April 10, 2023
We recently completed another superb birding and natural history voyage aboard the Sea Cloud to the islands of the Lesser Antilles. Leading this trip along with Victor Emanuel were Barry Lyon, David Ascanio, Peter Zika, and Dr. Larry Wolff. This trip was successful in about every way, with outstanding trip leaders, great birding, a spectacular ship from which to base our activities, and top-rate services from start to finish. Among the avian highlights were a range of special birds not found outside the Caribbean region, including Blue-headed Hummingbird, St. Lucia Parrot, Guadeloupe Woodpecker, Caribbean Martin, White-breasted Thrasher, Barbados Bullfinch, and St. Lucia Oriole among many other standouts. Our next Lesser Antilles cruise will operate in February 2025. Dates to be announced.
Our Lesser Antilles cruise is certainly one of our finest offerings, yet it is not unique among our trips in terms of the approach and attitude we take to its organization, operation, and leadership. All VENT tours—whether a traditional land-based tour or a cruise—receive the same level of attention and care in order to provide our travelers with the highest-level travel experiences we can. The qualities that make our trips so special are together what we call the “VENT difference.”
We are occasionally asked about the qualities or features that make VENT tours different, as in what separates us from others in the business of birding and nature tourism. We could write a great deal more than we have space for here, but it could be summed up as follows: a skilled and experienced office staff, exceptional tour leaders, attention to detail, high quality accommodations and food, accountability, and a responsibility to working with trusted, established operators and agents wherever we run tours.
Many of our tour leaders and office staff have been leading and operating tours for VENT for decades. The care and attention to detail they bring to their jobs underpins their dedication to providing high quality customer service. Our tour leaders are excellent birders and naturalists, of course, but of even more importance, they possess the “people skills” that are so integral to their success as professionals. They are attentive, attuned to detail, generous with their knowledge, and simply love sharing the joys of birds and the natural world.
The Lesser Antilles cruise operates every other year, on average. In visiting six different islands in the Eastern Caribbean, the scope of the trip always seems remarkable when considering the complexity of the operation, with different tour operators to work with at each location. However, we cannot overstate the importance these operators play in our enjoying a successful voyage. Built over many years, our relationships with the ground agents, local guides, and other service providers on each island assure that our participants will be well-treated and our trips run smoothly. Yet it is this way with all of our tours. The relationships we develop with people all over the world, wherever we operate tours, are critical to our success. On occasion, we are asked why some of our tours are pricier than similar products offered by our competitors. The first response is that setting a fee for any given tour is a complex process that involves a number of variables, including quality of accommodations and services; but second, working with a very good ground operator or agent can sometimes add to the cost. However, working with a trusted operator also brings an important layer of protection in the event of accident, illness, local unrest, etc. When traveling internationally, our customers have the assurance that in traveling with VENT, they can trust that our company, and by association those we work with, will know they will be well taken care of in the event of emergency.
This year and next, VENT will operate more than 150 departures to more than 100 destinations worldwide. We hope you will join us for one or more of our trips in the months and year ahead, and experience for yourself the “VENT difference.”
IN THIS ISSUE:
UPDATE: COVID-19 AND VENT
Our last CORONAVIRUS TRAVEL UPDATE occurred on February 14. At that time, we shared the Biden Administration’s announcement that the Public Health Emergency, in effect since January 2020, would expire May 11, 2023. In case you have not yet visited our website to view the most recent update, we provide this short summary that contains important information regarding the rollback of our remaining COVID prevention protocols and associated timelines.
With the expiration of the Public Health Emergency (PHE), the federal government has essentially declared an end to the pandemic. As it concerns VENT, the end of the PHE removes the cornerstone on which our COVID prevention protocol regime rests. Therefore, we inform our travelers that the last of our remaining on-tour protocols will be retired on May 2. This means that mask-wearing will no longer be required in any situation and the two-sequence testing requirement will end. The only remaining protocol thereafter will be the vaccination requirement, which will remain in place through December 18, 2023.
