1. When do tours typically start and end?
The first day of the tour usually starts at dinnertime, where you will meet your guide and the rest of the group and go for dinner. Depending on where you are travelling from, you may be able to travel this day. Many of our clients prefer to arrive a day early to acclimate and recover from any potential jet lag. If you miss the evening meal on the first night, our guide will get you instructions on when you need to be ready in the morning.
On the last day of the tour you can typically depart for home at any time. There are usually no activities planned for this day, but have a look at the itinerary online to confirm. Please talk to your tour manager if you would like to book additional nights at the start or end of the tour.
2. How fit do I need to be to go on your tours?
Our tours do require a certain level of fitness and mobility, as they usually involve easy to moderate walking and hiking, with frequent short forays away from the van (unless otherwise noted). Most days will involve a full day of birding, often with a picnic lunch in a prime birding spot. Driving distances vary from short to moderate each day, depending on the tour. The guide will make frequent birding and rest stops during each day’s travel. You can expect some early morning walks and birding. Check the ‘what to expect’ section of each tour’s website page for more information about the distances covered and the difficulty of the walking.
3. Will all meals be enjoyed as a group during the tour?
Meals are typically enjoyed together, fostering a sense of camaraderie and shared experiences among participants. Since we travel as a group, we have set meal times.
For North American tours, where the cost of dinner is not included in the tour price, we will still eat together as a group. If you would rather dine on your own, you are welcome to do that. The evening meal is also when we fill out the checklist of the birds we saw that day.
4. What should I bring on the tour?
When your tour is confirmed, you will receive a “Participant Information Package” that contains important information about your trip destination and includes a suggested packing list, specific to the tour.
5. Can I bring a large suitcase during the tour?
Yes, you can bring a large suitcase. Soft suitcases are preferable for convenient storage in our tour vans. We recommend adhering to your airline’s checked baggage requirements, typically around 23 kg or 50 pounds.
6. Do all hotels have electricity, and is laundry available during the tour?
Our chosen hotels and lodges provide electricity, although specific amenities may vary. If you require power by your bedside for CPAP machines, we suggest bringing an extension cord just in case outlets are not within reach. Laundry facilities are available at some locations. Check with reception as soon as you arrive to ensure your laundry can be completed in time. Payment for the service, as with any item of a personal nature, is the responsibility of each participant.
7. Who keeps track of bird sightings during the tour?
Your tour guide will provide each participant with a paper checklist for bird sightings, and there will be opportunities to update the list as a group in the evenings, usually during dinnertime. Some guides may also maintain an eBird list for the tour. If this is of interest to you, please confirm with them at the beginning of the tour and they can share the eBird checklists with you.
8. Do all of your guides use eBird
No. Most do, but not all. If it is important to you to record your sightings in eBird checklist and your guide is not recording sightings in eBird, we suggest you chat with other participants and figure out who will do the checklist and share it with others. In some cases your guides may be recording sightings in eBird, but it may take several days before they get a chance to check them over and share them. If lists from the guides will be delayed and you need to review lists nightly while the sightings are fresh in your mind (to add or subtract species) then we recommend you create your own checklists.
9. Do your guides use playbacks during birding activities?
Some of our guides will occasionally use playbacks, but only when it is allowed (many parks and refuges will prohibit playbacks). We do not use playbacks when it may disturb any endangered or threatened species. We also avoid the use of playbacks in areas where there are many birders and the other birders may have used playbacks in the past. We encourage our guides to keep the volume low and use only short snippets of sound followed by a long pause. In general, we try to follow these suggestions Proper Use of Playback in Birding by Sibley Guides. If you would like to know whether playbacks will be used on a specific tour, please get in touch.
10. Will there be good photo opportunities during the tour?
While our focus on most tours is birding, there are plenty of opportunities for photography enthusiasts to capture stunning moments in nature. If you are a keen photographer on a birding tour, you may find that you have to move on to the next location before you’ve captured that perfect image, but the good news is there are likely to be more things to photograph at the next location! We also offer a few dedicated photo tours that provide more time for photography and are designed to optimize photo opportunities.
11. What are your group expectations/rules?
To keep everyone in the group happy, we kindly ask that you follow some basic group birding rules:
- Keep voices down. Noises (even conversational voices) may scare the birds away and prevent everyone in the group from seeing the bird. Please only use whisper voices when birding. There may be times where a guide will ask you to be silent.
- Respect the birds – Do not chase or harass birds or wildlife. If you notice that the birds are agitated, back away or move on to another location.
- Using the Spotting Scope – Once your guide has set up a spotting scope we ask that you line up, take a quick look and then step aside. We hope everyone will get a look at the bird, but there are no guarantees to how long a bird will stay still. Once everyone has seen it, then you may go back for a longer look.
- Be aware of your space – be mindful of where you are standing and if you are blocking someone’s view and avoid stepping in front of someone to get a better view
- Birding on trails – If you are walking at the front behind the leader, we ask that you drop to the back every 10 minutes or so, to allow others to be near the guide.
- In the vans – we ask that everyone rotate their seats daily to allow everyone the opportunity to ride in the front.
- If you have concerns or problems – please speak to the tour leader early. Often, the earlier issues are addressed, the easier they are to resolve. Our guides aren’t mind readers, so don’t assume they can recognise if there is a problem. We would much rather hear about your concern right away and work to address it than read about it after the tour on an evaluation form.
- If you missed seeing a bird – Please let the tour leader know so that they can help you find it at some point during the tour. Similarly, if you want to see a bird again, let the tour leader know. Otherwise, sometimes the guides may ignore birds they think the entire group has seen well. Also please realize that the guide needs to make decisions for the entire group, so cannot focus on one person’s individual needs necessarily.
- Clothing – try to wear neutral coloured clothing rather than bright clothing and avoid any clothing/fabrics that make a lot of noise when walking.
- Safety first – Our priority is to keep everyone safe. Occasionally, we may have to forgo a bird stop if the tour leader or driver deems it unsafe.
- Be polite to your fellow birders! A little kindness goes a long way. We realize that sometimes not everyone in a group will get along, but we ask that you remain respectful and polite.
- Have fun! – Your enthusiasm is contagious and is a large part of why our guides love doing what they do.
12. Will we have assigned seats in the tour vans?
To ensure everyone gets an opportunity to sit near the front of the vehicle, we have a daily seat rotation policy in our tour vans. We suggest those that sit in the front one day, move to the back of the van the following day and then move forward each day. Most of the time this happens naturally so that everyone gets a chance to sit in their preferred spot, but our tour leader is always available to help if needed.
13. How do we ensure information flow on the trail during the tour?
On forest trails, it’s important to quietly share relevant information from the front to the back of the group to enrich the birding experience for everyone. Quietly whisper what is being seen or what the guide has said, so that everyone can be kept informed.
14. Can I bring a walker or scooter during the tour?
Unfortunately, walkers, scooters, and similar mobility aids are not suitable for our tour activities. Please feel free to bring a cane, hiking poles or a foldable walking stick if you feel that it might be helpful on walks. You may also bring a foldable, portable stool or seat if you prefer to sit down during bird watching outings.
If you have any more questions or need further clarification on a specific tour, make sure to look for the What to Expect Section on every tour’s website page. Find the tour of interest here, click View Tour and then scroll down to What to Expect.
Please don’t hesitate to contact our team anytime. We’re dedicated to ensuring you have an enjoyable and memorable birding experience.
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