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BIRDING THE BAHAMAS 2014

This trip is being offered by Audubon North Carolina to members of North Carolina’s local Audubon Chapters and is also open to the public. The trip will benefit Audubon North Carolina’s ongoing conservation efforts. For more information on Audubon North Carolina, and the important conservation work they do, please go to our Resources Page and click on the Audubon North Carolina Link. SPACE IS AVAILABLE ON THIS TRIP.

BIRDING THE BAHAMAS 2014

Endemic Birds & Coral Reefs

The Bahamas, merely saying the name evokes imagines of sandy beaches, sunsets over crystal clear waters, the lilting rhythms of calypso and reggae and the taste of tropical fruit and rum punch! These dazzling islands, sprinkled across 100,000 square miles of turquoise ocean, are justifiably famous for their casinos and all-inclusive resorts, but beyond this glitz and glamour lies a hidden Bahamas – a seldom seen Bahamas with forests rich in birdlife and coral reefs teaming with fish and marine invertebrates. This special ecotourism trip, co-led by Audubon North Carolina’s Walker Golder, will explore some of the more remote areas of the Bahamas. We will search for the islands’ wildlife and have the opportunity to learn about the groundbreaking research and conservation efforts of Audubon North Carolina, and other partners, in the Bahamas. Although this will be a natural history trip, we will focus on finding as much of the Bahamas’ endemic birdlife as possible! We will concentrate our efforts on three islands, Abaco, New Providence and Andros. Abaco and Andros are “Out Islands” with many specialized habitats and an abundance of wildlife. Despite being the most populous island, New Providence has a surprising number of bird species. It is also the home of Audubon North Carolina’s conservation partner, the Bahamas National Trust. EcoQuest Travel and Audubon North Carolina are proud to invite you to join us as we explore the many habitats that make the Bahamas such a special place to visit! Come with us on this adventure as we search for endemic birds, snorkel the coral reefs and help in the continuing conservation efforts that are so vital to the Bahamas’ future!


11-DAY ITINERARY

Day 1 – Wednesday, November 5: Raleigh to Marsh Harbor, Abaco, Bahamas

An early morning flight from Raleigh/Durham International Airport takes us to either Fort Lauderdale or Miami for our connecting flight to Marsh Harbor – the largest city on the island of Abaco. Please arrive at Raleigh/Durham International Airport no later than two hours prior to our scheduled departure time. Once we arrive in Florida we will change planes for our short flight to Abaco. After clearing immigration and customs, and gathering our luggage, we will transfer to our accommodations at the Abaco Beach Resort. Once we settle into our rooms, we will have the remainder of the afternoon to bird, take a swim, walk the beach or just relax, before dinner. (D)

Days 2 & 3 – Thursday and Friday, November 6 & 7: Abaco National Park

We will have two full days to explore the remote pine woods of Abaco National Park. This 20,500 acre park was originally set aside to protect the Bahamas race of the endangered Rose-throated Parrot. In addition to protecting the parrot it is home to the greatest assemblage of specialty and endemic birds in Bahamas including White-cheeked Pintail, Key West Quail-Dove, Cuban Emerald, Bahama Woodstar, West Indian Woodpecker, La Sagra’s Flycatcher, Loggerhead Kingbird, Crescent-eyed Pewee, Bahama Swallow, Bahama Mockingbird, Red-legged Thrush, Thick-billed Vireo, Olive-capped Warbler, Bahama Yellowthroat, Western Stripe-headed Tanager and Greater Antillean Bullfinch. The park is also riddled with caves filled with bats and, if we are lucky, we could see Bahama Boa’s trying to catch and eat the bats as they exit the caves in the evening. We will begin each day early as we travel from our accommodations to the National Park. We will either pack a lunch or eat at a local restaurant and after a full day in the field we will return to the Abaco Beach Resort for dinner and our overnight accommodations. The road into the park is very bumpy and will require a four-wheel drive vehicle, but the excellent birding will more than make up for the discomfort of the road. (B,L,D)

