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Monthly Archives: August 2013

David meets TV Presenter Nick Baker

TV Presenter Nick Baker

For 12 years we have been exhibiting at the Bird-watcher’s Glastonbury, the British Birdfair held at Rutland Water reserve. This year was bigger and better than ever due to the 25th Anniversary year. The Birdfair helps raise money to support BirdLife International’s Flyways Programme, but this year focussed specifically on the Americas. We helped raise funds to support conservation efforts to protect birds which breed in the prairies and other grasslands in North America but winter south in the pampas grasslands of South America. Birdfair encompasses the whole spectrum of the birdwatching industry whilst at the same time supporting global bird conservation. There are hundreds of stands selling the latest products for wildlife enthusiasts from scopes to sculptures, binoculars to bird food, eGuides to eco-holidays. After I gave a lecture on the Galapagos Islands, I took a moment to chat with the TV presenter Nick Baker, who became well known on BBC’s The Really Wild Show, more recently he appears on BBC Autumnwatch and Springwatch and presented the popular long running Weird Creatures series (C5 / Animal Planet). His enthusiasm for bugs and larger creatures is infectious. I was pleased to hear of his support of the Seahorse Trust.

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Olinguito, a new mammal species discovered


Mark Gurney/Zoo Keys

The first new carnivorous mammal in 35 years has been discovered hiding in the cloud forests of Ecuador and Colombia.

The creature known as an olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina) has been known about for some time. One was displayed in a museum over 100 years ago as well as being kept in zoos across the states in the 1960’s although in all occasions it was wrongly identified as an olingo.

It’s only after a 10 year study of olingos at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History that remains were discovered in a drawer and analysed. A large number of differences were found between the two species including longer fur, a shorter tail, different teeth and much smaller ears. These were confirmed with DNA comparisons.

Subsequently scientists trekked through the cloud forest of Ecuador and Colombia discovering many olinguitos and identifying four sub-species.

The olinguito is omnivorous eating fruits as well as insects. It’s nocturnal, very solitary and generally produces one offspring at a time.

If you wish to visit the cloud forest of Ecuador see our Hummingbirds and Turtles tour.

RELATED: Spotlight on Tamarin Monkeys



These adjacent national parks are in the mountainous desert region of north-western Argentina. The spectacular red-coloured rocks were formed by layers of sediments deposited by rivers, lakes and swamps. The deposits contain Triassic fossils including the ancestors of mammals and dinosaurs and primitive crocodiles and plants. Though in the past the area was a tropical swamp, today the area has sparse desert vegetation with cacti. The fauna now includes Andean condor, puma, guanaco, mara and viscacha and numerous passerine birds. Before the Spanish conquest, the area was inhabited by several groups of indigenous tribes, semi-nomadic hunters and gatherers. Their evidence lies in rock art, artefacts and archaeological sites.  At Talampaya, many sites have been unearthed and are easily accessible. At Ischigualasto, six sites of rock art have been discovered plus cave and rock overhang habitation sites, as well as burial sites, campgrounds and tool-making areas. The whole area is a World Heritage Site.

RELATED: Argentina’s guitar-shaped forest

Merida, capital of the Yucatan


Capital of the state of Yucatan, the colonial city of Merida was founded over an ancient Maya city. The narrow streets and shady plazas create an old-world feeling, as horses and cars traverse the cobblestone streets lined with centuries-old mansions. The city is ideal for those seeking comfort and culture, and is a nicer gateway to the Mayan ruins than Cancun. Merida offers mansions and haciendas that have been turned into luxury boutique hotels, gourmet restaurants and cafes, galleries and museums. A stroll down Paseo de Montejo with traditional Yucatecan music leading your way is the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Best of all, Merida is one of the safest cities in Mexico. Merida has an ideal tropical climate and cool winds that blow in from the nearby coast. The rainy season runs from June through October but any time is a good time to visit Merida.  There are cultural celebrations almost every day. Don’t miss the Anthropology and History Museum with a great collection of Mayan artefacts and explanations of their calendar. As well as traditional eateries there are gourmet restaurants like Rosas & Xocolate; here innovative culinary specialties created by master chefs are sure to satisfy. Contact us to start planning your holiday to Merida.

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Bolivia, the Authentic Latin America


Flavour of the month is Bolivia, not without good reason, it is the heart of South America and one of its best kept secrets. Bolivia still feels very unspoiled exactly how you would imagine life in South America to be. Here you can journey through the large areas of pristine wilderness and see indigenous cultures, traditions and beliefs that haven’t changed for centuries. The country is not only well-known for its geographical and cultural diversity, but it is also one of the world’s most biologically diverse countries. Being beyond most tour routes means you will not be harassed on every corner. You should be prepared for some long, bumpy road journeys and hotels in the more remote places are simple, but usually set within fantastic landscapes. Try a hotel made entirely from salt near Uyuni. All our tailor made Bolivia holidays are individually designed, but as a guide we can arrange a 15 day itinerary from £3,500 including flights such as our Tiwanaku & Beyond tour. This private customized journey is offering a beautiful insight into the unique landscapes, natural and cultural highlights of Bolivia. The tour starts in Santa Cruz and continues to Sucre, Potosí, La Paz, and beautiful Lake Titicaca. This is the highest navigable lake on Earth and the largest fresh water lake in South America. Contact us for more information on this and other extraordinary Bolivia trips.

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The desert blooms in Atacama Chile

atacama-flor_credit ESO,P. Pardo

Photo: ESO / P. Pardo

The Flowering Desert phenomenon is a once in a lifetime experience, a unique and surprisingly colourful spectacular. Once in a rare while, the climate changes to produce rains in the desert which then quickly blooms with the emergence of a wide variety of flowers usually between the months of September and November. This natural event transforms the usually arid landscape into a gigantic multicoloured garden. Some 200 species of flowers have been seen bursting from the sand after five times the annual rainfall in just one month. The event is particularly intense in the coastal area of the region, such as Parque Nacional Llanos de Challe national park, near the city of Vallenar south Copiapó, about 800 kilometres north of Santiago. Flowers are everywhere, emerging from the sand, around cacti, even seeming to sprout out of rocks. Often this event occurs during El Niño years which are every six or seven years. Due to its unpredictability few visitors get to see the event. Also in this region one can visit the Parque Nacional Pan de Azúcar, (Sugarloaf Island), which is inhabited by a colony of Humboldt penguins, with clear water beaches where you can dive and fish and observe other animals such as guanacos and foxes. See our Chile holiday ideas.

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