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Catch up on the latest news from Victor Emanuel Nature Tours by reading the latest VENTflash.



David Ascanio: July 07, 2017

Once the plane touched the tarmac of the Camaguey airport, we experienced an eloquent hand-clapping that followed the scratching of the plane tires (part of the Cuban culture), and soon after the plane stopped in front of the terminal, we were descending the stairway to feel the iconic Caribbean breeze with warm air blowing in our faces. Welcome to Cuba! From the first day we submerged ourselves into a country so different from any other that each day turned out to be better or radically diff...

Scotland in Style: Birds & History


Andrew Whittaker: July 07, 2017

Breathtaking Scottish highland scenery; superb birding among a constant flush of spring greens combined with colorful flowers; exploring a wealth of  interesting historical sites (castles, stately homes, and battlefields); and wrapping up by visiting one of the world’s finest Scots Whisky Distilleries to sample a wee dram—what more can one ask for? Combine this with a wonderful group of people based in a superb historic (birding) hotel where we were treated like kings, with e...

Italy: Birds & Art in Tuscany


Rick Wright: July 05, 2017

The whole point of travel, especially travel with a natural historical and cultural focus, is to attain a first hint of intimacy with a new landscape, or with a landscape we think we know in a different, perhaps more superficial way. Our 2017 tour of Tuscany found us strolling the roads the Romans strolled, examining chisel marks in some of the finest sculpture in the world, and getting as familiar as possible with Tuscan cuisine that ranged from delectable to magnificent. Some of our most ge...

France: Birds & Art in Provence


Rick Wright: June 28, 2017

It looked for all the world like a grotesquely huge domestic mallard standing out in the field, a buff Orpington or some similar barnyard monster, but German glass resolved the early morning lump into something much more exciting: a nearly adult Egyptian Vulture, a first for this tour. The great white vulture—now quite rare anywhere near Arles—was only one of the avian surprises our 2017 group, quick-eyed and congenial, would encounter. A beautiful Red-backed Shrike, the soft powd...

VENTflash #221


Victor Emanuel: June 28, 2017

Dear friends: One of the great pleasures of being a VENT tour leader is the opportunity to share birds and nature with the wonderful people who join our trips. Good times on our Texas Hill Country tour, 2017 — Photo: Barry Zimmer Over the years we have tried to correct some mistaken impressions about our tours. Some people have told me they are not "expert enough" to go on a VENT tour. In response, I explain that on a "typical" tour we have participants who have been birdin...

Sicily: Extension to the Sicily & Malta Cruise Aboard the Sea Cloud


Barry Lyon: June 25, 2017

The impetus for a Sicily Extension to our cruise, Sicily & Malta aboard the Sea Cloud, came from two important facts: first, Sicily boasts innumerable amazing places and landscapes that we were unable to include in the cruise program; and second, a land-based tour would include a more thorough natural history experience. When designing this program, we knew that we should concentrate on eastern Sicily. This part of the island holds Sicily’s best wetland and montane habitats and some...

Sicily & Malta: History, Culture & Nature


Barry Lyon: June 25, 2017

The central Mediterranean was the venue for our first-ever voyage to the islands of Sicily and Malta aboard the Sea Cloud. And while each of these islands were worthy attractions in their own right, it was the opportunity to sail aboard the venerable Sea Cloud that captured the hearts and minds of so many. With its immemorial Greek heritage, Sicily was a natural draw for us given our emphasis in recent years on the birds and ancient history of the Mediterranean. Boasting Greek temples to riva...

Malta Pre-trip to the Sicily & Malta Cruise Aboard the Sea Cloud


Barry Lyon: June 25, 2017

Our 2017 cruise to Sicily & Malta aboard the Sea Cloud marked VENT’s first-ever visit to the island-nation of Malta. In actuality, the Malta portion of the cruise consisted of only a single night in the seaside community of St. Julians and much of the next day touring Valletta, the island capital. From a scouting trip that Victor and I conducted almost a year ago, we knew that Malta, despite its tiny size, offered an abundance of historical and natural attractions that warranted mor...



David Ascanio: June 22, 2017

Our second-of the-year tour to the largest of the Greater Antilles welcomed us with a mix of endemic and restricted distribution birds, unique Caribbean culture, and interesting architecture. And that’s because Cuba is an island packed with superlatives! On our first day we were already seeing unique birds, starting with views of Giant Kingbird, a bird with a huge bill, inviting discussion about its diet.  But there wasn’t time to philosophize about the natural history of eac...

A Week in the Llanos of Colombia


David Ascanio: June 22, 2017

Our weeklong Colombia tour started in Chingaza National Park (name derived from the Muiscas Amerindian), a site that offered some high Andes birding, despite the clouds that covered the páramo (Andean habitat found above tree line). There were Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanagers, Glowing Pufflegs, wonderful flowering orchids, a skulking Pale-bellied Tapaculo and much more. After enjoying such a rich and varied avifauna, the morning gained momentum when an Andean Pygmy-Owl was found at th...

