NEW! Georgia

Destination
Focus
2021 Dates
  • 19 Apr - 28 Apr 2021
Duration10 Days
Guides
2021 Price
£2595 pp
£160 single supplement. Deposit £500

pre-flight airport hotel and lounge are inc.

2022 Dates
  • 18 Apr - 27 Apr 2022
Duration10 Days
2022 Price
Price TBC
2023 Dates
  • 17 Apr - 26 Apr 2023
Duration10 Days
2023 Price
Price TBC
2024 Dates
  • 22 Apr - 01 May 2024
Duration10 Days
2024 Price
Price TBC
2025 Dates
  • 21 Apr - 30 Apr 2025
Duration10 Days
2025 Price
Price TBC
Max Group Size12

Georgia lies on the Eastern Black Sea coast, between Turkey and Russia, and along the Southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains, which form the conventional border between Europe and Asia. A country of exceptional beauty, with ancient history and traditions, special hospitality, unique architecture, food and folklore, Georgia is an attractive and hospitable destination, and one of the fastest growing birding destinations in the region.

Located at the junction of Europe, Asia and the Middle East and Asia, and holds a diversity of habitats and landscapes, ranging from semi-desert to humid subtropical forests. On this tour we explore the rich birdlife of snow-capped mountains, dry steppes, intact savannas, barren mountain semi deserts, impressive gorges and canyons, lush deciduous forests and waterfowl-teeming wetlands and lakes. Avian highlights include endemic Caucasian Snowcock, near-endemic Caucasian Black Grouse, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Cinereous Vulture, Armenian Gull, Wallcreeper, Krüper’s Nuthatch, Güldenstädt’s Redstart, Rose-coloured Starling, Green and Ménétries’s Warbler, Mountain Chiffchaff, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Red-fronted Serin and Great Rosefinch.

Other highlights might include Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Alpine Accentor, Barred Warbler, Dalmatian Pelican, Demoiselle Crane, Pygmy Cormorant, Red-crested Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Spotted and Little Crake, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Montagu’s and Pallid Harrier, Black Vulture, Lesser Kestrel, Scops Owl, Lesser Spotted, Steppe, Short-toed and Booted Eagle, Bee-eater, Roller, Golden Oriole, Black Francolin and many more.

We travel at the beginning of the northerly migration season, and many passerines and raptors can be expected in key hotspots such as broad Tergi valley, and we should find a good representation of eastern European species.

The tour is timed carefully so you may proceed to our Armenia holiday immediately afterwards, should you wish.

 

Day 1: Mon 19 April – London - Tbilisi
We depart London, flying overnight arriving in Tbilisi early on Tuesday morning.

Day 2: Tue 20 April – Anuanuri Forest and Terek River Valley
Upon arrival, and after time to freshen up, we meet our local guide and begin driving north towards the Greater Caucasus Mountains. Our first birding will be at nearby Ananuri Forest, (approximately an hour from the airport) where mixed woodland beside the Zhinvali Reservoir will be buzzing with birdsong. The morning chorus from Nightingale, Redstart, Tree Pipit and a range of warblers will be a nice start, while Semi-collared and Red-breasted Flycatcher, and newly arrived Green Warbler are key targets here. Continuing, and as the former military road winds more steeply into the hills to Gudauri we expect our first upland specialists, including Alpine and Red-billed Chough, Ring Ouzel, Black Redstart and Alpine Accentor before reaching Stepantsminda by the afternoon.

Once settled into our comfortable hotel, we have some time to explore the surroundings of the town and the adjacent Terek River Valley. Here, vegetation dominated by dense Sea Buckthorn is the favoured habitat of Güldenstädt’s Redstart and Great Rosefinch. Two key targets of the Kazbegi mountainous region, both are easier to encounter at this time of year when they occur at lower altitudes and in small concentrations before relocating to higher ground to breed. Shore Lark, Rock Bunting, Water and Red-throated Pipit, (Caucasian) Twite, Barred Warbler and a few raptors may also be encountered before the day is out and we return to our hotel in Stepantsminda where we stay for three nights.