It bears emphasizing that the government’s decision to end the PHE does not mean the risk of contracting COVID simply goes away. COVID continues to be a concern, people are getting it, and people are still getting sick. Although for most people the illness does not present the threat it once did, getting COVID can still disrupt one’s travel plans. We use this opportunity to remind our travelers of the importance of general public health guidance for avoiding COVID: be vaccinated and up to date with boosters, avoid risky social settings in the lead-up to your tour, take a rapid antigen test before departing from home, and wear a mask in airports and on airplanes.
Please refer to the CORONAVIRUS TRAVEL UPDATE page of our website to read our most recent statement in full, and also our “COVID Protocols” document.
SPRING TOURS WITH SPACES STILL AVAILABLE
Few things in our lives are as wonderful as the change of the seasons. Trees get new leaves, flowers bloom, butterflies appear, and birds that spent the winter in warm southerly climates return. You can read about these changes and see them in videos, but to observe them yourself is truly marvelous. Wherever you live, you will experience these changes in some way as the days advance. Where I live in Central Texas, they are already happening—fields of wildflowers, trees with beautiful new leaves, and all of a sudden my first Scissor-tailed Flycatcher of the spring and a wonderful warbler or tanager in a tree.
In our own country, VENT offers a terrific array of tours that capture the beauty and the wonders of spring. Although most people have made their spring travel plans by now, I thought you might like to know that spaces are still available on a suite of fine tours departing in the May/early June period. A discount of $300/person is available on several of these upcoming departures. If you have not previously traveled with VENT, your discount will be $500.
Spring in Cape May: A Relaxed & Easy Tour, May 7–13, 2023 with Louise Zemaitis and Michael O’Brien; $2,895 in double occupancy from Philadelphia. Limit 14. Register now and receive a $300 discount; $500 for new travelers.
For an in-depth look at our Cape May tours, please view our webinar, recorded in 2021, presented by Michael and Louise.
Spring Grand Arizona, May 17–27, 2023 with Barry Zimmer and a second leader to be announced; $4,375 in double occupancy from Tucson. Limit 10. 5 spaces available.
Birding Across America by Train, May 17–30, 2023 with Willy Hutcheson and a second leader to be announced; $9,395 in double occupancy from Albany (ends in Seattle). Limit 12. Register now and receive a $300 discount; $500 for new travelers.
Minnesota’s Northwoods, May 28–June 2, 2023 with Erik Bruhnke and a second leader to be announced; $3,195 in double occupancy from Duluth. Limit 14.
Spring in the Washington Cascades: A Relaxed & Easy Tour, June 4–10, 2023 with Willy Hutcheson and a second leader to be announced; $3,195 in double occupancy from Seattle. Limit 14. Register now and receive a $300 discount; $500 for new travelers.
FRESH OFF THE PRESS: 2023–2024 TOUR CATALOG
We’re pleased to announce that our 2023–2024 annual tour catalog was recently mailed. It is always an exciting time here at VENT for us to hold the new catalog in our hands, hot off the press. Our staff puts a great deal of effort into planning our tour schedule and creating our catalog, and this year’s production represents another outstanding effort.
Our 2023–2024 catalog again displays the cover art of Robert Bateman, one of the greatest living bird and wildlife artists. The presentation features a portion of a breeding colony of Black-legged Kittiwakes, with two pairs of birds captured in an intimate act of pair bonding. The birds stand atop nests constructed on a narrow ledge against an austere rock face. The scene is both beautiful and raw, and inspires a feeling of wonder for creatures so well suited to live their lives in the often harsh environment of the cold north. The use of lighting, the attention to detail, and imparted familiarity with the subject is vintage Bateman.
Please let us know if you would like to have a copy of this beautiful catalog sent to a friend, family member, or anyone who you think might enjoy it. Also, if you get someone who has not previously traveled with us to register for a VENT tour, you will receive a voucher for the referral for $500 off a future VENT tour. Some restrictions apply. Please visit our website to learn more about our New Customer Referral Program.
AMAZON RIVER CRUISE 2024: $1,000 EARLY REGISTRATION DISCOUNT OPPORTUNITY!
For a number of reasons, our Amazon River Cruise has long been one of our most popular departures. An amazing itinerary, outstanding leaders, a panoply of birds and other wildlife, and a beautiful riverboat are cornerstones of this program.
