Why not join me on one of the following tours? Activate the link to read more about each tour on the Greentours website.
Tanzania's Eastern Arc Mountains are stuffed with endemic taxa, in 2012 we found the incredibly attractive Hyperolius reesi. This frog is endemic to eastern slopes of Udzungwa Mountains and adjacent areas of the Kilombero Valley.
We also photographed Notogomphus zernyi for the first time ever below the Kitulo plateau. Epic!
- Tanzania in January- a tour that focuses on two of Tanzania’s most beautiful national parks, the rainforests of Udzungwa and the flower-filled highland grasslands of Kitulo, renowned for their orchids. Both offer a rich and beautiful flora as well as a fascinating and diverse fauna, this including an impressive array of primates and smaller mammals as well as Africa’s better known species. Birds, butterflies, dragonflies, amphibians and reptiles will also feature strongly – in short, a celebration of Southern Tanzania’s fantastically varied natural history, the big and the small, the brilliant and the bizarre.
Although the Andalucia tour has a strong botanical flavour, I will be endeavouring to find as many birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates as possible! [Photo by Terry Underhill]
- Andalucia in March - a serenely beautiful province, with multi-coloured hills rising from the deep blue Mediterranean to the wild mountainous heart of the Serrania de Ronda. Our base for the first week is one of Andalucia’s most beautiful ‘white villages’, peaceful Benaojan, perfectly situated close to the old stone town of Ronda. The centre-piece of the first week will be three visits to the splendid limestone cliffs and forests of the Biosphere Reserve in the Sierra de Grazalema. During the second week we’ll enjoy world-famous Coto Doñana then explore the rich Mediterranean littoral and the colourful hills of Alcornocales National Park which rise behind.
- SW Turkey in March/April - a chance to explore the limestone mountains of this area of Turkey. Seda will be tackling the wonderful flora of the area whilst I will be enjoying spring bird migration as well as digging out the available mammals, amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates.
- Crete in (April) - this tour is timed to coincide with a truly spectacular spring floral display with great swathes of colour that sit cheek by jowl with wonderful scenery and famed archeological sites. Our main base is the peaceful old village of Spili, beautifully situated under the great limestone ramparts of Kedros Mountain. Close by is the centre-piece of our holiday, the orchid and bulb rich plateau of the Gious-Kambos. We aim to see some forty species of orchid during the tour, including some of the rarest and most beautiful in Europe. Later we explore the magnificent White Mountains. We then pass through the Imbros Gorge, where we will look for flowering Paeonia clusii, and on to stay two nights in a comfortable hotel on the Omalos, a high mountain-rimmed plateau inhabited by lammergeiers and Kri-kri (the endemic Cretan wild goat).
- Kyrgyzia (June)- over 90% of Kyrgizia lies above the top of the
UK’s highest mountain! Independent after the collapse of Soviet rule in
Central Asia, this stunningly beautiful country never actually existed
before the Soviet Union, rather it was invented (as an autonomous
region) in the 1920s by Stalin. Perhaps not surprising then that few of
us know much about this land of alpine lakes, fast-flowing rivers,
rolling steppelands, conifer forests and rare walnut forests that lie
between the arms of the giant snow-capped peaks of the Celestial
Unlike neighbouring Kazakhstan it is easy to explore many high passes
by road in Kyrgyzia.
We’ll come across many reminders of the Silk Road during our visit, most notably the wonderful 15th century caravanserai of Tash Rabat. Though small, Tash Rabat is remarkably intact, and in the most stunning landscape. We’ll visit petroglyphs of stark beauty. A new tour for 2013 I cannot wait to get out there with Chris!
- Lapland (July) - a tour based around Abisko NP which often gets the vote from botanists and birders as one of the very best natural sites in Lapland. It seems that the entire northern Swedish flora is jostling for space on Njolta Mountain which rises immediately behind our hotel. It looks a long way to the top so it’s a fine thing to have a working ski lift whisk us to 900m above sea level. The dry tundra is the nesting habitat for elegant Long-tailed Skuas and overflown by merlin and rough-legged buzzard. Bluethroats and bramblings nest by our hotel, whilst slavonian grebes and immaculate black-throated divers rear their young on Tornetrask’s still waters. Red-necked phalaropes spin on boggy pools home to Aeshna caerulea and we might get lucky with Somatochlora alpestris. Snow Bunting and Reindeer should be seen as we explore the magnificent glaciated Trollsjön Valley where pale arctic clouded yellows and cranberry blues fly amongst dwarf cornel and a fine show of wild azalea. If like me you enjoy Arctic landscapes and fauna and flora, and prefer to spend as little time as possible travelling, then this tour is for you. It is barely an hour to Abisko from the airport at Kiruna and you’ll spend the entire week thereafter less than an hour’s drive from the hotel.
