September 21, 2023
With this issue of VENTFLASH, my initial intention was to write about the joys of the fall birding season and to share news of outstanding travel opportunities in the coming winter. For instance, where I live in Austin, Texas, fall migration is in full swing, with reports of southbound shorebirds and landbirds from various local hotspots. However, we’ve recently received announcements from two of our cruise partners that I feel are more important to share at this time, due to their time-sensitive nature.
As you may be aware, our preferred partner for our annual trip to Antarctica, South Georgia, and the Falkland Islands is Polar Latitudes, while in recent years, we have also worked with Australia-based Aurora Expeditions in offering birding and natural history cruises to key destinations in the North Atlantic and High Arctic. In succession, both companies have recently informed VENT of great opportunities for savings on our upcoming Antarctica cruise and 2024 Scotland and Svalbard cruises, respectively.
These offers certainly add incentive to visit what are considered by many to be some of the world’s most beautiful and wildlife-rich destinations. I am pleased to share this news.
IN THIS ISSUE:
With three months remaining until departure of our upcoming cruise to Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands, December 29, 2023–January 19, 2024, we have been advised by our cruise partner, Polar Latitudes, that all remaining cabins are available at a discount of 30% off the published price. At this time, Window and Veranda Staterooms are available. Window Staterooms start at $28,565 per person in double occupancy accommodations. Register and pay $19,995! Cabins will be available on a first-come basis.
Our annual cruise to Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands is arguably the greatest trip a person could make. After almost fifty years of leading tours, I still regard the eight tours I’ve led there among the best trips I’ve made anywhere. Roger Tory Peterson, who did so much to promote birding, told me that his trips to Antarctica were the favorite trips of his life. He loved it so much he literally went dozens of times. He was eighty years old when he made his final trip, and, upon his return, said it was as wonderful as his first trip.
While I could go on and on about the incredible wildlife, the ice, the spellbinding scenery, and other highlights of a voyage to Antarctica, I’ll simply say that there is no place on earth like it, and that you must see it for yourself to believe it. Most people who travel to Antarctica visit only the Antarctic Peninsula, but we select only those trips that include the South Atlantic outposts of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island, in addition to the Peninsula. While a visit to the Peninsula offers extraordinary scenery and a chance to set foot on the seventh continent, the Falklands and South Georgia are where most of the wildlife is found, including large colonies of albatrosses, penguins, cormorants, and fur seals.
For more information or to register, please contact Tour Operations Manager Greg Lopez by phone (800.328.8368 or 512.328.5221) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
To learn more about the specifics of what a trip to Antarctica entails, 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 MS Seaventure, December 29, 2023–January 19, 2024 with Andrew Whittaker and Brian Patteson; cabins start at $25,385 per person in double occupancy from Ushuaia, Argentina. Limit 40. Register now and receive a 30% discount and pay $19,995.
VENT’s relationship with cruise partner Aurora Expeditions continues in 2024 with two special North Atlantic cruises: Wild Scotland and Svalbard Odyssey. I am pleased to let you know that Aurora has announced a $2,000 Air Credit Discount for new registrations for one of the remaining spaces on either departure, valid through October 31. This means that if you register for either trip from now through the last day of October, Aurora will credit $2,000 toward the cost of your round-trip airfare from your home to Norway. Please note that space on both departures is limited.
For birders and nature enthusiasts, each of these cruises promises exceptional experiences with birds, wildlife, and landscapes. Our Wild Scotland cruise will appeal especially to those who seek a broader travel experience, as that trip includes many options for history, culture, and sightseeing.
Our Svalbard trip will offer immersion in the High Arctic ecosystem. With this trip we will also operate a newly available short, pre-trip option to Finland for the opportunity to see an array of northern waterbirds and landbirds. The combination of the lakes and forests of Finland and the Arctic of Svalbard will be wonderful.
Each trip will be led by an experienced VENT tour leader, while aboard the excellent ship Greg Mortimer you will be in the company of an outstanding expedition staff who bring knowledge of a variety of disciplines including history, geology, culture, and more.
Wild Scotland – 1 request-share female space available
This beautiful cruise explores a number of Scotland’s most evocative locations—Inner Hebrides, Outer Hebrides, St. Kilda, the Shetlands, Fair Isle, and Orkneys—in traveling from Oban in the southwest to Aberdeen in the northeast. Our birding endeavors include visits to some of the most important seabird breeding grounds in the Atlantic, to islands hosting colonies of Great Skua, Common Murre, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Atlantic Puffin, European and Leach’s storm-petrels, Northern Fulmar, Northern Gannet, Great Cormorant, and more, while shore excursions bring opportunities to sight an array of waterfowl, shorebirds, and landbirds such as Common Eider, Northern Lapwing, Red-throated Loon, Eurasian Jay, Rook, Eurasian Blue Tit, Song Thrush, European Robin, Dunnock, and Rock Pipit, among many others.
