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VENTFLASH #281

November 4, 2021

Dear friends:

More and more, I am fascinated by the vicissitudes of life—the happy times, the sad times, the good times, and the difficult times. Each time we are immersed in nature we are filled with happiness and good feelings. Great naturalists such as Henry David Thoreau, John Burroughs, and John Muir wrote about those feelings. VENT has been through the most difficult time in the company’s history, but now we are operating many tours again. It is so wonderful when participants on those tours tell us afterward what a great time they had being out in nature and seeing birds.

During these difficult times we have had to be creative. For example, by early August we knew it was unlikely that we would be able to operate our Autumn Grand Manan tour (scheduled for late August/early September). Barry Zimmer, who was to lead that tour, suggested we arrange a tour on short notice to the Cibolo Creek Ranch in West Texas as an alternative travel option. We waited as long as we could before canceling the Grand Manan tour, but entering Canada ultimately proved unworkable, and the tour was called off. Fortunately, our planning allowed us to shift gears quickly and operate the Cibolo Creek tour instead.

On the day before the tour started, I asked Barry what he thought of the chances of showing the tour participants an Elf Owl, the smallest owl in the world and perhaps its most endearing. He told me the chances were almost zero because by September most Elf Owls have departed the Southwest for their wintering grounds in Mexico, and even then, the few that had not migrated would not be calling. In El Paso on the first night of the trip, a participant told Barry that the bird she most hoped to see was Elf Owl! He told her it was very unlikely. The very next night, the group’s first night at Cibolo Creek, Barry and co-leader Brian Gibbons went out after dinner to look for Western Screech-Owl along Cibolo Creek. To their amazement, they heard TWO Elf Owls calling! The next evening, the birds were still calling, and everyone on the tour had great looks at this fabulous night bird.

Elf Owl - Barry Zimmer

To me, the importance of being out in nature cannot be overstated, and this is especially true during times of adversity. It is the delight we feel when seeing birds in lovely natural settings and the delight we feel when experiencing the unexpected that gives us hope for brighter days to come.

IN THIS ISSUE:

COVID-19 TRAVEL UPDATE
NEWLY ADDED: TWO MORE ANTARCTICA CRUISE OPPORTUNITIES IN 2022/2023
OTHER CRUISE OPPORTUNITIES IN 2022
JANUARY TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES
VENT’S 45th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION PRESENTATIONS WILL BE LIVESTREAMED!
CLOSING THOUGHTS

COVID-19 TRAVEL UPDATE

Our return to operations continues. From our earliest tours in late April up to the present, we have now operated close to 30 tours. Our first departures were all to domestic destinations, but more recently we have also operated tours to select international destinations.

Our ability to operate tours is attributable to several important factors: First and foremost is VENT’s Covid-19 vaccination requirement policy, which states that anyone who participates on a VENT tour must be fully vaccinated. Second, the great disparity that existed in vaccination rates among countries around the world has narrowed substantially. In some cases, countries that lacked access to vaccines, or simply started slowly with their vaccination campaigns, have caught up to the United States and Europe. Chile and Brazil are examples. This development has led to improved public health trends. Third, travel restrictions are gradually being relaxed in many places around the world, with more countries open to visitors and mandatory quarantines dispensed with.

For these reasons, we are very optimistic about the prospects for the operation of our tours in 2022 and beyond. More of our tours are sold out farther in advance of departure than ever before. This is a strong indicator that people are anxious to travel again.

With that said, we know that many people still harbor concerns about travel. In fact, we receive questions fairly regularly about how VENT is operating its international tours. I can tell you that the information we receive that informs our decision-making is derived from a number of sources. As you would expect, we are always checking the websites of the U.S. State Department and CDC, but we also rely on trusted partnerships with ground operators, local guides, and other in-country contacts whom we know and whose opinions and advice we trust.

Because conditions can and do change—sometimes for the worse—we will maintain our position of determining on a case-by-case basis whether an international departure will operate. For any tour whose future is in question, we will continue our policy of deciding if a tour will operate no less than six weeks prior to its start date. For some tours, we can confirm much sooner.