Our 2023 trip, which operated in late January and early February, was another highly successful endeavor. Based on the success of that trip, we will offer two departures in 2024: January 25–February 4 and February 15–25. We expect strong interest in this trip, particularly because we are offering an early registration incentive. Register by August 1 and receive a $1,000 per person early registration discount!
Unlike many companies that operate on the Amazon, the VENT tour visits one of the wildest stretches of the river, upstream from the Peruvian city of Iquitos. Our itinerary includes plenty of time on the main channel of the Amazon in addition to exploration of the Ucayali and Marañon rivers, the two principal tributaries of the Amazon River. Our trips are scheduled for the high-water season, when we can explore smaller tributaries and back channels in comfortable and stable flat-bottom skiffs. Every outing away from the ship offers unique and delightful experiences with Amazonian wildlife, from parrots perched in riverside trees to massive Horned Screamers standing watch over flooded lagoons and huge macaws winging across a brilliant Amazonian sunset, as well as a pageant of hawks, herons, kingfishers, trogons, monkeys, river dolphins, caiman, and more.
Visiting remote and unspoiled regions, this trip affords an unforgettable opportunity—a full Amazonian rainforest and river experience. While birding is an important element of this program, we will be immersed in the full suite of Amazonian wildlife.
Highlights from this year’s cruise included Horned Screamer, Hoatzin, fourteen species of hawks and eagles, three species of owls, five species of kingfishers, five species of toucans, ten species of woodpeckers, nineteen species of parrots and macaws, four species of primates, and two types of river dolphins among hundreds of other birds, mammals, reptiles, and more.
For this departure, we’ll again use the beautiful Zafiro, featuring elegant design, superior stability and viewing conditions, spacious rooms with private viewing decks, good cuisine, and an excellent staff. It is one of the most comfortable river boats available. Finally, our leadership teams for these cruises are among the most knowledgeable guides in tropical ornithology. David Ascanio, Andrew Whittaker, and Doris Valencia will co-lead the first departure, while David and Doris will be joined by Paul Greenfield on the second.
For an in-depth look at our Amazon River Cruise, please view our webinar, produced six months ago.
Amazon River Cruise: Birding and Natural History Odyssey Aboard Zafiro, January 25–February 4, 2024 with David Ascanio, Andrew Whittaker, and Doris Valencia; cabins start at $10,495 per person in double occupancy from Lima. Limit 31. Register by August 1 and receive a $1,000 per person early registration discount!
Amazon River Cruise: Birding and Natural History Odyssey Aboard Zafiro, February 15–25, 2024 with David Ascanio, Doris Valencia, and Paul Greenfield; cabins start at $10,495 per person in double occupancy from Lima. Limit 31. Register by August 1 and receive a $1,000 per person early registration discount!
FEATURED TOUR LEADER: BRIAN GIBBONS
As a teenager, Brian Gibbons participated in two VENT youth camps: Camp Chiricahua in Arizona in 1988 and Camp Cielo in Mexico in 1990. Thereafter, he embarked on a tour leading career at VENT that is now in its third decade. Click on our current Featured Tour Leader to read about Brian, his 20 years of tour-leading for VENT and where they have taken him, his future tours, and the role a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter played in Brian’s dislike of chocolate cake!
SUMMER AND EARLY FALL TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES
Although the spring season has barely begun, it is certainly not too early to look a little farther down the road, to the warmer months of the year that characterize the summer and early fall. We are aware that many of our travelers have already made their travel plans for the year, but we thought you would be interested to know about a number of travel opportunities still available from the late May to late September period.
Our cruise to the Galapagos Islands provides a complete birding and natural history experience, while our tours to Colombia and Ecuador afford two great opportunities for South American travel. Tours to Kenya, Malawi, and South Africa offer magnificent birding and big game viewing, as does our amazing tour to Mongolia that features Snow Leopards, outstanding birding and rare mammals. Closer to home, our summer tour to Southeast Arizona and early fall departure to New Brunswick’s Grand Manan Island can brag exceptional birding and scenic highlights.
