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The beautiful Greek island of Samos liesin the eastern Aegean Sea, just a mileacross the strait that separates it fromthe Turkish mainland, and close to theancient site of Ephesus. Similar in size andshape to the Isle of Wight, Samos is arugged island with two mountain ranges -the Kerkes and Ambelos - rising to nearly1,500 metres. These ensure the islandremains relatively green and fertilethroughout the year, in contrast to the morebarren, less mountainous neighbouringislands. They also contribute to an extremelyvaried landscape, and a wide range ofhabitats. These attract many migrant birdsfor, like nearby Lesbos, Samos lies on themain migration route along the Turkish coast.Bee-eaters will be amongst a range ofcolourful migrants we enjoy, whilst in themountains we should find a good variety ofresident birds of prey. The island's variedhabitats also support a rich and uniquespring flora comprising a mix of easternMediterranean plants as well as localisedmontane species.Samos, thankfully, remains comparativelylittle-visited and undeveloped. Hills arecrowned with old churches and monasteries,and unspoiled mountain villages still foster atime-honoured lifestyle, offering travellers awarm welcome in traditional village tavernas.Best of all, a network of ancient tracks, manyof them paved, allow us to explore the islandas much as possible on foot as we searchfor and enjoy its natural history from our hotelin Karlovassi in the north-west of the island.From this excellent harbour base we will firstexplore the nearby coast and headlandalong to Potami. Here, in the Cistus scrub,we should find such orchids as Orchis italica,Ophrys fuscaand Ophrys speculum, as wellas Gladiolus illyricusand the strange Clathrusruber, a bright red fungus. On the shore areYellow Horned-poppies, whilst Cory'sShearwaters may be observed gliding out atsea. A damp area, where a stream joins thesea, proves excellent for dragonflies anddamselflies, and spectacular butterflies suchas Swallowtails complement the fine flora. On another day we will walk further, towardsthe two bays of Mikro and Megalo Seitani,following a path that hugs a spectacular andwild coastline. Audouin's and MediterraneanGulls, as well as Blue Rock Thrush, Black-eared Wheatear and Black-headed Bunting,are likely to be amongst the day's highlights,together with such new plants as Sword-leaved Helleborine, HelichrysumandDracunculus vulgaris. We will search, too, forthe chameleons which are found here.On the south-eastern corner of the island,close to Turkey, is a seasonal lake at PsiliAmos. In spring this is home to a flock ofGreater Flamingoes as well as Cattle Egrets,Little Bitterns, Ruddy Shelducks and otherwaterbirds. It is also a key staging post formany migrants, so virtually anything canmake an appearance. Plants are alsoabundant and we will look for orchids suchas Pyramidal, Orchis anatolicaand the localHorned Woodcock, (Ophrys scolopaxssp.cornuta) amongst the carpets of CrownDaisy. We will combine this excursion with avisit to Pythagorion's interesting and ancientruins which, also being surrounded byflowers, are likely to satisfy even the mostsingle-minded botanists amongst us!The lower slopes of the Ambelos providegood easy walking. Here streamsidemeadows hold an excellent flora and awide variety of dragonflies anddamselflies. Spring plants include Paeoniamascula,Anemone blanda,Lithodorahispidula,Scilla bifoliaand Broad-leavedHelleborine. The song of Nightingales fills the air in this picturesque region andour progress may be marked by thescolding rattle of Sardinian Warblers in thescrub and perhaps the song-flight of aRüppell's Warbler. We will also exploreother foothill regions, particularly along thesouth coast, looking for such birds asHoney Buzzard, Long-legged Buzzard,Bonelli's Eagle and Black-headed Buntingand such new plants as Orchis fragrans,Sawfly Orchid and Honeywort. At a higheraltitude, the rocky plateau at the summit ofMount Karvouni rears up above the pineforest and can be reached by a goodpath. Here we are in a very