A birding tour can be a fantastic experience and a wonderful opportunity to add birds to your life list, but how do you choose the right bird tour for your birding plans?
Your Bird Tour Goals
Understanding what you want from a bird tour is the first step to choosing the best tour for you. Birders may have several goals when they plan birding travel, including:
- Seeing the greatest number of new bird species
- Seeing the most endemic birds at their destination
- Adding a specific bird species or type of bird to their life list
- Taking photos of birds, whether they are new species or not
Each of these goals is best reached by choosing a bird tour with similar goals. Some tours, for example, may be planned for birders new to the area with the goal of finding the greatest number of local species, while other tours may focus on the rare birds of a region and may not provide adequate time for new birders to see more common species. Similarly, a bird photography tour will visit areas where photographers can hope for the best shots, which may not be the same as the best areas to see a lot of species. By understanding what you want to achieve with a birding tour, you can choose the trip that will help you meet your goals.
Choosing the Best Birding Tour
Once you understand why you want to take a birding tour, it is important to consider three major factors in choosing your tour: the destination, the tour company and the tour itself.
- Destination: Some birding destinations offer more species to see than others. Choosing a destination further from your home will give you more opportunities to see unique species. Also consider the climate of the region at the time the tour takes place as well as any local safety concerns.
- Company: There are many types of birding tour companies that offer a range of tour packages. Before booking a tour, research the company's reputation, the experience level of their guides and any important policies, such as when deposits may be required and what circumstances might be accepted for refunds.
- Tours: There is a lot of variability for different bird tours. When choosing a tour to a destination you're interested in with a company you're comfortable with, consider:
- Tour length and dates
- Itinerary, including habitats to see
- Bird lists for similar tours
- Available accommodations
- Group size limits
- Recommended fitness level
By carefully examining available tours, it is possible to find the best one for your birding plans.
Birding tours vary in price from just a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars depending on the length of the tour, the group size, the destination and other factors. Most tours are all-inclusively priced, meaning that the tour price covers guide fees, admission fees to national parks or preserves, all transportation during the tour itself, most meals and accommodations. Costs that are not generally included are transportation to and from where the tour begins and ends, passport or travel visa fees, customs fees, recommended vaccinations, single occupancy rooms (tour participants will usually be assigned roommates unless otherwise noted), alcoholic beverages, excess baggage fees and personal items. Birding tour companies strongly recommend travel insurance to cover any unexpected incidents during the tour or in case cancellation is required.
Most tour companies require a deposit to reserve a traveler's place on specific tours, and that deposit may be non-refundable. The deposit amount may also vary based on the total tour cost. Refunds for the balance of the tour cost may be available if the tour is cancelled well in advance of departure, but each company's refund and cancellation policies vary.
By understanding the considerations needed for choosing a birding tour, you can select the perfect bird tour to augment your life list, capture brilliant bird photography or see some of the world's rarest bird species. With nearly 10,000 bird species in the world, there is always a tour offering another unique bird to see – the challenge is just choosing the best one.
Photo – Group of Birders © Andrea_44