VENTflash #125 August 05, 2011

Posted by Victor Emanuel


Victor Emanuel

Victor Emanuel started birding in Texas 69 years ago at the age of eight. His travels have taken him to all the continents, with his areas of concentration being Texas, Ari...

Dear Friends,

As we close out the first week of August, I am pleased to report that our work on the new catalog of VENT tours has come to an end, and the finished product is now on its way to the printer! The completion of this project always represents a lot of work, but is an endeavor of which I am extremely proud. Through its pages, enticing descriptions of the places where VENT operates tours are accompanied by beautiful photographs from some of the world's top wildlife photographers. I hope you will find it as appealing as I do.

During our 2012 tour year, VENT will offer more than 140 departures to destinations all over the world. An ample assortment of land-based birding tours comprises the bulk of our offerings, but we will also operate a unique set of birding and natural history cruises, as well as a "birds and history" cruise to Greece.

Polar Bears, Spitsbergen

Polar Bears, Spitsbergen — Photo: K. David Bishop

Looking ahead to the summer of 2012, I am eagerly anticipating our cruise to the High Arctic destination of Spitsbergen. The central feature of Norway's Svalbard Archipelago, Spitsbergen is renowned for its tremendous scenery and wildlife spectacles. Among the anticipated highlights are sightings of polar bears, walrus, and Ivory Gulls. I will co-lead this trip for the first time and look forward to it immensely.

Nearer on the time horizon, we will operate a birding and natural history cruise to the remarkable Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand this fall. We have received notification from the cruise operator, Orion Expedition Cruises of Australia, that some discounted cabins are still available.

I hope you will join us on one of these departures or another VENT tour soon!

In this issue:



A few years ago, while on an expedition to Antarctica, I had a conversation with a staff member of the ship we were on who proclaimed that Spitsbergen was the world's greatest place to experience the High Arctic. His personal accounts of his visits to that far north destination seemed incredible. I was amazed at his descriptions of the scenery, the tundra, and the incredible wildlife spectacles he had witnessed, all of which painted a picture of a great unspoiled wilderness. Ever since that discussion, I have looked forward to visiting Spitsbergen so that I too could witness that region's remarkable wildlife pageants and scenic splendor.

National Geographic Explorer

National Geographic Explorer — Photo: Sven-Olof Lindblad

I am thrilled to announce that VENT is returning to Norway next summer for a voyage to Spitsbergen: Land of the Ice Bears, July 6-16, 2012. For this special departure, we will partner with Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic, two of the most respected names in expedition travel, on a birding and natural history cruise designed to produce sightings of the Arctic's most alluring wildlife including polar bears, walrus, and Ivory Gulls, in addition to remarkable natural features such as calving glaciers and expansive sea ice. We will travel aboard the National Geographic Explorer, one of the finest expedition vessels available, on which VENT has reserved an allotment of 40 spaces.

We are offering an early registration incentive for anyone who signs up for this departure before September 30, 2011. The incentive includes either a free extra hotel night in Oslo for anyone who wishes to come early or stay after the cruise, OR the option of receiving a $500 per person discount for those who take the Norway Pre-trip. This offer expires on September 30, at which time VENT must return its unsold cabins. If you have never heard of Spitsbergen, or wonder what makes this trip so special, I encourage you to view footage from a past "Land of the Ice Bears" expedition, footage that was created, produced, and uploaded to You Tube by Lindblad Expeditions.

The Svalbard Archipelago, including the island of Spitsbergen, is a region of incredible landscapes and seascapes. Located due north of the Norwegian mainland, Spitsbergen sits only 600 miles from the North Pole. The combination of spellbinding wildlife and scenic wonders—immense glaciers, sheets of pack-ice, snow-veiled mountains, deepwater fjords, and flower-covered tundra—provide an irresistible allure.

Walrus, Spitsbergen

Walrus, Spitsbergen — Photo: Sven-Olof Lindblad

Spitsbergen may be the best place in the world to see the magnificent polar bear, and the timing of our cruise is such that we anticipate multiple encounters with this remarkable animal. Our last expedition, in 2010, recorded an astonishing 25 great white bears! Other wildlife possibilities include walrus (hundreds seen at close range in 2010) and Ivory Gull (about 15 seen), as well as nesting Pink-footed and Barnacle geese, King Eider, Red Phalarope, Purple Sandpiper, Great Skua, all three jaeger species, Atlantic Puffin, Black Guillemot, Thick-billed Murre, and blizzards of Dovekies, in addition to the dainty Arctic fox and the distinctive "Svalbard" reindeer. Cruising at sea, we'll follow the boundary of the northern ice cap watching for a variety of marine mammals such as bearded and ringed seals, and blue, fin, and Beluga whales.

We will maximize our efforts to go ashore wherever possible to enjoy tundra ablaze with beautiful Arctic wildflowers. We will also make a number of Zodiac excursions in order to bring us closer to glaciers and colonies of breeding seabirds.

