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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

Sardinia is the second largest islandin the Mediterranean and lies in theTyrrhenian Sea, south of Corsica. It isa land of contrasts, ranging from beautifulwhite sandy beaches and coves to arugged mountainous interior and quietersouthern areas. Great care has been takento ensure that Sardinia has escaped theravages of tourism which many otherMediterranean islands have suffered. Thenatural scenery is extremely varied,providing a wide range of habitats for theplants, animals and birds that live here.For the naturalist it is the island'sabundant coastal lagoons, extensiveforests, mountains and rugged limestonehills that are of particular interest, as theyare home to a wide variety of flora andfauna. Human settlements have existedhere for thousands of years and Sardinia isstudded with traces of ancient civilisations,such as the curious stone towermonuments called nuraghi, built by BronzeAge inhabitants. This tour visits the island's wild and little-visited western coast and, if you lovedragonflies, this is the trip for you! Thereare some amazingly colourful dragonflieshere - indeed you would need to travel toAfrica to see some of these specieselsewhere. At this time of year 35 speciescan be seen, most of which are not foundin Britain, including Green Hooktail,Bladetail, Banded Groundling, IslandBluetail and Long Skimmer. The island alsoboasts a rich diversity of other wildlife andis home to many endemic species; we willexplore its marshes, lakes and otherwetland areas in search of a tapestry ofsouthern European insects, amphibians,reptiles and birds. Above us, the majesticoutlines of Griffon Vultures will rise into thedeep summer-blue sky, while closer to theground we will be hoping to encountersome of the island's smaller inhabitants,such as the Tyrrhenian Painted Frog andTyrrhenian Tree Frog, and two species of lizard: the Pygmy Algyroides andTyrrhenian Wall Lizard. Red and FallowDeer and Wild Boar abound in the scruband forests. In summer the aromaticmaquis delivers scents of thyme, myrtle,rosemary and lavender which blow acrossthe island and flamingoes, known to thelocals as 'rose-coloured folk', strut aboutin the numerous lagoons. Turquoise seaand lovely beaches also help provide a marvellous backdrop to our main quest - dragonflies!After a flight to Alghero we will transfer to Porto Torres in the north-west of theisland for a 3-night stay. The Sardiniancoastline offers secluded inlets, goldensand dunes, wild lilies and Cistusas wellas rugged cliffs that plummet to the sea,and from our base in Porto Torres we willvisit nearby lakes and marshes that areexcellent for birding and dragonfly-watching. Hundreds of Banded Groundlingwill be flying around our feet as we walkalong, making the ground appear toshimmer underfoot. Island Bluetails,Lesser Emperors and Long Skimmers willbe among the special dragonflies to lookout for in these wetlands, darting aroundthe long pink legs of Black-winged Stiltswhich pick their way daintily through theshallows here.We will drive to the small reserve of Isola dell'Asinara, home to a largepopulation of the rare Dark Spreadwing.Other dragonflies we'll hope to see on our guided tour of this uninhabitedisland are: Small Spreadwing, MigrantSpreadwing, Broad Scarlet, Dainty Bluet, Blue-eyed Hawker, Southern Darter, Small Redeye and the distinctive Red-veined Darter. We will keep a look-out for the island's white donkeys,wild horses, Wild Boars and Mouflons, too. Lago Baratz is the only natural freshwaterlake on Sardinia and offers one of the bestplaces on the island for dragonfly-watching:15 species can be seen amongthe reeds and scrub! At the nearby area ofBosa, situated between the west-coasttowns of Oristano and Alghero, the smallstreams are awash with CopperDemoiselles, and we'll be watching fortheir fluttery, butterfly-like flight - themales of this stunning damselfly performdazzling display flights to attract femalesinto their territories! Small Red Damsel,Western Spectre, Green-eyed Hawker, andthe glorious Violet Dropwing are foundnear these streams. We'll hope to roundoff our time here with views of Griffon Vultures and the romantic sunsets the area is famous for. For the final part of our holiday we journeythree hours south to Pula, near Cagliari.Purple Gallinule, Little Bittern and Red-crested Pochard are among the rarebreeding birds we may see in this part ofthe island and we will visit the Isola di SanPietro, off the south-west corner ofSardinia to see its colony of Eleonora'sFalcons which breeds there every summer.We can hope to add more than 10 speciesof dragonflies during our leisurely walks inthe surrounding countryside, and top ofour list of hoped-for last finds will be theOrange-winged Dropwing - a newspecies for Europe, coming from Africaand only recently discovered in theCagliari area! Sardinia's Dragonflies An 8-day holiday on the scented Mediterranean island of Sardinia, in search of its exotic dragonflies, birdlife and endemic reptiles and amphibians.Wednesday 5th June - Wednesday 12th June Cost: £1,295Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Alghero; transfer toPorto Torres.Day 2/3Daily programme ofwildlife excursions fromPorto Torres.Day 4/5 Gennargentu NationalPark and lakelands fromAbbasanta.Day 6/7Daily programme ofwildlife excursions fromPula.Day 8Fly London.AccommodationComfortable hotels with en suitefacilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA. Easy walks only.FocusDragonflies, other insects and birds.LeaderGerald Broddelez.Single room supplement£165.Web quick search: ITA11116Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryPORTO TORRESALGHEROGORRUPUGORGEGENNARGENTUMOUNTAINSABBASANTACAGLIARIPULAGULF OFCAGLIARIMEDITERRANEANSEASARDINIACOSTASMERALDAMONTE ARCOSUSULCIS REGIONANDSANTA CATERINASALTWORKSSardinia's coastlineIsland BluetailViolet Dropwing