March 25, 2022
During this difficult time, nothing helps raise your spirits like getting out in nature. VENT resumed operating tours in April 2021 with our Big Bend tour, which was a great success. In the following months, we operated more tours but also had to cancel many tours due to the travel closures of many countries. When we started our new fiscal year on October 1, 2021, things picked up greatly. Between October 1, 2021 and March 15, 2022, we operated forty-two tours. During those five-and-a-half-months, 429 people took VENT tours. The road ahead looks even better, with almost all countries open now. During the rest of 2022 we expect to operate 129 tours. Many of them are full or almost full. This dramatic turnaround is great for our participants and leaders. We do not expect to cancel more than a few tours in 2022. If you make plans to travel with VENT, you can be assured that your tour will almost certainly operate and that you will be safe and will have a great time. Of the almost 500 people that have taken our tours since we resumed operating tours, only one person has contracted Covid. This success is due to our strict protocols. We want to thank everyone who has taken VENT tours since we started operating tours again. We appreciate their willingness to follow our protocols.
Like everyone, we are deeply saddened about what is happening in Ukraine. Our hearts go out to the people who are suffering so much from the war. As terrible as it is, we are confident it will not affect the operation of any of our tours, and that all of our tours will be safe.
One of the things I enjoy most in my job is reading the tour evaluations we receive from participants. Here are a few recent comments:
Winter Southern Arizona:“This was my first VENT tour. It knocked my socks off! Barry Zimmer and Brennan Mulrooney were superlative.” – Ioa Byrne
Undiscovered Eastern Colombia: Birding Secrets of the White Sands of Inirida:“David Ascanio was everything one could want in a tour leader and much more: fearless leader, cheerleader, gentleman, impeccable field birder, scientist, author, historian, and now a much-valued friend.” – Eric Molho
Ecuador, The Best of Amazonia: Featuring Napo Wildlife Center: “Paul Greenfield and Brian Gibbons were excellent leaders and complemented each other. Paul’s intimate knowledge of each bird was an excellent addition to our understanding of the birds. We appreciated Brian’s knowledge of butterflies. LOVED Napo Wildlife Center’s community conservation ethics!” – Susan Masta
IN THIS ISSUE:
GREECE: A CIRCUMNAVIGATION OF THE PELOPONNESE
For many years Greece was the country I most wanted to visit. My dream came true in 2001, when I co-led our first Greece cruise. The actual experience exceeded my expectations. The birdlife and nature, combined with the history and cultural, was amazing.
Since that trip we have run Greece cruises almost every year. On our recent cruises we have traveled by ship around the famous Peloponnese. We visit two of the most famous sites in the world, Olympia and Delphi, and see a wonderful variety of birds and flowers.
Paul Greenfield is a highly acclaimed bird artist and the co-author, with Robert Ridgely, of The Birds of Ecuador. Paul joined the VENT family in the mid-80s and has anchored our Ecuador tour program for many years. To learn more about Paul and how he acquired his passions for art and birds, as well as his pioneering bird tourism in Ecuador, check out the current Featured Tour Leader page on our website.
Margaret Anderson, who recently celebrated her eleventh anniversary as a Tour Operations Manager for VENT, has announced her decision to retire. Her last day in the office will be March 31. We are very sad to see her leave and will miss her enormously. However, we are delighted that she and her husband, Mike, will now have the opportunity to work on their travel bucket list and enjoy all of the experiences that retirement offers. We will miss you Margaret! Bon voyage!
Taking over Margaret’s desk as Tour Operations Manager will be Penny Saydah. Penny has been training with Margaret for over a month now, and some of you may have already spoken to her. Penny brings with her almost 30 years of experience in the travel industry. We are very happy to welcome her aboard as a member of our office staff, and we know you will enjoy working with her to plan your trips.