different world; plants cling to rocky crevices in thistypical alpine habitat and many sport theintense colours of high mountain plants,veronicas, saxifrages, geraniums anderodiums being particularly obvious. Birdsof these higher elevations include Chukar,Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle and Goshawk.There is also much to see on the walk tothe summit, in particular a variety oforchids including Late Spider, Orchismascula ssp. pinetum,Orchis tridentata,Dactylorhiza romana,Neotinea maculataand Violet Limodore. After our week-long exploration of Samosby means of day walks and otherexcursions, we will have experienced asound introduction to the diverse delightsof the island and its wide range of wildlife,yet without exhausting the sheer variety ithas to offer.The Island of SamosA 9-day holiday on the Mediterranean island of Samos in search of spring flowers, insects and migrating birds.Friday 19th April - Saturday 27th April Cost: £1,295Outline itineraryDay 1Depart London forSamos.Day 2/8A daily programme ofbotanical and naturalhistory walks from our base in Karlovassi.Day 9Fly London.AccommodationA comfortable family-run hotel inKarlovassi, with private facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingGrade A. Day walks only. FocusPlants, birds, butterflies and otherinsects.LeadersPaul Harmes (botanist) and TerryGoble (ornithologist).Single room supplement£150.Web quick search: GRC06114Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryKARLOVASSIPYTHAGORIONAMBELOS MOUNTAINSSAMOSMEDITERRANEANSEAMEDITERRANEANSEASAMOSView towards Seitani BaySubalpine WarblerClathrus ruber

It was our affection for Corsica and thegreat success of our tours there inrecent years that first attracted us toSardinia. Both islands have been sofortunate to escape the ravages oftasteless tourist developments that haveafflicted other Mediterranean areas and,like Corsica, Sardinia is a large island witha rich natural history that is not well knownto Britons. Famed more for its fabulouswhite sandy beaches and crystal waters -some of the best in the Mediterranean -and known as 'the Jewel of theMediterranean', Sardinia also has some ofthe wildest and most beautiful countrysidein Europe. Indeed, for the naturalist, it ismore the island's abundance of coastallagoons, extensive forests, ruggedmountains and limestone hills that provemost attractive, and which are home to awide variety of interesting flora and fauna.Sardinia is also an ancient and mysticalland where a Bronze Age people built thefamous nuraghistone towers (of which7,000 remain) and the equally impressive'giant's tombs' which are amongst themost splendid of European Megalithicbuildings. Since that time the Sardinianshave suffered wave after wave of seaborneinvaders - first the Phoenicians, then theCarthaginians, the Romans and the Moors,all of them leaving behind ruined templesand other monuments in their wake. TheSardinian people themselves frequentlyfled to the hills, becoming a wild anddefensive race who eked out a living as hill shepherds and bandits! It is perhapsthis defensive and wary nature that todayhas kept Sardinia relatively free of uglytourism development. We begin our holiday with a flight toCagliari, and onward drive to Pula, our base for three nights. From here we willvisit the nearby coastal marshes of theGulf of Cagliari, where rare breeding birdsinclude Greater Flamingo, Glossy Ibis,Little Bittern, Purple Heron, Cattle Egret,Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Red-crestedPochard, Gull-billed Tern, Slender-billedGull and Spectacled Warbler. We will alsovisit Monte Arcosu, WWF's largest Italiannature reserve and a fine example of themagnificent forest that once clothed theisland prior to the logging and then firesthat destroyed so much of it in the earlierpart of this century. The 915-metre granitepeak of Monte Arcosu towers above thereserve, whose cliffs, crags and outcropssupport a maquis flora of Narrow-leavedCistus, Phillyrea latifolia, Lentisk,Rosemary, broom, juniper, Oleander andStrawberry Tree. In the forests are Holm,Pubescent and