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The Central American country of CostaRica is undoubtedly one of therichest countries in the world forbirds. More species have been recordedhere than in the whole of North Americayet the country is only about the size ofWales! This tour has been organised tocover most of the country and aims to visitas wide a range of habitats as possible,primarily in search of birds. Theextraordinary diversity of plants, butterfliesand amphibians-not to mentionscenery -will not go unnoticed, however!The large number of bird species recordedin Costa Rica-over 850 to date-reflects the tremendous diversity of habitatsin the country. Not only does Costa Ricahave coastlines on both the Pacific andAtlantic Oceans, but forest types rangingfrom lush evergreen cloudforests in thehighlands to dry deciduous forests in thelowlands. It also boasts marshes, rivers,swamps and even subalpine páramo.We will begin our tour in the capital SanJosé and travel early in the morning to theCerro de la Muerte Highlands which rise toover 3,350 metres. Here we will have anopportunitytogettoknowsomeofthe birdfamilies that will be encountered duringthe tour and to observe a number ofspecies which we will be very unlikely tosee subsequently such as Peg-billed,Large-footed and Yellow-thighed Finchesand Fiery-throated Hummingbird (perhapsthe first of over 30 species of 'hummers'we should see in the next two weeks!).Our next destination will be Carara, alowland forest reserve on the Pacific coast,which has one of the largest bird lists ofany site in Costa Rica. We will spend twodays exploring the forest here in search ofspecies such as trogons, woodpeckers,manakins and tanagers, and the adjoiningwetlands for herons, egrets and shorebirds.In the evening we will watch as ScarletMacaws fly to their night-time roost.After leaving Carara we will travel north tothe cloudforest reserve of Monteverde,home to arguably the most beautiful bird inthe world - the Resplendent Quetzal. Wewill spend two days exploring the forestand adjoining habitats here in the hope of seeing it. You will not bedisappointed when you do! Monteverde,and the neighbouring Santa Elena Reservewhich we will also be visiting, boast atremendous range of other species, notablyhummingbirds of which we may see 10 ormore species, some at very close quartersat the 'Hummingbird Gallery'!From Monteverde we will journeywestwards for a 3-night stay at HaciendaSolimar, a simple, but comfortable, ranchwhich provides an excellent base fromwhich to explore the dry Guanacasteregion, and the wetlands of the EsteroMadrigal with its spectacularconcentrations of wildfowl, herons, egretsand raptors, not to mention up to fivespecies of kingfisher! The extensive areasof dry deciduous forest in the Guanacasteregion host a wide range of species, manyof which are restricted to this habitat.These will include parrots, orioles,woodcreepers, warblers, antbirds, raptors,owls and nightjars.We will leave Hacienda Solimar early in themorning and travel into the mountains toArenal Volcano National Park. Here we willspend one night whilst we explore theforests, fields, lake shore and otherhabitats of this spectacular area, backedby the perfect cone of Arenal Volcanoitself. If fortunate we may even witness asmall eruption!Our final three days will be spent in thelowland evergreen forest on the Atlanticslope at Selva Verde Lodge, from wherewe will visit the tropical forest researchstation at nearby La Selva. The diversity ofbirds in this area is outstanding and wouldwarrant a much longer stay if timeallowed. During our recent tours we haveseen well over 150 species in two dayshere, including the spectacular SunBittern! We will also spend a day exploringthe pristine middle elevation forestsaround the Virgin del Socorro waterfall,before returning to San José in time forour flight home.Costa Rica A 15-day birdwatching holiday to Costa Rica.Sunday 3rd February - Sunday 17th February 2013 Cost: £3,395Wednesday 10th April - Wednesday 24th April 2013 Cost: £3,395Thursday 16th January - Thursday 30th January 2014 Cost: £3,595Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationNICARAGUAPANAMALAKEARENALHACIENDA SOLIMARVOLCAN ARENALSELVA VERDEMONTEVERDESAN JOSECARARACERRO DE LAMUERTE HIGHLANDSJACOPACIFIC OCEANATLANTIC OCEANCOSTA RICA©Outline itinerary Day 1Fly San José. Day 2San José and Cerro dela Muerte. Day 3/4Carara. Day 5/6Monteverde and SantaElena. Day 7/9Hacienda Solimar. Day 10Arenal Volcano NationalPark.Day 11/13Selva Verde. Day 14Fly London. Day 15Arrive London. AccommodationComfortable hotels, a ranch and a lodge, most with privatefacilities. FoodAll included in the price. GradingA. Easy day walks. FocusBirds. LeaderChris Kehoe or Andy Smith, pluslocal guides.Single room supplement£550. ExtensionsAvailable on request.Web quick search: CRI01193Resplendent Quetzal Collared AracarisWood Storks, Palo Verde

