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Since 1996, we have had the opportunity to travel to the tropics all over the world to see birds, myriad animals and the unique habitats closer to the equator, from mountains to rain forests to dry plains. Our first birding trip was to Costa Rica with the late Noble Proctor, a dear friend, an enthusiastic teacher and world renowned expert on natural history who had visits to over 65 countries under his belt. Noble was a wealth of knowledge on birds, insects, plants, fungi, as well as global habitats, and he prodded us to expand our birding horizons. Since he had led over 20 trips to Costa Rica, he enthusiastically encouraged us to go there first, with him. On that late winter trip we saw some of our eastern migratory birds; warblers, “our” Ruby-throated Hummingbird, orioles, tanagers, and more. We returned stateside absolutely hooked.
What’s so special about the tropics?
The closer you are to the equator, the more individual plants, animals, insects, and birds exist. Many birds are insect eaters, so if insects exist in abundance, that’s where you’ll find birds. This is true at sea level as well as high in the mountains and everywhere in between. In this three-part series, we will list just a few of the countries that are great destinations for birding and travel, in general. Some of them are well known “birding hot spots” and many also offer unique cultural experiences, as well. Climbing around Mayan ruins, birding on coffee plantations, visits to a cultural village in the Masai Mara of Kenya, birding on temple grounds in Thailand, snorkeling with turtles, sharks and sea lions in the Galapagos Islands, and the kind people and guides we have had the chance to meet along the way – these experiences and more are etched in our memories.
So, what are you waiting for?
Noble kept a quote by Ghandi on his desk that was especially meaningful to him, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow, Learn as if you were to live forever”. We offer limited small group travel opportunities year ’round, and we invite you to call or come in to chat about where you’d like to go and what trips we may have on the calendar.
Visit our Travel Reading Lists to get our unique expert advice on what you’ll need to prepare for your trip, and of course we offer binoculars, telescopes, field guides, maps and more!
A small country (about the size of Massachusetts) with a diversity of habitats, Belize is home to over 560 species of birds. Birding throughout Belize is an experience for any level of birder, from novice to expert.
One of the most environmentally conscious countries in the Americas, Belizeans are proud of their wildlife and forests. With a population of only 270,000, they have been able to create and maintain many “greenways” or wildlife corridors, allowing for freedom of wildlife movement between habitats.
Although Botswana does not host any endemic species of birds, it is one of Africa’s top birding and safari destinations. Over 37% of Botswana is protected wilderness. An enormous expanse of pristine habitat has allowed nature to thrive without encroachment. Factor in its small human population, only 1.6 million people in a country the size of Texas, human pressure on natural resources is low.
Parks such as Moremi and Chobe, provide birding as well as regular sightings of buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and a number of large herbivores, as well as…birds!
It is not just the allure of beaches, music and great coffee that draws people from around the world to Brazil; with over 1800 bird species, including more than 200 endemics, Brazil could keep a birder busy for a lifetime. This massive and richly diverse country can be divided into six major biomes – the Amazon, Atlantic Forest, Pantanal, Cerrado, Caatinga, and Pampa – each with its own unique avifauna. Numerous spectacular antbirds, cotingas, flycatchers, and tanagers are found nowhere else, and Brazil is an absolute must for anyone with an interest in Neotropical birds.
A tiny country (about the size of West Virginia), Costa Rica is recognized as the model eco-tourist destination for all of tropical America. One of the most environmentally conscious countries in the Americas, wildlife and forests occupy a full 10% of its land mass. It’s quite safe (there is no military), the people are gracious, food is delicious, coffee is world-class, and the beer is cold. What’s not to like?
Costa Rica is truly a birder’s paradise. It hosts nearly 900 species of birds, a number comparable to that of all of North America! Birding Costa Rica is an unforgettable experience for any level of birder, from novice to expert, offering unrivaled wildlife viewing opportunities, as well as first class amenities.
Travel Reading List to Costa Rica
For birders, it doesn’t get any better than Ecuador! From its lush Amazon rain forests to the snow-capped high Andes, this special country boasts more than 1600 species of birds – in an area smaller than the state of Colorado. With its accessible birding areas, friendly people, stable government, and unsurpassed scenic splendor, it’s easy to see why this country has become a birder’s Mecca. We hear at The Audubon Shop are officially smitten, having led 9 group trips there, and counting….
Ecuador is also home to the world heritage Galapagos Islands, which is a must-do experience for anyone.