Cork Oaks, whilst Oliveand Carob Trees stand in the dry gladesand pastures. The endangered SardinianDeer (an endemic subspecies of RedDeer), Fallow Deer, Wild Cat and Wild Boarall occur here, as well as a variety of suchwoodland and maquis birds as Coal Tit,Roller, Bee-eater, and Subalpine,Marmora's, Dartford, Spectacled andSardinian Warbler. Overhead birds of preyare possible - with Buzzards, GoldenEagles and Peregrines all breeding here. We will also explore the Cixerri Valley andthe peaceful wooded valleys of the Forestof Margani where we should find goodnumbers of orchids, including the endemicOphrys chestermanii, as well as CirlBuntings and Firecrests. The coastadjacent to our hotel often holds migrantspecies and Laguna di Nora hosts thelargest breeding colony of Audouin's Gullsin Italy, unusually on a low island ratherthan the more usual rocky offshore islet.For the second part of this 2-centre holidaywe will drive north to Dorgali via Oristanoand the Sinis Peninsula, on the west coast,where we will explore the lagoons lookingfor wetland birds such as Purple Heronand Red-crested Pochard. In coastalgarrigue we will also hope to find MirrorOrchid (Ophrys speculum) and Ophryseleanora. For the next four nights we will be based ina very friendly, family-run hotel in Dorgali,near the east coast of the island. This willbe our base from which to explore theSopramonte region of the GennargentuMountains, where shepherds still roam withtheir large flocks of goats and sheep. Thisis a rugged and beautiful area of maquis-covered limestone mountains that descendto an unspoilt coastline of remote sandycoves and isolated cave systems wherethe endangered Monk Seal used to breed.The mountain villages are decorated withdramatic murals depicting local customsand some with topical and politicalthemes. We will walk on Bruncu Spinawhere we may find alpine plants such asCorsican Saxifrage and Rock Cinquefoiland, depending on the timing of theseason, we should see sheets of Crocusminimus and Viola corsica. Amongst thetrees we'll look for the national flower,Paeonii mascula ssp. russii, while birdsmay include Rock Thrush, Marmora'sWarbler, Corsican Finch and perhapsGolden Eagle.From the pretty harbour of Cala Gogonewe will take a boat along the coast to anarea of cliffs where Eleonora's Falconsbreed. Hopefully we will see this late-breeding falcon at this known nestingcolony. We next head back to the exquisitecove of Cala Luna, from where we'llexplore the gorge of the Rio Codula diLuna on foot. After a picnic lunch andperhaps a swim, we take the boat back toCala Ganone and the gelateria on theharbour front! On all our walks we willamble gently through the day as we searchfor wayside plants, birds and butterfliesunder the guidance of our expert leaders.We will also hope to find time to enjoysuch nearby archaeological sites as theNuraghic villages of Mannu, in a dramaticclifftop setting, and Serra Orios, datingfrom around 2,000 BC.SardiniaAn 8-day holiday to the 'Jewel of the Mediterranean' in search of the plants, birdsand butterflies of the island's coastal lagoons and mountainous interior. Sunday 28th April - Sunday 5th May Cost: £1,295Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationDORGALI SU GOLOGNE ALGHERO CALA GOGNONE BUE MARINO CAVE CALA DI LUNA TISCALI GORRUPU GORGE GENNARGENTU ORISTANO MOUNTAINS CAGLIARI PULAMONTE ARCOSU SULCIS REGION AND SANTA CATERINA SALTWORKS GULF OF CAGLIARI MEDITERRANEAN SEA SARDINIA Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Cagliari; transferPula. Day 2/3Natural historyexcursions from Pula. Day 4/7Transfer to Dorgali forwalking excursions in theGennargentu Mountainsin search of plants, birdsand butterflies. Day 8Fly London.AccommodationA 2-centre holiday usingcomfortable hotels with privatefacilities and serving fine local food.FoodAll included in the price.GradingDay walks only. Grade A/B.FocusPlants, birds and butterflies.LeadersJenny Willsher (botanist) and JohnWillsher (ornithologist).Single room supplement£175.Web quick search: ITA05115Marmora's WarblerSawfly OrchidsCrocus minimus, Bruncu Spina