I hope you will consider joining us on one of these fine tours.
Galapagos Islands Cruise aboard the Coral II, May 27–June 5, 2023 with Michael O’Brien and Louise Zemaitis; cabins start at $9,970 per person in double occupancy from Quito. 5 spaces available.
For an in-depth look at our Galapagos Islands Cruise, please view our webinar, produced two months ago.
Colombia: Magdalena River Valley & Western Andes: A Relaxed & Easy Tour, July 1–9, 2023 with David Ascanio and a local leader; $4,995 in double occupancy from Medellin. Limit 10.
Avian Jewels of Arizona: Hummingbirds, Trogons, Warblers & More, July 17–25, 2023 with Barry Zimmer and Brennan Mulrooney; $3,895 in double occupancy from Tucson. Limit 10.
Magical Kenya: Exotic Birds & Big Game Galore!, August 7–24, 2023 with Andrew Whittaker and a local leader; $15,495 in double occupancy from Nairobi. Limit 8. 2 spaces available.
Southern Ecuador Hummingbird & Tanager Extravaganza, August 20–31, 2023 with Paul Greenfield; $4,695 in double occupancy from Guayaquil. Limit 8. 4 spaces available.
For an in-depth look at our Ecuador tours, please view our webinar, produced two years ago, featuring Paul Greenfield.
Snow Leopards of Mongolia: Birds & Rare Mammals of the Mongolian Wilderness, September 1–15, 2023 with Attila Steiner and Rafael Galvez; $11,645 from Ulaanbaatar. Limit 10.
For an in-depth look at this tour, please view our webinar, produced last year, featuring Rafael Galvez.
Malawi: Miombo Magic, September 1–18, 2023 with Dion Hobcroft; $9,795 in double occupancy from Lilongwe (ends in Blantyre). Limit 8.
Autumn Grand Manan: Birds & Whales, September 4–10, 2023 with Barry Zimmer and Brennan Mulrooney; $3,895 in double occupancy from Bangor. Limit 12.
South Africa: The Southwestern Cape & Kruger, September 19–October 4, 2023 with Geoff Lockwood; $11,295 from Cape Town (ends in Johannesburg). Limit 8. Register by May 1 and receive a $500 early registration discount!
Caucasus Georgia: Birds, Ancient Chants & Wines, September 23–October 9, 2023 with Rafael Galvez and Attila Steiner; $8,795 in double occupancy from Tbilisi. Limit 14.
For an in-depth look at our Caucasus Georgia tour, please view our webinar, produced nine months ago, featuring Rafael Galvez.
Germany: Birds & Art in Berlin & Brandenburg, September 28–October 7, 2023 with Rick Wright; $4,395 in double occupancy from Berlin. Limit 8.
For an in-depth look at our Germany tour, please view our webinar, featuring Rick Wright.
We closed out the first quarter of 2023 having operated many wonderful tours to a variety of domestic and international destinations. We have so enjoyed hearing stories (and seeing photos!) from our tour participants and tour leaders alike about the wonderful birds and other wildlife seen on various VENT tours that operated in the January–March period. Our tours to Colombia, Ecuador, the Philippines, Arizona, California, Costa Rica, Belize, and Panama are all places where we recently operated tours. Our first-ever Birds & Wine tour to Chile and Argentina was a success, and our cruises to the Amazon River and Lesser Antilles rounded out another exceptional winter travel season. An example of an accounting from a recent tour is the Field Report prepared by Barry Zimmer following the Best of Belize tour he co-led with Brian Gibbons last month. His report was so superb that we wanted to share it with you here.
It's hard to believe we are already into April, but with April the floodgates of bird migration swing wide open. April is an exciting time to be birding and out in nature. I will be spending part of the month at my beach house on the upper Texas coast where I hope to see a great many of the shorebirds and songbirds that cross the Gulf of Mexico each spring to stage briefly along the Texas coast before resuming their northward journeys. As always, warblers will be on my mind, first and foremost!
I hope you enjoy the start of spring wherever you live.
Victor Emanuel Nature Tours | 2525 Wallingwood Drive, Suite 1003 | Austin, TX 78746
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