This exciting 4-day tour, runningthroughout Finland's high summermonths, includes a 3-night stay at awonderful Wilderness Centre, lying in aquiet taiga forest along the Russian border.Here you have the option of spending oneor two nights in a specially constructed logcabin that has been designed as a bearhide. The departure dates listed above aresplit between two wilderness venues,Martinselkosen Wilds Centre and BorealWildlife Centre. Both are located in easternFinland, a stone's throw from Russia, andare surrounded by endless tracts ofuninhabited taiga forest, home to the fullassemblage of Europe's top predators:Brown Bear, Wolf, Lynx and Wolverine. Ever since our first visit to this region backin 2001 we have been amazed by thenumber of Brown Bears visiting the siteseach night. Up to 20 individuals have beenseen over the course of a single night atMartinselkosen Wilds Centre, sometimeswith 10 or more present at one time!Whilst fewer individuals are generally seenfrom the hide at Boreal Wildlife Centre,multiple Bear sightings are typical on mostsummer nights and both Wolf andWolverine are being recorded fairlyregularly here too! Being just south of theArctic Circle, this region enjoys virtuallycontinuous, 24-hour daylight during thesummer months and it is certainly lightenough to view the Bears throughout thenight, should you choose to do so.Watching the interaction and socialhierarchy of the Bears is fascinating. Hugestern males wander through from time totime scattering the smaller animals as theygo. By mid to late June the first mothersappear with their cubs (the cubs are bornduring the winter months and stay close totheir mothers for over a year), whilstplayful independent youngsters come andgo throughout the night and singlefemales forage timidly. During the courseof the night, all forage, scratch, climb,sniff, scrap and play - displaying all theendearing characteristics which makeBears and their cubs so universallypopular with humans! For most of the period of observation theBears are likely to be at 10 to 30 metres'range from the hide. However, at timesthey approach much nearer and a close-up view of an adult Brown Bear is a never-to-be-forgotten highlight of the tour.Although nothing is guaranteed in theworld of wildlife-viewing, we have anexcellent chance of seeing thesemagnificent creatures, provided thatsilence is observed within the hide.As well as afternoon and night-time Bear-watching from the hide, you will have thechance to walk amongst and enjoy theforests, mires, small lakes and brooks ofthis peaceful and remote region, either inthe company of your guide, orindependently. On the small lakesamongst the forest Black-throated andRed-throated Divers breed; Rustic andeven Little Buntings may be found by thelakesides and around the mires, whilstdeeper in the forest you may encountersuch specialities as Black and Three-toedWoodpecker, Siberian Jay and Siberian Tit.There are few species of diurnal raptors inthis part of Europe but, by keeping an eyeskyward, Honey Buzzards should be seen,and there is always a good chance ofseeing a Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk,Goshawk or Hobby. In the heart of theforest, resident Capercaillie, Black Grouseand Hazel Grouse are shy and elusive, butthose that are quiet and patient enough may be rewarded. Whooper Swans, Red-breasted Mergansers, Goosanders andCommon Cranes are other denizens of thenorth that may be found breeding on theFinnish lakes and mires, though they arenot necessarily to be found in the vicinityof either Wilderness Centre. The moreobliging and sociable bird groups of theseFinnish taiga forests are the northernthrushes (including breeding Fieldfaresand Redwings), tits and finches(Chaffinch, Brambling, Siskin, Redpoll,Scarlet Rosefinch, Crossbill and ParrotCrossbill amongst others).Although the Brown Bears are our primaryobjective, many other mammals inhabitthe taiga and, although they are all shyand elusive (especially when there areBears in the vicinity!), such species as Elk,Wolverine, Wolf, Pine Marten and Beaverare also occasionally observed. NB. For those of you interested inmaximising your chances of seeingWolverine, we would recommend a 2- or 3-night extension to a 'Wolverine hide'close to the town of Viksmo. Thisextension can only be added to those ofour 'Finland - Just Brown Bears!' toursbased at Boreal Wildlife Centre. Pleasecall us on 01962 733051 for moreinformation and prices.Finland - Just Brown Bears!Join us for a long weekend (or mid-week) Brown Bear-watching holiday amongst the fine taigaforests that straddle Finland's border with Russia.Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationRUSSIASWEDENOULUWILDERNESS CENTREKUUSAMOHELSINKIGULF OFBOTHNIAGULF OFFINLANDARCTIC CIRCLEFINLANDOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Oulu and transferWilderness Centre.Day 2/3Brown Bear-watchingand birdwatching,Wilderness Centre.Day 4Transfer to Oulu and flyLondon.AccommodationComfortable wilderness guesthousewith shared facilities; overnightBear-watching from a log cabinwith reclining seats, mattresses andshared toilet facilities.FoodTwo main meals per day, plussnacks.GradingA straightforward wildlife tour withsome gentle walking to and fromthe Bear hide, plus optional walksfrom the guesthouse. Grade A/B.FocusBrown Bears, other mammals, birdsand general natural history.LeaderA local naturalist guide.Single room supplement£120.ExtensionsMany optional extensions forfurther exciting wildlife-viewing (e.g. Wolf and Wolverine) areavailable. Please call for our helpand suggestions.Web quick search: FIN0253European Brown BearsWolverineDeparture dates (Martinselkosen Wilds Centre):24th & 30th May; 6th June; 4th, 18th & 25th July; 1st & 4th August Cost: from £995Departure dates (Boreal Wildlife Centre):20th & 27th June; 11th July; 8th & 15th August Cost: £995N.B. Our 4th July departure is a specialist photography tour led by a UK tour leader and our 25th Julydeparture is for families with children.
