VENTflash #211: The American Tropics: So Near. So Wonderful December 15, 2016
Posted by Victor Emanuel
Much of the country is now experiencing harsh winter weather, with frigid temperatures, heavy snow, and ice prevailing from coast to coast. Although getting outdoors and into nature can indeed bring rewarding winter birding, the lack of avian diversity (in most places) and the uncomfortable conditions of the season are enough to keep many of us indoors much of the time.
Violet-bellied Hummingbird, Panama — Photo: Barry Zimmer
It is for this very reason that VENT offers its greatest number of tours to the American Tropics during the winter months. If you happen to live in a part of the country where the winter doldrums can get you down, there is nothing like spending a week or more in the Tropics to break the monotony of the season, surrounding yourself with a bounty of nature in a warm and sunny climate. We are fortunate in that an array of destinations in Central America and the Caribbean can be reached in about three hours from gateway departure cities such as Dallas, Houston, and Miami, and in about six hours on non-stop flights from Boston, Chicago, Newark, and New York City. In many cases, you can leave your home in the morning and reach your final destination in time to enjoy some late afternoon birding. Even South America, while further afield from home, offers the same opportunities for relief from winter. Seeing an array of dazzling parrots, trogons, tanagers, and hummingbirds in lush tropical settings is irresistibly alluring, adds color and excitement to your birding, and provides you with great memories.
I will never forget my first trip to the Tropics in December 1955, at age 15, with one of my mentors, Armand Yramategui, and my friend Carl Aiken. We participated in the Xilitla Christmas Bird Count in northeastern Mexico where I saw my first toucanets and parrots, and my “lifer” Blue-crowned Motmot (now known as Blue-capped Motmot) on Christmas Day. Stemming from that first trip, I have maintained a lifelong love of the birds, natural history, and ambience of the Tropics.
In this issue:
WINTER TOURS TO THE TROPICS WITH SPACES STILL AVAILABLE
VENT has been operating tours to the American Tropics for 40 years. We have superb tour leaders who know the birds and wildlife well and who excel at finding them and showing them to others. Our guides are eager to share with you their knowledge, enthusiasm, and stories. In the first three months of 2017, VENT will operate 29 trips to the American Tropics. Many tours are sold out, but a few spaces remain available on a number of departures. I hope you will join one of them. I know you will have a terrific time.
Central America & the Caribbean
Chan Chich Lodge, Belize — Photo: Courtesy Chan Chich Lodge
Our Best of Belize tour visits two sites: Crooked Tree and Chan Chich Lodge, arguably the two finest areas for birding in Belize. VENT has been taking tour groups to Chan Chich Lodge, a place that I consider among the finest jungle lodges anywhere, for over 20 years.
Best of Belize: Crooked Tree & Chan Chich, March 8-15, 2017 with Barry Zimmer; $4,795 in double occupancy from Belize City. 3 spaces available.
Our Short Costa Rica tour visits the two major areas of La Selva and Cerro de la Muerte, offering a wonderful contrast of lowland and highland bird species. Alternately, Best of Costa Rica presents a broader look at this marvelous country. In addition to La Selva and Cerro de la Muerte, you’ll visit the subtropical forests of Bosque de Paz and the bird-rich Pacific lowlands around Carara.
Short Costa Rica: Toucans to Quetzals, March 4-12, 2017 with David Wolf and Mimi Wolf; $3,795 in double occupancy from San José. 4 spaces available.
Best of Costa Rica, March 21-April 2, 2017 with David Wolf and Mimi Wolf; $5,295 in double occupancy from San José. 6 spaces available.
Emerald (Blue-throated) Toucanet, Costa Rica — Photo: David Ascanio
Our People-to-People program, operated in association with International Expeditions, presents a rare opportunity to observe Cuban birds, landscapes, and cities, and to interact with Cuban people. Heading into our fourth year of Cuba tours, our itineraries are increasingly honed to locate Cuba’s specialty birds while maintaining emphasis on important cultural and historical landmarks.
Cuba, February 7-18, 2017 with Brian Gibbons and a local leader; $6,358 in double occupancy from Miami. 6 spaces available.
Cuba, March 14-25, 2017 with David Ascanio and a local leader; $6,358 in double occupancy from Miami. 5 spaces available.
The Lodge at Pico Bonito is an enchanting setting from which to explore the forests and lowlands of Honduras’ Caribbean coast. Lovely scenery, hundreds of tropical birds, and superior amenities are hallmarks of this trip.
