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Jordan is a small country at theboundary of the Levant and Arabianfaunal areas, and is one of the mosteasily reached and welcoming of MiddleEastern countries. It has a predominantlyMuslim population but its monarch andparticularly his late father, King Hussein,have pursued strong links with the West aswell as neighbouring Arab countries.Following the great success of our annualspring tour, this shorter itineraryconcentrates mainly on the south-westcorner of Jordan, an area that holds someof the most dramatic mountain scenery ofthe Middle East. Here, the varied wildlifehabitats are controlled by a variety of rocktypes. The highland plateau reaches 1,736metres, and is cut by deeply incised wadisthat provide routes down to the plains ofWadi Araba below. In between lie dramaticsandstone mountains, their gorges and redmesas capped by white domes. It is againstthis backdrop that we will walk in search ofbirds - some unique to this region, othersvisiting from other climes. We will also haveample time to explore the coast at Aqaba- a resort which lies on one of the world'smain bird migration routes. Much of thispart of Jordan has a desert climate but onlyone area we will visit has anythingapproaching the classic image of barrensand dunes. Instead we will see how varied,and rich in wildlife, a desert can be.In October, after six months of drought,many birds are concentrated in areas ofwater and springs, especially the SinaiRosefinch. Some of our sightings will befamiliar European species in unfamiliarsettings, whilst others such as Finsch'sWheatear, Great Black-headed Gull orpossibly a rarity or new bird for Jordan willattract more attention. Our visit coincideswith the end of the autumn migration andanything could turn up, from raptors andwaders to warblers and shrikes. SootyFalcons breed late and will have fledgedyoung at this time of the year; with luck weshould locate this Middle East equivalent ofthe Eleonora's Falcon. Our tour begins with a flight to Amman, fromwhere we will drive to Azraq. Here we willexplore the Shaumari Wildlife Reservebefore heading into the boulder-strewn,lunar landscape of the black Basalt Desert.Moving south we reach Dana, for many oneof the chief highlights of the holiday. Fromthis ancient hill-top conservation village wewill visit Wadi Dana, a spectacular wildlifereserve of Jordan's Royal Society for theConservation of Nature and home to someof the country's most attractive and uniquebirds. Tristram's (Syrian) Serins breed here,as do resident Sinai Rosefinch, Bonelli'sEagle, Griffon Vulture, Eagle Owl, Hume'sTawny Owl, Rock Martin, Long-billed Pipitand Fan-tailed Raven. Our overnight stay atDana will give us time to explore the highground at the head of the wadi, as well asnearby woodland and a very productivedrinking pool.Next we head into the Petra mountains,bound for Jordan's most famous site. Petrais renowned for its antiquities; it was a citybuilt by the Nabataean people as a tradingcapital, was later occupied by the Romansbut was ultimately by-passed by new traderoutes and subsequently fell into oblivion ...until, that is, it was rediscovered in 1812.The Nabataean and Roman cultures left anawe-inspiring array of rock carvedmonuments, which we will have plenty oftime to appreciate. However, the naturalwonders of Petra are only marginally lessstunning, with colour-banded sandstonesdisplaying extraordinary forms of naturalart. Here we will walk away from the maintourist trails, hoping to encounter suchbirds as Barbary Falcon, Desert Lark,Scrub Warbler, Orange-tufted Sunbird andthe elusive Sooty Falcon.Journeying south from Petra to Aqaba, wenow climb up to the high steppe country ofthe Sharra Highland Plateau, beforedescending to our next destination - WadiRum. Immortalised by Lawrence of Arabia(and the film that followed) this famous siteis an excellent place in which to search for Jordan's desert birds. White-crowned Blackand Mourning Wheatears feed at the baseof the rocky slopes, over which Long-legged Buzzard and (with