Day 4 – Saturday, November 8: Snorkeling Mermaid Reef

Although the majority of our trip will focus on birds, we would not truly experience the Bahamas without sinking into the azure waters and exploring the incredible diversity of the coral reefs. Most of the waters off Abaco’s coast are a marine sanctuary and Abaco provides some of the best snorkeling in the Bahamas. Today we will begin our underwater explorations by snorkeling Mermaid Reef, which is located just offshore from Marsh Harbor. We will stop by the Dive Abaco Shop first to pick up rental snorkeling gear for those that need it before walking to beach that serves as the entry point for the reef. From the beach it is a quick swim to the reef and once we arrive we will be amazed by the shallow coral gardens. The diversity of fish is incredible and we will be enchanted by schools of Parrotfish, Grunts, Angelfish, Butterflyfish, Wrasses, Snappers and host of other species in a dazzling array of colors and shapes. Larger Groupers and Moray Eels are common and once in awhile a Spotted Eagle Ray swims in for a closer look. Sea turtles are also sometimes seen. From the beach we could see Brown Noddies and Magnificent Frigatebirds winging over the ocean and perhaps White-crowned Pigeons or Zenaida Doves flying between Abaco and its many offshore islets. After a full morning of snorkeling we will return to Abaco Beach Resort for lunch. After lunch we could return for more snorkeling or have the afternoon free for shopping, relaxing or further exploring. We will once again have dinner and overnight at Abaco Beach Resort. (B,L,D)

Day 5 – Sunday, November 9: Fly to Nassau

Today, after breakfast, we will transfer to the airport and fly from Marsh Harbor to Nassau. Nassau is the capitol of the Bahamas and the city sprawls over most of the northeastern portion of New Providence Island. Once we arrive we will transfer to our accommodations at Orange Hill Beach Inn. This comfortable small hotel will be our retreat while we are in New Providence. After lunch we will travel west to bird the Prospect Ridge, Gladstone Ridge, Lake Cunningham and Harold and Wilson Pond areas. The broad-leaf coppice found in these areas is excellent habitat for Great Lizard-Cuckoo, Key West Quail-Dove and Caribbean Dove. Lake Cunningham is good for Neotropic Cormorants and the Harold and Wilson Ponds are great for herons and White-cheeked Pintails, Least Grebe and wintering waterfowl. After our afternoon of birding we will return to the Orange Hill Beach Inn for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Day 6 – Monday, November 10: New Providence

This morning we will depart for Nassau’s Botanical Gardens and the many birds they contain. The gardens are home to Red-legged Thrush, Bahama Woodstar, Thick-billed Vireo, Cuban and Black-faced Grassquits, Bananaquits and Smooth-billed Ani. These resident birds are joined by migrant Indigo Buntings and many species of warblers. After an hour or so of birding the gardens we will travel to the headquarters of the Bahamas National Trust. Once we arrive we will have a chance to bird the surrounding grounds. Known as the Retreat, the twelve-acre grounds of the Bahamas National Trust has a world famous collection of palms and is a reliable place to find Caribbean Dove, Bahama Mockingbird and Greater Antillean Bullfinch. Audubon North Carolina has been partnering with the Bahamas National Trust on conservation projects including important research on Piping Plovers. After we explore the grounds we will have lunch and meet with researchers to learn about the Trust’s many conservation efforts and its partnership with Audubon NC. Once we finish our meeting we will travel to Paradise Island and the ponds off Lakeview Drive. These ponds are a great birding spot and often contain White-cheeked Pintail, Blue-winged Teal, Least Grebe, Common Moorhen, Least Bittern, Black-necked Stilts, White-crowned Pigeons and wintering warblers. After a full day we will return to our accommodations for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Day 7 – Tuesday, November 11: Fly to Andros

After breakfast we will transfer to the airport for our flight from Nassau to Andros Island. Andros is the largest island in the Bahamas and despite its size it is sparsely populated and little explored. Once we arrive in Andros Town we will transfer to Small Hope Bay Lodge – our accommodations for the next three nights. Small Hope Bay Lodge caters mostly to divers and snorkelers, but this small eco-lodge is renowned for its friendly atmosphere, comfortable accommodations and excellent service. After settling into our rooms we will have lunch and the rest of the day will be free to relax, take a swim, snorkel or find a hammock. We will have dinner while the trade winds rustle the palm fronds and the glow of sunset gives way to a glittering swathe of stars that sprinkle the night sky from horizon to horizon. (B,L,D)

