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Black Friday 2019: Discounted Birding Tours!

By | Birding Ecotours special offers, Latest Blogs

This blog was updated 29 October 2019, one month before Black Friday

If you book (with a deposit) any of the tours listed below, any time before Black Friday this year (Nov 29, 2019), you will receive 10 % off (note that this offer does not apply if you’ve already received another discount on the tour, and it applies only to new bookings). Practically all of the below are guaranteed departure tours unless otherwise stated.

Since Black Friday needs a bit of craziness, we’re offering 15 % off on tours marked in **bold** below!

The tour marked in #italics below is the only exception; we are not offering a discount on this tour. BUT if you book that tour (marked in #italics), you get 15 % off any of the other tours listed below (if you also book the one shown in #italics text).



The monotypic Ibisbill can be seen on our Bhutan extension to Assam. 



Brown-headed Honeyeater, one of a number of honeyeater species to be seen on our Australian tours.


Africa and Madagascar:

The prehistoric-looking Shoebill can be seen on our comprehensive Uganda tour. 

White-tailed Shrike; one of the many Namibian near-endemics to be seen on our Namibia/Botswana/Zambia tour.


The Americas:

Look at that bill! The ridiculous-looking Sword-billed Hummingbird can be seen on our Colombia tour.

The beautiful Rufous-crested Coquette can be seen on a few of our Peru tours.


The Arctic:

#Svalbard (Spitsbergen) in Arctic/far northern Norway: Polar Bears, Walruses, whales, pack ice, Iceland Gull, King Eider, Rock Ptarmigan, and other specials,

Arctic cruise usually produces sightings of Polar Bear!


White-bellied Seedsnipe near Ushuaia after one of our previous Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia and Falkland Islands tours.

**Join Birding Ecotours Bird Miles ( and get further discounts and rewards.**


When is the best time to visit South Africa for birding and wildlife?

By | Latest Blogs, When is the best time to visit various countries for birding

Many birders ask the same question “when is the best time to visit South Africa for birds, African megafauna, plants, etc.”. Here we try to answer this question in enough detail to cater to different specific interests.

We’ll start in the Fairest Cape. The Cape is different from the rest of South Africa and is the only part of the country that has winter rainfall. Most of the country has summer rainfall, although the Garden Route has year-round rainfall. The Western Cape has a Mediterranean-type climate with a macchia-type vegetation. This scrubby vegetation is the richest place on the planet for plant diversity (per square mile) and has more species per unit area even than the Amazon basin! This vegetation is called fynbos or Cape Flora. This, the Cape Floral Kingdom, is the smallest but richest plant kingdom on the planet (and is definitely worth writing home about). Therefore, while we focus mainly on birds, we can’t ignore the plants in this part of the world (not to mention that the birds are also affected by the plants, as discussed below). While the famous Protea and Erica species bloom throughout the year depending on species, the greatest number of them are in flower in July and August (late winter). So plant enthusiasts often visit at this time of the year. Arguably the world’s most spectacular displays of desert flowers, which can form vast carpets containing every color of the rainbow in Namaqualand north of Cape Town, are usually best in August and to a lesser extent in September. However, the timing of these displays does vary and can occasionally happen even in October, November, December, etc. (its rare for these floral carpets to be spectacular outside of August/September, though, and some August/September seasons are more disappointing than others).

The plants (when the majority of them are in flower) and winter rainfall definitely affect the birds in profound ways. Quite a number of Cape birds actually start breeding in late winter and early spring (basically from July through October, mainly in August and September) because the most food is available at this time because of the rain. This includes nectar-feeding birds such as the highly localized, beautiful Orange-breasted Sunbird and Cape Sugarbird, which breed when nectar is most abundant. It also includes insect-feeding birds because insects are more prevalent when the greatest numbers of flowers are in bloom and when the rains are falling. For example, it is much easier to find Cape and Agulhas Clapper Larks when they’re giving their spectacular (and truly bizarre) displays over the fynbos or Karoo scrub. And Knysna Warbler, a spectacularly localized South African endemic that is Vulnerable (IUCN), sings like crazy during this period. In winter it is more difficult to locate Knysna Warbler by its quiet contact call.