I hope you have had the opportunity to view one of our webinar presentations, either by registering to view the webinar live, or viewing at your convenience on our YouTube channel. Usually 40–60 minutes in duration, these presentations showcase a select tour or region where we offer tours, or some facet of bird identification. Each webinar is designed to offer a more intimate feel for the destinations we visit and the experiences to be had than is otherwise available in our itineraries. The registration links for these webinars will be available soon. Our upcoming schedule includes:
APRIL 7, 2022: An encore presentation of Voyage of a Lifetime: Antarctica, South Georgia & The Falkland Islands, by Andrew Whittaker. Although our December 2022-January 2023 Antarctica departure with Andy is sold out, space is still available on Antarctica, South Georgia & The Falkland Islands, November 26-December 18, 2022 with Barry Lyon, and South Georgia & Antarctica Odyssey, December 26, 2022-January 17, 2023, with Rick Wright.
APRIL 21, 2022: An encore presentation of High Island Migration: Spring Birding on the Upper Texas Coast, by Michael O’Brien. Our 2022 High Island Migration tours are sold out; however, in 2023 Michael and his wife, Louise Zemaitis, will co-lead our April 15-21, 2023 tour, and our April 18-24, 2023 departure will be co-led by Erik Bruhnke and a second leader to be announced.
MAY 12, 2022: Jonathan Meyrav will present Birding in Israel, which will reference both fall and spring migration. Willy Hutcheson and Jonathan will co-lead Israel: Birds, History & Culture in the Holy Land, November 2-14, 2022. This Birds, Nature & Culture tour will visit Israel’s most important birding areas, landscapes, and historical attractions. Timed for the end of fall migration and the onset of the winter season, superb birding is virtually guaranteed. Andrew Whittaker and a local leader will co-lead Southern Israel: A Spring Migration Spectacular, March 19-April 2, 2023. Visits to all of the key sites for migrants and rare resident birds will be complemented by the opportunity to see migrants in the hand being banded, searches for rare mammals, and visits to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.
MAY 26, 2022: Rafael Galvez will present Snow Leopards of Mongolia: Birds & Rare Mammals of the Mongolian Wilderness. Rafael and Attila Steiner will co-lead our September 1-15, 2022 departure. We have partnered with Ecotours Wildlife Holidays to offer this wilderness-style opportunity to see the amazing Snow Leopard, as well as a range of specialty birds and mammals.
Plans are in the works for webinars about our tour to Northern Tanzania, our Lesser Antilles Cruise aboard the Sea Cloud, and our India: Birds & Culture aboard the Maharajas’ Express train trip. Stay tuned for details!
If you haven’t yet made your vacation plans, please consider joining us on one of our late spring or summer tours. Although many are sold out, we have space available on the following tours (listed by geographic region):
Spring in South Texas, April 3-12, 2022 with Barry Zimmer and Willy Hutcheson; $3,895 in double occupancy from Corpus Christi (ends in Laredo). Limit 14. 2 spaces available.
Spring in South Texas: Hill Country Extension, April 12-16, 2022 with Barry Zimmer and Willy Hutcheson; $2,195 in double occupancy from Laredo (ends in San Antonio). Limit 14. 1 space available.
Kansas: Shorebirds on the Prairie, April 18–24, 2022 with Rick Wright; $2,950 in double occupancy from Wichita. Limit 7; 1 space available.
Dry Tortugas, May 2–5, 2022 with Rafael Galvez; $2,295 in double occupancy from Key West. Limit 11. 3 spaces available.
Birding Across America by Train, May 18–31, 2022 with Willy Hutcheson and Rick Wright; $8,920 in double occupancy from Albany (ends in Seattle). Limit 12. 3 spaces available.
Grand Alaska: Pribilofs & Anchorage Pre-trip, May 23-29, 2022 with Kevin Zimmer and a second leader to be announced; $5,295 in double occupancy from Anchorage. Limit 14.
Grand Alaska: Nome & Gambell, May 29-June 8, 2022 with Kevin Zimmer and a second leader to be announced; $7,795 in double occupancy from Anchorage. Limit 14. 2 spaces available.
North Carolina: From the Swamp to the Gulf Stream, June 4-11, 2022 with Michael O’Brien and Louise Zemaitis; $3,795 in double occupancy from Wilmington, NC (ends in Norfolk, VA). Limit 14. 4 spaces available.
