Sunday, 10 June 2012

Shameless self-promotion

Or: Where will Nick be in 2013?

Those of you who know me in the flesh (so that's all of you as I'm fairly sure it's only my mother who reads this), rather than as a dazzlingly witty and at the same time intriguingly vulnerable cyber-naturalist, will know that I loathe self-promotion. Were it not for the likes of Gemma and Rebecca at Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Rajan, Paul and Andy at Naturetrek, Leanne at the Hawk and Owl Trust and Nick Conrad at BBC Radio Norfolk, my light (think: moribund glow-worm) would be forever hidden under a bushel.

But promote I must if I'm to earn an honest crust and, to be frank, next year I'm leading some glorious tours which I'd really like to see full. Since among my readers are some of my favourite Naturetrek clients, many of whom have become friends, and several of whom have been kind enough to ask for details of my 2013 tours, I hope none of you will mind my giving a quick promotional précis of the first half of my next year. Of course, before all this I'll be in Peru (from tomorrow, so I'm working on the basis that you're probably already busy) and in Madagascar (for most of October and November, but those tours are already sold out). Nothing for it: you'll have to come with me next year.

And what a year it'll be. It looks like this:

February 7th to 20th I'll be leading the spectacular Brahmaputra Cruise with my great friend Sujan Chatterjee. It would be worth doing this superb tour to meet Sujan alone, as he is witty, charming and immensely knowledgeable. However, it's doubly worth it when you consider you're virtually guaranteed to see dozens of greater one-horned rhinoceroses and asian elephants, you have a very good chance of bumping into western hoolock gibbons, capped langurs, smooth-coated otters, great pied hornbills, wreathed hornbills and ibisbills, and you might even spot a Bengal florican or a tiger. The whole tour is set against the horizonless beauty of the plain of the Brahmaputra, includes hours of relaxing sailing (great tea, great beer, great reading, vast flocks of ducks with eagles hunting them), and is punctuated by visits to communities of gracious, friendly Assamese and Mising people. This is my sixth Brahmaputra Cruise and I'm just as excited as I was the first time.

Naturetrek clients watching greater one-horned rhinoceros in Kaziranga by Sujan Chatterjee

Ibisbill by Sujan Chatterjee

February 22nd to March 7th I'm thrilled to say I'll be leading Naturetrek's remarkable Snow Leopard Quest. This tour has been improved since it last ran and - what's more - its price has fallen. But who's worrying about price? This is your chance to see a snow leopard in the wild! The tour is very physically demanding, involves lots of trekking in ice-cold conditions at high altitude in the Himalayan winter but - hello! - it's your chance to see a snow leopard in the wild. It's also great for the snow leopard's chief prey in Ladakh, the bharal or blue sheep, and for lammergeier (boy do I love lammergeiers) and Himalayan griffon vulture.

In late March (dates to be confirmed very soon) I'll be in Burma, leading Naturetrek's first ever tour here. Like other responsible tour operators Naturetrek has been waiting for pro-democracy campaigners to signal their readiness for tourists to visit. This has now happened and we're chuffed (but not chough-ed) to be visiting this beautiful, biologically rich country for the first time. Our tour, final details of which will be confirmed on my return from Peru in July, will visit the capital Yangon, Lake Inle and the hills above Heho, the Irrawaddy between Mandalay and Pagan, and the remarkable complex of temples in the dry zone (lots of endemic birds here too). On the main tour there should be plenty of good birding around Burma's breath-taking cultural sites but for die-hard birders we're including a post-tour extension to the celebrated Mount Victoria where, at various altitudes, there is a superb haul of endemics and restricted-range species. In future years this tour will take place in the cool of mid-winter, when it's likely birding will be easier. However, if you want to be ahead of the curve in visiting this wonderful, little-known country join us on our reconnaissance tour in March 2013.

11th to 20th May I'll be in Romania leading a tour of the Danube Delta and Carpathian Mountains. This has wallcreepers and nutcrackers in the Carpathians; pygmy cormorants, glossy ibis, and both Dalmatian and great white pelicans in the wetlands; superb late spring flora and butterflies; brown bears (brown bears!); and, according to the Naturetrek website, it's led by an expert naturalist. Now who on earth could that be?

In early July I'll be leading our incomparable Spitsbergen Wildlife Cruise: polar bears, walrus, harp seal, bearded seal, ringed seal, vast colonies of little auk and Brünnich's guillemot (that's thick-billed murre to my transatlantic readers), ivory gulls following ship, and spectacular glacial scenery; not to mention a profusion of arctic flora, nesting waders and the chance to get friendly with arctic fox cubs. Quite simply one of the greatest wild experiences on the planet.

Excited? Who, me?

In the autumn there will be more tours. However, as not all details of those have been agreed yet, you'll have to make do with these for now. Join me for a wildlife adventure in 2013!

You know you want to.

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