News: Tour Reports

Browse News by Category

Catch up on the latest news from Victor Emanuel Nature Tours by reading the latest VENTflash.

Ethiopia: Lalibela-Blue Nile Extension


Attila Steiner: February 12, 2016

After spending the night in Addis Ababa, we had an early flight to Lalibela. Our day was dedicated to the famous Unesco World Heritage rock-hewn churches of Lalibela. We visited the impressive Bet Medihanialem church supported by 72 stone pillars and the beautifully preserved Bet Giyorgis. While listening to the interesting history of the churches, we also paid attention to the rich birdlife around us. Three Lammergeiers soaring above were the highlights, and we also saw flocks of endemic Whi...

Winter Southern Arizona


Barry Zimmer: February 11, 2016

We arrived at Catalina State Park in the midafternoon of the second day of our Winter Arizona tour. The morning, spent scouring the desert scrub and agricultural fields of the Santa Cruz Flats, had been a huge success. A spectacular Prairie Falcon (one of three on the day) glided right over our heads at our first stop south of Arizona City. A little further down the road, two of our main targets for the day, Bendire’s Thrasher and Sagebrush Sparrow, posed side by side in the scope. Moun...

Winter Rio Grande Valley


David Wolf: February 11, 2016

Within the United States the Lower Rio Grande Valley is absolutely unique for birders, a wonderland of subtropical birds and plants on our side of the border. Unfortunately, most of this special region has been altered by development, making every remaining fragment of habitat important. We spent five days checking these special spots, from the largest remaining tract of native forest at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge to the tiny—but productive—Estero Llano Grande State Park a...

Belize: Chan Chich New Year


Brian Gibbons: February 10, 2016

A quick twenty-minute flight and the small, bustling Belize City is long gone, and a green carpet covers the earth. Chan Chich Lodge is set in this extensive tropical forest that is continuous through three countries. Our drive through the open pastures of Gallon Jug was interrupted by Scissor-tailed and Fork-tailed flycatchers minutes after landing. These would be the first of nearly 200 species of birds we would see in a week based at the exquisite Chan Chich Lodge with wonderful grounds, b...

Costa Rica: A Relaxed & Easy Tour


David Ascanio: February 09, 2016

Once again, Costa Rica provided an amazing mix of birds, mammals, and reptiles, along with unique opportunities to learn about the interrelations between birds and their habitats. Our tour started in Cerro de la Muerte, a mountain that’s part of the Talamanca Cordillera, where a hummingbird-filled week gave us views of the near-endemics Volcano Hummingbird, White-throated Mountain-Gem, and Fiery-throated Hummingbird. Easy birding along the road allowed us to see other wonderful birds su...

Panama's Canal Zone: A Relaxed & Easy Tour


David Ascanio: February 08, 2016

As soon as there was light in the town of Gamboa, in the Panama Canal area, we were welcomed with open “birding” arms. Our first day was packed with views of antbirds, parrots, raptors, crakes, toucans, tyrant-flycatchers, and hummingbirds. Yes, a lot of hummingbirds! Fasciated Antshrike— Photo: David Ascanio   Gamboa, with its picturesque houses, was our starting point and headquarters for this week filled with wildlife. Well-maintained gardens wer...



Kevin Zimmer: February 03, 2016

As has become the routine for many of our Africa tours, most group members opted to arrive in Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa at least one day early to recover from the international flights, acclimate to the altitude (7,600’), and enjoy some relaxing birding on the lovely grounds of the Ghion Hotel. The entire group was assembled at the Ghion by midday on November 3, allowing time for our first “official” bird walk around the expansive hotel grounds that aftern...

Grand Australia Part II


Dion Hobcroft: February 01, 2016

We started our tour in the usual fashion, saying farewell to four participants at Sydney Airport and the “true believers” continuing on to Brisbane where we met five new faces. We spent the day exploring a multitude of sites with my friend Duncan in the Numinbah Valley, recording 101 species for the day. Among the highlights were Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Wonga Pigeon, Little Bronze-Cuckoo, Speckled Warbler, and the smart-looking “White-headed” Varied Sittellas. We also...

Southeastern Brazil Part II: Best of the Atlantic Forest


Kevin Zimmer: January 22, 2016

Once again, our Southeast Brazil tour delivered the bonanza of Atlantic Forest endemics, southern grassland specialties, and all-around great birding that we have come to expect from this region. But no two trips are ever exactly alike, and, as is always the case, the relative success of this tour in any given year, at least as measured in total species count and number of endemics seen, comes down to weather. And as we all know, the weather isn’t what it used to be—anywhere! We a...

Galapagos Islands Cruise aboard the M/V Evolution


Paul Greenfield: January 15, 2016

What else can I say—these “Enchanted Isles” go far beyond enchanting, and at every level, our weeklong cruise exceeded our expectations in a big way. This strange and captivating destination seems to be on just about everybody’s “bucket-list”—its allure, whether it owes its origins to TV nature documentaries, articles and travel guides, or Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species, is undeniable. But it seems that nothing you’ve heard, read, ...