Avian Jewels of Arizona: Hummingbirds, Trogons, Warblers and More, July 11-19, 2022 with Barry Zimmer and Brennan Mulrooney; $3,395 in double occupancy from Tucson. Limit 12.
Autumn Grand Manan: Birds & Whales, August 29-September 4, 2022 with Barry Zimmer and a second leader to be announced; $3,775 in double occupancy from Bangor. Limit 12. (Our September 5-11, 2022 departure with Barry Zimmer and Brennan Mulrooney is also $3,775 in double occupancy from Bangor and has 2 spaces available.)
Colombia: Magdalena River Valley & Western Andes: A Relaxed & Easy Tour, July 9-17, 2022 with David Ascanio and a local leader; $4,895 in double occupancy from Medellin. Limit 10. 4 spaces available.
Brazil Pantanal Safari: Birds & Jaguars, August 18-31, 2022 with Erik Bruhnke and a local leader; $8,195 in double occupancy from Cuiaba. Limit 12.
Brazil Pantanal Safari: Iguacu Falls Pre-trip, August 15-19, 2022 with Erik Bruhnke and a local leader; $3,100 in double occupancy from Iguacu Falls. Limit 12.
Uganda Highlights: Gorillas, Chimpanzees, and Shoebills, June 14-July 3, 2022 with Dion Hobcroft and a local leader; $12,795 in double occupancy from Entebbe. Limit 8. 3 spaces available.
Namibia, Botswana & Zambia, August 21-September 7, 2022 with Geoff Lockwood and Kevin Zimmer; $19,895 in double occupancy from Walvis Bay (ends in Livingstone). Limit 12.
Namibia, Botswana & Zambia: Walvis Bay Pre-trip, August 18-22, 2022 with Geoff Lockwood and Kevin Zimmer; $2,995 in double occupancy from Walvis Bay. Limit 12.
Nepal, Himalayan Paradise: Satyr Tragopan to Red Panda & More, April 13-26, 2022 with Andrew Whittaker and a local leader; $5,895 in double occupancy from Kathmandu; Limit 8.
Central Asia: Birding the Silk Road: Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, May 2-24, 2022 with Machiel Valkenburg and a local leader; $8295 in double occupancy from Tashkent (ends in Nur-Sultan). Limit 12.
Classic China: Sichuan Province, May 19-June 4, 2022 with Max Breckenridge and a local leader; $7,245 in double occupancy from Beijing. Limit 8.
Classic China: Beijing Extension: A Birds, Nature & Culture Tour, June 3-8, 2022 with Max Breckenridge and a local leader; $2,195 in double occupancy from Beijing. Limit 8.
Indonesia Highlights: Sulawesi, Java & Komodo, August 1-17, 2022 with Dion Hobcroft; $11,545 in double occupancy from Menado (ends in Denpasar). Limit 8. 1 space available.
Indonesia Highlights: Bali Extension, August 16-23, 2022 with Dion Hobcroft; $5,995 in double occupancy from Denpasar. Limit 8. 2 spaces available.
Papua New Guinea Highlights, July 19-August 1, 2022 with Max Breckenridge; $11,595 in double occupancy from Brisbane. Limit 8. 4 spaces available.
Papua New Guinea: West New Britain, August 1-6, 2022 with Max Breckenridge; $3,895 in double occupancy from Port Moresby. Limit 8.
Spain & Portugal aboard the Sea Cloud: Southern Portugal Pre-trip, April 13-21, 2022 with João Jara and a local leader; $4,995 in double occupancy from Lisbon. Limit 14. 1 space available.
Spain & Portugal aboard the Sea Cloud, April 19-29, 2022 with Victor Emanuel, Barry Lyon, Larry Wolff, and Peter Zika; cabins begin at $11,995 per person in double occupancy from Lisbon (ends in Valencia). Limit 48. Discount of $2,000 per person for registrations received after February 1, 2022.
Ireland’s West Coast aboard the Greg Mortimer, May 12-26, 2022 with David Ascanio; cabins begin at $12,395 per person in double occupancy from Dublin. Limit 15. 5% discount when reserving a connecting departure. Discounts up to 25% off the quoted rate are available while supply lasts.
