VENTflash #191: 2016 Alaska Tour Discounts & Spitsbergen September 03, 2015

Posted by Victor Emanuel


Victor Emanuel

Victor Emanuel started birding in Texas 70 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,

The summer of 2015 will long be remembered as one of our best Alaska tour years ever. This year we offered five tours to Alaska, all of which either were full or almost full. As always, our tours were filled with great sightings of birds and mammals, and replete with scenic wonders.

The scenery in Kenai Fjords is some of the best anywhere in the world. Generally there is a 360-degree panorama of awe-inspiring views.

Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska — Photo: Barry Zimmer

Although we still have not reached the end of summer, I’m informing you that our 2016 schedule of Alaska tours has been set. I am pleased to announce that early registration discounts are available on all of our 2016 Alaska tours, representing significant savings.

Speaking of the far north, I also want you to know that for the first time in several years, VENT will travel to the High Arctic destination of Spitsbergen in the summer of 2016. This trip will be led by international owl expert and naturalist Denver Holt.

In this issue:



I am pleased to announce a suite of early registration discounts on our 2016 Alaska tours. Discounts of $500/person are available on registrations we receive by December 1, 2015 for our Grand Alaska: Gambell/Nome, Grand Alaska Part I, Grand Alaska Part II, and Alaska Highlights tours, and $250/person for our Barrow Extension tour.

Northern Hawk Owl, Glenn Highway, Alaska, June 19, 2012

Northern Hawk Owl, Alaska — Photo: Kevin Zimmer

For anyone who loves birds, nature, and dramatic landscapes, a trip to Alaska is as good as it gets. For nearly 35 years, VENT has offered tours to Alaska, a destination unrivaled in North America for its combination of great birding, wildlife, and scenery. Our Alaska tour leaders Kevin Zimmer, Barry Zimmer, and Brian Gibbons are terrific guides who excel at showing participants Alaskan specialty birds in addition to many of the state’s other natural wonders. These leaders are among the best in the business at finding highly-sought birds such as Bristle-thighed Curlew, Northern Hawk Owl, Spruce Grouse, Bluethroat, Arctic Warbler, and many other great birds. Over the years, our Alaska tours have also recorded an extraordinary list of Asian rarities including Little Curlew, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Hawfinch, and others.

In June 2016, VENT will again operate five Alaska tours. These trips cover the full gamut of Alaska’s best birding and wildlife areas.

Grand Alaska: Gambell/Nome, June 2-10, 2016 with Kevin Zimmer and Brian Gibbons; $5,295 in double occupancy from Anchorage (internal flights included). Register by December 1 and pay $4,795. Combine this tour with Grand Alaska Part I for an additional discount of $500 in double occupancy or $750 in single occupancy.

Another shot of the Bluethroat in full song.

Bluethroat, Nome, Alaska — Photo: Barry Zimmer

Any trip to the Gambell/Nome area is filled with excitement. Early June, however, is the best time to visit these remote outposts. Highlights include cliffs filled with nesting seabirds, and lakes, ponds, and Arctic tundra host breeding raptors, shorebirds, jaegers, buntings, longspurs, and more. The spectacle of thousands of breeding and migrating birds makes for one of North America’s most sensational birding experiences. And there is always the possibility that rare vagrant birds from Asia will be seen on this trip. As evidence, our 2015 tour produced sightings of Common Ringed-Plover, Lesser Sand-Plover, Wood and Terek sandpipers, Slaty-backed Gull, Dovekie, and “Siberian” Chiffchaff!

Grand Alaska Part I: Nome & the Pribilofs, June 9-18, 2016 with Kevin Zimmer and Brian Gibbons; $6,995 in double occupancy from Anchorage (internal flights included). Register by December 1 and pay $6,495. Combine this tour with Gambell/Nome for an additional discount of $500 in double occupancy or $750 in single occupancy.

This tour focuses on two of the most exciting birding areas in Alaska: Nome and the Pribilof Islands. We will emphasize finding Alaskan specialty birds and mammals in Nome, such as Bluethroat, Bristle-thighed Curlew, and Musk-Ox, while the Pribilof Islands offer an incomparable seabird experience. Thousands of Least, Crested, and Parakeet auklets, Thick-billed and Common murres, Horned and Tufted puffins, and Northern Fulmars nest along its towering cliffs and can be observed almost within touching distance, as can Red-faced Cormorants and Black-legged and Red-legged kittiwakes. Resident land birds include Rock Sandpiper, Pacific Wren, Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, Lapland Longspur, and Snow Bunting. With luck, we may even turn up an unexpected Siberian vagrant or two.