Days 3 and 4: Wed 21 and Thur 22 April – Kazbegi Region
We enjoy two full days in the mountains, allowing us more opportunities to see, or appreciate our key birding targets. On one day we head out pre-breakfast to Kuro Gorge, arriving as the sun rises over the Caucasus range hoping for a memorable encounter with two specialists of the region. Here, endemic Caucasian Snowcock will be at their most vocal in the early morning, which can often prove essential in finding them. Caucasian Black Grouse is the other target, always at their most active early in the morning, when they may be watched displaying on the Rhododendron covered slopes.

We will also visit Trusso and then later the same day Daraiali Monastery, which on the border with Russia resides among some of the most spectacular mountain landscapes in all of Georgia! While bird species in the mountains is limited than other habitats, each is special with Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Red-fronted Serin and stunning Wallcreeper offering unforgettable splashes of colour. On the lookout for raptors, Lammergeier, Griffon Vulture, Golden and Eastern Imperial Eagle and ‘Steppe’ Buzzard are all possible and we search for shy Mountain (Caucasian) Chiffchaff too. We visit Gergeti, to explore vibrant meadows for endemic flowers and should also encounter East Caucasian Tur, a mountain dwelling goat native to the region.

Day 5: Fri 23 April - Stepantsminda to Sighnaghi
After some final birding around Stepantsminda, we drive east stopping at Cross Pass, the highest viewpoint at Gudauri. One of the best-known areas for White-winged Snowfinch, they can be tricky to find and while searching we will likely see other species including Shorelark, Alpine Accentor and raptors. Returning to lower altitudes, we have options to revisit Ananuri, or instead the rich woodland at Bodorna for forest dwellers with Black Woodpecker, Red-backed Shrike, Woodlark, Dipper and Ortolan in mind. Our longest driving day, we will aim to reach our hotel at Sighnaghi by mid-afternoon to rest before being invited to a traditional Georgian wine tasting to celebrate our mountain achievements. Overnight Sighnaghi for three nights.

Day 6: Sat 24 April - Taribana Plains and Chachuna Reserve
The famed Chachuna Reserve and Mta Dali Dam will be our destination today, where the farmland and wide-open plains are home to an astonishing number, and variety of species. Among those we seek are Rock Sparrow, Isabelline, Black-eared, Finsch's and Pied Wheatear, Black-headed Bunting, Red-backed, Lesser Grey and Woodchat Shrike, Short-toed and Lesser Short-toed Lark, Hoopoe, European Bee-eater, Roller and Rose-coloured Starling. Hunting raptors will be plentiful and perhaps include Honey Buzzard, Short-toed, Booted, Spotted and Lesser, Steppe, White-tailed and Eastern Imperial Eagle, Pallid and Montagu’s Harrier and Lesser Kestrel. We visit Mta Dali Dam, an artificial reservoir located at the base of the Iori River which acts as a supporting pool for the larger Mingechevir Water Reservoir. In a real birding paradise, and just one step away from Azerbaijan, the habitats here are attractive to semi-desert species including Black Francolin, Menetries's Warbler and more.

Day 7: Sun 25 April - Vashlovani National Park
With one of the richest biodiversities in the whole of Georgia and the Caucasus region, the Vashlovani National Park offers a great variety of new habitats and some new birds. We plan to spend a significant part of the day at Pantishara Gorge, where we have good chances of seeing Chukar, Blue Rock Thrush, Western Rock Nuthatch and several species of warbler, including Eastern Olivaceous and Eastern Orphean.

Later, we drive to Eagle Canyon, one of the best and most attractive raptor viewpoints in eastern Georgia.  With tremendous views over the Alazani River Valley it is a well named, hosting breeding Peregrine, Griffon and Egyptian Vulture and other expected raptors include Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Steppe, Long-legged and Rough-legged Buzzard, Pallid and Montagu’s Harrier, Eastern Imperial, Spotted and Lesser Spotted, Steppe, Booted and Short-toed Eagle. Black Stork and many passerines are also present in this area – a great afternoon watching the skies!