Days 8 & 9 – Wednesday & Thursday, November 12 & 13: Birding Andros

We will have two full days to search for birds and other wildlife. Andros is a wild island and hosts a great number of Caribbean specialty birds and Bahamian endemics. Our two main targets will be West Indian Whistling-Duck and Bahama Oriole – though Great Lizard-Cuckoo will also be a priority if we missed it on New Providence. We will visit sites near Fresh Creek for both the target species. The endangered and highly localized West Indian Whistling-Duck is often seen late in the afternoon on the far side of the Tarpon Ponds near the Lighthouse Marina. The Bahama Oriole is endemic to Andros Island and is often found feeding in the umbrella trees. In addition to these special birds we will search the beaches and mudflats for Reddish Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills and shorebirds; and the mangroves for Clapper Rails, Least Bitterns and wintering warblers. The remaining Caribbean Pine stands should yield Great Lizard-Cuckoo, Loggerhead Kingbirds, La Sagra’s Flycatchers, Bahama Mockingbirds, Red-legged Thrush, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Pine Warblers, Bahama Yellowthroats and Greater Antillean Bullfinch. As dusk descends Yellow-crowned Night-Herons and Burrowing Owls are often seen. As we bird we will also be on the lookout for Andros Rock Iguanas, Curly-tailed Lizards, Cuban Tree Frogs and Bahamian Boas. On one of the days we will visit Blue Hole National Park. Blue holes are formed when porous limestone gives way to deep water-filled sinkholes. When these formations occur on land they look like dark ponds or sunken cavern mouths. Often these terrestrial blue holes have subterranean tunnels that connect with the sea. Blue holes can also occur beneath the sea creating sapphire teardrops which contrast with the jade shallows. Blue Hole National Park also contains the pine forest stands where we hope to see many of the specialty birds. On one of the days we will visit some of the coastal sites that are part of the shorebird conservation work that Audubon North Carolina and the Bahamas National Trust are involved in. During midday on one of the days we will also try to visit the Androsia Batik Factory. These famous batiks are sold throughout the Bahamas and we will watch them being produced using age-old wax techniques and natural fabrics. After the factory tour we will have a chance to shop for souvenirs. Each night we will return to Small Hope Bay Lodge for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Day 10 – Friday, November 14: Andros Barrier Reef

Most of the people who arrive in Andros are here to explore the third largest barrier reef in the world. This 140-mile long coral reef lies just a few hundred yards off the eastern shore of the island. Beyond the reef, the continental shelf drops quickly into the inky darkness of a 6,000 foot trench called the Tongue of the Ocean. The proximity of such deep water so close to the reef makes for exciting diving and snorkeling as there is always the chance of seeing big pelagic fish near the reef at the edge of the open ocean and the abyss. Today we will spend the day snorkeling among some of the many patch reefs and on the barrier reef. For those that wish we will go to snorkeling sites in both the morning and afternoon. This will allow us to maximize our chances of seeing the greatest diversity of marine life including Spiny Lobster, Stingrays, Brittle Stars, Sea Urchins and a huge variety of fish. After a full day on the water we will be ready for dinner! (B,L,D)

Day 11 – Saturday, November 15: Andros to Nassau and Our Departure for the US

This morning we will have breakfast before transferring to the airport for our flight from Andros to Nassau. Once in Nassau we will transfer to our flight back to the US. Once we arrive in either Fort Lauderdale or Miami we will go through immigration and customs before transferring to our departure gate for Raleigh. (B)

* Please note that EcoQuest Travel will make every effort to adhere to this itinerary, but dates, times, activities and prices are subject to change depending on scheduling and availability.

Cost:

$4,420.00/person all-inclusive tour package
$ 500.00/person estimated international airfare*
$ 75.00/person Domestic Airfare in the Bahamas*
$4,995.00/person all-inclusive

*Note: It is EcoQuest Travel’s philosophy to provide an all-inclusive price, but due to the volatile nature of the airline industry, we are only able to provide an estimated airfare at this time. The actual date of ticketing will determine the price. Typically, we are accurate in our estimates, but please note that there may be a slight difference in pricing at the time of ticketing. If ticket prices at the time of booking are lower than our estimate the savings will be passed on to you. If they are higher you will be invoiced for the difference.

