Each year the zoo organises a small group of friends of the zoo to go on a wildlife tour or holiday. The following are destinations that have been visited recently with a report and some images from the tour. If you are interested in joining the zoo group please make enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. The planned destination for November 2014 is Ghana. This is a new destination to West Africa close to the Gambia where the zoo friends began their holidays back in 2001!
India (Gujurat - northwest) February 2014
Again a small group of zoo friends visited Gujurat through "Wild about travel". The itinerary included the two Rann of Klutch plains, Velavadar national park, Gir Forest national Park, Naliya bustard sanctuary and Modhava beach. Winter temperatures were about 8-10 centigrade overnight reaching 30 degrees in the afternoon but it was dry & dusty heat. An excellent guide "Ganni" introduced 232 bird species and all the charsimatic animals of the region including Asiatic lions (only 411 left in the wild and all in Gir forest), Khur (the endangered Indian ass), striped hyena, wolf, jungle cat, blackbuck, chinkara, nilgai, grey hypocolius, great Indian bustard and white naped tits. Most memorable highlights would be the lions in Gir, the flocks of cranes (both common and demoiselle) and flamingos (again lesser and greater), the worlds largest harrier roost and the herds of blackbuck pronking in the morning sunlight!
Costa Rica November 2013
Nine of us flew into San Jose and enjoyed a 12 day tour from the east cost by the Carribean at Torturego, over the Rockies and Andes central mountain range and to the west coast of Corcovado and Manuel Antonio National Parks. The climatic changes due to altitude and the different habitats were amazing especially so close to each other. The tour organised by Gustavo Mora was a unique insight into the southern half of the country. Food and accommodation were good quality and the friendliness of the tour organiser who accompanied us made this very memorable. Highlights, had to be the feeding flock of Quetzals and the humming birds at Rancho Naturalista in the Cordillera de Talamanca region , the dolphin pod in Corcovado bay and the hatching turtles at Torturego. The crab eating racoons in Manuel Antonio provided lots of light releif as they systematically raided unattended visitors back-packs and belongings. Key species seen included; snow-cap humming bird, long tailed silky flycatcher, white crested coquette, red-sided squirrel monkeys & coral sanke!
India (central) February 2013
A small group of zoo friends decided to visit India for the first time through "Wild About Travel". A decision was taken to visit central India around Dehli and a designed itnerary was collated that included; Bharatapur, Panna, Chambal (near Dholpur) and Bandhavgargh National Parks as well as the Taj Mahal and the Khajuraho temples. The food really was excellent and most unexpected, accommodation of a good standard, the polarities of poverty very evident especially around Dehli and due to the professionalism of the wildlife guides the wild life highlights were fantastic; tigers, leopard, sarus cranes, sloth bear, fishing owl, thousands of chittal (spotted deer), owls (fishing, hawk and owlets), gharial, gaur, blue-bearded beeaters..... Most memorable sitting with 3 sub adult tigers for over an hour in Bandhavargh and the cold of central India in the winter!
Guyana November 2012
This was intended as our swan song and planned as our last trip to Guyana - but we loved the location and rainforest so much... Seven of us hopped over the Guyana rain shield and explored the Rupunini and adjacent rain forest of the Rewa river. As before the goverment owned reserve of Iwokorama was visited, Atta, Karanambu ranch and Caiman house but added were four days at a temprary camp on the Maparri river ( tributary of the Rupunini) and two nights at Maipari (including a night out at Jordan falls). We were rewarded with goliath bird eating spiders, Harpy eagles (chicks as well), cock of the rocks, giant river otters, Jabaru storks, freshwater stingrays, paca and agouti...... Most memorable highlights would be camping out in hammocks by the river in a tropical rainstorm and the river rising 12 foot overnight and the noise of the cow birds at Maparri!
Sri Lanka February 2012
The zoo friends love Sri Lanka and the guide we use Prisandrith Caldera "Walk with Jith" is excellent. This time twelve of us over 14 days explored the Sri Lankan interior and included a two day visit to Wilpattu national park (only recently re-opened due to the Tamil Tigers) and a train journey from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya on top of the Knucles mountain range in the centre of the island. The Bundala Ramslar wetland, Yala & Wilpattu national parks, Sigiriya and Sinharaja biosphere reserve were also all visited. The culture and personality of the Sri lankans is second bar none to many countries and the beautiful and varied landscapes and wildlife make this a very relaxing and joyful experience. Wild life highlights as usual were the Asian elephants, Sri lankan leopards at Yala and Wilpattu, Malkoha's, endemic magpies, Malabar hornbills, the Serendib scops owl and a local lit up bread van playing current national tunes driving around hawking sales at 4.00am!
