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Camargue in Spring Birdwatching Holiday

Tour Code: FRA19

A 5-day holiday focusing on the wetlands and Rhône Delta of the Camargue and featuring the best of the birdlife of southern France in spring.

5 days from £995(inc flights) Land Only Price: £895 SRS: £95


The Camargue is one of Europe’s best known wetlands – a 'must' for any keen naturalist. Based at the same small, family-run hotel on the outskirts of Arles for all four nights, we will explore the saline habitats, reedbeds and shallows of the Camargue, the dry stony steppe of La Crau, and Les Alpilles (a range of limestone hills covered with aromatic herbs and scattered pines), in search of exciting and exotic Mediterranean bird species at the peak of the breeding season. This area of France is especially rich in wildlife, history and local culture and we hope to enjoy a flavour of this

  • The perfect introduction to European birdwatching
  • Gentle and varied birding from a comfortable base
  • See and photograph the Camargue’s famous white horses and black bulls
  • Enjoy lagoons full of flamingoes, herons & egrets, stilts, waders, gulls & terns
  • Stone Curlew and Lesser Kestrel, and perhaps Little Bustard & Pin-tailed Sandgrouse at La Crau
  • Raptors include Short-toed Eagle and Honey Buzzard, plus Eagle Owl at Les Alpilles
  • Guided by expert Naturetrek ornithologists

Food

All included in the price.

Accommodation

A charming, family-run hotel (with private facilities) serving excellent local food.

Greater Flamingoes (Chris Gomersall)

Greater Flamingoes (Chris Gomersall)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Montpellier, transfer Arles

Day 2/4 Daily programme of birding walks and excursions in the Camargue region

Day 5 Drive Montpellier; fly London

The Camargue, in Provence, is undoubtedly France’s — and, indeed, one of Europe’s — best known wetlands. Lying to the south of the historic Roman town of Arles in central southern France, at the very heart of the vast Rhône Delta, it covers about 750 square kilometres and provides a veritable oasis for a great many resident and migratory birds, in an area otherwise acclaimed for its sunny Mediterranean beaches, ancient Roman ruins and fine Provençal cuisine.

We begin our holiday with a flight to Montpellier, a modern airport to the west of the Camargue. The final approach to the runway typically passes over the Etang de Mauguio where flamingoes are numerous and may be seen from the plane as we land! Our base for the next four nights is a small and pleasing family-run hotel on the outskirts of Arles, conveniently located just a short drive away from the Camargue, and for the next few days we will explore this legendary region of white horses and fighting black bulls. The Greater Flamingo is probably the best known denizen of this area, and we will spend time exploring the saline habitats of La Digue and the Etang du Fangassier where nearly 15,000 pairs of flamingoes breed alongside Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Kentish Plovers, and both Slender-billed and Mediterranean Gulls whilst, in the nearby scrub, the elusive Spectacled Warbler. In peaceful lagoons and backwaters small numbers of Red-crested Pochard can be seen, whilst the extensive reedbeds, dykes and shallows of the Camargue support many herons and egrets, including Bittern and Purple Heron, Little Egret, Little Bittern, Squacco and Night Heron. Whiskered, Black and Gullbilled Terns feed along the ditches, while the surrounding grazing pastures and vineyards are ideal areas in which to see European Bee-eaters, European Rollers and Hoopoes. The rice fields in and around the Camargue are yet another of the region’s rich habitats, beloved of herons, egrets, waders and terns, and where it is also possible to see France’s only breeding population of Collared Pratincole. Raptors are another highlight of the region, a healthy population and variety attracted by the abundance of prey. Marsh Harriers and Black Kites drift continuously over the delta, Hobbies dash madly after dragonflies and hirundines, whilst a Shorttoed, Booted or perhaps even an elusive Bonelli’s Eagle may occasionally be seen.