Please visit the COVID-19 Update page of our website to view our COVID-19 prevention protocols. Updated October 25, our protocols document includes reference to CDC guidance regarding booster shots, as well as a more thorough discussion of quarantine, in the unlikely event it occurs.

As always, VENT strongly recommends the purchase of travel insurance with a good trip interruption benefit. VENT recommends Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance, whose trip interruption benefit covers Covid-related quarantine.

We appreciate your support very much and hope you will sign up for a tour soon.

NEWLY ADDED: TWO MORE ANTARCTICA CRUISE OPPORTUNITIES IN 2022/2023

Our annual cruise to Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands is always among our most desirable departures. Underscoring this point, our scheduled departures in each of the next two years (December 30, 2021–January 20, 2022 and December 27, 2022–January 17, 2023) have been sold out for many months! Clearly, interest in Antarctica is running high. To meet the demand, we have partnered with esteemed cruise operator Aurora Expeditions in adding two NEW departures for the 2022-2023 Antarctic travel season:

  • Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands, November 26–December 18, 2022
  • South Georgia & Antarctic Odyssey (including the Falkland Islands), December 26, 2022–January 17, 2023

We are highly discerning with our Antarctica programs. We select only those trips that include the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island, in addition to the Antarctic Peninsula. While a visit to the Peninsula offers extraordinary scenery and a chance to set foot on the seventh continent, it is the South Atlantic outposts of the Falklands and South Georgia where most of the wildlife is found. In short, our programs are complete natural history experiences on which participants are immersed in a world of penguins, albatrosses, whales, icebergs, glaciers, and much more.

Busy beach in Antarctica - Brian Gibbons

If you haven’t yet been to Antarctica, or feel like you’ve missed out on the chance to travel there with VENT in the next two years, these new departures may present the opportunity you’ve been looking for. I hope you will consider joining either of these remarkable trips. Please visit our YouTube channel and view our webinar, Voyage of a Lifetime: Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands, presented by Andrew Whittaker in February 2021. 

Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands aboard the Greg Mortimer, November 26–December 18, 2022 with Barry Lyon; cabins start at $24,071 per person based on double occupancy (from Ushuaia, Argentina) in Balcony C staterooms and reflects a 15% Early Booking Discount. Other cabin categories are available at various prices (with discounts). Limit 16. An Early Booking Discount of up to 15% applies while supplies last. Contact the VENT office for details.

South Georgia & Antarctic Odyssey (including the Falkland Islands) aboard the Greg Mortimer, December 26, 2022–January 17, 2023 with Rick Wright; cabins start at $26,545 per person based on double occupancy (from Santiago, ends in Ushuaia) in Balcony C staterooms and reflects a 15% Early Booking Discount. Other cabin categories are available at various prices (with discounts). Limit 16. An Early Booking Discount of up to 10% applies while supplies last. Please note that this departure is so recently added that it does not yet appear on our website. Please contact Greg Lopez by phone (800/328-8368 or 512/328-5221) or email (greg@ventbird.com) for more information or to register.

OTHER CRUISE OPPORTUNITIES IN 2022

In addition to our Antarctica cruise offerings, our 2022 tour schedule includes a host of other wonderful cruises. Among our offerings are charter voyages to the Amazon River aboard the Zafiro, Spain and Portugal aboard the Sea Cloud, and Greece aboard the Harmony V. We’ve also reserved allotments aboard brand-new ships in the “small-ship adventure” category. These vessels hold approximately 150 passengers and visit areas we could not otherwise reach. Our new relationship with Australia-based Aurora Expeditions has resulted in three new North Atlantic cruises, all aboard the lovely Greg Mortimer, while our cruise to the Bering Sea and Russian Far East will see us partner for the first time with Swan Hellenic and its brand-new ship, Minerva.

We anticipate that 2022 will be a big rebound year for travel, including cruise-based nature tourism. Between VENT’s vaccination requirement for tour leaders and participants, and strict Covid-prevention policies adopted by our cruise partners, including their own vaccine requirement policies, we feel confident resuming this style of travel.

