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The topography of Chile is one of themost extraordinary of any country inthe world, a ribbon of land stretchingover 4,000 kilometres from the aridAtacama Desert in the north to the sub-Antarctic islands of the south. Nowheremore than 180 kilometres wide, thecountry is separated from neighbouringArgentina by the high mountains of theAndes which create some of the mostspectacular mountain scenery in SouthAmerica. Thanks to this unusualgeography, and a comprehensivedomestic airline network, it is possible tovisit a wide range of habitats within theconstraints of a 17-day holiday and thisexciting tour effortlessly exchangesAndean snow-line for the seabird filledwaters of the Pacific, before travellingsouth to explore the wild coastline andbeech forests bordering the Straits ofMagellan at the very tip of the continent.As we move from one stunning vista toanother, the quality of the birdwatchingmatches the magnificence of thelandscape and the holiday bird list is likelyto include such sought-after species asAndean Condor, Inca Tern, Andean Avocet,Magellanic Plover and the peculiarDiademed Sandpiper-plover.Our tour begins in the Chilean capital,Santiago, but we soon leave the sprawlingcity behind and fly to Arica, a coastal townin the north of the country. Boobies andcormorants occur here in large numbersforming one component of a fine selectionof seabirds and shorebirds, that furtherincludes the local Band-tailed Gull and thebeautiful Inca Tern. Temporarily forsakingthe coast we then travel into the mountainsto spend a few days exploring the veryscenic Lauca National Park, which nestlesamid the snow-capped volcanoes of thealtiplanoat an elevation of between 3,000 and 6,000 metres. The leisurely drivefrom Arica will take us through asuccession of vegetation zones, thelandscape initially sparsely vegetatedapart from scattered cacti but becomingprogressively more verdant as we increasein altitude. Andean Condor, Peruvian Thick-knee, Torrent Duck and GiantHummingbird are just a few of thespectacular birds likely to be encounteredduring this picturesque ascent. In scenesthat seem to epitomise the high Andes, weshould also find domestic herds of Alpacaand Llama on the mountain slopestogether with smaller parties of wildVicuna, Guanaco and Viscacha. LakeChungara, inside the park, is one of thehighest lakes in the world and full of suchinteresting birds as Giant Coot,flamingoes, Andean Gull, Andean Avocetand many other high-altitude waterbirds.We will visit the lake and the nearbymountain village of Parinacota beforebeginning our descent to the coast,stopping along the way for any interestingroadside birds.The nutrient-rich coastal waters of centralChile rank as one of the most outstandingareas for seabirds in South America andwe will undertake a short pelagic outingfrom our next destination, the port ofQuinteros. The variety of seabirds isalways unpredictable but with the likelyappearance of albatrosses, shearwaters,petrels and skuas we are assured aninteresting voyage. Before returning toSantiago we will explore the oakwoodlands of La Campana National Parkwhere six of the nine endemic birds ofChile may be found.A flight to the southern town of Osorno will be followed by a drive through a wild landscape of blue lakesand towering volcanoes to spend twonights near the Puyehue National Park.This is an area much beloved of skiers butfor us the attraction will be the southernbeech forests surrounding our hotel, wherea number of Andean specialities such asChucao Tapaculo and Black-throated Huet-huet await our discovery.Flying south over glaciers and mountains we finally arrive at PuntaArenas, the last major habitation in Chile,on the shores of the Magellan Straits. This wild and beautiful region enjoys acapricious climate, exposed as it is toweather fronts blowing in from Antarctica,but calm sunny days are not as rare as thelatitude suggests and we will hope forplenty of these during our visit! In thesesouthern climes we have a whole newrange of birds to see including suchhighlights as Magellanic Penguin, Southern Giant Petrel, Magellanic Plover,Kelp Goose and Flightless Steamer-duck.An excursion across the Straits ofMagellan to Porvenir in Tierra del Fuegowill be an unforgettable experience,enhanced by a wealth of bird sightings,superb scenery and the appearance ofmarine mammals such as Commerson'sDolphin and Southern Sea Lion. Anovernight stay in Porvenir will furtherincrease our chances of seeing the diverse mix of seabirds, wildfowl, wadersand specialised land birds characteristic of this unique southern extremity of the continent. We fly back to Santiago after savouring the ornithological delights of the south butone last experience awaits as we pay abrief visit to the high mountain slopes ofthe Cordillera de los Andes near thecapital. Here this immensely varied tourconcludes amid a typically magnificentlandscape frequented by DiademedSandpiper-plover, seedsnipe and manyother high-altitude birds.ChileA 17-day birdwatching tour visiting coastal and montane habitats from the arid north to the sub-Antarctic south of this beautiful country.Saturday 3rd November - Monday 19th November 2012 Cost: £4,595Saturday 2nd November - Monday 18th November 2013 Cost: £5,225 Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Santiago.Day 2Santiago.Day 3Arica.Day 4Putre.Day 5 Lauca National Park.Day 6/7 Quinteros.Day 8Santiago.Day 9/10Puyehue National Park.Day 11Punta Arenas.Day 12Porvenir.Day 13Punta Arenas.Day 14/15Santiago.Day 16Depart Santiago.Day 17Arrive London.AccommodationComfortable tourist hotels, mostwith private facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingB. Birdwatching walks only, but atsome locations altitude may causewalks to feel more strenuous thannormal.FocusBirds.LeaderMario Mosquiera.Single room supplement£595.Web quick search: CHL01202Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryLAUCA NATIONAL PARKARICAPUTREQUINTEROSPUYEHUEPUERTONATIONAL PARKMONTTPUNTAARENASTIERRADEL FUEGOPORVENIROSORNOLA CAMPANA NATIONAL PARKANDESSANTIAGOARGENTINAPACIFICOCEANPERUDiademed Sandpiper-ploverGuanacos

