Wildlife Holiday News

News in Brief: India, Sri Lanka, France, South America, Spain, and The Gambia

Read about highlights from recent tours to India, Sri Lanka, France, South America, The Gambia and Spain …

In India …

‘Our “Unknown India – Tadoba & Satpura” tour provided an insight into some of the finest Tiger Reserves in central India,’ writes tour leader Kaustubh Mulay.

‘Firstly, we visited the dry deciduous and bamboo forests of Tadoba, where we took six safaris into the park and had some very interesting sightings of Tigers and Sloth Bear, as well as some great birding opportunities. From here, we drove through the countryside into Pench Tiger Reserve, where the open woods of the forests provided us with some superb Leopard and Jackal sightings, and we also had an opportunity to watch vultures for the first time on this tour.

Satpura was excellent, with the group enjoying some great Sloth Bear sightings. There were also really good birding opportunities, especially when we were exploring the backwaters by boat, which is an experience not to be missed! The diversity of landscapes in this area offers a wide variety of bird and mammal species. On the large lake we found hundreds of migratory waterfowl, while the farmlands and bamboo scrub forests attract a lot of grassland and dry habitat birds and mammals.

The lodges used for this tour are outstanding, both in terms of their location and their hospitality. Add to that the delicious food which was served for every meal, the stunning scenery and the diverse wildlife and you have all the ingredients for a memorable holiday in this largely under-visited part of India.’ 

Our next available ‘Unknown India – Tadoba & Satpura’ tour departs on 12th November 2019 and costs £3,395. For more information, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Rajan Jolly on 01962 733051.

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Tiger

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Sloth Bear

In Sri Lanka …

‘Our “Sri Lanka – Wildlife & History” tour saw a total of 235 species of birds, 28 mammal species and 16 species of reptiles and amphibians (including the Blue Whale extension),’ writes tour leader Dhanushka Samarasinghe.

‘One of the highlights of the tour occurred on our way to the Cinnamon Wild Yala Hotel, after a day’s safari searching for Leopards at Lunugamvehera National Park. We had given up hope of finding Leopard that day when suddenly, to our surprise, a female Leopard appeared on the side of the road, quite close to our coach! With our headlights on, we were able to see the cat clearly as she walked across the road just a few feet away from our coach, disappearing into the thick foliage within a few minutes. Further down the road we came across a large Mugger Crocodile dragging a carcass in the river, not too far from our hotel premises.

Another highlight was being able to see a pack of Golden Jackals playing round our jeep in Udawalawe National Park, which was exhilarating; to add to the excitement, we came across a herd of Asian Elephants not too far from where we saw the Jackals. The Elephants at one point were so close to our safari jeep that we could see them eye to eye!’

Our next available ‘Sri Lanka – Wildlife & History’ tour departs on 22nd March 2019 and costs £3,195. For more information, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Rajan Jolly on 01962 733051.

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Leopard

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Asian Elephants

In France …

Our brand new ‘France – Wallcreepers and the Camargue’ holiday has just returned and both groups enjoyed great success. Here tour leader Neil McMahon explains the highlights …

‘Our first destination on both tours was the reserve of Marais de Vigueirat, where we enjoyed an excellent selection of birds including Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, lots of Water Pipits, Western Swamphen, egrets, Green Sandpiper and Hen Harrier! The Camargue White Horses watched over us as we tried to espy calling Kingfishers, Cetti's Warblers and more Firecrests. The White Storks were much easier to see, as were Marsh Harrier and plenty of Coypus. It was so warm we even saw dragonflies and butterflies, including Clouded Yellow and Wall Brown. 

After a ferry trip over the Rhone, we headed for the saltpans and beach in an area known as Piemanson. Here we watched flocks of Greater Flamingoes, waders including Avocets and Little Stints, a variety of gulls, good numbers of Black-necked Grebes, Sandwich Terns and further individuals of both Marsh and Hen Harrier. Flocks of calling Common Cranes were very special indeed!

During both tours we visited the limestone hill settlement of Les Baux-de-Provence with our main target in mind. Walking around the footpath at the base of the cliffs, Sardinian Warblers and Cirl Buntings were heard, together with pirouetting Crag Martins. Entering the citadel at the town’s summit the wonderful Wallcreeper was found! The pristine Wallcreeper flitted along both wall and cliff and perched for some time preening in the autumn sunshine, allowing stunning views and photo opportunities. Everyone enjoyed the exquisite beauty and uniqueness of this very special bird!