We will visit Le Marais de Vigueirat, a wellmanaged reserve where it is possible to follow a walking trail into the reedbeds in search of such breeding birds as Great Reed, Moustached, Fan-tailed and Cetti’s Warblers and also, perhaps, both Penduline and Bearded Tits. On the western side of the reserve, near the village of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, is the Parc Ornithologique. Originally a bird hospital caring for the many birds injured as a result of illegal shooting, it now supports not only those birds that have not recovered fully enough to be returned to the wild, but also their offspring.  Additionally, many wild birds are attracted to the site, for example the wild White Storks that breed on top of the aviary housing injured storks! The habitats within the Parc are continually being developed, and now hold large breeding colonies of Mediterranean Gulls, Black-winged Stilts and various herons and egrets, all of which can be seen at close quarters. We may also visit the saline lagoons just inland from the beach at Piemanson which attract many species of waders at this time of year, along with Little, Common and, occasionally, Caspian Terns.

Other habitats are also within easy striking distance; for example, the dry stony steppe known as La Crau which covers some 50,000 hectares. This arid habitat, which in ancient times was actually the delta of the River Durance, has been extensively irrigated and supports such crops as melons and the famous Crau hay which is used to feed race-horses. The surviving areas of original habitat support good numbers of Little Bustard — rare elsewhere in France — and the country’s only population of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. Other noteworthy residents include Montagu’s Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, Stone Curlew, Short-toed and Crested Larks, Tawny Pipit and Southern Grey Shrike.

North-east of Arles lie Les Alpilles, a range of limestone hills — an extension of the Luberon range — rising to 387 metres and covered with aromatic herbs and scattered pines. The spectacular cliff-top fortress of Les Baux attracts many raptors and, during our visit, we will search for such specialities as Egyptian Vulture, Bonelli’s and Shorttoed Eagles, Eurasian Eagle Owl, Alpine Swift, Woodlark, Blue Rock Thrush, Sardinian and Subalpine Warblers, and Short-toed Treecreeper.

This area of France is especially rich in wildlife, history and local culture and, on this short holiday, we hope to enjoy a flavour of this diversity with an easy-paced itinerary that includes some quality birdwatching, good photographic opportunities, a visit to the Roman amphitheatre in Arles and ample time each day to enjoy our famous Naturetrek French picnic lunches!