Grand Alaska Part II: Anchorage, Denali Highway & Kenai Peninsula, June 18-26, 2016 with Kevin Zimmer and Brian Gibbons; $4,095 in double occupancy from Anchorage. Register by December 1 and pay $3,595.

We spent an entire day inside Denali National Park enjoying birds, mammals, and scenery, such as this shot near Polychrome Pass.

Denali National Park, Alaska — Photo: Barry Zimmer

We will seek the many special breeding birds of south coastal and interior Alaska, with excellent opportunities for seeing many of Alaska’s iconic mammals, as well as some of the most spectacular scenery that the continent has to offer.

Alaska Highlights, June 15-26, 2016 with Barry Zimmer and a second leader to be announced; $6,895 in double occupancy from Anchorage (internal flights included). Register by December 1 and pay $6,395.

This tour offers a complete cross section of birds, showcasing three very different areas: the rugged hills, tundra, and seacoast around the old gold-rush boomtown of Nome; breathtaking Kenai Fjords National Park and the adjacent Kenai Peninsula; and the sprawling wilderness in the shadow of majestic Denali (Mount McKinley), North America’s highest peak.

Alaska: Barrow Extension, June 26-28, 2016 with Kevin Zimmer and Barry Zimmer; $2,395 in double occupancy from Anchorage (internal flights included). Register by December 1 and pay $2,145.

Red Phalarope

Red Phalarope, Barrow, Alaska — Photo: Kevin Zimmer

This short tour to the shores of the Beaufort Sea offers participants a taste of the true High Arctic. Traveling beyond the ranges of any of our other Alaskan tours, you’ll experience the thrill of seeing four species of eiders on their breeding grounds—including the rare Steller’s and Spectacled eiders, Red Phalarope, and Snowy Owl. Polar Bears are seen on some trips. Note this extension may be taken either with our Grand Alaska or Alaska Highlights tour.

Please visit our website and view the descriptions, tour reports, and field lists from our 2015 tours. We have already received interest in our 2016 tours, and I urge you to contact us soon to take advantage of this special opportunity to save on your trip to this extraordinary destination.

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Complementing our Alaska tours, in June 2016 we will operate a birding and natural history cruise to Spitsbergen. Situated on the other side of the globe, Spitsbergen is a destination often described as the world’s greatest place to experience the High Arctic.

Passengers in Zodiac, Spitsbergen

Passengers in Zodiac, Spitsbergen — Photo: Stewart Cohen

Our voyage, Spitsbergen: Land of the Ice Bears, June 4-14, 2016, will provide encounters with some of the Arctic’s most exciting wildlife including Polar Bears, Walrus, and Ivory Gulls, in addition to remarkable natural features such as calving glaciers and sea ice. We will travel with Lindblad Expeditions aboard the National Geographic Explorer, one of the finest expedition vessels available, on which VENT has reserved space.

In case you are unaware of Spitsbergen, it is an island in the Svalbard Archipelago located due north of Norway and sitting only 600 miles from the North Pole. People are traveling to this destination in ever-increasing numbers, partly because of the remarkable wildlife and scenic wonders found there, and partly because of the attention on Polar Bears in this time of climatic change. In fact, Spitsbergen may be the best place in the world to see Polar Bears. One of our more recent expeditions (2012) recorded an amazing 33 of the great white bears. Other wildlife we’ll seek includes Walrus and Ivory Gull, as well as nesting Pink-footed and Barnacle geese, King Eider, Red Phalarope, Purple Sandpiper, Great Skua, Atlantic Puffin, Black Guillemot, and blizzards of Dovekies. 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.

Polars Bears, Spitsbergen

Polars Bears, Spitsbergen — Photo: Brian Gibbons

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.

In addition to an outstanding Lindblad staff, this trip will be led by VENT leader Denver Holt, an internationally recognized owl expert, and a first-rate naturalist.

I hope you will join us on this fine departure.

Spitsbergen: Land of the Ice Bears, June 4-14, 2016 with Denver Holt; cabins begin at $9,830 per person in double occupancy from Oslo.

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Although we are not yet into the fall season, writing about Alaska and the High Arctic already has me looking forward to our tours there next summer. If you are considering a “Far North” tour next year, I hope you will join one of these marvelous VENT departures.

In the meantime, the autumn is one of my favorite times of the year, and I will celebrate the onset of the season in Eastern Europe where, next week, I will lead our inaugural tour to Hungary & the Czech Republic: a Birds & Music tour from Budapest to Prague.