Biologically, South America is therichest of the Earth's continents. ItsAmazon Basin holds the largest andmost diverse tract of tropical rainforest onthe planet, while its major mountain range,the Andes, harbours an astonishing varietyof ecosystems that range from the tundra-like páramoand epiphyte-ladencloudforest to rain-shadow valleys anddeciduous deserts. To sample these richesthere is no better country in which to startthan Ecuador. In this small country anastonishing diversity of birdlife may befound (the greatest for its size in SouthAmerica), and with a welcoming people,relatively short travel distances and goodaccommodation, birdwatching here is truly a delight. We begin our holiday with a thoroughexploration of the western slope of theAndes, focusing first on the well-knownand spectacular Nono-Mindo road. Thislong, winding road heads west from theoutskirts of Quito at the base of VolcánPichincha. We pass through near-páramohabitat before working our way down thewestern slope through excellent temperateand subtropical forest. Here we mayencounter such species as Plate-billedMountain Toucan, Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Toucan Barbet, Crimson-mantledWoodpecker, Booted Racket-tail and more.During the afternoon we will arrive at acomfortable birders' lodge in a valley ofpristine cloudforest just outside Mindo, our accommodation for the next threenights. It is a delight to lie back in one ofthe hammocks and watch up to 12 species feeding on the sugar-water from one of the feeders. Mindo is a small town surrounded byhillside after hillside of lush verdantcloudforest. Many of the western endemicbirds may be found here. We will alsohave the chance to walk to a Cock-of-the-rock lek where the males dance andflaunt their stunning scarlet plumage. Alsofrom Mindo we will devote some time tothe Chocópatch of Pedro VicenteMaldonado, home to many sought-afterand highly localised endemics which areextremely hard to find without localknowledge.The next leg of our journey takes us on ashort flight over the Andes and down tothe Amazonian lowlands. Here we willtravel down the mighty Napo River bymotorised canoe for an exciting 5-day stay at Sacha Lodge, one of the bestrainforest lodges in the world. The lodgeitself enjoys a wonderful location by theside of a secluded and peaceful oxbowlake, deep within virgin rainforest. One ofthe many highlights of our stay here will be the 50-metre tower that gives ussplendid access to the forest canopy. Anearly morning spent in the tower is anunforgettable experience offering thechance to enjoy some superb mixed-species feeding flocks of tanagers,toucans, parrots, macaws, euphonias,flycatchers and birds of prey. On otherexcursions we will paddle through beautiful flooded creeks in traditionaldugout canoes. For those preferring atemporary break from the birding, amorning spent in the company of one ofthe local indigenous guides is fascinating.Their knowledge of medicinal plants, localtools and weapons and their overall junglecraft is remarkable. Mammals in therainforest are notoriously difficult to spotbut at Sacha there is a great chance ofseeing up to six species of monkey.Sloths, deer, anteaters and even wild cats can be seen with some luck, whileSpectacled Caiman and Side-neckedTurtles are common in the surroundingblackwater lagoons. After our flight back to the capital, we haveone full day to explore Yanacocha. Theslopes of Volcán Pichincha harbour some ofthe most accessible and undisturbedtemperate forest in all of northern Ecuador.Highlights may include Andean Guan,Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Black-chestedMountain-tanager and a whole spectrum ofhummingbirds. To finish our tour we move up towards theeastern cordillera of the Andes, looking enroute for Giant Hummingbird and Red-crested Cotinga. The windswept grassypáramoon the Papallacta Pass holds manyinteresting high-elevation birds and, aftercrossing the pass, lush vegetation soonbegins to blanket the valleys, with the greenhillsides around Papallacta being particularlygood for hummingbirds and tanagers. Wewill spend two nights in delightfulaccommodation at the hot thermal springsin Papallacta, the best in Ecuador. There isno better way to end a day's birding thanwith a bottle of wine, fresh locally caughttrout and a long soak in the hot thermalsprings beneath the equatorial stars! Ecuador - The Andes & AmazonA 15-day birdwatching tour of the threatened western cloudforests, the spectacular high páramo and the Amazon Basin.Wednesday 7th November - Wednesday 21st November 2012 Cost: £3,495Wednesday 7th August - Wednesday 21st August 2013 Cost: £3,795Wednesday 6th November - Wednesday 20th November 2013 Cost: £3,495Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationQUITOMINDOYANACOCHASACHALODGECOCAPAPALLACTAECUADORCOLOMBIAPERUPACIFICOCEANOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Quito.Day 2/5Mindo.Day 6/10Amazon lowlands.Day 11Yanacocha.Day 12/13Papallacta, High Andes.Day 14Depart Quito.Day 15Arrive London.AccommodationComfortable lodges and hotels withprivate facilities.FoodAll included in the price exceptmain meals in Quito.GradingGrade A. Easy day walks only,although some over steep terrain.FocusBirds.LeaderByron Palacios or AlejandroSolano, plus local guides.Single room supplement£495.ExtensionsMany optional extensions areavailable. Some suggestionsinclude Loja, Cuenca and theGalápagos. Please call for our helpand suggestions.Web quick search: ECU08203CloudforestHoatzin and chick