Read the VENTFLASH and catch up on the latest news from VENT!

NOVEMBER 15, 2018

VENTFLASH #245: Special India & Colombia Travel Opportunities!

Dear friends:
With the end of the year in sight, I'm already thinking ahead to VENT tours that will operate early in the new year. In particular, I share news of two outstanding opportunities for international travel in February. First, our upcoming India train journey, India: Birds & Culture aboard the Maharajas' Express, has two spaces newly available at a discount. Second, our flagship Colombia tour, Colombia: Bogotá, Eastern Andes & the Magdalena Valley still has spaces available and offers the chance to see this beautiful country in the company of its foremost bird expert, veteran tour leader Steve Hilty. Please read on for more information about each of these exciting departures.

In this issue:



Bengal Tiger in waterhole, Ranthambore National Park - Photo: Aditya Singh/Shutterstock

As the departure date of our much-anticipated India: Birds & Culture on the Maharajas' Express train tour approaches, I want you to know about a newly available discount opportunity. This trip, February 6–22, 2019, has been sold out for the last two months, but late last week we received notice of cancellation from a couple who are now unable to participate. As result, one cabin is now available. Due to cancellation penalties, we are able to offer this cabin at a discount of $1,000/person. The original fee for this trip is $14,995 in double occupancy. With the discount the fee is $13,995 in double occupancy.

As we do not plan to offer this marvelous departure again for several years, I urge you to take advantage of this special opportunity!

Our itinerary is rich with natural history and cultural and historical offerings. We will travel in supreme comfort while visiting the princely cities of Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Udaipur, a host of wonderful national parks, and the incomparable Taj Mahal. We have assembled a superb staff for this trip. Joining me as co-leaders are Dion Hobcroft, Barry Lyon, Machiel Valkenburg, Raj Singh, and Max Breckenridge.

India: Birds & Culture aboard the Maharajas' Express, February 6–22, 2019 with Victor Emanuel, Barry Lyon, Dion Hobcroft, Machiel Valkenburg, Raj Singh, and Max Breckenridge; $14,995 per person in double occupancy from Mumbai (ends in New Delhi); $13,995 per person in double occupancy with discount.  Limit 39. 1 cabin available.

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There was a time in the not-so-distant past when VENT did not offer tours to Colombia because of political problems and security issues. All of that changed about a decade ago when the country settled down and became much more stable. At that time, veteran tour leader Steve Hilty led VENT's return to that country after a 22-year absence. In the ensuing years, our program has grown to include half-a-dozen trips yearly to a diversity of destinations within the country.
Steve Hilty

While all of our Colombia tours are special, our flagship departure, the first tour VENT developed upon returning to Colombia, is Bogotá, Eastern Andes & the Magdalena Valley. Looking ahead to 2019, our third Colombia tour of the year will indeed be this very departure, February 6–21, 2019.
I recently spoke to Steve about this trip and asked him why he regards it as so special. Before I continue with his response, you should know that Steve Hilty is one of VENT's longest-serving guides and one of the true deans of South American ornithology.

The publication of his monumentally important field guide, A Guide to the Birds of Colombia (1986), established him as the foremost expert on the birds of that country. So I knew that when I asked him about this trip, I would receive an answer I could trust.

Following are Steve Hilty's thoughts on the VENT tour to Colombia: Bogotá, Eastern Andes & the Magdalena Valley:

"Maybe the lure is because we were denied the opportunity of visiting Colombia for so many years, or maybe it's the mystique of a country that tempts us with more than 2,000 species of birds—the most of any country. In 2009 everything changed for birders when we developed four trips to Colombia. Now, a decade hence, Colombia seems to be on almost every birder's list. But with so many birds where do you start?

To answer that, I always return to where we first started—the nation's capital of Bogotá, and the surrounding East Andean mountain range. It's an excellent place to begin and the easiest international destination to reach. It's also one of the top places in the country for endemic birds—nearly a half-dozen occur within Bogotá's city limits, several others an hour or two beyond.

Cloud forest of the Magdalena Valley, Colombia - Photo: Steve Hilty

For diversity of habitats, this trip exceeds any other we offer: 1) magical cloud forest an hour to the south; 2) warmer, drier, lower elevation forests an hour to the west; and 3) dark, mysterious, Tolkienesque forests of Chingaza Park to the east above the city. In Chingaza's strange and wonderful world, elfin woodlands are garlanded with epiphytes, and shy antpittas lurk in the dim understory. Overhead, dazzling hummingbirds, forever on urgent tasks, chase sunbeams in their never-ending quest for flowers, while a

Green-bearded Helmetcrest, Colombia - Steve Hilty

sprinkle of brilliant tanagers gives us mere mortals tantalizing glimpses of their other-worldly colors. It's a place like no other.

We'll also visit a fourth even higher elevation site called the páramo, a botanical fairyland of curiously-shaped plants. It's a vibrant but unforgiving region above treeline where nights are bone-chillingly cold but days often warm. Some of Colombia's most enigmatic birds occur here, among them the endemic Green-bearded Helmetcrest and Apolinar's Wren.

These four exciting regions comprise only four days of the trip. Imagine what we have planned for the ten days that follow—hummingbird feeders, cloud forests, and a journey down the Magdalena Valley as we visit lowland dry and humid forests, an Oilbird cave, grasslands and vast marshes—the perfect introduction to the avifauna of this storied country."  This wonderful trip will be led by Steve, whose work in Colombia and love of this country spans more than four decades. He will be accompanied by a Colombian guide.

Colombia: Bogotá, Eastern Andes & the Magdalena Valley, February 6–21, 2019 with Steve Hilty and a local leader; $6,595 in double occupancy from Bogotá.

I hope you will consider reserving one of the remaining spaces on this tour and see this beautiful country with the man who knows it best.

Best wishes,

Victor Emanuel