Mexico is a fascinating and vibrantcountry, a colourful land steeped inhistory, myth and legend. This wasthe home of the ancient Aztec, Toltec andMaya civilisations, whose great pyramidsrival those of Egypt, and landfall for thefirst of the Spanish Conquistadors as theysearched for the fabled Cities of Gold.Today, Mexico is a modern and welcomingcountry, far removed from our stereotypicimage of Hollywood 'Westerns' full of cacti,tequila and banditos wearing oversizesombreros and moustaches! Indeed it is abeautiful country of many contrasts, fromthe hot cacti-filled deserts, so favoured bythe movie-makers, to the lush tropicalrainforests of the south.In between these two extremes lie the coolpine forests of the central Mexican state ofMichoacán, which play host each winter toone of the world's most amazing wildlifespectacles. As the North Americansummer draws to a close, hundreds ofmillions of Monarch butterflies streamsouth to overwinter in a few small pocketsof forest high in these peaceful hills. Thesheer numbers involved in this migrationdefy belief, estimates varying from 250million to a staggering 600 millionindividuals! At the colonies the trees areso laden with butterflies that branchesbend, and occasionally break, under theirweight. The air is filled by millions offlapping wings, a snowstorm of orangeand black that sounds not unlike the quietrustling of myriad leaves. This amazingwildlife spectacle cannot fail to move anyperson fortunate enough to witness it, and this exciting holiday will allow you to experience this wonder of nature for yourself. Our tour begins with a flight to Mexico City,Mexico's bustling capital and the secondlargest city on Earth. We spend our firstnight away from this metropolis, at the pre-Aztec city of Teotihuacán - 'Place of theGods'. When the Aztecs first moved intothe region in the 14th century, Teotihuacánhad already lain abandoned for 800 yearsand, even today, we know very little aboutthe people who lived there, and even lessabout their demise. What remains isdominated by two great pyramids, thehuge 'Pyramid of the Sun' (the third largestin the world) and the smaller 'Pyramid ofthe Moon'. As we explore this fascinatingplace we are sure to encounter our firstMexican birds, including VermillionFlycatcher, Great Kiskadee, CanyonTowhee, Black Phoebe and Inca Dove.We next drive west, into the cool, pine-forested hills of the state of Michoacán.Here we will be based, for two nights, inthe small village of Angangueo that nestlesin a picturesque valley a short distancefrom the Monarch butterfly reserve of ElChincua. We will spend a full day at thereserve, giving us ample time to fullyappreciate the sight, and sound, of thisbreathtaking spectacle. The butterfliesspend the cool hours of the night andearly morning crowded onto every inch ofbranch and trunk. Then, as the day warms,the trees start to come alive as countlesswings begin to flex and quiver, warmingthe butterflies' flight muscles, ready to takethem out into the surrounding countrysideto feed. This is perhaps the mostspectacular sight of all, as the air starts tofill with millions of Monarchs, a blizzard of orange and black streaming past you with thousands more resting on path-side shrubs or taking salts fromstreams and puddles. The sight of all these butterflies is quitemesmerising, but if we can pull ourselvesout of the trance for a while, there shouldbe a variety of interesting birds to enjoysuch as Red Warbler, White-earedHummingbird, Blue-throatedHummingbird, Slate-throated Redstart,Russet Nightingale-thrush and theendemic Blue Mockingbird. Moving on, wespend two nights at Agua Blanca Lodgefrom where we will visit the newly openedEl Capulin Monarch Sanctuary beforeheading to the Valle de Bravo for the finaltwo nights of the tour. This typical Mexicantown, with its narrow cobbled streets andcolonial-style houses, sits on the shores ofthe Laguna de Avandaro. It is a beautifulspot and will be our base while we explorethe Piedra Herrada Butterfly Sanctuary, thethird Monarch glade of the holiday. Herewe can be enveloped by Monarchs for afinal time and search for such birds asCrescent-chested Warbler, Long-billedThrasher, Buff-breasted Flycatcher andhummingbirds from the mighty Magnificentto the tiny Bumblebee Hummingbird.Finally, retracing our steps back to MexicoCity, we may have time for some last-minute birdwatching before, with memoriesof a million Monarchs dancing in ourheads, we must sadly catch our returnflight home. Mexico's Monarchs A 9-day holiday to the highlands of central Mexico to enjoy the spectacular winter gatherings of Monarch butterflies.Friday 8th February - Saturday 16th February Cost: £2,495 Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Mexico City;overnight Teotihuacán.Day 2/3Angangueo.Day 4/5Agua Blanca Lodge.Day 6/7Valle de Bravo.Day 8Depart Mexico City.Day 9Arrive London.AccommodationComfortable hotels and lodges, allwith private facilities. FoodAll included in the price.GradingA. Day walks only. FocusMonarch butterflies, birds andhistory. LeaderTom McJannet.Single room supplement£395.Web quick search: MEX02194Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryMEXICOMEXICOCITYMORELIAANGANGUEOTEOTIHUACÁNVALLE DEBRAVOGULFOF MEXICOPACIFIC OCEANEl Rosario Monarch ReserveTeotihuacánMonarch