The problem, of course, is that it’s neither pleasant nor easy birding in the rain. While Cape rain typically falls as drizzle, which doesn’t pose a humongous problem, it’s still not pleasant trying to bird when it drizzles for two or three days at a time. That’s why we compromise and often run our Cape birding tours in October (or November or early December), when many birds are still singing and displaying even though it’s past their peaks, but the weather is more pleasant for us humans. Also much of the rest of South Africa is best in October and even more so in November and early December, when spectacular whydahs, widowbirds, and bishops are in full breeding plumage and are displaying and singing.  October is actually a good compromise if you want to bird both the Cape and eastern South Africa.

A great many intra-African and Palearctic (Eurasian) migrants augment South Africa’s bird species list in the austral summer. These birds are largely present from October through March (basically the southern summer), but naturally the exact arrival and departure dates of these migrants varies from species to species. However, a spring or summer trip during the above-mentioned months basically means you’ll get a substantially bigger species count than during a winter trip.

A lot of general nature enthusiasts prefer to visit southern Africa at the end of the dry season, when animals tend to be concentrated around the waterholes and are also easier to see because the grass is shorter. However, quite frankly, on our birding tours, which we often run in the spring and summer because the migrants are present, we still do find all the big (and small) mammals that Africa is famous for anyway. And the grass is a lot greener. Here we’re basically talking about eastern South Africa rather than the Cape, because that’s where the big game parks and animals are. The Cape does have some incredible species, though, such as the neat-looking Cape Mountain Zebra, the strikingly marked Bontebok antelope, etc. The Cape, Hermanus, and the Garden Route are famous for very close inshore Southern Right Whales, which are best seen between June and December. Great White Sharks, which the southern Cape is also famous for, are best seen in winter, especially in July and August when they can be seen breaching.

Some of the world’s best pelagic birding trips for seabirds run from “Cape Town” (or more specifically from Simonstown on the southern Cape Peninsula, about an hour’s drive south of Cape Town). These are brilliant year-round, and we usually find a minimum of four albatross species at any time of year, for example. But in winter there are larger numbers of pelagic species and there’s a bigger chance of seeing rarer albatross species (with lots of luck we can encounter more than four albatross species on a 1-day pelagic trip – this is more likely to happen in winter). In winter there can also be vast numbers of individual birds, especially Antarctic Prions, Pintado (Cape) Petrels, etc. Why is winter so good for these pelagic trips? Probably the main reason is that sub-Antarctic species fly north during the southern winter and find themselves near Cape Town. Please be aware that this is not called “the Cape of Storms” for nothing, though, and in winter conditions can be unpleasant on the small pelagic boat. But the seas can get awfully rough any time of the year because of strong winds – Cape Town is notoriously windy.

Although we’ve gone into great detail about a lot of the specifics, you won’t go wrong by visiting South Africa literally during any of the twelve months of the year. It’s definitely not one of those countries that has a narrow window of time during which the birding is good. Rainfall is rarely heavy enough to interrupt birding for long, even during the rainiest season, so for example it’s not one of those “rainforest-type countries” which need to be avoided in the wet season.

South Africa has the best weather in the world. That’s not an exaggeration. We challenge you to find a place with a better climate than sunny South Africa. Much of the country lies on a high-altitude plateau, so it doesn’t get too hot even in mid-summer. (Some of the high-mountain areas get rather cold, in fact, and snow falls each winter in the Drakensberg and the Cape Fold Mountains). The coast from Durban north through Zululand, as well as the Kruger National Park, does get very hot and humid in summer, though. South African winters also tend to be quite mild, but please be aware that houses and smaller hotels and B&B’s are not always heated, so even though it often doesn’t get much below freezing it’s not all that much warmer inside. So if you don’t like cold you might consider a spring, summer, or fall trip. Some areas, however, such as Kruger, Zululand, and the Kgalagadi/Kalahari, are ever so mild in winter (the latter area gets cold at night, though).