luck) Verreaux'sEagle soar. Around the fort of Jordan'sDesert Patrol, Tristram's Grackle and SinaiRosefinch are frequent visitors. As eveningapproaches, we must continue on toAqaba along a road that drops throughbarren granite hills towards the coast.Aqaba is Jordan's southernmost town,lying at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba. Sea-watching can be productive at any season,as can exploration of the town's sewageworks. This site provides a vitally importantfocus for visiting birds but despite this, israrely visited by anyone except ourNaturetrek groups! Each visit is thereforesomething of an adventure of discovery,and with a daily turnover of birds, we hopeto see a varied selection of interestingvisitors during our stay.Finally, we must drive north to Amman. Thejourney initially takes us through the broadplains of Wadi Araba, where we may makea further search for desert birds, before we reach the Dead Sea and ultimately the capital.Jordan - Birds &ArchaeologyA 9-day holiday in search of the specialist mountain birds and migrants to be found amongst some of thecountry's most dramatic landscapes, plus a visit to the country's most famous archaeological site, Petra.Saturday 13th October - Sunday 21st October2012Cost: £2,295Saturday 12th October - Sunday 20th October2013Cost: £2,295Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationIRAQSAUDI ARABIASYRIAISRAELWADI RUMWADI ARABAAQABAAMMANAZRAQBASALTDESERTKERAKWADI DANAPETRADEAD SEARED SEAJORDANOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Amman. Day 2Azraq.Day 3 Wadi Dana.Day 4/5Petra.Day 6/7Aqaba.Day 8 Amman.Day 9 Fly London.AccommodationStandard tourist class hotels andguesthouses, most with privatefacilities; plus one night of fullyserviced camping. FoodAll included in the price. GradingMostly easy walks, with longer - butfairly gentle - day walks in the Petraand Wadi Dana areas. Grade A/B.FocusBirds and archaeology.LeaderBarry Oxley, plus local guide. Single room supplement£175.ExtensionsExtra days in Aqaba or Amman can bearranged (with or without car rental).Web quick search: JOR02155Sinai RosefinchPetraSooty Falcon

For many consecutive wintersNaturetrek groups have been happilyplying the Souss Valley westwards,from the foothills of the High AtlasMountains to Morocco's spectacularAtlantic coast south of Agadir. Here, in theautumn, late winter and spring, the nearbyestuaries of the Oued Souss and OuedMassa are thronged with migratingwaders, gulls and terns. We watch Red-necked Nightjars at the Royal Palaceentrance (if the King is not in residence!),and sea-watch for Cory's and BalearicShearwaters at dramatic Cap Rhir. Yet it isthe draw of one of the Western Palearctic'smost enigmatic - and endangered -birds, the Northern Bald Ibis, which hasprovided the highlight of so many previoustours, and will be the primary focus of thisrelaxing long weekend.The 33,800-hectare Souss-Massa NationalPark was created in 1991. Lying betweenAgadir to the north and Sidi Ifni to thesouth, this Atlantic coastal site incorporatesa variety of habitats, ranging from Arganiaspinosawoodland, cultivated fields andRetama and Euphorbia steppe, to dunes,cliffs, sandy beaches and wetlands. Itencompasses the estuaries of the OuedSouss (the northern limit of the park) andthe Oued Massa, a large and magicallagoon that has formed where the estuaryis cut off from the sea by sand dunes. Welong believed the Souss-Massa to beworthy of a tour in its own right, and it iswithin this national park, nestled betweengolden dunes and with splendid panoramicviews of the Atlantic Ocean, that we founda wonderfully appointed hotel, the perfectbase for a short, rewarding, yet relaxingbirdwatching holiday. With Morocco's richheritage in mind, the owners have built anddecorated their hotel tastefully, using a finemix of traditional materials, localhandicrafts and luxurious carpets andfabrics, all collected from Morocco's variedand bustling souks. The lavishness of thebeds and bedclothes, indeed of all fixturesand fittings, exude a feeling of calm andinvite relaxation. We