WINTER GETAWAYS Still Space for 2016…

Not everyone plans ahead, but now that you have some time to browse over the holidays, here are some ideas for Great Winter Getaways, from Naturalist Journeys & Caligo Ventures. From Trinidad and Tobago, to sunny Arizona, join us fo birding and nature at its best!  We also offer independent travel, call a travel planner today. 800.7426.7781 / 866.900.1146.

2016 Winter Getaways


Naturalist Journeys offers Guided Birding and Nature Tour to Honduras in March, 2013, with expert Robert Gallardo

Ocellated Quail, a rare find in Honduras  –  Photo copyright, by Robert Gallardo

Naturalist Journeys Honduras birding and nature tours are just around the corner, and there is still space for travelers!  Join one or both of our two upcoming March Honduras nature tours, which include bird-watching amidst Mayan ruins and other historical sites and natural parks in Honduras. We’ve successfully run the tour to Copan and Lago Yojoa for many years. Our Honduras tours are affordable and rewarding!

Naturalist Journeys’ owner Peg Abbott predicts that ecotourism has rich potential in this country the size of Massachusetts, one that few have explored.As a top eco-tour company, this year we pilot a second Honduras birding tour, March 22-29. In partnership with renowned ornithologist Robert Gallardo, we are pioneering a new Honduras birding tour in the central part of the country. This exciting birding tour invites inquisitive adventure travelers to explore beyond the boundaries readily served by luxury travel. Gallardo, Honduran-based and in the process of researching and writing the definitive new field guide for the country, knows his country’s bird-rich regions well. He is the architect of Naturalist Journeys new Honduran birding tour.

Honduras offers a bird watchers and nature travelers abundant opportunity for immersing themselves in nature with expert guides, post-card quality scenery, and fascinating, accessible Mayan ruins. Naturalist Journeys owner Peg Abbott feels confident that Honduras is one of the most authentic and enjoyable destinations they offer, partly because the rural Honduran people show genuine hospitality, welcoming Robert Gallardo’s Naturalist Journeys groups to their farms and homes.

The World Heritage Mayan ruins at Copan are the centerpiece that draws many to Honduras. Copan’s carved stellae and intricate ruins, including ball parks, carved macaw heads, and tall stone buildings draped by tropical trees are fascinating to explore. Beyond the ruins and the mountain village of Copan Ruinas which draws a wide spectrum of International visitors, Abbott finds travel in Honduras an adventure. Tour participants spend time at places that few tourists see, particularly on their new, second week journey, a Honduras birding tour that visits cloud forests, national parks, and new and exciting birding locations.

Peg Abbott first explored Honduras with colleague Gail Richardson, who introduced her to Robert Gallardo, whom they agree is a gem: personable, well-organized, safety conscious
and blessed with abundant expertise, all essential elements of guided nature travel.  Abbott and her nature tour company work in close partnership with Gallardo who, with a Peace Corps background that first brought him to Honduras, networks well with other biologists, lodge and land owners in Honduras.  All share a strong commitment to ecotourism as a part of the nation’s wildlife conservation strategy.

The species most sought on this newly announced bird-watching adventure? The Ocellated Quail, considered by many one of the top 10 birds to see in Central America. Honduras holds perhaps the only site within its range where it is still common.  Few have seen it, and in the spirit of adventure Naturalist Journeys hopes to make that possible this March in Honduras. Robert Gallardo caught this rare photograph (© all rights reserved) in past years, as part of his work on the new birding field guide, he hopes will be published next year. Gallardo is a leading force for ecotourism in Honduras, training students to be birding and wildlife guides so they too, can lead guided Honduran tours. 866 900 1146

About Naturalist Journeys, a Top Nature Tour Company
Naturalist Journeys specializes in small group bird-watching tours and nature tours of key sites across North and South America and across the world. The nature tour company
leads participants on intimate small group tour journeys for bird-watching, animal-watching and other forms of eco-tourism. Naturalist Journeys is a respected adventure and nature travel company that puts people, places and remarkable experiences together.  Their style of environmental tourism focuses on nature — specifically bird-watching, natural history, geology and geography.

A Jamaica Birding & Nature Tour promise – we can be “decadent while being responsible!”

This quote in the title of this post is from the hotel we use in Jamaica. We like it!