Ethiopia November 2011
A limited number of zoo friends although sufficient for a closed tour spent 10 days in Ethiopia on a wildlife tour with Exodus looking for endemic wildlife. Debre Libanos Gorge, Awash National Park, Rift valley lakes, Wendogenet and the Bale mountains were all visited. The food and accommodation was surprisingly good. Highlights of the tour included seeing the Ethiopian wolf up on the Bale Mountains at 4,000 metres, Wattled crane, Lammergeirs, Gelada baboons and a massed group of over 300 Hamadrayas baboons in Awash National Park. A surreal moment was presented when an ancient and enormous leopard tortoise crossed the game track in Awash and a very picturesque image of the endemic Ethiopian oryx wandering around with carmine beeaters on their back hawking disturbed insects!
Costa Rica February 2011
Again a limited number of zoo friends joined for this excursion so the zoo group booked through Jules Verne and followed the tourist route in Costa Rica. Eleven days and 4 days extension at Manuel Antonio National Park was well rewarded. Wet and temperate tropical rainforest , montane cloud forests and both coasts of the country were visited. Canoes and motorised dug outs were used in the Torturego region and an air conditioned coach transported the group through out their tour. Highlights included red-eyed and blue jeans tree frogs, river otters, sloths and the resplendent quetzal.
Madagascar November 2010
This was a proper adventure. A large group of zoo friends toured by coach for 18 days areas East of Antanarivo, Andasibe National Park, Ranamofana NP, Isalo NP, Ifaty baobab forest, Berenty and Nahampoana forest reserves. Memories of the tour were the deforestation and desolation between small areas of natural preserve created by slash and burn grazing. The Highlight without doubt was standing under a group of Indiri as they emitted their eerie wailing territory call in Ranomafana. Other highlights were the plethora of chameleons, night walks looking for nocturnal lemurs and stumbling across streaked tenrecs.
Guyana February 2010
An elite zoo group of 7 dissappeared into the rain forest of British Guyana. Chartered planes took us into Iwokorama NP on the edge of the rain shield and over 12 days we explored rain and riverine forest and the Rupununni (wet grasslands). Highlights were the river otters at Karanambu Ranch and the giant anteaters, cock of the rock leks at Atta in Iwokorama, grey-winged trumpeter birds in Surama forest, spectacled owl, capuchin birds, the intense birding at Georgetown Botanical Gardens and the friendly manatee, parrot island with it's thousands of amazons roosting and best of all the friendly atmosphere of welcome and lack of any other tourists!
Kenya November 2009
A small group of zoo friends (8 in all) toured the traditional Kenyan Big Game tourist routes and extended the holiday with 4 extra days in Malindi on the coast. Very luxurious and easy going made a very relaxed holiday. All the big five were seen at Samburu reserve and subsequent visits to Tree tops, Lake Naivasha and the Masai Mara added to the variety of landscape and species seen. Highlights were seeing over 2 million flamingos in lake Naivasha (just like pink rose petals floating on the water from the crater rim), glimpses of golden rumped elephant shrews in Arabuko Sokoke Forest and one of what maybe 20 remaining endemic Sokoke scops owls, common genet in and around the restaurant at Samburu and the nonchalant striding of Secretary birds going from one meal to another!
Sri Lanka February 2009
This was the third trip to Sri Lanka in the previous 4 years. Each tour was with www. walkwithjith.com and proved to be very popular with never less than 10 zoo friends going. The tour explores the island completely touring Sirigyria, Horton Plains, Yala National park, the Rumsar wetlands, Sinharaja rain forest and Bentota in the south west. Highlights are always "Martin's lodge" on the edge of Sinharaja rainforest, Sigyria rock itself and the sorrounding water tanks and the leopards of Yala.
Ecuador November 2008
A small group of 8 zoo friends visited Ecudaor using "Naturetrek" as the organising agent. Arriving in Quito, dropping down the Andes into Coca and staying along the river Napo at Napo Lodge, back to Quito and up the Andean mountain into temperate rainforest at Bella Vista and on to Papallacta and the hot springs. The everlasting memory of this trip would be rain and mud slides (worst in Ecuador for 15 years). Highlights included the parrot clay licks, Squirrel monkeys using the canoe to get from one side of a stream to the other, arapaima nearly sinking the canoe, pink river dolphins around the boat and the amazing humming birds at the feed stations in the temperate forest.