will have plenty of timeto fully enjoy the hotel's enviable location!A relaxed five days is envisaged, for someof the best local birding is available fromthe hotel terrace! Together with an open-air pool, the hotel boasts a traditionalHammam (Turkish bath/massage room)offering a suite of health treatments, andfine cuisine (salads and grilled fish andmeat being a particular speciality) to beenjoyed on a beautiful outdoor terraceoverlooking the ocean. The Souss-Massa National Park holds awealth of birds, and the diversity ofhabitats within it ensures us of a widevariety during our stay. However, the parkderives its greatest importance from itsprotection of three of the four Moroccanbreeding colonies of the Northern BaldIbis. These three colonies are located oncoastal cliffs within the park and totalled33 breeding pairs in 2000, or 52% of theMoroccan and world population. Severalroost sites exist, and most of the coastalsteppes and fallow fields are used asfeeding areas at different times of the year.In addition, the park attracts a host ofmigrant birds, both on passage and duringthe winter. In fact, almost anything can anddoes turn up here and the chance offinding a vagrant from southern Africa orthe Americas adds to the excitement ofthis locality. However, it is the plight of theIbis which provides the principal focus onthis tour. In the face of threatened invasivetourism development, severalorganisations, including the RSPB andBirdLife International, are working toprotect the Northern Bald Ibis whosebreeding population now stands at over100 pairs, of which 75 pairs breed in theSouss-Massa National Park and 25 in theTamri region, 60 kilometres north of Agadir. On this holiday we will be following ourusual Moroccan tour format, with ourminibus being driven by our local driver inorder to provide flexibility in our explorationof the park and to ensure a relaxed pace.Tamri will certainly be on our list of places tovisit, a real stronghold for the Ibis. BarbaryFalcons can regularly be seen around thecliffs here, whilst the beach often supportsa flock of Audouin's Gulls in a variety ofplumages. At other times our focus willremain within the picturesque Souss-MassaNational Park where, during the five days inwhich we explore its rich mosaic of habitats,a wealth of birds may include such speciesas Greater Flamingo, Bald Ibis, Glossy Ibis,Marbled Teal, Ferruginous Duck, CommonCrane, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Tawny Eagle,Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Black-wingedStilt, Laughing Dove, Alpine Swift, PlainMartin, Tawny Pipit, Black-crowned Tchagra,Zitting Cisticola and Moustached Warbleramongst many others.For pleasant winter warmth and sunshine,good birding, an appreciation ofconservation in action and authentic local hospitality, we think this holiday is hard to beat!Morocco-A BaldIbisBreak!A relaxing 5-day holiday, based in a comfortable and exclusive beach retreat, to the Souss-MassaNational Park, Morocco's finest birdwatching site and home to the endangered Bald Ibis.Thursday 25th October - Monday 29th October 2012 Cost: £995Tuesday 12th February - Saturday 16th February 2013 Cost: £995Tuesday 15th October - Saturday 19th October 2013 Cost: £995 Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Agadir; transfer Souss-Massa National Park.Day 2/4Souss-Massa National Park.Day 5Fly London.Accommodation A very comfortable beach hotel(with private facilities), remotelysituated in the national park andwith fabulous views of thecoastline. Food All included in the price.GradingDay walks only. A. Focus Birds, the Bald Ibis conservationstory, and relaxation!LeaderRichard Bashford, Chris Murphy,Mohamed Zaki or Bob Dawson.Single room supplement£150.Web quick search: MAR03156Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryS. MOROCCOALGERIAMEDITERRANEAN SEAATLANTIC OCEANMOROCCOEL KELAAMERZOUGAAGADIRERFOUDTODRAGORGEMIDDLE ATLAS MOUNTAINSHIGH ATLAS MOUNTAINSTANGIERCASABLANCAMARRAKECHOUED MASSAANTI ATLAS MOUNTAINSTAROUDANTOUARZAZATENorthern Bald IbisOur beach hotel