I hope you will join us on one of these fine departures:

Capped Heron, Amazon River - David Ascanio

Amazon River Cruise: Birding and Natural History Odyssey aboard the Zafiro, January 27–February 5, 2022 with David Ascanio, Andrew Whittaker & Doris Valencia; cabins start at $9,655 per person in double occupancy from Lima. Limit 31; 3 cabins available.

Spain & Portugal aboard the Sea Cloud: A Birds, Nature & Culture Tour, April 19–29, 2022 with Victor Emanuel, Barry Lyon, and Larry Wolff; cabins start at $11,995 per person in double occupancy from Lisbon (ends in Valencia). Limit 54. 9 cabins available.

Greece: A Circumnavigation of the Peloponnese aboard the Harmony V, May 25–June 3, 2022 with Victor Emanuel, Barry Lyon & Paul Woodruff; cabins start at $8,965 in double occupancy from Athens. Limit 46; 10 cabins available.

Three new North Atlantic cruises with Aurora Expeditions

The following three trips form a trio of voyages to destinations in the North Atlantic Ocean. All departures are operated by Aurora Expeditions; each is designed to explore a unique region of the Atlantic. From south to north, we’ll circumnavigate Ireland (that includes the far less visited west coast), Scotland, and finally from the Scottish Isles all the way to Spitsbergen. All trips are aboard the brand-new Greg Mortimer. Leading these departures are an array of outstanding VENT leaders, familiar faces to many of our travelers.

Slieve League Cliffs, Ireland - alexilena/shutterstock

Ireland's West Coast: aboard the Greg Mortimer, May 12–26, 2022 with David Ascanio; cabins start at $12,395 per person in double occupancy from Dublin. Limit 15; 5 cabins available. Receive a 5% discount when reserving on one of the connecting cruises. An Early Booking Discount of up to 25% is available on select cabins while supplies last.

Wild Scotland: aboard the Greg Mortimer, May 25–June 6, 2022 with Brian Gibbons; cabins start at $10,595 per person in double occupancy from Edinburgh (ends in Aberdeen). Limit: 15. 1 space available. Receive a 5% discount when reserving on one of the connecting cruises. An Early Booking Discount of up to 20% is available on select cabins.

Scotland, Faroes, Jan Mayen & Svalbard: aboard the Greg Mortimer, June 4–20, 2022 with Andrew Whittaker; cabins start at $13,795 per person in double occupancy from Aberdeen (ends in Longyearbyen). Limit: 16. Sold out! Join the waitlist!

Aleutian Islands, Russian Far East & Bering Sea Discovery with Swan Hellenic

VENT has not offered a trip to the Bering Sea/Russian Far East region in about five years. The lack of quality cruise ships in the area and our high standards for these programs explain the paucity of offerings. We are pleased to present a return to this part of the world with a cruise that travels from Anchorage, Alaska up the length of the Bering Sea to the Chukchi Peninsula in northeast Russia, and finally back to Nome. Tremendous natural history spectacles of all types await!

Red-faced Cormorant - Kevin J. Zimmer

Aleutian Islands, Russian Far East & Bering Sea Discovery aboard the Minerva, July 2–19, 2022 with Rafael Galvez and Brent Stephenson; cabins start at $15,128 per person in double occupancy from Anchorage (ends in Nome). Limit: 30. Early Booking Discounts of approximately 19% apply for registrations received prior to December 31, 2021.

JANUARY TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES

The long-running effects of the pandemic have resulted in huge pent-up demand for nature-based travel. With prospects for future travel looking ever better, we anticipate operating almost all of our scheduled departures in 2022. For instance, most of our January tours are sold out, while dozens of other scheduled 2022 departures are also sold out. That said, I want you to know that plenty of opportunities exist to join VENT tours next year. Looking ahead to the start of the new year, those of our travelers who are ready to start traveling again will be glad to know that spaces are still available on a handful of domestic and international departures.

Perhaps one of these fine tours will pique your interest:  

Southern India, January 9–29, 2022 with Max Breckenridge and a local leader; $9,995 in double occupancy from Bengaluru (ends in Kochi). Limit 8. 4 spaces available. NOTE: While India has been closed to international tourism, we anticipate the country re-opening in November. Please contact Margaret Anderson by phone (800/328-8368 or 512/328-5221) or email (margaret@ventbird.com) for future updates.

Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Black Rock, Belize - Michael O'Brien

Belize’s Hidden Treasures: Pook’s Hill & Black Rock Lodge, January 16–23, 2022 with Michael O’Brien and Louise Zemaitis; $3,395 in double occupancy from Belize City. Limit 14.

Winter Southern Arizona, January 17–23, 2022 with Barry Zimmer and Brennan Mulrooney; $2,995 in double occupancy from Tucson. Limit 12. 2 spaces available.

Winter Southern California, January 23–29, 2022 with Brennan Mulrooney and a second leader to be announced; $2,895 in double occupancy from San Diego. Limit 12. 4 spaces available.

Ecuador: Eastern Slope of the Andes, January 25–February 4, 2022 with Paul Greenfield and Brian Gibbons; $3,795 in double occupancy from Quito. Limit 14.

VENT’S 45th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION PRESENTATIONS WILL BE LIVESTREAMED!

We are less than two weeks away from the beginning of our 45th Anniversary Celebration in McAllen, Texas, November 14–19. This departure sold out months ago. For those who wanted to be there but couldn’t, we are excited to announce that the evening presentations will be Livestreamed! 

If you would like to join us, albeit from the comfort of your home, CLICK HERE at 7:15 pm each evening to watch the festivities live at the Casa de Palmas hotel:

  • Sunday, November 14: Celebration Welcome and Overview with Victor Emanuel and Barry Lyon
  • Monday, November 15: Colombia, Then and Now: 50 Years Through the Eyes of an Ornithologist with Steve Hilty
  • Tuesday, November 16: Greg Lasley and Bob Sundstrom Remembered with Victor Emanuel and Barry Lyon
  • Wednesday, November 17: Whooping Cranes: Past, Present, Future with George Archibald
  • Thursday, November 18: The History of VENT with Victor Emanuel

If you are unable to watch the Livestream, all of the presentations will be available on VENT’s YouTube channel.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Over the past 32 years I have immensely enjoyed leading tours in Panama. Just this past week, I co-led our Fall at Panama’s Canopy Tower tour with Willy Hutcheson. It was among the best Panama tours I’ve been a part of.

The Canopy Tower is a marvel. There is no other lodge in the world as uniquely wonderful. While staying at the Canopy Tower, you are immersed in nature from top to bottom. The tower is encompassed by Soberania National Park. On all sides of the Tower are huge windows with marvelous views of the surrounding forest. You never know what you will see from those windows, or from the walkway atop the Tower: a Keel-billed Toucan, a Golden-hooded Tanager, a Three-toed Sloth, or, if you are lucky, a Blue Cotinga. On one day we watched ten thousand Broad-winged and Swainson’s hawks fly past the Tower on their way to their wintering grounds farther south. At last light that day we saw four huge False Vampire Bats.

Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth, Panama's Canopy Tower - Michael O'Brien

There is no better place to greet the day or end the day than from the walkway atop the Tower. Nearby, Pipeline Road is also fantastic. On one of our visits, we watched a dozen species of birds at an antswarm. One participant, who has been on 30 VENT tours, exclaimed that his day on Pipeline was one of the five best birding days of his life!

Because most of our January 2022 Panama trips are sold out, we have added a fourth trip, Panama’s Canopy Tower, January 14–21, which will be led by Willy Hutcheson and a local leader. Please contact Erik Lindqvist by phone (800/328-8368 or 512/328-5221) or email (erik@ventbird.com) for more information or to register.

Victor with Denise and Raúl Arias, Panama's Canopy Tower, October 2021 - Canopy Tower

My dear friends Denise and Raúl Arias, who created this marvelous lodge and two others in the Canopy Family of lodges, staged a surprise birthday luncheon for me on our last day. It was one of the best birthdays of my life.

Victor and his 81st birthday cake, Panama's Canopy Tower, October 2021 - Canopy Tower

I hope you will consider a VENT tour to Panama soon!

Best wishes,

Victor Emanuel

 

Victor Emanuel Nature Tours  |  2525 Wallingwood Drive, Suite 1003  |  Austin, TX 78746
Phone: 800-328-8368 / 512-328-5221  |  Email: info@ventbird.com

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