Hotel Mocking Bird Hill, photo courtesy of hotel

Crafting nature travel is different than “regular” travel, in which you often pick a favorite hotel and then look for activities.  As a nature tour company, our challenge is that we are drawn first to nature’s riches, fabulous forests with birding hotspots, or open plains great for mammals; after finding these we look for where we might stay, and how we’ll keep ourselves fed while exploring often remote areas. In some places like Great Bend, Nebraska, or Kingsville, Texas, we use a chain, or mom and pop’s type of hotel – whatever is the best option to be near the birds for our early wanderings. But in some places, we SCORE – we find that perfect harmony of nature and place. Some of our best finds allow us some affordable pampering, perfect for a real vacation, a treat as many tours approach birding seems as a vocation rather than vacation. We like to offer both.

The Hotel Mocking Bird Hill in Jamaica is a place we can offer both with assurance. They have won numerous awards for being GREEN, sustainable, and responsible.  They are totally networked into Jamaica’s quiet north coast community of Port Antonio, which supplies organic foods and the fun-loving, friendly staff they depend on to welcome you with ease. This Inn has just 10 rooms. The public areas for relaxing, and the dining room overlook a beautiful pool, one framed by flowering trees and, in the distance, a view of the blue Caribbean. Six and half acres of gardens invite the birds to come see YOU, and they have selected a great series of field trips, none too far away, to let us see Jamaica’s endemic birds in a variety of habitats. We use another lodge, Forres Park, on the southern side of the island above Kingston, for a perfect pairing of access to these habitats.

Jamaican Streamertail

Narca Moore Craig leads our journey March 31-April 6, 2011.  Her gracious style blends well with Hotel Mocking Bird Hill’s, and her expansive knowledge in this location will help you see that the Caribbean is in essence an ecologically richer Galapagos, with a similar story of evolution, less publicized but very appealing. She’s spent time on Cuba, the other Caribbean Island that hosts close to thirty endemic bird species. Comparing the islands and their source areas for species from nearby Central America is a delight for fans of biogeography.  Read more on her BLOG, and consider joining Narca on our journey – timed for the pulse of warblers heading north in bright breeding plumage, and for a great chance to see the island’s endemics. With Narca you’ll find time to study tropical blooms, butterflies, birds and more!   

Jamaican Tody

Naturalist Journeys, LLC Calendar

Jamaica – Full Itinerary


Bird photos by Peg Abbott


Photo: Torch Ginger in Trindad by Carol Simon


Wynne Brown, now working with Naturalist Journeys, LLC to help us promote our journeys through social media, and PDF versions of our itineraries, had her own grand adventure accompanying our June group to Trinidad. Her Trip Report is one the best we’ve published.

It begins…”It only takes an hour of being present at the Asa Wright Nature Centre to start melting into a mellow tropical torpor. The resplendent green, the flowers, the birds – even just the air seems opulent and decadently rich.”

She goes on to describe, in rich detail, the group’s adventures with jewel-toned birds, social ant colonies, night birds, Leatherback turtles, Red Howler Monkeys and more. Guides Carol Simon and Howard Topoff once again received rave reviews and fascinated the group with a series of presentations on tropical forest biology and animal behavior. Next year they, and several from this group, hope to meet again for a similar style trip on a small cruise on the Amazon – check back with us for details! And in the meantime, grab the moment and enjoy reading Wynne and Carol’s Trinidad & Tobago 2011 Trip Report.

Ecotourism in Honduras – Exciting News – La Chorcha Lodge!

The Newly-opened Motmot Cabin at La Chorcha Lodge, Honduras,  photo by Robert Gallardo

Robert and Irma Gallardo have opened the doors to their new lodge!  Located close the world-renowned Mayan ruins of Copan, their motto is “Where Nature, Comfort and History Meet”.

The cabins were designed to fit the surrounding natural landscape keeping the native vegetation intact and enhanced with plantings to attract more birds and butterflies. Each cabin has a queen-sized bed and a bunk that consists of double on the bottom and single on top. The beds are divided by a small wall, so it’s perfect for the whole family or friends.

Each cabin is accented with original works of art featuring natural history elements found in Honduras. You can enjoy your own private covered porch highlighted with a custom stain glass piece featuring native flora and fauna. These lovely windows were created by their friend Rodger who helped Robert and Irma build the lodge. They were designed from a photo taken by Robert.

