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Home to 1,400 different bird species,Venezuela boasts the sixth richestavifauna on Earth. To sample thiswealth of birdlife, bird tours havetraditionally focused on the north of thecountry; this holiday, however, will explorethe little-known southern region whichforms the core of the world's largesttropical wilderness area, the territoryidealised in Conan Doyle's 'The Lost World'and Hudson's 'Green Mansions'. Here wewill focus on the birds of the famous tepuis,or table mountains, together with thelowland forests which collectively comprisethe ancient Guiana Shield. By adding a visitto the Oilbird Cave and the Paria Peninsula(the point at which Columbus finally landedon mainland America), we offer you anunbeatable wildlife tour of easternVenezuela!We begin on the Caribbean coast, with anight in an inn not far from the airportbefore flying on, the following morning, tothe north-east of the country. Here we willspend the rest of the day exploring thestrange, arid moonscape of the ArayaPeninsula, looking for such dry countryspecialities as Yellow-shouldered Parrot,Buffy Hummingbird, Glaucous Tanagerand Vermilion Cardinal, as well asAmerican Flamingo, Scarlet Ibis and awide range of waders. An hour's drive nextmorning takes us to Finca Vuelta Larga, aGerman-owned conservation ranch wherewe will look for the diminutive Black-dottedPiculet, White-chested Emerald and thestunning Crimson-hooded Manakin,together with a variety of both open-country and wetland birds. Cerro de Humo (Smoke Mountain), on theParia Peninsula, is our fourth day'sdestination. Here we hope to rendezvouswith the Paria endemics - Scissor-tailedHummingbird, White-tailed Sabrewing,White-throated Barbtail, Paria Whitestartand Venezuelan Flowerpiercer - and alsotry to find such birds as VenezuelanParakeet, the local form of Slate-crownedAntpitta and Handsome Fruiteater beforewe drive on to Caripe. This site is bestknown as the location of the Oilbird Cavefirst described by Humboldt, and on oneof our two evenings here we will witnessthe remarkable sight of thousands ofOilbirds leaving their cave. Whilst in Caripewe will also take a hike up Cerro Negro insearch of the endangered endemic, Grey-headed Warbler, and Venezuelan Sylph.Bidding farewell to Venezuela's north-east,we now set our sights on an entirelydifferent avifauna. Our lodge in theImataca Forest Reserve is best known asthe access point to the world's top regionfor breeding Harpy Eagles. Here we havearguably the best chance anywhere in itsrange of finding this, the world's largesteagle. The reserve is also home to aplethora of superb lowland rainforestspecies and we will spend the next threenights here in search of them. Amongstthe hundreds of species that we could seehere, Marail Guan, Black Curassow, manyparrots (including Caica and Red-fanParrot), Black-necked and Green Aracaris,Guianan Toucanet, Black-spotted Barbet,Curve-billed Scythebill, Fasciated andGreat Antshrikes, a host of antbirds (suchas Rufous-throated, Ferruginous-backedand the spectacular White-plumed),antwrens (including Todd's, Spot-tailed,Long-winged and Grey) and PompadourCotingas are just a few! Reluctantly dragging ourselves away fromthis rainforest bonanza, we next drivesouthwards towards the tepuis, where wewill spend our final four nights in thewonderful, family-run Barquilla de Fresalodge. The owners are excellent hosts andknow exactly what we have come for, theirlodge being located in the fabulouslowland forests at the base of the Sierra de Lema escarpment - home toCapuchinbirds and other cotingas. Aftereach long day's birdwatching in thelowland rainforests, and on the wall of thetable mountain above the lodge, we will nodoubt return to relax at the lodge with acold drink and to enjoy the Crimson Topazat the feeders, the Paradise Jacamars inthe garden and the Swallow-wingedPuffbirds nesting by our cabins. However,our main targets will be the 30 or moretepui endemics, amongst them TepuiTinamou, Tepui Parrotlet, TepuiGoldenthroat and so on; not to mention theTepui Spinetail, Antpitta, Brush-finch,Whitestart, Greenlet and Mountain-grackle!Blue-cheeked Parrot, Guianan Cock-of-the-rock, Bearded and White Bellbirds andsuch rare birds of prey as Orange-breastedFalcon and Black-faced Hawk will beamongst other species that we hope to seein this unforgettable prehistoric-lookinglandscape with its sweeping vistas ofunbroken rainforest and sheer tepui walls.It is little wonder that this area is aUNESCO World Heritage Site! A