Day 8: Mon 26 April - David Gareji Monastery
Today we visit the David Gareji Monastery, an area consisting of Mediterranean-type arid land and multi-coloured clay hills covered with shrub and steppe-like vegetation. David Gareji itself is a Monastery complex built by Christian Monks in the 5th Century, which alongside being one of the most interesting sites in Georgia is also great for wildlife. Native Egyptian, Black and Griffon Vulture and Eastern Imperial Eagle are main attractions, and habitats surrounding the complex hold Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Sparrow, Calandra Lark, Eurasian Penduline Tit, Western Rock Nuthatch, Rock Bunting, Menetries’s and Eastern Orphean Warbler, Common and Siberian Stonechat and Rose-coloured Starling. Much of the day will be spent exploring the site, before we head towards Tbilisi where we stay for the next two nights.

Day 9: Tue 27 April - Krüper's Wood, Krtsanisi Woodland Park and Jandari Lake
Resident Krüper's Nuthatch is very much the morning’s target, and we visit an area of mixed invasive and native pine woodland known to our guides to try and see them. Later, at Krtsanisi Woodland Park we search for woodpeckers, including Great, Middle and Lesser Spotted, Syrian, Green and Black and we may also see Golden Oriole, Hawfinch, Green Warbler and possibly Scops Owl.

Relocating to Jandari Lake, this attractive waterbody southeast of Tbilisi surrounded by steppe landscape divided between Georgia and Azerbaijan supports is an important site for both, migratory and nesting wetland species. At this time of a year we are likely to see Pygmy Cormorant, Dalmatian Pelican, Black-necked Grebe, Gull-billed, Black, White-winged and Whiskered Tern, raptors, crakes, herons, egrets and gulls, including Armenian and Slender-billed, with an outside chance of Demoiselle Crane or Citrine Wagtail too. An afternoon at Jandari will certainly provide the perfect ending to this memorable tour!

Day 10: Wed 28 April – Departure
After breakfast, we travel to the airport for our flight back to the UK where our tour ends.

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

What's included in your holiday price:

  • return scheduled flight overnight from London Heathrow - Tbilisi with a stop en-route, airport taxes, baggage and hand luggage up to airline included limit.
  • airport transfers, ground transportation including minibus and 4x4 vehicles where necessary, accommodation and meals as specified.
  • the services of a Heatherlea leader and local guide/translator.
  • entrance fees to museums and cultural and historical centres.
  • The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included free of charge subject to terms and conditions. Read more ...

What's not included in your holiday price:

  • travel to and from departure airport before and after holiday, in-flight meal, baggage above airline included limit.
  • incidental tips, expenses of a personal nature including drinks and personal insurance.

More holiday information

Accommodation is in comfortable hotels with all rooms en suite and have been specifically chosen due to their close proximity to key birding locations.
Food Breakfast is usually a buffet with boiled eggs and lots of herbs, yoghurts and cheeses, pastries and even cake! Packed lunches will be taken in the field daily. Georgian cuisine is a mix of oriental, European and Mediterranean food, and typical dishes feature fish and barbecues, and with many fresh vegetables and herbs, so vegetarians should be well catered for. Evening meals often feature live traditional music -an unexpected highlight!
Walking is generally light/moderate. There may be some uphill track and road walking in mountainous areas, and overall an average level of fitness is required.
Weather Typically, temperatures will range from 10c in the early morning to around 25c, though temperatures can be even higher in the gorges. Sunshine should be plentiful, but cloud and rain are possible. Cold weather, with temperatures as low as 5c, are rare but possible in the high mountains.
Insects biting insects may be encountered, though are not usually as a major problem. A good repellent is advised, just in case.
Group size is restricted to 12 clients maximum.
Flights are by scheduled airline, from a London airport and will be overnight and likely include a change en route. We can quote without flights should you wish to make your own arrangements or if you wish to add an extension either before or after your holiday, please contact us and we will be happy to arrange this for you.

Your Leader:

Dave Pullan is a popular leader with Heatherlea, both in Scotland and overseas. He is top birder, with a relaxed personality, whose skills will be much appreciated in Georgia. Dave will be joined by local guides on this exciting new tour.

Why choose Heatherlea for your birding and wildlife holiday in Europe?

Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.

Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.

The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
  • All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).

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Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: 01479 821248

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