
Swansea
Both guides' enthusiasm was infectious and I found myself having a wider appreciation of things in which I previously only had a passing interest, such as wild flowers and invertebrates. Both were very approachable and knowledgeable, and took time to ensure no one missed a thing.
A.S.
Kent
The hotel was in a beautiful setting, with attentive staff, excellent accommodation, food, wine and beer, and a very nice swimming pool. It had all I could wish for. The others on the tour were excellent company, and Simon and Dave, our leaders, worked well together and gave us the benefit of their extensive knowledge to ensure we got the best out of our stay. I shall look forward to meeting them again on future trips.
L.S.
Kent
We met Simon on the 'Butterflies of La Brenne' trip last year. He suggested this trip might interest us, and he wasn't wrong. We had a great time. In addition to meeting up again with Simon it was also great to meet Dave, who we would also look forward to meeting on any trip he was involved in. We also enjoyed the company of all the other customers on the tour. The accommodation, food and staff were excellent, and the Huerta Grande is to be recommended. Simon and Dave both worked hard to make sure everyone got as much as they could out of the trip and I look forward to meeting up with them again.
J.S.
Devon
Simon and David were superb with their knowledge of species and patience with our many questions. They showed enthusiasm and good humour throughout the holiday. I thoroughly enjoyed this trip and although I was apprehensive as this was my first holiday abroad travelling alone, I would not hesitate to recommend it and can't wait for the next trip!
P.B.
Staffordshire
The excellent knowledge of the tour leaders about the birds, butterflies, insects, reptiles etc. was combined with their ability to adapt to varying weather conditions to give us a full birding experience.
C.B.
Staffordshire
Simon and Dave are exceptionally good trip leaders. Their encyclopaedic knowledge and relaxed style made the trip really enjoyable and memorable.
B.L.
Norfolk
I really enjoyed this short break. There were some species that I was targeting and I saw all the important ones. The trip was excellently led. The two leaders were quietly efficient and worked hard to see that all our needs were met. It was my first Naturetrek experience and I look forward to hopefully many more.
I.T.
Devon
The absolute highlight for me was the visit to the bird-ringing station, which is best done first thing in the morning. I was happy with the itinerary and very pleased with the bird count.
P.W.
Surrey
Paul is an excellent leader and naturalist, and nothing was too much trouble for him. We very much hope that he will be leading other holidays that we take in the future.
A.W.
Merseyside
Faultless stay at Tarifa. You had chosen two first class leaders for this holiday.
G.L.
Worcestershire
The trip leaders all worked hard to ensure that everyone had a good holiday and nothing was too much trouble.
A.W.
Hampshire
Knowledge of the birds, mammals, insects, butterflies and flowers was excellent - of both leader and co-leaders.
S.H.
London
This has been the best Naturetrek trip I've experienced so far. A packed itinerary, excellent leadership and a very pleasant group of people to be with. It was very exciting to see the whales and dolphins. Byron and Lee made every effort to make us comfortable and both were very knowledgeable, and I am very grateful to them.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Wed 12th September 2018 - Sun 16th September 2018

YES

£995

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £875 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Sun 16th September 2018 - Thu 20th September 2018

YES

£995

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £875 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Spain

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Andy Tucker
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01962 733051

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Tour Reviews

The dolphin/whale cruise was a highlight, and the raptor viewpoints were brilliant. The organisation, varied types of trips, and picnics were also very good.
S.L., September 2014