Northern Greece: Birds & History, May 14-26, 2022 with Victor Emanuel, Barry Lyon, and a local leader; $8,095 in double occupancy from Athens. Limit 14. 4 spaces available.
Greece: A Circumnavigation of the Peloponnese aboard the M/Y Harmony V, May 25-June 3, 2022 with Victor Emanuel, Barry Lyon, and Larry Wolff; cabins begin at $8,965 per person in double occupancy from Athens. Limit 46. 4 cabins available. $1,000 per person discount for registrations received February 1-May 1, 2022.
Greece: Athens Extension, June 3-7, 2022 with Victor Emanuel, Barry Lyon, and a local leader; $4,495 in double occupancy from Athens. Limit 20.
Wild Scotland aboard the Greg Mortimer, May 25-June 6, 2022 with Brian Gibbons; cabins begin at $10,595 per person in double occupancy from Edinburgh (ends in Aberdeen). Limit 15. 1 space available. 5% discount when reserving a connecting departure. Discounts up to 10% off the quoted rate are available while supply lasts.
Sweden: Fall on Öland, August 28-September 4, 2022 with Rick Wright; $3,240 in double occupancy from Kalmar. Limit 7.
We have a superb program of small-ship expedition cruises operating in 2022. These cruises are perfect for couples in which one person is a birder and the other is interested in culture and history. If you enjoy the convenience of staying in one accommodation throughout your tour (no packing and unpacking from one hotel to the next); exciting excursions to seek out birds and other wildlife, as well as cultural and historical attractions; presentations (on some departures) on birds, history, culture, and natural sciences by VENT leaders and ship guides; lovely sunrises and sunsets on the water; and excellent dining, please take a look at our cruise offerings.
In addition to those listed above in spring and summer 2022, space is available on other cruises departing later in 2022 and in early 2023. Detailed itineraries can be found on our website. You may also click here or on the image below to peruse a list of cruises with space available as of March 22. From magnificent icebergs, the charming antics of penguins, and outstanding seabirding in Antarctica to the famous historical attractions of Europe, to the sounds of howler monkeys and the marvelous birds and wildlife of the Amazon River, it’s no wonder that most cruise participants describe their trip as “the experience of my lifetime.”
Spring has come to Central Texas. The redbuds and plum trees are blooming. The Cedar Elms have sprouted new leaves. A few bluebonnets are blooming. The Purple Martins have returned. Last weekend we saw two Pectoral Sandpipers at Hornsby Bend. A few days ago, the first Golden-cheeked Warblers were reported. Much more will unfold in the weeks ahead.
A few years ago, I re-read Spring in Washington by Louis Halle. I regard it as one of the finest books I have ever read about nature and life. I resolved to read it every spring. Here are three of my favorite passages:
“The discovery of spring each year, after the winter’s hibernation, is like a rediscovery of the universe. In my bleak winter quarters, preoccupied with the problems of the moment, I had forgotten the immeasurable richness and continuance of life. This recollected smell of fresh loam in my nostrils is the smell of eternity itself.”
“The family of wood warblers inhabits the New World exclusively, having no close relatives or parallels abroad. These little birds are the principal glory of the North American spring, quick and dainty in their movements, incessantly active, as bright and varied in color as the butterflies. For a few weeks in spring, on their way north, they swarm through our woods, filling and transforming them with their variety and numbers.”
“This is the time when one discovers anew the wonder of standing in the woods. What a profusion of delicate forms surround and enclose one, not only on all sides but above and below as well! The view in every direction is not so much shut off as confused and lost in the variegated lights and shadows. Living creatures may lurk or move all about, impossible to see because their individual forms are lost in the multitude. Sight is baffled by the variety of detail, which still challenges it on all sides. The lights and shadows, always shifting if ever so slightly, bewilder and amaze one’s vision, which can hardly mark the quick flight of a bird across them. Are these the woods in which, only a few days ago, every tree and shrub, standing naked, could be counted? It is as if magic had come back to a world that no longer believed in it.”
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