We also visited the historic Pont du Gard, a popular tourist venue but also good for birds too! We sauntered down to the magnificent Roman Aqueduct spanning the river, seeing a Booted Eagle, yet more Black Redstarts and Firecrests. A Kingfisher fished the river below us, with Blackcaps and Sardinian Warblers calling from all around. Rock Sparrows came in to roost on the aqueduct itself and to finish the day off in style, a Wallcreeper flew in and interacted with the sparrows and ever-present Black Redstarts!’

Our next ‘France – Wallcreepers and the Camargue’ tour departs on 18th November 2019 and costs £895. For more information, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Tom Mabbett on 01962 733051.

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Wallcreeper (Neil McMahon)

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Firecrest (Neil McMahon)

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Camargue White Horse (Neil McMahon)

In South America …

‘Our “South America’s Big Cats” group has recently returned from a truly remarkable adventure at the far end of the globe,’ writes tour leader Keith Buchanan.

‘The journey down to the tip of South America was an adventure in itself but eventually we found ourselves standing on the edge of the Magellan Straits, in Punta Arenas, looking across at the legendary Tierra del Fuego; but that was just the beginning! We travelled north through the Patagonian steppe – a strange flat landscape of low vegetation, our journey punctuated by sudden, exciting appearances by a gigantic Andean Condor overhead or Rheas feeding by the side of the road. Many other new bird species, such as the elegant Coscoroba Swan, were also seen on this journey north to the Torres del Paine National Park.

This was the start of a week spent amongst breathtaking scenery, with the pinnacles of ‘The Horns’ and ‘The Three Towers’ always visible on the horizon. Our main goal, however, was a big cat – the elusive Puma. Although found all over the Americas, this is the best place to see them because of their relatively high density and the open landscape. In the three and a half days we concentrated on Puma, we saw these majestic cats on every occasion: nine different individuals, found by our amazing Puma tracker, Jorge. Our group was also able to enjoy wonderful sightings of Pumas stalking, playing, sleeping and walking, including a female who walked past us less than 7 metres away!

However, this was only the first half of our trip! We transferred from Chile where it was, well, chilly, to a hot and humid Brazil in search of our second big cat, the mighty Jaguar. This involved a bumpy trip down the Transpantaneira highway, the gateway to the Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland. Progress was slow as there was wildlife to be seen constantly on both sides of the road, whether it was Capybaras and Yacare Caiman lounging in the wet pools, or glorious birds like the Yellow-rumped Caciques with their hanging nests. Once ensconced on our comfortable floating hotel, however, the search was on! Travelling on small boats, we encountered awesome Jaguars along the edges of the water channels, hunting both from the bank and whilst swimming. Undeterred by our presence on the boat they were no more than metres away. Six different individuals were seen over the next few days, interspersed with numerous sightings of Giant River Otter and, of course, many bird species including the Hyacinth Macaw, the world’s largest parrot, with two beautiful Ocelots, one of the smaller cats, also enjoyed. What a wildlife adventure!’

Our next ‘South America’s Big Cats’ tour departs on 30th September 2019 and costs £7,595. For more information, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Tom Mabbett on 01962 733051.

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Puma

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Jaguar

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Giant Otter

In Spain …

Extremadura in Winter

This nature-packed trip was typified by its soundtrack of lark song, with four different species – Crested, Calandra, Thekla, and Skylark – competing for the airwaves,’ writes tour leader Simon Tonkin.

‘Masses of both Pin-tailed and Black-bellied Sandgrouse circled overhead, whilst the plains were filled with huge Great Bustards and also provided several encounters with Little Bustards. The rock monoliths of Monfragüe provided up-close personal views of Griffon and Cinereous Vultures, even as Crag Martins and Blue Rock Thrushes vied for our attention. Raptor highlights included unrivalled views of Spanish Imperial, Golden and Bonelli’s Eagles, while the more diminutive but no less stunning Black-winged Kite provided a fitting end to this wonderful early winter trip, based at the superb Viña las Torres in the heart of Extremadura.’

Our next ‘Extremadura in Winter’ tour departs on 14th February 2019 and costs £1,395. For more information, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Andy Tucker on 01962 733051.

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Spanish Imperial Eagle

Ronda & The Strait of Gibraltar

This exciting and varied tour ranged from the craggy heights of Andalucía´s Serranía de Ronda mountains to wetlands and salt pans along its windswept and beautiful coastline, via plains, farmland and Cork Oak forests; taking time to visit the historic city of Ronda en route,’ writes tour leader Niki Williamson. 