Veteran VENT leader David Bishop co-led our 2010 expedition and told me afterward that it was perhaps the greatest trip he had ever made, which is high praise from a man who has traveled all over the world.

I will co-lead our 2012 departure with Barry Lyon, in addition to a superb Lindblad staff.

Spitsbergen: Land of the Ice Bears, July 6-16, 2012 with Victor Emanuel and Barry Lyon; cabins begin at $8,240 in double occupancy from Oslo.

Our Norway Pre-trip, June 30-July 7, 2012, offers a marvelous pre-cruise option for participants interested in experiencing more of the country's birdlife and scenic grandeur. We will spend almost a week exploring the renowned mountains and fjords of the southwestern mainland and coast seeking an exciting assortment of northern European birds, including Arctic Loon, Eurasian Dotterel, White-tailed Eagle, White-backed Woodpecker, and Eurasian Bullfinch.

Norway Pre-trip, June 30-July 7, 2012; fee to be announced in double occupancy from Oslo.

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This fall VENT will participate in a birding and natural history cruise to the extraordinary Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand, October 22-November 7, 2011. The cruise operator, Orion Expedition Cruises, has informed us of a very special discount offer on the remaining Category A cabins.

MV Orion

MV Orion — Photo: Orion Expedition Cruises

If two people sharing a room reserve a Category A cabin, they will each receive a 25% discount off the original cabin fee of $11,300 in double occupancy. Specifically, a couple or two friends who register for a Category A cabin will each pay $8,475, which represents a savings of $2,825 per person! Please note that we already have a single female traveler willing to join the cruise if we can find her a roommate, and therefore qualify both travelers for the 25% discount.

Single travelers will pay the regular double occupancy fee, but will NOT be charged the single supplement. This represents a savings of $5,150 (original fee with single supplement was $16,450)!

This cruise covers a remote part of the world seldom visited by first-class small adventure cruise ships. We were delighted when Orion Expedition Cruises chose to schedule this departure, especially since we do not expect to offer this cruise again in the foreseeable future. As a result, this may be your last chance for many years to travel with VENT to see some of the world's rarest penguins and to enjoy what many consider the greatest seabirding experience in the world.

On this expedition, we will visit almost all of New Zealand's subantarctic island-groups, including the Chatham Islands, Bounty Islands, Antipodes Islands, Auckland Islands, Campbell Islands, and Macquarie Island. Cruising the Southern Ocean between Auckland, New Zealand, and Hobart, Tasmania, our voyage promises up to seven species of penguins, including "Eastern" Rockhopper, Erect-crested, Royal, Yellow-eyed, and Little penguins; an incredible fifteen species and subspecies of albatrosses, including the huge Wandering and Royal albatrosses, and dozens of other "tubenose" seabirds; a variety of native landbirds; four species of seals and sea lions; six endemic cormorants; a brilliant botanical diversity featuring the famed megaherbs; and magnificent wilderness seascapes. Additionally, a fine variety of dolphins and whales are found here as well, including hourglass dolphin, orca, long-finned pilot whale, sperm whale, and others.

To encourage registrations, we are offering a three-tier payment schedule that allows for deferment of final payment until 2012. The payment structure includes a $1,000 deposit at the time of registration, followed by half the remainder of the balance by October 1, 2011, and the full balance by June 1, 2012.

Royal & King Penguins, Macquarie Island

Royal & King Penguins, Macquarie Island— Photo: Orion Expedition Cruises

I will co-lead this cruise with Barry Lyon.

New Zealand's Subantarctic Islands, October 22-November 7, 2011 with Victor Emanuel and Barry Lyon; cabins begin at $11,300 in double occupancy from Auckland (ends in Hobart). Doubles who register now receive a 25% discount and pay $8,475/per person; singles pay the double occupancy rate with NO SINGLE SUPPLEMENT!

If you are interested in seeing more of the special birds and extraordinary scenery of New Zealand, I recommend our New Zealand North Island Pre-trip, October 17-24, 2011, where highlights include seeking endemic landbirds at Tiritiri Matangi preserve and Tongariro National Park; viewing endemic shorebird species at a wetland of international importance; and a Hauraki Gulf pelagic trip.

Over 40 species of birds and several bird families are found in New Zealand and nowhere else in the world. Our activities will center on finding as many of the specialties as our itinerary allows including New Zealand Dotterel, the unique Wrybill, New Zealand Bellbird, Saddleback, Kokako, Stitchbird, and Tui, in addition to a marvelous collection of seabirds, waterfowl, waders, gulls, and terns. Inland we'll bird the moist rainforests and tumbling rivers of the island's interior where Blue Duck, New Zealand Falcon, and Long-tailed Cuckoo await.

New Zealand: North Island Pre-trip, October 17-24, 2011 with Chris Gaskin; $2,365 in double occupancy from Auckland.

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Every time I am in a beautiful natural area, I am reminded how wonderful it is to spend time in such places. Few experiences in our lives are as rich and rewarding as being immersed in the natural world. I hope that you too have had a chance to spend time in nature this summer.

Best wishes,

Victor Emanuel