How Do I Pick The Best Beginner Bird Watching Trip?
Just starting out on your wildlife journey? We’ve got the perfect guide to help you find the best bird watching holidays for beginners.
You’ve got your binoculars, your boots and you’re buzzing to get out there on an adventure! Whether you’re a birding beginner or more experienced, there’s nothing like the thrill of making a new bird watching discovery.
A bird watching holiday is a fantastic way to get outdoors, meet new people and spot some of the most incredible creatures from across the globe. It’s the perfect tonic to a hectic lifestyle. But, with a world full of species and countless immersive tours out there, it can sometimes feel like information overload.
So, how do you know which bird watching trip is going to be just right for you?
The perfect escape
There are so many things to think about when researching your bird watching holiday. Which birds do I want to see? Should I take my scope? Will I need bathing shorts or a cagoule?
But, let’s get the basics down first.
We’ve put together the three top things to consider when planning a bird watching holiday that’s tailor-made just for you.
1. How long do I need?
Photo Credit: Kay Mitchell, Somerset Birdwatching Holidays, Bearded Tits
Ecotourism is an extremely popular way to see every bird on your life list, with excursions available in almost every country you can think of. With that said, it’s time to narrow down how long you want to spend behind the binoculars.
Bird watching trips can range from a single-day outing to a full-blown, one-month grand tour. Spending just a few days in a region can be as fantastic an experience as a 30 day extravaganza. If you’re a beginner birdwatcher, you might feel more comfortable on a 3-4 day trip with plenty of time afterward to relax. Or perhaps you want to dive straight in with a longer stint – it’s entirely up to you!
Also ask yourself at this point how far you’d like to travel – birding halfway across the globe can be a fantastic experience, but if you’re not so great with a long-haul flight and might need to take a sick-bag or two, then maybe East Asia and South America can wait until next time around.
2. Setting the pace
Photo Credit: Martin Kelsey, Birding Extremadura, Great Bustard
Dashing from one bird to the next can be exhilarating and exhausting – not exactly the relaxing holiday you had in mind. Expert ornithologists often know exactly where a bird species will be at a certain time and it can be a mad dash to get there before the sun sets. If that sounds too stressful, then choose a birdwatching holiday that slows down the pace.
If you’re a beginner, you might not be after the rarities that could take several weeks to track down and spot. These difficult-to-see birds are often in places which can take a long time to get to – the highest mountain or the densest forest. Not for you? Private holidays can be bespoke to your pace and exactly how much you want to see. Or look for a group holiday that offers leisurely bird watching time followed by a top-rated restaurant and a peaceful stroll along the beach. Read More: Bird Watching for Beginners
Which leads us on to…
3. Exciting extras
Photo Credit: Luis Uruena, Manakin Nature Tours, Colombia
Heading on a bird watching trip often means spending your days in the wetlands and forests of some of the most jaw-dropping places. But, even with a jammed-packed wildlife vacation, there’s still so much more to explore!
Perhaps you fancy heading to the market to swot up on the local language, or you’d like to soak in the history at that famous museum or landmark. While there’s plenty of time to get your fill of the birdlife, many tours offer day excursions to get a flavour of the region’s culture – be that gourmet experiences, world-renowned sites or hidden gems just off the beaten track.
When setting up your bird watching trip, don’t be afraid to let the guides know you want time to yourself away from the group to get a feel for the place; they can factor this in so that you get the absolute most out of your trip.
Whatever you’re after, there’s always a bird watching holiday to suit you.
Where do I go?
Now you have a better idea of what you’re looking for, it’s time to move on to the next step. You’ve picked the pace that’s right for you and know exactly what you’d like to see – lists at the ready! Take a look at some of the top six wildlife holiday destinations that offer the best trips for beginner birders.
1. Yorkshire Coast, England
Photo Credit: Steve Race, Yorkshire Coast Nature, Puffin
Get to know the native birds of England in a more intimate way as you discover Honey Buzzards, Goshawks, Fulmars and Puffins in this very special location.
A birding holiday along the Flamborough and Filey coast is a fantastic idea if you’re planning to take heavy photography equipment and means that you can sit back with a cup of Yorkshire tea at the end of an exciting day to look back on your photos.
2. Menorca, Spain
Photo Credit: Javier Mendez Chavero, Menorca Walking Birds, Balearic-Shearwater
Enjoy the island life with a bird watching holiday to Menorca. This small gem in the Mediterranean Sea is rich in wildlife. Get up to speed with sea and coastal birds such as Balearic Shearwaters, Storm Petrels, and the Andouin’s Gull. Menorca is also a fantastic stop-off for birds migrating to (and from) Africa, so you’re bound to see a vast array of species to make your holiday complete.
Perfect for short bird watching breaks as part of a larger holiday – make sure to spend plenty of time at the beach!
3. Extremadura, Spain
Photo Credit: Martin Kelsey, Birding Extremadura, Spain
Slow down the pace with a private trip to Extremadura in Spain. Well known as one of the top birding destinations in Europe, and lying south west of Madrid on the Portugal border, tours can get you close-up and personal with the breath-taking Spanish Imperial Eagle and Black Storks among many (many) others.
Starting out with wildlife photography? Extremadura tour guides can provide you with all the expert advice and workshops you need to bring home the best shots and build up your wildlife photography collection.
4. Costa Rica
Photo Credit: Costa Rica Birding, Keel-Billed Toucan
Did you know that Costa Rica holds 5% of the world’s total biodiversity? Not only does it host 921 species of bird, this lush country is home to the cloud forest, humid lowlands, arid mountain peaks, dry forests, mangroves, and coral reefs. Whatever tropical bird you want to see, Costa Rica’s got it.
While you might want to cram in as many species as possible on your trip, many itineraries allow you to pick and choose your destinations, making a bird watching holiday to Costa Rica completely bespoke to you and your needs. But remember, whichever path you choose, make sure to spot the unforgettable Keel-Billed Toucan!
Photo Credit: Green Tours, Birds, and Machu Picchu, Peru
So, you’re a bit of a culture vulture? Immersing yourself in colourful history doesn’t come much better than heading to Machu Picchu in Peru. Machu Picchu, situated in the vibrant region of Cusco, is topped with beautiful Inca structures, the intricate workings of an ancient way of life, and tops bucket lists across the world. The incredible Peruvian scenery is brimming with stories that you’ll want to share with everyone you meet.
Once you’ve had your fill, take a trip to the Andes Mountains for a display of more than 500 bird species, including the Green-and-White Hummingbirds and the Inca Wren, which will truly take your breath away.
Jennifer Lane is a freelance nature and outdoor writer based in Manchester.
She has a varied career in magazine publishing and has written for the RSPB and British Vogue about her ‘unusual’ birdwatching hobby. In 2018 she won a Northern Writers’ Award for fiction and is currently working on her third novel for children.
Follow her hiking and wildlife trips on Twitter and Instagram.