Please find our South African birding, wildlife, and photographic tours here:


When is the best time for birders and wildlife enthusiasts to visit Madagascar?

By | Latest Blogs, When is the best time to visit various countries for birding

Since we so often get asked the question “when is the best time to visit this or that country for birding”, we’ve written a series of blogs answering exactly that question for a number of popular birding destinations – in this case Madagascar, the eighth continent!

Countries such as Namibia and South Africa are great to visit for birds year-round, but Madagascar is not one of those places. We recommend to visit Madagascar only between mid-September and early December, unless you’re just visiting a small part of the country such as the arid southwest or the fascinating dry forests of the northwest, which are less seasonal and can be very good at other times of the year as well. But if you join a standard birding tour of Madagascar (these invariably include the eastern rainforests, which contain a large proportion of the endemic birds, lemurs, chameleons and other wildlife of Madagascar), then we (very!) highly suggest you only consider travel during the mid-September through early-December time period. Four of the five ground rollers (the forest ones) are really tough to locate outside of this, their breeding season, during which their loud calls reveal their presence. Few birders would want to go to Madagascar and risk missing ground rollers! Similar comments can be made about the incomparable Helmet Vanga, which most birders go to see on the pristine Masoala Peninsula, although in some years it can be reliably seen close to Andasibe/Perinet/Mantadia, which is more easily accessible from Antananarivo (Tana). This bird is usually almost a given during the southern spring (mid-September through early December) but can easily be missed at other times of the year.

Madagascar can get very rainy, and this rain can last for days and seriously interrupt the wildlife viewing and birdwatching. Tropical storms (a.k.a. cyclones) are generally a risk from mid-December through April (more rarely in other months), so we don’t consider it desirable – or, for that matter, safe – to travel to Madagascar during this period.

Of course there are always exceptions. The world’s tiniest chameleon is easier to find when conditions are rainy. It’s easy to tread on these tiny critters, as they often walk out onto the litter-covered trails. We still find them in the dry season, although fewer of them compared with the wet season. They are so minute and camouflaged that they’re tough to spot.

If you want to join a remote Madagascar trip to look for Slender-billed Flufftail, Madagascar Pochard, Red Owl, and Madagascar Serpent Eagle, you’ll have to time it right to make sure the serpent-eagle site hasn’t been restricted by the Peregrine Fund. This usually happens from some date in September onward through the rest of spring, once these Endangered (IUCN) eagles have started breeding. We time our trips to this part of Madagascar in September while we run a lot of our other Madagascar bird trips in October.

Because there’s such a short window for birding/wildlife enthusiasts to visiting Madagascar (September through early December), the lodges can become fully booked far in advance. So please be aware of this if you book your own trip. But this is not easy to do (book your own trip) as Madagascar is a challenge from so many angles. It’s often thought of as “one of those places to which it’s better to join an organized birding or wildlife tour” rather than to hazard trying it on your own (even if it saves costs).

Please find our Madagascar wildlife and birding tours here:

What are the best months for visiting Namibia and Botswana for birding?

By | Latest Blogs, When is the best time to visit various countries for birding

This is part of a series of blogs to help birders decide when best to visit various countries. For example, when to go to avoid the rainy season, when to visit when the birds are singing and displaying, when the migrants are present, etc.

Much of Namibia has a typical desert climate. This means hot, dry summers (although often pleasant at night), and very mild winters (nicely warm during the day although cold at night). Parts of Namibia are ruggedly mountainous, and the higher reaches and plateaus can get particularly cold during winter nights. Where the cold seas (because of the Benguela current) meet the hot desert, fog develops. This means that the coastal desert, including towns such as Lüderitz, Walvis Bay, and Swakopmund, get very misty, mainly at night in summer, but the fog can linger for part or all of the day in winter. This cools things down, making the coast quite pleasant in summer but dreary in winter. As one moves only slightly inland, summer temperatures get very high, but tolerable to many people since it’s a dry heat.

