- We take a daytime flight from London to Mexico City, arriving in the evening. We meet our driver and leader at the airport and transfer to our downtown hotel, allowing a first sight of this fascinating capital city.
- Accommodation: Hotel in Mexico City, 1-night, including breakfast.
- From Mexico City, we drive into the Central Highlands past dramatic vistas of the snow-capped volcano of Nevado de Toluca. Within a few hours we arrive in the mountain village of Angangueo.
- This afternoon we make our first visit to the kingdom of the monarch butterfly at El Rosario Butterfly Sanctuary, driving high into the hills aboard an open-backed truck. As we climb the trail through the forest, hummingbirds and red warblers accompany us to the monarchs’ resting place. What we find is almost surreal: millions of butterflies cover the oyamel fir trees in a delicate, quivering blanket of black and orange. As the sun warms their parchment-thin wings, they take to the air in a whirling cloud of colour - so many that the air hums with movement.
- Accommodation: Rancho San Cayetano, Angangueo, 3-nights on full board basis.
- Over our two full days in Angangueo we will visit various sanctuaries to witness the migration of the monarch butterfly. One morning we drive to Chincua Butterfly Sanctuary for another magical encounter with the monarchs. Riding horses most of the way, we hike the last part of the route to see the mariposas (butterflies). In places the stream along the forest floor is completely covered with orange as the butterflies land to drink. An afternoon visit to a second sanctuary in the same area will be made for a complete experience of this phenomenon.
- This morning we spend time birding around the Zitacuero area before transferring to Mexico City for our domestic flight to Tepic and onward transfer to San Blas.
- Accommodation: Garza Canela Hotel, San Blas, 2-nights on full board basis.
- Early this morning we go birding in the diverse habitat around San Blas, with the endemic rufous-bellied chachalaca as one of our main targets. Migrants from the north may include black-headed and rose-breasted grosbeaks, as well as American redstarts and painted buntings.
- We then explore the nearby Crocodile Farm Road – a great spot for raptors as they live in the open pastures and marshlands - before continuing this afternoon to Shrimp Pond Road for an afternoon of birding where we hope to see the stunning roseate spoonbills.
- This evening we enjoy a boat cruise to visit the extensive mangrove forest and wetland of nearby La Tovara, home to tropical birds, turtles, iguanas and crocodiles.
- This morning we take a boat along the Rio San Cristobal to the shallow lagoon at Zooquilpa to see concentrations of whistling-ducks that include black-bellied whistling-duck, Muscovy duck and a nesting colony of roseate spoonbills and wood storks.
- We then drive south along the scenic coastline to Puerto Vallarta, a paradise for bird lovers, with more than 400 species of migratory birds and marine fowl.
- Over the next couple of days we go birding in the surroundings. Our first visit is to Rancho Primavera, one of the prime birding spots in the vicinity, supporting more than 215 bird species, including parrots, trogons, cuckoos and 16 types of hummingbird. It is the best place to see the stunning and elusive rosy thrush-tanager, an absolute must for any keen birder!
- We also explore the pine-clad highlands at Paso Ancho to see the military macaw nesting sanctuary.
- During our stay we also visit Puerto Vallarta Botanical Garden, a bird reserve managed by ornithologists and members of international bird conservation agencies, with a strong focus on orchid conservation.
- Accommodation: Rancho Primavera, Puerto Vallarta, 3-nights on full board basis.
- This morning we transfer to Puerto Vallarta for a whale-watching excursion. Accompanied by a marine biologist guide, we head out to see one of the most charismatic whale species of all – the humpback. We watch these gentle giants breaching, tail-slapping, playing and fighting, and listen to their enchanting song via a hydrophone. This trip lasts around three hours, and while out we should spot brown and blue-footed boobies, royal tern, magnificent frigatebird, plus both Heermann’s and Bonaparte’s gulls.
- Back on dry land, we go for our last lunch before heading to the airport to board a flight to Mexico City, where we connect to an overnight flight home.
Day 11 Arrive UK
All prices are per person and include:
- Services of the naturalist leader
- Most meals
- Guided activities
Simple and comfortable hotels, small lodges and retreats with local flavour, all with en suite facilities and carefully selected for their location close to birding sites or in the heart of local towns.
Most meals are included, with the exception of dinner in Mexico City. Breakfasts and most dinners are taken at the hotels; lunch is often a boxed lunch to enjoy outdoors while in the field. Food is extremely varied from traditional Mexico delicacies to international dishes.
San Blas, in Riviera Nayarit, is renowned as one of the best birding locations in the Americas. Here you can see up to 30 endemic species within half an hour's drive and overall 300 species have been recorded during the winter. Between late October and late March, the resident bird population is supplemented by a massive influx of neotropical migrants from the north.
- Rufous-bellied chachalaca
- Military macaw
- Black-bellied whistling-duck
- Blue-footed booby
From mid December to end of March, Banderas Bay in Puerto Vallarta is the summer feeding ground for humpback whales, and March is the time when calves become more active and playful.
- Humpback whale
The monarch is the only butterfly known to make a two-way migration as birds do as they cannot survive the cold winters of northern climates. The incredible 4,000-kilometre journey from east of the Rocky Mountains to Central Mexico is accomplished by approximately 60 millions monarch butterflies and is considered to be one of the most spectacular natural phenomena in the world.
- Monarch butterfly
- Tropical buckeye
- Mayan setwing
- Black-winged dragonlet
San Blas is very popular with surfers and known for its gorgeous beaches with strong breaking waves; the surroundings are covered with mangrove swamps, estuaries, lagoons and beaches, making it one of the most important natural shelters for birds in the Western Hemisphere.
In Puerto Vallarta we watch the charismatic humpback whale breaching, accompanied by an expert biologist.
Photographic opportunities on this trip are excellent, especially the millions of monarch butterflies in the local sanctuaries. The scenery throughout the tour is spectacular and sunsets are particularly bright and beautiful.
The sheer variety of birds should also provide some great photography opportunities; our leaders is a professional birding photographer and will therefore be able to help you achieve the perfect shot.
The monarch butterfly sanctuaries trails lead to up to 3,000 metres above sea level and are quite steep and uphill, therefore you must have a good level of fitness to do this hike. Alternatively, we recommend you use the horses, accompanied by a local horseman (additional charge).
Price includes return scheduled flights London – Mexico City – London. Plus domestic flights between Mexico City - Tepic and Puerto Vallarta – Mexico City.
Ground transportation is be by minibus or 4 wheel drive vehicle, with driver.
On this tour we will travel up to 3,000 metres above sea level when visiting the monarch butterfly sanctuaries.