White Horses (Peter Dunn)Greater Flamingo (Peter Dunn)Greater Flamingos (Peter Dunn)Grey Heron (Peter Dunn)Great White Egret (Ian Nicholson)Black-crowned Night-heron (Peter Dunn)Mediterranean Gull colony (Ian Nicholson)White Stork (Peter Dunn)Black-winged Stilt (Peter Dunn)Red-crested Pochard (Peter Dunn)Stripeless Tree Frog (Peter Dunn)Hummingbird Hawk-moth (Peter Dunn)Roman Arena, Arles (Peter Dunn)Langlois Bridge at Arles (Peter Dunn)Hotel Granges Arles GardensBedroom balcony at the hotel Granges ArlesBedroom at the Hotel Granges ArlesBedroom at the Hotel Granges ArlesTriple bedroom at the Hotel Granges ArlesFront garden at Hotel Granges ArlesSwimming pool at the Hotel Granges ArlesBreakfast at the Hotel Granges ArlesAvocet (Debbie Hart)Black-wingedStilt (Debbie Hart)Copper Demoiselle (Debbie Hart)Dragonfly (Debbie Hart)Flamingos (Debbie Hart)Flamingo (Debbie Hart)Camargue (Debbie Hart)Camargue (Debbie Hart)Heron Chicks (Debbie Hart)Horse and Foal (Debbie Hart)Horses (Debbie Hart)House Sparrow (Debbie Hart)Lunchtime - Camargue (Debbie Hart)Nightingale (Debbie Hart)Camargue (Debbie Hart)Poppy (Debbie Hart)Stone-curlew (Debbie Hart)Camargue (Debbie Hart)Sunrise - Camargue (Debbie Hart)Swallow (Debbie Hart)Thistle (Debbie Hart)Wall Butterfly (Debbie Hart)Wood Sandpiper (Debbie Hart)Copper Demoiselle (Deborah Hart) Birding on the Camargue tour, 4-8 May 2016Flamingos (Deborah Hart)Heron Babies (Deborah Hart)Stone-curlew (Deborah Hart)
D.H.
Spring 2016
This holiday was lead by brilliant guides who knew the area, knew the birds in flight (+ sitting!) and had tremendous sense of humour!
M.H.
Spring 2016
The opportunity to see so many species of birds and in particular the larger ones, the amazing Camargue landscape and also 'like-minded' people! The hotel was also excellent as was the company and wonderful food!
I.W.
Durham
One of the best holidays ever.
J.C.
Cambridgeshire
A big thank you to our tour leaders, Ian and Dave. They were brilliant. Not only did we see loads of interesting birds but we learnt a lot about birdwatching generally. This hotel was really good - quiet, comfortable and friendly.
R.C.
Cambridgeshire
Brilliant holiday. Ian and Dave were patient and helpful and very knowledgeable.
J.L.
Norfolk
Thank you for organising such a great trip, our third with Naturetrek.
J.L.
Norfolk
Thank you for organising such a great trip, our third with Naturetrek.
J.L.
Norfolk
Thank you for organising such a great trip, our third with Naturetrek.
Dr R.
Glasgow
This was a most enjoyable holiday, with excellent leaders who paced and matched the abilities very well. We enjoyed the Camargue and the hotel very much.
Mr F.
West Glamorgan
Very swift responses and timely provision of information, exceptional variance of sites and Avifauna in a short period, excellent guides, allowed time for everyone… as a "rookie" I'm hooked!
B.G.
Surrey
I thoroughly enjoyed the trip - the two leaders Ian and James were excellent.
E.B.
West Yorkshire
The hotel food was very good, the owners charming and helpful.
F.S.
Dorset
A very enjoyable first birding trip abroad, adding 31 species to my life list. Thank you.
W.A.
Lincolnshire
Excellent holiday. Ian’s knowledge was immense, and nothing was too much trouble. He made the holiday thoroughly enjoyable.
L.C.
Kent
Peter and Ian were very knowledgeable and good company.
R.H.
Leicestershire
I gather this was Ian’s first trip as a Naturetrek leader. He was very good with a friendly easy going manner. He would get my vote for being given more trips!
B.M.
Cheshire
Peters knowledge of the local area, birds and butterflies were excellent. Hotel - excellent. Madame’s cooking - superb.
R.B.
Somerset
David's profound knowledge of dragonflies, butterflies and bugs was a treat and very educational.
A.D.
Surrey
I really enjoyed this trip, the area was very interesting in terms of the habitats and birds and creatures that live there. The guides David and Ian were very knowledgeable and friendly, helping us to see lots of different birds and dragonflies. The accommodation at the hotel was comfortable and the food was excellent - both the dinners and the picnics! A very enjoyable and informative trip.
A.F.
Hertfordshire
The brochure provided accurate and detailed information about the trip and gave a clear idea of what was involved. Pre-departure information and tickets arrived promptly and the service provided by office staff was efficient. The hotel was comfortable and unpretentious and the food was terrific! Both of the leaders, Peter and Ian, took trouble to ensure that the less experienced and eagle-eyed among us saw the birds immediately obvious to the experts and this was much appreciated. The group atmosphere was very congenial and the leaders contributed to this in no small part. I enjoyed the holiday very much and would go on another Naturetrek holiday. I think the holiday was good value because of having small groups with two leaders.
M.G.
Cambridgeshire
Peter Dunn is a first class leader and made the holiday a total pleasure. Ian Nicholson - his first trip, a good all rounder. His people skills were very good.
H.L.
Kent
The leaders were excellent, and willing to share their enthusiasm and expertise.
B.G.
Surrey
I thoroughly enjoyed the trip - the two leaders Ian and James were excellent.
T.B.
Surrey
It was not obvious that [Ian] was taking his first trip. He was quietly assertive, confident in his observation and identification of birds and a very safe driver. I would look forward to seeing him again on a future trip. All things considered an excellent team.



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DeparturesAvailableCost

Wed 2nd May 2018 - Sun 6th May 2018

YES

£995

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

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

Land only cost: £895 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Sun 6th May 2018 - Thu 10th May 2018

YES

£995

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

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

Land only cost: £895 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: France

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Tom Mabbett
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Tour Reviews

This holiday was lead by brilliant guides who knew the area, knew the birds in flight (+ sitting!) and had tremendous sense of humour!
D.H., Spring 2016