marvellousspot at which to conclude our tour!Those of you wishing to stay on may optto take our 3-day extension to visit theAngel Falls, the world's highest waterfall.Our camp lies alongside the stunninglybeautiful Carrao River, with a series ofwaterfalls close by. One day will bedevoted to travelling up-river in canoes tovisit the base of the Angel Falls.Venezuela - Oilbirds, Harpy Eagles & Table MountainsA 16-day birdwatching and wildlife holiday visiting the Araya and Paria Peninsulas, Oilbird Cave, Guiana Shield and Table Mountains, with an extension to the Angel Falls.Thursday 15th November - Friday 30th November 2012 Cost: £3,495Thursday 14th November - Friday 29th November 2013 Cost: £3,595Angel Falls extension available on both tours Cost: £1,095 Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationCOLOMBIAANGEL FALLSRIVERORINOCORIVERCARONICANAIMACIUDADGUAYANAGRANSABANAIMATACAFORESTRESERVEPUERTO ORDAZ(EXTENSION)CARIPEARAYAPENINSULAPARIAPENINSULACARACASVENEZUELAOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Caracas. Day 2Fly Carüpano; ArayaPeninsula. Day 3/4Paria Peninsula. Day 5/6Caripe. Day 7/9Imataca Forest Reserve. Day 10/13La Gran Sabana. Day 14Puerto Ordaz. Day 15Depart Venezuela. Day 16Arrive London.Angel Falls extension Day 15/17Canaima and AngelFalls. Day 18Depart Venezuela. Day 19Arrive London.Accommodation Birding lodges and small inns, mostwith private facilities.Food All included in the price.GradingWalking is fairly easy, except for two(optional) longer hikes up Cerro deHumo and Cerro Negro. Focus Birds and wildlife.LeaderCecilia Herrera (main tour);Alejandro Nagy (extension).Single room supplement£295, where available (extension:£275).Web quick search: VEN04211KukenánHarpy Eagle

ASIAThe variety of landscapes, peoples, cultures and wildlife to be found in Asia is quiteremarkable. From the vast, unpeopled deserts and steppes of Kazakhstan to the mostspectacular and highest mountains in the world that lie along the northern border of Nepal, thebackbone of the Great Himalaya. From the humid tropical rainforests of Borneo, Thailand andMalaysia to the flower-filled, oak and rhododendron forests of the temperate Himalayanfoothills in Nepal, China and Bhutan. These vast and varied regions are home to Muslims,Christians, Buddhists and Hindus; to pastoralist nomads, sedentary farmers, traditional traders,industrialists and tribal hunter-gatherers. Here, botanists may revel in the tulip-filled meadowsof Kazakhstan, the rhododendron forests of Bhutan, and the alpine meadows of China andNepal. Mammal enthusiasts will be rewarded with far more than the big cats on our verypopular 'Just Tigers!' and 'Tiger Direct!' tours in central India, whilst birdwatchers face thechallenge of both the diversity and elusive habits of south-east Asia's tropical rainforest birds,the thrill of encountering those fabled Siberian species that occasionally visit British shores asvagrants, and the physical challenge of tracking down the remote high-altitude specialities ofthe Tien Shan and Himalayan mountains. Tigers, Leopards, Snow Leopards, Clouded Leopards,Asiatic Lions, Asian Elephants, Water Buffalo, Gaur (Asian Bison), Indian One-hornedRhinoceros, and Brown, Black and Sloth Bears - all seen on our holidays - are amongst Asia's'big game' that is every bit as exciting as that found in Africa! The Asian challenge, though, isgreater than that of Africa, for whilst much of the latter's wildlife may be seen on traditionalvehicular safaris, the former's demands patience on foot amongst the rainforests, and the goodhealth and enthusiasm to undertake exciting treks through the Himalaya. We stay in some finehotels and luxury jungle lodges and tented camps on many of our Asian holidays; but camping(fully serviced!) and more basic government guesthouses are needed to allow us to explore andenjoy the more remote areas. "The most memorable part was seeing a tiger in the wild for the first time, a beautiful tigress sittingupon a rock. Her eyes and mine locked . absolutely electrifying. I couldn't help weeping with joy."M.W., London - India."I would just like to thank everyone involved in making this trip one of the best I have undertaken." D.B., South Yorkshire - Nepal."This was my first trip with Naturetrek. I thoroughly enjoyed the holiday and it exceeded myexpectations. I found that having a naturalist heading the party was invaluable. I am spreading theword and recommending Naturetrek to anyone who has an interest in nature." S.D., North Somerset - Borneo.212