La Chorcha Lodge sits on the same property as Robert and Irma’s first venture – the Enchanted Wings Nature Center. This facility was a great addition to the community of Copan Ruinas and consists of a butterfly house, butterfly breeding facility, native orchid exhibit and botanical gardens. Lodge guests have free and unlimited access to its facilities.

Hacer la Chorcha in Spanish means, “let’s have a get-together”. Robert and Irma welcome you into their world with gracious hospitality, making your stay much more than a hotel visit. We at Naturalist Journeys found Robert and Irma Gallardo when Gail Richardson, one of our guides, went to see the World Heritage site at Copan. Gail helped us organize our first group tours there, and because the experience was so marvelous, we’ve returned for many years. Join us this year April 3-10 for Easter in Copan and be some of the first to get-together at La Chorcha Lodge!

In Search of PAWI

Save the PAWI

Save the PAWI

Memories of a Trinidad Mountaintop. . . .

Morning atop the ridge that holds the telecommunication towers high above the Asa Wright Nature Centre and Lodge is magical. Mist prevails but rises as sun filters over the ridge. Mixed flocks of tanagers and other songbirds fly like bullets through dense leaves. The sounds are incredible – birds, katydids, people in the far off village waking up. Toucans vie for my attention – how can I NOT look at such a day-glow oddity of nature.

But this day, we were on a mission. Trinidad lists few endemic birds as, having been joined to South America during lower sea levels of the last Ice Age, it lacks the isolation often needed to separate species. So the Trinidad Piping Guan, Trinidad’s only endemic, is very special. It’s also BIG with a long neck, colorful wattles and known to inhabit lush but difficult to search forests. It is very limited in distribution even on this small island. Until a few years back one had to venture to a wild stretch of forest on Trinidad’s Northeast Coast to try to find one. I had made five or six trips to this dual island country and had yet to see one.

Luckily, this day I was with Roodal and David Ramlal who have not only keen eyes as guides, but also instinct. David has spotted the birds up this road one morning when out with a group interested in finding large insects around the communication tower lights. Several quiet birders had seen it and he was willing to work with our group for a try. Breakfast was waiting. Coffee was waiting. So were we. Guans love fruit, and as we were about to give up, it was the sound of their eating that David keyed into. Before our eyes was a group- three rather incredible black and white Aburria (Pipile) pipile (scientific name) locally known as PAWI. We had a good ten minutes to watch them, so marvelous as they are highly endangered, a Red List species of the IUCN. There are likely less than 200 individuals left in the world, but environmentalists and scientists are working to secure the population. Their sudden appearance in forests close to the Asa Wright Centre brings hope they may be increasing in number. They are a member of the guan, chachalaca and currasow families.

COSTA RICA: Resplendent Quetzal

Resplendent Quetzal Costa Rica

Resplendent Quetzal Costa Rica

I believe the sounds of M.’s cooking quiet anxiety and even attract Resplendent Quetzals to her patio.  From her simple home perched on the edge of the wild Rio Savegre Valley she offers ‘Comida Tipica, a bright smile and patience to our group. We wait. We’ve already been here once today, enjoying a rainbow of bird color presented by other species. The quetzal’s chief competitor to date is the day-glow Flame-colored Tanager. Now at day’s end we return. We are tired, and hungry. We smell beans and rice cooking, chicken sautéing and being spiced. Where IS this bird? M. has greeted us as we drive in with a sigh, saying “he was here from 1:00pm to just about five minutes ago….” Its ten minutes to five, good light has gone. We wait. Only Nancy, a veteran watcher, honed to patience waiting to view Yellowstone’s sometimes elusive wolves, stays optimistic. Jackpot! HE flies in, a male ready for breeding, sporting long decorative plumes atop his tail. We witness at first the elegant view of his back, feathers well in order as he lands in a tree down slope. Then with startling agility he leaps – onto a perch just shy of M’s wild avocado tree. My camera captures a rather disheveled creature, wanting only one more morsel of rich succulent fruit before roosting. Like a movie-star caught back stage, we share an intimate glimpse into the real quetzal in which function trumps elegance. It is an intimate moment and once witnessed, we leave feeling comfortable and knowing this icon of Central America’s cloud forest must eat, just like the rest of us. Want to read on? Here is last year’s Trip Report. This year’s report – coming soon!

Resplendent Quetzal Costa Rica