The scenery is a huge draw on the Copper Canyon tour.
- Copper Canyon (Sept/Oct). Everything about the Copper Canyon invites superlatives. One
can trot out all sorts of facts and figures, but the simple fact is that
it is mind-bogglingly impressive. There are hardly any roads in these
wild and largely untouched mountains, only the extraordinary Chihuahua
Pacific Railway, one of the world’s wonders of engineering. A highlight
will be our journey aboard the 'Chepe', a first class viewing train that
will take us from subtropical Sinaloa eight thousand feet up into the
Sierra Madre in a series of improbable switchbacks, until rivers gleam
like silver necklaces far below. The deepest of these canyons has a
vertical drop of six thousand feet!
Delightful old colonial El Fuerte nestles amid subtropical riverine
forest, cactus forests stretching to the foot of the sierras, and dry
cactus desert descending to westward shores, all home to a dazzling
diversity of wildlife. There’s ctenosaurs, roseate and filigree skimmers, giant swallowtails, redrump tarantulas, and abundant birdlife
such as plain-capped starthroat and fabulous black-throated magpie jay.
Clouds of mud-puddling butterflies erupt from paths, indeed we’ll see
well over a hundred species of butterfly on the trip, though it’s their
abundance that is most striking.
We’ll seek Tarahumara axolotls in streams as pipevine swallowtail and brilliant red-faced warbler, flame–coloured tanager and magnificent hummingbird fly about us. Rare thick-billed parrots and military macaws overfly waterfalls descending hundreds of feet into the canyons where we’ll find quaint Batopilas, an old silver-mining town surrounded by endemic-rich West Mexican thorn forests where we’ll see the amazing white morpho, mexican dartwhite, happy wren and flammulated flycatcher, and even bug-eyed leopard frog! The wide open sky-grasslands and mesquite deserts of Chihuahua host greater roadrunners, jack-rabbits, and abundant reptiles such as the ornate tree lizard, which doesn’t live in trees, and the Texas horned toad, a most extraordinary beast who is definitely not a toad!
On the 'Roof of the world' tour Pallas's cat is the target mammal in the mountains and the extension offers a very good chance of seeing the delightful red panda in Sichuan.
- Mammals of the Roof of the World - China (October) with Jesper Hornskov. George Schaller’s seminal book on the hidden wilderness of
the Chang Tang told of a region that few of us would have imagined we
could visit, but twenty-five years after its publication we can explore
the majestic snowy peaks and wide open high altitude plains that are
home to some of the world’s most spectacular and rarely seen mammals.
The uniquely adapted Tibetan antelope or chiru, thrives in this
extraordinary landscape alongside herds of kiang, an elegant two-tone Equid,
and great hairy wild yaks. Jesper has conducted no less
than forty-five trips to the region and has pioneered the vast majority
of the sites you’ll visit. Indeed he has even seen snow leopard on one
of these passes but seeing this ultimate high altitude cat on this tour
would still be an exceptional piece of luck. However another cat is one
of our main targets and whilst a sighting is not guaranteed, it is
highly likely – the beautiful Pallas’s cat. This fantastic ball of fur
stakes out pika colonies and so we’ll do the same…
Other predators include Tibetan foxes, mountain weasel, steppe polecat and Asian badger, but most exciting will be encounters with Tibetan wolves. We expect to see these on more than one occasion and have a reasonable chance that we’ll witness a hunt or see them at a kill. The high mountain passes have herds of blue sheep, the windswept ridges above the Chang Tang herds of argali, and in narrow gorges we’ll seek Chinese serow. This is a good trip for deer with white-lipped, alpine musk deer, MacNeill’s red deer and Gansu red deer all likely, and an exceptional one for gazelle. We’ll see herds of Tibetan gazelle, whilst goitred gazelle are rarer, and the highly endangered Przevalski’s has been recently found by our guide in an accessible location. Though this tour will concentrate strongly on the mammals there is much of cultural and landscape interest, and some superb birding too. Some of the avian highlights will be Szechenyi’s monal partridge, white-eared pheasant, Tibetan sandgrouse, Pallas’s sandgrouse, black-necked crane, Henderson’s ground-jay, both Przelwalski’s and Roborovski’s rosefinches, Kozlov’s bunting, giant laughingthrush and the lovely crested tit-warbler.
An extension takes us high into the mammal-rich forests, meadows and mountains of Laba He in Sichuan. At this season red pandas gorge themselves on small fruiting trees and are incredibly approachable, we should have hours of close observation and photographic opportunity with these incredibly cute animals. We’ll also see long-tailed goral, Tibetan macaques, and the fabulous golden takin as well as birds such as great parrotbills, Temminck’s tragopan and the stunning Lady Amherst’s pheasant.