Situated in the south-east ofFrance, and with aMediterranean coastline,spring comes early to Provence, heraldedby a veritable carpet of colourful wildflowers. This is truly a region of contrasts,from the commercialised coastal fringeand the famous Camargue marshlands inthe delta of the Rhône, to the highmountains of the Alps. Between theseextremes, there is another Provence that isnot so well known, an area away from themain throng of tourists, where smallvillages cling to craggy hilltops, and whereone can be at peace with the magnificentscenery. This is the charming countrysideof the Vaucluse, where the hump-backedrange of the Montagne du Luberon risesup parallel to the coastal plain to thesouth. From here the views aremagnificent. To the north, across the highPlateau de Vaucluse, stands the mightyMont Ventoux, its dark wooded flanksrising to a barren white limestone summitat 1,909 metres; to the west lie the jaggedand spectacular rocky crags of theDentelles de Montmiral. During this 2-centre holiday we will bestaying at small, family-run hotels, set indelightful and picturesque village settings,and enjoying tasty local Provençal cuisine.From here we will make daily excursionsinto the surrounding countryside - asoften as possible on foot - in search offlowering plants, butterflies and birds. Ourcarefully chosen locations will give us theopportunity to sample many differenthabitats at varying altitudes, all within arelatively small area.This time of year is the peak floweringperiod for the extremely rich Mediterraneanflora of southern France, with fragrantherbs being particularly numerous in themaquis. Spurges, brooms, tree heathers,thymes, sages and colourful Cistusare allcharacteristic of this habitat, while manyorchids include Provence, Lady, Elder-flowered, Violet Limodore, the veryimpressive Giant Orchid, and abewildering variety of early floweringOphrysspecies. Amongst the birds of thearea, such summer visitors as Hoopoes,Golden Orioles, Bee-eaters, shrikes andwarblers should have arrived to join theresident species, and an impressive rangeof birds of prey is present. Amazingly, over70 different species of butterfly have alsobeen recorded on the wing in April here.These include such colourful species asCleopatra, Southern and ScarceSwallowtail and Spanish Festoon, plusothers such as Rosy Grizzled Skipper,Chapman's Green Hairstreak andProvence Chalk-hill Blue which arerestricted in France just to this area.On Mont Ventoux, in effect the mostwesterly extension of the Alps, we will finda good mountain flora, including alpinesedges (Carex sp.), the rock jasminesAndrosace vitalianaand A. chaixii, theexquisite little blue Mount Cenis Violet, anAlpine poppy (Papaver aurantiacum) andthe endemic little white candytuft (Iberiscandolleana). Birds on these high slopesinclude Snowfinch, Alpine Accentor, RockThrush, Rock Bunting and, on the tree-line,Citril Finch. Lower down, Crossbill, CrestedTit, Siskin and even Hazelhen may befound in the pine woods, whilst Goshawk,Redstart and Black Woodpecker favour thedeciduous woodland.Through the limestone Plateau deVaucluse, rivers have carved their waythrough the soft rock to form spectaculargorges over the millennia. These providenesting sites for many raptors, includingEagle Owl, Peregrine, and Golden, Short-toed, Booted and Bonelli's Eagle, togetherwith Egyptian, Griffon and, occasionally,Black Vulture. The latter two species arestarting to re-colonise this area fromelsewhere, and at one particular spot weshould be able to (unusually) observethem from above as they glide effortlesslyby below us. The flora of these calcareousrocks is also very rich, with typical speciesincluding Montpellier Milk Vetch, MartagonLily, Nodding Star-of-Bethlehem, pink,yellow and white flaxes and variousorchids, whilst nearby meadows holdsheets of white Poet's Eye Narcissus andthe little yellow Narcissus requienii.Across the River Durance, les Alpilles,another lower range of limestone hills,rises up precipitously from the plain, withthe picturesque village of les Baux-de-Provence clinging precariously to itsflanks. These are also good for birds ofprey, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin and RockThrush, as well as being a well-known sitefor the elusive Wallcreeper. From oursecond base we will visit the Camargue,with its herds of white horses and blackbulls, to enjoy its rich selection of wetlandbird species and interesting coastal flora,including Sea Daffodil, Great Sea Stockand numerous colourful pea and orchidspecies. This holiday offers the chance for the all-round naturalist to enjoy a greatdiversity of species at a leisurely pace,whilst at the same time appreciating themagnificent architecture and scenery of one of the most beautiful and tranquil regions of France. SPAINITALYSWITZERLANDGERMANYBELGIUMPARISSAULTTOULOUSEMARSEILLEST. GILLESMONTPELLIERBORDEAUXFRENCHALPSMONT VENTOUXSTRASBOURGENGLISH CHANNELATLANTIC OCEANMEDITERRANEANSEAFRANCE54Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Marseille and driveto the Luberon region ofProvence.Day 2/5Daily programme ofnatural history walksand excursions in theLuberon region ofProvence.Day 6/7Daily excursions in theCamargue.Day 8Fly London.Accommodation Two charming village hotels, withprivate facilities and servingexcellent local food.Food All included in the price.Grading Grade A/B. Easy to moderate walksonly.Focus Plants, birds and butterflies.LeadersPhilip Thompson (botanist) andKeith Buchanan (ornithologist).Single room supplement£160.ExtensionsAvailable on request.Web quick search: FRA10France - Provence in SpringAn 8-day holiday focusing on the wonderfully rich spring flora, butterfliesand birds found in Provence and the Camargue. Thursday 25th April - Thursday 2nd May Cost: £1,295 HoopoeScarce Swallowtail