Newsletter Christmas 2001

Christmas is a good time to look back, and remember some of the best days and most enjoyable moments of the past year, and to look forward to the months ahead. For 2002, we have tried to put together as tempting a selection of holidays as possible, with a selection of old and well tried destinations, plus a sprinkling of new places.

The tragic events of September 11 have had their impact on the travel industry. Many tour operators have reported a downturn in business, despite low fares aimed at tempting people back on to planes. We had been planning a trip in 2002 to Nepal, but we cancelled this due to the current instability in the kingdom. True, many companies are still taking people birdwatching there, but for a small company such as ours, organising a trip and then cancelling at short notice is something we try and avoid.

For the first time for some years, we are not running a January holiday Ė we had been hoping to visit Corsica. Sadly, we havenít had the time to organise this trip to our satisfaction. However, we are hoping to visit Corsica for a reconnaissance, in which case this attractive island will reappear in our next programme.

Last June we did make a short visit to Sweden to check out plans for our first visit to Öland. This was worthwhile, as we found an ideally situated hotel that offered excellent hospitality. As a result our Öland holiday last October was a great success, so we are planning a return again in 2002.

We normally visit France in March to see the crane migration, and we had a very successful time in March 2001, as the peak of the crane passage came through while we were there. Plans to visit France in March 2002 were dropped because of Nepal, but it has now been re-instated into this programme.

Advance bookings for our April trip to the Ardennes guarantee the departure of this trip. However, we do apologise for a sharp rise in price for both this and our visit to France. This is simply because the cost of the ferry crossing has risen by 500% in the last two years, while the price of minibus hire has also risen sharply.

Spain has always been one of our favourite destinations, while we have been greatly encouraged by the increasing number of country-house hotels that are now opening in rural Spain. In May 2001 we stayed in a converted railway station, which everyone thought more fun than the paradors we also used. In April we plan to use similarly interesting hotels in Andalucia.

Estonia is a new country for us, but promises some exceptional birdwatching. For Estonia we are working with Finnature (the Finnish company that has organised our Finnish trips for us), so we can be sure of an excellent, English-speaking guide to help us find all the Estonian specials.

Africa remains one of the most exciting destinations, as the recent BBC series Wild Africa has reminded us. For next winter, we are working on a trip to southern Kenya and Tanzania, taking in the famous Ngorongoro Crater. Though there have been four previous Gourmet Birds safaris to Kenya, this will be our first visit to Tanzania. By the way, there is now an excellent new book on the birds of this area, the Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa, by Stevenson and Fanshawe. Itís so good I canít wait to use it in the field, or should that be bush?

David Tomlinson