The most iconic mammal in the world? Temporarily there is no access to the panda reserves of China but we are hoping that this will change in time for the autumn 2013 tour.
- Hopefully the Pandas of the Qinling Mountains (October/November) will be available once again in 2013, fingers crossed. This tour is physically demanding but well-worth the effort! The Qinling Mountains form the watershed between the Yangtze and the Yellow River. Perhaps this position, always the boundary, is the reason why these mountains are covered in forests that are still totally pristine. For not only are the Qinling Mountains home to some of the most biologically rich temperate forests on Earth, they also have some of the most unspoilt. Autumn sees the Acers, wingnuts and a rich array of deciduous trees blanket the slopes in a riot of colour. This is quintessential China, where liquidambar still flourishes above an understorey of rhododendrons and bamboo. The highest density of wild giant pandas lives in these beautiful mountains, some 200-300 out of a wild world population of a thousand or so animals. Researchers at Foping have for many years been studying these extraordinary animals and now know a great deal about their daily lives and habits, to such an extent that they can now show them to us. Every day experienced researchers will track the pandas, and when they locate them they will try and get us into position to see them. Recent experience suggests that they find them almost every day, but that getting us into position is not always so easy! Nonetheless with a week inside the reserve we can expect to see them on more than one occasion and have a good chance of seeing them for an extended period at close enough range to obtain good photographs. There are other fantastic mammals here. Fruiting trees attract the beautiful snub-nosed golden monkey and red & white giant flying squirrel, the world’s largest flying squirrel. We’ll look for goral, forest musk deer, and the extraordinary golden takin, a strange beast rather akin to musk oxen but with a shaggy golden fleece and a fierce temper. This is the best time of year to see Asiatic black bear but a sighting will be a bonus! Golden pheasants (everything seems golden here, even the liquidambar leaves), Temminck’s tragopans, red-billed blue magpies, white-crowned forktails, stunning golden-breasted fulvettas and various laughingthrushes and parrotbills, are some of exotic birds we’ll encounter. The rare crested ibis has one of its few remaining sites nearby and we’ll take time out to enjoy some of the region’s many cultural highlights, notably the terracotta warriors in Xi’an.
Golden bamboo lemurs, just one of the many lemur species that should be encountered on the tour to Madagascar in 2013
- I am very excited about the prospect of visiting Madagascar with the excellent Callan Cohen in November 2013. Madagascar is often referred to as the eighth continent. It
is perhaps most famous for its endearing lemurs, but also boasts six
endemic bird families, one of the most diverse floras in the world, and
the world’s largest and smallest chameleons. I for one will be madly photographing all the dragonflies too if there is time!
On this tour we’ll explore the tropical south western coast where awesome baobabs and octopus trees form the unique ‘spiny forest’. The spectacular sandstone rock formation of Isalo National Park, home to the iconic Ring tailed Lemur, is sure to be another highlight. The nearby Canyon des Makis is home to the beautiful Verreaux’s sifaka. Zombitse’s dry deciduous forests are home to giant coua, rufous vanga, and the really very strange-looking Madagascar cuckoo-roller! Twelve species of lemur inhabit Ranomafana, Madagascar’s premier mid-altitude rainforest reserve. At night we can get up close to improbably tiny mouse lemurs while predatory fanalokas pose for photos. Endemic bird species include Yellow-browed oxylabes, Henst’s goshawk, Pollen’s vanga and the rare yellow-bellied sunbird asity. Ten thousand hectares of primary rainforest is protected at Andasibe-Mantadia, home to the spectacular diadem sifaka. The birds are amazing too with many of the island’s most sought-after species such as velvet asity, red forest fody and the fabulous pitta-like ground-roller. Mantadia is home to the garrulous black-and-white ruffed lemur, colourful Parson’s chameleon, stunningly cryptic forest-floor stump-tailed chameleon, and the wonder that is the lance-nosed chameleon whose extraordinary nose appendage can be green and blue, tipped with blood red!
Olive Ridley's are the most commonly encountered turtles on an autumn Mexican tour dedicated to watching these fascinating reptiles on the nesting beaches. The tour also visits the lovely Laguna Maria, a wildlife paradise on the slopes of Volcán de Fuego, a fourteen thousand foot volcano given to emitting substantial and very picturesque puffs of smoke!
- and finally a partly nocturnal trip spending some time watching egg-laying turtles in Mexico in November/December. Each autumn one of the natural world’s most amazing spectacles takes place on the deserted sandy beaches of Michoacán’s coast. Thankfully the ‘Blue Coast’ has yet to see much development, it is still a wild and unpopulated region where mountains rise steeply from the Pacific shore. As the warm winter sun drops towards the ocean waves, the first turtles emerge, and as dusk approaches, out come more, eventually hundreds, until the beach starts to resemble something from the D-Day landings.