Honduras: The Lodge at Pico Bonito, March 4-11, 2017 with Brian Gibbons and a local leader; $3,495 in double occupancy from San Pedro Sula. 6 spaces available.
Perhaps the “hottest” destination in Central America, Panama really does have it all: solid infrastructure, highest quality accommodations and services, and marvelous birding. Our tour to the Bocas del Toro Archipelago features a stay at the peerless Tranquilo Bay Eco-Lodge and is a model of tropical paradise. Tours to the Canopy Lodge near the town of El Valle are equally marvelous, with lovely surroundings, an immaculately appointed lodge, and a wonderful array of birds at feeders and more nearby.
Panama: Bocas del Toro Archipelago, March 24-April 2, 2017 with Jeri Langham; $4,995 in double occupancy from Panama City. 2 spaces available. Register by February 1 and receive a $500 discount.
Rufous Motmot, Canopy Lodge, Panama — Photo: Pete Hosford
Panama: El Valle’s Canopy Lodge Extension (This extension to Panama’s Darien Lowlands: Canopy Camp may be taken as a stand-alone trip), January 14-19, 2017 with Tony Nunnery and a local leader; $2,095 in double occupancy from Panama City. 5 spaces available.
Panama: El Valle’s Canopy Lodge, January 21-28, 2017 with Kevin Zimmer and a local leader; $2,695 in double occupancy from Panama City. 1 single space available.
A visit to a remote region of Amazonian wilderness is the centerpiece of our Rio Roosevelt tour, featuring a single-site stay, breathtaking rainforest scenery, excellent forest trails, and a great canopy tower.
Brazil: Amazonia on the Rio Roosevelt, March 25-April 4, 2017 with Andrew Whittaker; $8,795 in double occupancy from Porto Velho. 3 spaces available.
Our newest tour to Colombia visits the llanos (open country grasslands) of the northeast. This tour is an excellent choice for those desiring a short trip with lots of easy-to-see birds.
A Week in the Llanos of Colombia: Hato la Aurora, January 27-February 3, 2017 with David Ascanio and Diana Balcazár; $2,995 in double occupancy from Bogotá. 4 spaces available.
Ecuador is magical, as evidenced by the fact that our Hummingbird Extravaganza tour typically yields upward of 65 species. Hummingbirds are among the more fascinating of nature’s creations, and this trip is perfect for anyone whose appreciation for these feathered sprites runs deep.
Northern Ecuador Hummingbird Extravaganza, March 16-25, 2017 with Paul Greenfield; $3,095 in double occupancy from Quito. 6 spaces available.
Velvet-purple Coronet, Ecuador — Photo: Paul J. Greenfield
After Colombia, Peru is the world’s most biologically rich country. Our Cloud Forests of Northern Peru tour visits an area of northern Peru home to a bounty of range-restricted specialty birds, including the Marvelous Spatuletail hummingbird and the poorly known Long-whiskered Owlet. Beyond natural history, Peru is home to the legendary Inca site of Machu Picchu.
Cloud Forests of Northern Peru: Owlets, Spatuletails and Tanagers (This pre-trip to the Amazon River Cruise may be taken as a stand-alone trip), January 5-13, 2017 with Steve Hilty; $3,395 in double occupancy from Lima. 2 spaces available.
Cloud Forests of Northern Peru: Owlets, Spatuletails and Tanagers (This pre-trip to the Amazon River Cruise may be taken as a stand-alone trip), February 9-17, 2017 with Andrew Whittaker; $3,395 in double occupancy from Lima. 1 space available.
Machu Picchu (This extension to the Amazon River Cruise may be taken as a stand-alone trip), January 21-28, 2017 with Doris Valencia and a local leader; $3,795 in double occupancy from Lima. 6 spaces available.
Machu Picchu (This extension to the Amazon River Cruise may be taken as a stand-alone trip), February 25-March 4, 2017 with Doris Valencia and a local leader; $3,795 in double occupancy from Lima. 8 spaces available.
Thanks to your support, 2016 has been another great year for VENT. Once again, we operated tours to all seven continents and treated our tour participants to many unforgettable encounters with some of the world’s most beautiful and spectacular birds, mammals, and other wildlife. Most important, we created many more wonderful memories of times shared on VENT tours with many of you. We look forward to being with you again on trips in the year ahead.
On behalf of all of us at Victor Emanuel Nature Tours, we wish you and your family a most enjoyable holiday season, a happy new year, and plenty of time in nature.