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Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites

There are a large number of factors that have to be considered when booking an escorted holiday, especially one that involves birdwatching. The first must be whether you are dealing with a reputable company and will your money be safe. Ornitholidays is the longest established birding company in the world, having started in 1965. It has grown gradually over this period to offering around 70 tours a year. We have held an ATOL licence (0743) for over 40 years, which shows we have the necessary financial bond to safeguard all of your money.

Our tours range from short breaks in Europe to three week holidays further afield. To enjoy these holidays to the full, all you need is a love of birds and wildlife and the desire to travel. The vast majority of our holidays are run at a relaxed pace, but each tour has been given gradings to help you make sure you choose the right one.

Our tours are escorted, so your leader is a very important ingredient of the holiday. There are many companies offering escorted holidays, but few use full-time leaders. Ornitholidays has a group of professional guides who spend their whole year taking birding parties around the world &ndash most of them have led over 150 tours and some over 250. Their job is to make sure you enjoy your holiday and see the wildlife. They are not taking their annual holiday, but are well paid, highly motivated and dedicated leaders who are there for you and you alone. When booking a holiday consider the advantages of being led by such a leader &ndash there is no choice really! On many holidays we also employ local guides to accompany the group, providing valuable insight into their country, its history and traditions, as well as its birds and wildlife.

What about the cost of the holiday &ndash why are some companies cheaper than others for a similar itinerary? When you compare holidays think about what each company is providing. We tend to use scheduled airlines with the least number of connections. Where possible we try to allow for clients to travel from regional airports, as well as London, to their destination. The accommodation we use is often the best available and the price we quote for the holiday includes virtually everything, even tips and airport taxes (cruises may be different). We have been organising holidays for a long time, so we know the best ground agents to use and the best areas to visit. How many other companies can boast they have been visiting many destinations for over 40 years?

What about group size?
We state our maximum group size on each tour, with a maximum of 14 on most tours. Each tour is different in the number of participants we carry &ndash however, please note that the numbers given are maxima and the average is obviously less than this. We reserve the right, where there is one space left on a tour, to take a couple as the last booking. The maximum group size on any land-based tour though will never exceed 15 clients. On our cruises we may take larger parties. Over the last 20 years we have run over 90% of our advertised programme and had to disappoint very few people by cancelling tours.

What about the company&rsquo s ethos?
We try to run a range of holidays to suit all needs. We operate our tours as holidays, not as 24 hours a day marathons. However, please note that bird activity is often at its best early in the morning, so some early starts may be required on some of our holidays. We are there to enjoy, not annoy, the birds. In some circumstances our leaders use tape recorders in order to attract birds, but they do so sparingly. We try to operate holidays which do not damage the environment and which focus on local environmental issues. We donate money to organisations to encourage conservation throughout the world, and we sponsor projects to help protect particular species. We are concerned about the impact of air travel on the environment, so we subscribe to a well-known forest regeneration project in South America to help offset our carbon footprints.

Are Ornitholidays&rsquo tours suitable for a beginner?
We always carry a range of ages and abilities on any tour. We hope that our holidays will be an enjoyable experience, where we nurture both the beginner and expert alike. The age range we cater for is from 18 to over 80, but the average is probably around 60. You are always made to feel welcome whatever your age or birding experience. Most of our tours have some &ldquo first timers&rdquo but you may be rubbing shoulders with some of our &ldquo old hands&rdquo who have travelled with us over 40 times. The fact that we have a number of clients with this tally of Ornitholidays is a great endorsement of our product. The record now stands at 88 tours!

At the end of the day you can always speak to us in the office to discuss any queries that you may have, and we have a large stock of reports and diaries from past tours to give you a real flavour of what to expect on an Ornitholiday. Why not ring us on 01794 519445 and ask to speak to Nigel or Sandy?