VENTflash #220


Victor Emanuel: June 06, 2017

Dear friends: After several visits to my beach house on the Upper Texas Coast this April, I found it difficult to leave Texas for Europe in advance of our Birds & History cruise to Sicily and Malta aboard the Sea Cloud. In late April, warblers are still coming through in numbers, and I had yet to see some of my favorites including Blackburnian, Cerulean, and Golden-winged. However, duty called, and the prospect of traveling aboard the lovely Sea Cloud with a wonderful group of people and ...

Missouri & Arkansas


Steve Hilty: June 02, 2017

Despite an unusually strong and rainy weather system the week prior to our trip, with up to twelve inches of rainfall in some portions of the Ozarks, we enjoyed good weather during our trip, and only one rainy morning. So where did all that rain go so quickly? Our visit to Prairie State Park in western Missouri started with a few adventures, beginning with a Barred Owl perched in the open on an electric wire at dawn. Minutes later we stopped for a lively group of migrating Bobolinks on fence ...

Big Bend National Park & the Texas Hill Country


Barry Zimmer: May 30, 2017

Our 2017 Big Bend National Park & the Texas Hill Country tour was arguably our most successful ever, and the addition of a day in Del Rio contributed mightily to that success. In recent years, a very small population of White-collared Seedeaters had been discovered at a few localized spots in the Del Rio area. Our past tours have gone through Del Rio at midday en route to Big Bend National Park, but never had time for birding. With this year’s added overnight in Del Rio (which also ...

Montana Owl Workshop


Denver Holt: May 29, 2017

The winter of 2016/2017 was particularly harsh in the northwestern U.S. Here in western Montana, it was near historic. Brutal cold and lots of snow gripped us for much of early and mid-winter. In fact, snow was present on the ground the entire winter—which is rare for us. Spring wasn’t much different, as low temperatures and near continuous rain lasted through April. As a result of this winter, many species of wildlife had a difficult time—including owls. We had great diffic...

Best of Costa Rica


David Wolf: May 26, 2017

Even after many trips over many years we continue to be amazed by Costa Rica, so small in size but huge in possibilities! There are few other places where such a diversity of birds can be seen so readily, in such a compact area, and our 2017 “Best of Costa Rica” tour took full advantage of this wealth as we roamed from one side of the country to the other. Costa Rica has done much to promote conservation, and this really paid off for us, with an astounding number of birds seen. Ev...

Bolivar Beach House


Michael O'Brien: May 23, 2017

A new offering in 2017, the Bolivar Beach House was a new twist on birding one of the richest stretches of coastline in North America. Our home base, Sandy Orchid Lodge, was just delightful. Aside from being roomy and very comfortable, the house offered a grand vista of the Gulf of Mexico right off the front porch. A little seawatching during morning coffee or afternoon cocktails was always rewarded with a steady flow of gulls, terns, and pelicans, along with small groups of migrating shorebi...

Botswana: From Desert to Delta


Geoff Lockwood: May 22, 2017

The three camps used on this itinerary were specifically chosen to provide an insight into the spectacular variety of habitats and wildlife that Botswana offers. Each offered a different facet of this amazing country—from the semi-desert of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve to the mixed woodland, floodplains, and seasonal channels in the Vumbura Concession. We wrapped up the tour in the Jao Concession, located in the northwest of the permanently flowing section of the Okavango Delta sys...

Brazil: Amazonia on the Rio Roosevelt


Andrew Whittaker: May 16, 2017

A unique and truly magnificent pristine Amazonian wilderness awaited us as we took off on our private charter flight from Porto Velho, our destination the exclusive, plush Pousada Rio Roosevelt and its fantastic birding! We launched ourselves back in time to 1913–14, following in the footsteps of the ex US president Theodore Roosevelt on his famous River of Doubt expedition. Teddy himself actually camped on April 21, 1914 on the exact same beach (below the Santa Rita rapids) where today...

Amazon River Cruise


David Ascanio: May 16, 2017

If you put together great cloud formations, impenetrable green vegetation, loud macaws either perched or flying, primates, huge rivers, pink dolphins, amazing downpours, a rich number of raptors, and the wonderful event of bird migration, you’ll have a complete picture of the Amazon as a biome. Add to this picture a never-ending mix of cultures, from Amerindian to African and Europeans, and you’ll get a holistic view. Yes, I am sure that you came to the Amazon River thinking about...

Northern Ecuador Hummingbird Extravaganza


Paul Greenfield: May 15, 2017

Hummingbirds—their aerodynamics, glittering prismatic plumage, pugnacious/audacious behavior, their exhausting acrobatics and frenetic lifestyles, and their sheer coolness brought us together here in Ecuador to witness this year’s truly unsurpassable extravaganza. We observed a whole lot of these incredible creatures, these “jewels of the Sun God,” from within their fascinating world, within the diverse ecosystems and varied environments they inhabit, as we traced an i...

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