In tandem with our natural history pursuits, this trip emphasizes a number of Scotland’s superb historical, cultural, and scenic attractions including ancient villages and fortresses, Fingal’s Cave, and the archaeological wonders that are Jarlshof, Skara Brae, the Standing Stones of Callanish, the Ring of Brodgar, and more.
Representing VENT on this voyage is Rick Wright, a veteran tour leader with much experience guiding tours in Europe. Rick is the author of several books about birds and birding, and oversees VENT’s program of Birds & Art tours in Europe. He is an excellent field observer and educator.
Wild Scotland aboard the Greg Mortimer, May 26–June 7, 2024 with Rick Wright; cabins start at $11,295 per person in double occupancy from Edinburgh (ends in Aberdeen). One request-share female space available. Register by October 31 and receive a $2,000 Air Credit Discount.
Svalbard Odyssey – 2 full cabins available
Located due north of Norway, 600 miles from the North Pole, the Svalbard Archipelago (Spitsbergen) is often described as the world's greatest place to experience the High Arctic ecosystem. People have been traveling to this destination in ever-increasing numbers, partly because of the remarkable wildlife and scenic wonders found there, and partly because of the attention on climate change. It is a fact that Svalbard may be the best place in the world to see Polar Bears. Our recently completed voyage there, last month, with Aurora Expeditions, recorded six of the great white bears.
Other wildlife we'll seek are nesting Pink-footed and Barnacle geese, King Eider, Red Phalarope, Purple Sandpiper, Ivory Gull, Great Skua, Black Guillemot, Atlantic Puffin, and blizzards of Dovekies. Cruising at sea, we'll watch for a variety of marine mammals such as Bearded and Ringed seals, Walrus, and Fin Whales. By Zodiac, we’ll venture closer to glaciers and colonies of breeding seabirds.
VENT tour leader David Ascanio led this year’s trip. He used words such as “magical” and “beautiful” to describe what is really not just a birding trip, but an all-around natural history experience.
Our 2024 voyage will be led by Rafael Galvez, an excellent field observer and artist with considerable experience birding in Europe.
We have decided to offer a Finland Pre-trip specifically for participants on this cruise. The short tour, June 11–18, will bird areas near Oulu and Kuusamo. Just south of Oulu, an internationally important wetland reserve hosts a multitude of shorebirds, including Eurasian Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit, as well as Whooper Swan, Common Crane, White-tailed Eagle, and possibly Terek Sandpiper. Near Kuusamo we will visit the unspoiled taiga forest, where we may see Willow, Black, and Hazel grouse and possibly the amazing Capercaillie—the world’s largest grouse. We will also have a chance to see many other birds of the boreal forest and an array of wonderful flowering plants.
The pre-trip ends in Oulu on June 18, at which time participants will travel to Longyearbyen in time for the cruise.
For more information about the cruise or to register, please contact Tour Operations Manager Greg Lopez by phone (800.328.8368 or 512.328.5221) or email (email@example.com).
For more information about the pre-trip, please contact Tour Operations Manager Penny Saydah by phone (800.328.8368 or 512.328.5221) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Svalbard Odyssey aboard the Greg Mortimer, June 18–30, 2024 with Rafael Galvez; cabins start at $14,895 per person in double occupancy from Longyearbyen. Register by October 31 and receive a $2,000 Air Credit Discount.
Finland Pre-trip, June 11–18, 2024 with a Finnish local leader; $2,995 in double occupancy from Oulu, Finland; single supplement is $600. Upon conclusion of the pre-trip, participants will fly to Longyearbyen, Norway (international airfare not included) to start the cruise.
I hope you will consider joining one of these fine departures.
I have been reading The Wilderness World of John Muir (2001). Muir was an extraordinary man, one of the greatest naturalists who ever lived. His writing is superb. Reading about his experiences in Yosemite makes you feel like you are there. His chapter entitled “Stekeen” is one of the best dog stories ever written. Another of my favorite chapters is about the Water Ouzel (American Dipper), his favorite bird, in which he writes about the Dipper in more wonderful detail than anyone has ever described a bird.
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