‘From the quirky and fabulous blue village of Jùzcar, we explored the limestone peaks and enjoyed Black Wheatears, Blue Rock Thrushes, Rock Petronia, Rock and Cirl Buntings, Spanish Ibex, Bonelli´s Eagle, Crag Martins, Griffon Vultures and hundreds of Red-billed Chough, returning each evening to enjoy the exceptional cuisine of our hotel´s Cordon Bleu-trained chef.

Our arrival in the Strait allowed us to get up close to three distinct avian migration spectacles, witnessing the struggles of Griffon Vultures crossing south to Africa, while thousands of House Sparrows and Goldfinches twittered past us just overhead, and around 3,000 Cory´s Shearwaters an hour headed west to the Atlantic. Other highlights that accompanied these mind-blowing experiences were views of Spanish Imperial, Booted, Short-toed and Bonelli´s Eagle, Black-winged Kite, Hen and Marsh Harrier, Northern Bald Ibis, Rüppell´s and Egyptian Vulture, Audouin’s Gull, Bluethroat, Penduline Tit, Firecrest, Short-toed Treecreeper, and some exciting Spanish rarities in the form of a Yellow-browed Warbler and a Sociable Plover.’

Our next ‘Spain – Ronda & The Strait of Gibraltar’ tour departs on 4th November 2019 and costs £1,395. For more information, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Andy Tucker on 01962 733051.

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Iberian Ibex

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Black-winged Kite

The Best of Coto Doñana in Winter

‘From our base in the quirky, sand-covered, Wild West-style streets of El Rocío, we experienced the very best of wintery Doñana in early November, watching the sun rise and set over wading deer, large congregations of Greater Flamingoes, Black-winged Stilts and rafts of dabbling ducks on the picturesque village-edge lagoon,’ writes tour leader Niki Williamson. 

‘We encountered many avian delights on the area´s ricefields, lagoons and pools including Marbled Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Black-necked Grebes, Purple Swamphens, Little Bittern, Bluethroat and Penduline Tits. Most memorable, however, were the mind-blowing numbers of wintering birds, including huge airborne flocks of thousands of Glossy Ibis and Greater Flamingoes, adding a touch of the bizarre with their unfamiliar shapes. 

In the natural and national parks of Doñana we enjoyed views of five Spanish Imperial Eagles (one adult and four immature birds), as well as Black-winged Kites, Marsh and Hen Harriers, Booted and Short-toed Eagles, Iberian Grey Shrikes, Thekla Larks and Dartford Warblers. A truly magical morning in the woodlands of Acebron brought us into contact with Lesser and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crested and Long-tailed Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Firecrest and Woodlark. A relaxed, enjoyable break packed with a huge variety of habitats and birds!’

Our next ‘Best of Coto Doñana in Winter’ tour departs on 5th February 2019 and costs £1,095. For more information, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Andy Tucker on 01962 733051.

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Greater Flamingoes

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Short-toed Treecreeper

In The Gambia …

'In November twelve of us set off from a cold miserable London to sample the delight of a week in warm, sunny west Africa.  Landing in Banjul, we were met by friendly faces who ushered us onto our waiting bus for the short transfer to Mandina Lodges, nestling on an inlet of the mighty Gambia River.  Only 45 minutes from the airport, Mandina Lodges is set within the protected Makasutu Cultural Forest and sits on the mangrove covered bank of that huge river.  The individual lodges were delightful – some set in the forest, others floating on the water, all clustered round a lovely restaurant area and swimming pool,' writes tour leader Keith Buchanan.

'Having been briefed by Linda, our host, we soon set out on what would be a series of walks through the bird-rich local forests and mudflats.  These walks were interposed with short canoe trips, exploring the birdlife of the mangroves.  And not only birds: Nile Crocodiles lurked amongst the mangrove roots and Nile Monitor Lizards stalked the forest trails.  All around us colourful representatives of Gambia’s nearly 600 bird species assailed our senses.  Flocks of White-throated Bee-eaters descended on the swimming pool to drink each day and flocks of Red-billed Firefinches and Red-cheeked Cordon-bleus came down to drink along the boardwalks on the site.

On two days we had full days out, lunching in local restaurants, and able to explore more distant rice-fields and reserves where we found fascinating species such as the Black Heron with its "umbrella" display, and the elusive Western Red Colobus monkey.  But otherwise, the hot middle of the day was for relaxing and enjoying the pool, and reflecting on the 150 odd species that we had seen in our week: a thoroughly rewarding and relaxing birding adventure.'

Our 'Gambia in Style' tours depart from November to April, and prices start at £2,295. For more information, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Kerrie Porteous on 01962 733051.

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White-throated Bee-eater

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Black Heron