Tandayapa Pre-trip Galapagos Cruise


Paul Greenfield: January 15, 2016

They say that in order to embark on an exciting adventure you have to first step out the door—and that is what we confirmed, again, on our November 2015 Tandayapa Pre-trip. Just by stepping out the door during this relatively brief preamble to our upcoming Galapagos Cruise—along the Northwestern Andean Slopes of Ecuador—we managed to see and experience a whole lot. It’s actually amazing just how much. We descended from Quito and the interAndean valley down towards our ...

New Zealand Highlights


Dion Hobcroft: January 08, 2016

We all met up mid-morning in Auckland, at a hotel close to the international airport. On the road quickly, and although the tide was not perfect, we stopped by the near Mangere Wetlands and were soon starting our list of New Zealand birds. The best were four Brown Teal, one of the rarer endemic ducks hidden amongst a throng of more common waterfowl like Black Swan, Gray Teal, “mongrel” Mallards, Australasian Shoveler, and the showy Paradise Shelduck. Driving north of New Zealand&r...

Ecuador: Tinalandia Pre-trip


Paul Greenfield: January 08, 2016

The relatively small Northwest region of Ecuador offers tremendous riches, far more than can be enjoyed in one visit. It is with this in mind that our Tinalandia Pre-trip was designed: to complement our weeklong Northwestern Andean Slopes tour. It’s kind of crazy when you think about it, but the area we explore during these four field-days is located only a “hop, skip-and-a jump” from the other; on our first morning, for instance, we enjoy a field breakfast at a spot where w...

Southeastern Brazil Part I


Kevin Zimmer: January 06, 2016

Once again, our Southeast Brazil tour delivered the bonanza of Atlantic Forest endemics, southern grassland specialties, and all-around great birding that we have come to expect from this region. But no two trips are ever exactly alike, and, as is always the case, the relative success of this tour in any given year, at least as measured in total species count and number of endemics seen, comes down to weather. And as we all know, the weather isn’t what it used to be—anywhere! We e...

Madagascar Highlights


Dion Hobcroft: January 05, 2016

Our tour did not start exactly as planned, as the leader suffered the ignominious fate of a cancelled flight “due to mechanical issues” and arrived 24 hours behind schedule. As Ned Kelly lamented, “Such is life,” but thanks to our fabulous ground agent and good friend Fano, the group all arrived as expected and made it to the remote southwest coast of Madagascar to the town of Tulear. Here the local guide Freddy kicked into gear, and by the time I had arrived, the grou...

Ecuador: The Northwestern Andean Slopes


Paul Greenfield: December 23, 2015

Ecuador is a tiny Andean country that boasts mega-levels of biodiversity—birds, orchids, butterflies, and almost everything else, and this 2015 Northwestern Andean Slopes tour confirmed that fact hands-down. For a week, we covered a decidedly reduced area (only 50 miles as the eagle flies!) just west of the capital city and first UNESCO World Heritage Site, Quito.  This is perhaps the most bird- and birder-friendly region in all of South America, and we jumped from site to site, fr...

Hungary & the Czech Republic


Barry Lyon: December 17, 2015

Replete with historical and cultural attractions, Budapest and Prague are revered as some of the world’s most beautiful and charming cities. Among birders, Hungary and the Czech Republic are not as well-known as many destinations but, in fact, offer some of the finest avian riches on the entire European continent. On this first-of-a-kind tour for VENT, we presented, in a single program, a Birds & Music tour that encompassed some of the best natural history and cultural attributes th...

Faces of Polynesia: Fiji to Tahiti


Brian Gibbons: December 10, 2015

Six countries, one thousand shades of blue, nesting tropicbirds and boobies, rare island endemics like Niuafo’ou Scrubfowl and Tongan Whistler, and the clearest seas for snorkeling were just some of the highlights of this exceptional voyage across the South Pacific. All of this aboard the superior expedition cruise ship, the Caledonian Sky, staffed by excellent folks who took care of our every need, particularly our dining needs! Orange Dove— Photo: Brian Gibbons From...

Grand Australia Part I


Dion Hobcroft: December 08, 2015

It was a case of here we go again! Everyone arrived in Sydney smoothly, and by lunchtime on October 3 the binoculars were out. We spent a few hours birding in the Royal Botanic Gardens that looked “splendiferous” with all of the spring flowering taking place. We were lucky again to locate the male Powerful Owl and even luckier when late in the afternoon he became a bit active, and even started to vocalize softly. A lovely Buff-banded Rail was another highlight as we added birds li...

Panama: Fall at El Valle's Canopy Lodge


Barry Zimmer: December 03, 2015

Once again, our Canopy Lodge tour provided a memorable and exciting birding adventure to Panama. The cool foothill habitats surrounding El Valle, combined with a visit to the Pacific lowlands, yielded nearly 240 species of birds with countless highlights. Squirrel Cuckoo— Photo: Barry Zimmer We began our trip with brief birding around our Panama City hotel. A stunning Squirrel Cuckoo topped the list, but close, perched Blue-headed Parrots, Pale-vented Pigeon, Yellow-headed ...