What’s Included:

  • Round-trip international airfare from Raleigh/Durham, or alternate city, to Marsh Harbor, Abaco, Bahamas
  • All transportation within the Bahamas (Airfare from Abaco to Nassau is estimated above, but is subject to change – please see the rules above)
  • All accommodations – based upon double occupancy
  • All tours within the scheduled itinerary
  • Meals are included throughout the trip (see itinerary for details)
  • Permits, entrance fees and guides
  • The leadership services of EcoQuest Travel and Audubon North Carolina professionals

What’s Not Included:

  • Gifts and items of a personal nature
  • Gratuities (for Bahamian guides)
  • Fees associated with obtaining a passport
  • Travel insurance (please see the Travel Insurance Section below)
  • Costs associated with pre-trip medical planning (such as vaccines)
  • Travel Documents:

    A passport valid for at least 6 months after our arrival is required for travel to the Bahamas. No visa is required for US citizens.

    Group Size:

    The trip cost is based on a minimum number of participants – 10 people. Although 10 people are required in order to make this trip a reality; we are able to accommodate up to a maximum of 14 people.

    Health Requirements:

    The Bahamian Government does not require any vaccinations; however, there are two vaccines that would be prudent to consider prior to traveling to the Bahamas – Hepatitis A and Typhoid. If you haven’t had a Hepatitis B vaccine you might want to consider getting this as well. One should also check to make sure that routine vaccines such as Tetanus/Diphtheria and Polio are up to date. Information on travel- related diseases and vaccines to prevent them can be found on the Centers for Disease Control website at: “www.cdc.gov/travel

    We highly recommend discussing all medical issues related to travel with your doctor well in advance of the proposed travel date.

    Payments and Reservations:

    A deposit of $1,000.00 per person is required, along with a trip reservation form, in order to reserve space on the trip. This will help insure airline seating space and necessary early deposits. The reservation form is available on our website here and can be filled out online and submitted via email, or downloaded and mailed. We encourage you to send the deposit well in advance of the date the first payment is due, as paying the deposit is the only way to secure your spot. Personal checks, money orders and credit cards are accepted. If paying by personal check it should be made payable to EcoQuest Travel, Inc. and on the memo line please indicate: For Bahamas Trip 2014. If paying by credit card please phone your credit card information in to EcoQuest Travel at: (919) 963-3038. EcoQuest Travel accepts Visa, MasterCard and most bank debit cards. After your initial deposit, the remaining balance will be invoiced in two payments according to the schedule below:

    • A payment of at least $1,997.00 is required no later than May 2, 2014
    • The remainder of the trip expense ($1,998.00) will be due on or before August 1, 2014

    Cancellation:

    The initial deposit, as well as subsequent payments, will be used to purchase airline tickets and pay deposits for accommodations, travel arrangements, etc. in the Bahamas. Therefore, if you must withdraw from the trip, irrespective of reason, a refund will not be possible. We strongly suggest that you protect yourself with the purchase of trip cancellation insurance. We will try to retain a wait list for this trip and it is possible that if you end up not being able to participate we will attempt to find a replacement for you, however, it is your responsibility to find a replacement or to have insurance.

    • Please note that in the event EcoQuest Travel, Inc. does not have enough participants for this trip a refund of the initial deposit of $1,000.00, and any subsequent payments, will be issued.

    Cancellation:

    EcoQuest Travel, Inc. partners with Allianz Global Assistance (formerly – Access America) to provide the best possible travel insurance for our clients. They offer trip cancellation and worldwide emergency services (such as emergency evacuation and emergency medical services) as well as a host of other benefits. You can find more information on Allianz’s website including how to get quotes and sign up. You do not have to use Allianz Global Assistance and may choose to use another company. In either case, EcoQuest Travel, Inc. strongly suggests the purchase of trip cancellation/medical insurance. If you do decide to purchase travel insurance from Allianz Global Assistance please give them the following EcoQuest Travel vendor (or ACCAM) number: F031120. This number identifies that you are working with an Allianz Global Assistance partner.

    Note: Pre-existing conditions will be waived by Allianz Global Assistance if you purchase travel insurance within 14 calendar days of your initial trip deposit. For more information please see our website. To locate the travel insurance section of our website look on the destination page in the “click to go to” section on the right hand side of the screen under “purchase insurance”.

    General Information

    Upon receiving your deposit and reservation form you will be sent an information packet containing flight information, baggage requirements, trip cancellation insurance information, hints on what to bring and other useful information. The climate will not vary much and will be warm and dry with the potential for cooler nights. You will want to bring a camera, film and binoculars. Again, a more exhaustive list will be provided after you are registered for the trip.

    Trip Leaders:

    David Davenport: Zoologist and President – EcoQuest Travel
    Walker Golder: Deputy Director – North Carolina Audubon

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