Our comprehensive guide will ensure you have the best possible experience and come away with memories you can treasure forever.
Getting ready for your bird watching holiday
Whether you are planning for an organized bird watching tour, or just hoping to do some bird watching on holiday some preparation beforehand will ensure you make the most of your time and see all the birds you hope to see.
Get to know the local area
Before you go, take some time to familiarise yourself with the area you’re visiting. Buy a guidebook or check out the local tourist information website. If you’re going on an organised trip or tour, then your group leader will be able to help you once you are there. But if you’re going it alone then you’ll want to arm yourself with local maps, and knowledge about the most convenient way to get around, places to eat, and any areas that are best avoided.
Find out about the access and admission prices to nature reserves, national parks, and hiking trails, as well as the opening times during different seasons. Some attractions may require you to purchase tickets in advance and it may be easiest to do this online before you travel.
You could contact a local bird watching, rambling, or walking group, who will be able to give you invaluable information and tips to help you make the most of your bird watching trip. They’ll probably be able to recommend the best bars and restaurants in the area too!
Get to know the local birds
If you’re travelling long haul, you’re probably going to be seeing lots of birds you may be unfamiliar with, so it will be helpful to understand what plumage the birds will be in at the time of your trip, and how to identify birds quickly by learning about field marks, behaviours, songs, and calls before you go.
A good field guide is a must. As well as helping with identification you’ll also be able to find out which species will be present at the time of year you plan to visit, and the best sorts of habitats in which to spot them.
Study the plates as much as possible, focussing on distinctive field marks, as well as the general size and shape of each bird. Sketching the birds can also help cement a species in your brain.
Trip reports are first-person narratives that offer someone else’s perspective on a birding destination. They are often more detailed than official guides and can include photographs, maps, checklists, and geographical information. Seek out independent trip reports, rather than those provided by the tour company, as they will provide the most honest feedback about a birding destination.
What to pack for a bird watching holiday
For maximum comfort, it’s important that you pack properly for your bird watching holiday. As well as clothes suitable for the local climate, you’ll want to take your binoculars, field guide, and notebook as well as a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, and a basic first aid kit.
Hiking boots and wellies are heavy and will take up valuable room in your suitcase and although you can often hire them from local lodges, if you are worried about developing blisters from wearing someone else’s boots, then investing in a lightweight pair of trail shoes is a good alternative.
Don’t forget your passport, visas if required, travel insurance, travel itinerary, and contact details of your host or tour operator. If you’re unsure about anything before you go then speak to the organiser of your holiday so that you can fully enjoy your time when you arrive.
How to save money on a bird watching holiday
A bird watching holiday can be a trip of a lifetime but it can also be a big expense. However, with some careful planning, it’s possible to find some great deals and discounts, particularly if you book early. And these money-saving tips will help your budget go even further to help save you even more cash.
Before you book your bird watching holiday, take some time to compare prices on flights, accommodation, rental cars, and other essentials such as insurance. Some birding tour companies may include travel arrangements such as airport transfers in the price of the holiday, but it may be cheaper to organise these yourself.
Check currency exchange rates, commission, and fees from different providers, as well as their buy-back policy, so you don’t end up losing out on your pounds when you get back. Some banks offer debit or credit cards with no fees for cash withdrawals or purchases abroad, so you may want to take just enough cash for emergencies and sundries, and pay for everything else with your card. Do, however, check for the availability of ATMs and whether local businesses are set up to take card transactions.
Many tour companies charge extra for single room occupancy which can be frustrating for solo travellers. If you’re travelling alone and don’t mind spending a week or two in close proximity to a stranger, contact the company beforehand to let them know that you’re willing to share a room with a fellow guest.
Understand what is and what isn’t included in the price of your bird watching holiday and ensure you have budgeted enough to cover what isn’t. This could include entry to national parks and reserves, fees and tips for drivers and guides, meals and drinks, and transportation. Decide on a daily budget and stick to it and try to avoid any unnecessary extra expenses.
One thing you shouldn’t comprise on is the time of year you choose to go. Make sure your travel plans coincide with the best local birding seasons, so you are able to see resident as well as migrant birds. Although it is often cheaper to travel out of season, it can be a false economy and you don’t want to travel far and be disappointed by a lack of birds.