Not all of Namibia is a desert, of course. As one travels north-east, and especially as one moves eastwards along the Caprivi Strip in northern Namibia, it can be humid and hot. Therefore travelers including the bird-rich, finger-like Caprivi Strip in their birding itinerary need to be prepared for hot, humid temperatures in summer (but very pleasant conditions in winter).

Remember, of course, that the southern summer is from December through February, with winter being June through August. Spring (September through November) and fall (or, as Namibians usually call it, autumn) are usually pretty mild months to travel to Namibia, although less predictable (e.g., spring can see early summer weather or late winter weather).

While in wet parts of the world one needs to avoid the rainy season, the same certainly does not apply in Namibia or Botswana. The “rainiest” season in Namibia is generally from December through March, but thunderstorms or rain showers rarely last long enough to interrupt the birding significantly. And thunderstorms in Namibia are a joy to behold, and they lower the temperatures nicely. They’re usually short-lived, and the birds often come out in force soon after a thunderstorm, especially when this prompts alates (flying termites) to emerge – these insects are massively nutritious for birds and even a lot of (normally) non-insectivorous birds eat them.

We actually operated a tour during the rainiest month in recorded history in Namibia (during March some years back), and not even that prevented us from finding all our bird and mammal targets. We waded through a river that only flows once every few years to get to our Dune Lark site, while watching Namibians play in water they virtually never see. Our vehicle did get stuck in mud a couple of times (not for long, though). What a trip filled with amazing experiences! Namibia was far greener than usual. It was a highly successful, and fascinating, trip.

If you don’t like heat, it’s best to avoid Namibia in late spring and summer. However, the intra-African and Eurasian migrants are only present at this time of the year, so if you don’t mind putting up with some heat your bird list will be augmented. Some of the migrants start arriving in September, many of them only arrive in October, and quite a number of cuckoo species only arrive in November. Tropical waterbirds such as Dwarf Bittern, Allen’s Gallinule, Lesser Moorhen, Striped Crake, etc., move into areas only when they seasonally flood, typically from January through March. This seasonal flooding doesn’t happen every year, though; arid areas have unpredictable rainfall cycles.

The localized species (endemics and near-endemics) of Namibia (and Botswana) are present year-round, which is why a lot of birders visit Namibia in winter, despite the lack of migrants. The advantage of winter is that temperatures are mild (but chilly at night and sometimes all day long near the coast because of the fog). Not only is this more pleasant for us humans, but the birds also stay active throughout the day in winter because of the cooler temperatures. So one doesn’t have to stop birding for the hot middle-of-the-day hours. But, of course, day length is shorter, so there are fewer hours of daylight to fit everything in.

August and September are perhaps the busiest months in Namibia, not only because temperatures are so pleasant but also because it’s the peak vacation time for Europeans, including all the Germans who visit Namibia. Accommodation in Namibia can be in very short supply during these months. We tend to block-book our tours 18 months ahead, but even then we don’t always land the exact accommodation we first choose.

Winter is the dry season, and toward the end of the dry season (July, August, and September) game is more concentrated around waterholes and the grass is shorter, making viewing of these animals easier. It’s not quite as simple as that in neighboring Botswana, though. The Okavango Delta lies just to the south of Namibia’s Caprivi Strip. The Okavango’s waters sink into the deep sands of the Kalahari (which is a semi-desert), forming a humongous inland delta. This delta floods several weeks after the rainy season because of the time it takes for the water to move downstream. Some lower Okavango lodges actually have the most water in July during a typical year and can be flooded until October, so for birders and nature enthusiasts visiting during this time it’s the wrong season if you want the wildlife to be concentrated around the remaining pools. High-season rates generally apply in the Okavango from July to October, though, because temperatures are so pleasant. Summer is hot, but (like in Namibia) migrants are present, and it is often considered the superior time to visit (for birders) because of this.

So, in summary, Namibia and Botswana are great year-round. But when you visit will depend on your personal preferences and goals. There are certainly other countries which should not be visited year-round, but these two can be!