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Dark morph Montagu's Harrier near Tarifa. Join us to witness the unforgettable masses of raptors on their southbound journey to Africa.


The breathtaking massed gatherings of raptors and other soaring species on their southward journeys through Spain to Africa must surely be one of the great wonders of bird behaviour. Riding the thermals, their vast journey brings them in September to the shortest sea crossing, at Tarifa, and it is here that we spend an unforgettable week witnessing these great pilgrimages. During this time we have little need to wander any great distance from our comfortable and perfectly situated hotel, each day bringing a new range of travellers, including thousands of Honey Buzzards, Black Kites, Booted and Short-toed Eagles  and  Montagu’s  Harriers. In fact it is virtually impossible to look into the sky without seeing a raptor! In between raptor watches we explore the coast for passage waders, gulls and shearwaters and valleys of cork oak for Hoopoes, Bee-eaters and Rollers. This is a golden opportunity to marvel at this great spectacle and learn more about raptor identification whilst relaxing in the balmy Andalucian climate.

Contact The Ultimate Travel Company 0207 386 4682 to make a reservation.

9 - 16 September
8 days (7 nights)

Economy class flights, accommodation with private facilities, full board (breakfast, lunch, dinner), transport by private minibuses, tips and services of Wild Insights leaders.

Travel insurance and items of a personal nature such as drinks, laundry and phone calls.

Andalucia1.jpgIt was possibly the imagery of Andalucia as depicted in Laurie Lee’s As I Walked Out one Midsummer’s Morning which initially fired my imagination and inspired my first September visit to this vibrant region of Spain, over twenty years ago.

Despite relentless coastal development since Laurie Lee’s travels, the true Andalucia, thankfully, still exists today, only a few kilometres inland. There I found all the elements of a country whose very culture has been shaped by previous centuries of Moorish occupation - mosque-like churches and raw, untamed flamenco music reminding me that Morocco and the African continent were no distance away. In fact on a clear day the imposing Jbel Musa can be seen, the first wall of Moroccan rock, just fifteen kilometres across the Straits.

Small hilltop clusters of whitewashed houses - los pueblos blancos, with shady ally-ways, silent and deserted in the mid-day lull, overlook a landscape little changed by the passage of time. Small fields, burnt to straw from the unremitting summer sun, are bordered by lines of lethally-spined prickly pear while goats wander freely and grey-brown pigs, un-tethered and unenclosed, wallow in muddy pools. Hoopoes probe in the shade and Sardinian Warblers scratch from banks of Gum Cistus.

Day 1. Depart Manchester/Gatwick/Bristol or Newcastle a.m. Arrive Malaga late a.m. We then make a 2-hour journey to our hotel at Tarifa where we will check into our hotel which will be our base for the whole week. There should be time for the first short outing to the nearby Jara Valley. Overnights at same hotel for the whole week.

Day 2. Depending on wind conditions our destination this morning will be to the most active raptor migration viewpoint where we hope to see large numbers of Honey Buzzard. These colossal gatherings are often in the company of Black Kite, White Stork, Egyptian Vulture and Booted Eagle. This provides an unrivalled chance to see the differences in plumage between sexes, phases and ages of all the raptor species. After a relaxed lunch and a break we will then explore the nearby rice and cotton fields of La Janda, a fabulous place for Montagu’s and Marsh Harriers plus passage waders such as Green and Wood Sandpipers. Black-crowned Night Herons can be seen in the ditches and this is one of the few sites in the area to see Black-winged Kite although they are infrequent and unpredictable. On the drier fields flocks of Spanish Sparrows and Calandra Larks gather.

Day 3. This morning we will make our way down to the vast beach at Los Playa de la Lances where tidal inlets are frequented by a variety of waders. Amongst the gulls roosting we will be looking out for Audouin’s, and the pine scrub is always worth a search for migrant warblers. The scrubland around the beach can be good for Greater Short-toed Lark, Tawny Pipit and even Little Bustard. Before lunch we will have another opportunity for raptor watching at an appropriate watchpoint. To finish the day a late afternoon stroll in the Jara Valley is usually productive for hunting raptors such as Montagu’s Harrier, Short-toed Eagle and Lesser Kestrel plus Woodchat Shrike, Bee-eater, Crested Tit, Corn Bunting, Cirl Bunting, Short-toed Treecreeper and Bonelli’s Warbler.

Day 4. Today we will visit the coastal site of Barbate where at low tide a small estuary is frequented by a variety of waders including Kentish and Little Ringed Plover and Black-winged Stilt. Whilst in the area we will also visit the Marismas del Barbate. This wetland has been recognised as an important conservation area and a trail enables good access. Later in the afternoon we will head back to explore another productive area within the the Jara Valley where we will be looking out for all the usual raptor species, not forgetting the possibility of Ruppell’s Vulture.

Day 5. Again, wind direction will determine today’s destination which will aim to be where the raptors are moving. In stiff westerlies some truly spectacular sightings can be enjoyed with eye- level Short-toed and Booted Eagles. Later in the morning we will pay a brief visit to Tarifa for anyone who wants postcards and stamps. After lunch the afternoon will give us a chance to explore the nearby Sierra de la Plata where there are large numbers of Griffon Vultures. The whole area is excellent for raptors and one of the better sites to see Bonelli’s Eagle. The rocky slopes are also ideal for Blue Rock Thrush and Black-eared Wheatear and, if we are really lucky, we might see White-rumped Swift.

Day 6.  Today we will take the short journey to the small coastal village of Bolonia, a site of some famous Roman Ruins as well as having some excellent birdwatching habitat. Small river systems spill onto the beach attracting a variety of waders. Passerines are also abundant in the scrubby bushes including a range of warblers such as Cetti’s Sedge, Reed and Sardinian. Zitting Cisticola and Yellow Wagtail are also present. Sea watching at Bolonia can also be very rewarding, depending on the wind conditions and if there is an on-shore breeze we might expect Gannets and shearwaters as well as increasing tern activity.

Day 7. Our final full day will be spent more locally, savouring the last opportunity for massed raptor passage. We will also visit the tranquil little estuary at Palmones which is a good site for Kingfisher, passage waders, and less common gulls such as Mediterranean and Slender-billed. This is also a good spot for Osprey. Depending on the wind conditions and sightings we will re-visit Sierra de la Plata or La Janda in the afternoon.

Day 8. After an early breakfast we travel back to Malaga for our flights home.

Our choice of Hotel Punta Sur provides the perfect setting for this delightful relaxing week. Away from the noice of Tarifa we are ideally situated for exploring both east and west, according to wind directions.  We have used Hotel Punta Sur for fifteen years now and have always enjoyed first class service in a pleasantly informal atmosphere. Comfortable spacious bungalow-style rooms in an extensive garden, a fine swimming pool and excellent cuisine makes Hotel Punta Sur the perfect choice.


Wild Insights overseas tours are part of a wider programme of Ultimate Travel Company holidays worldwide, and their terms and conditions apply. The Ultimate Travel Company  is fully licensed and bonded with ABTA and IATA and all their overseas tours are fully protected by their Civil Aviation Authority  ATOL Licence, number 5111.

Louisa Thompson 0207 3864682