Birding in Israel is one of the world’s “Best Kept Secrets.” Most people think of the Biblical significance when Israel is brought into a conversation, however, birding here can be as exciting and thrilling as any of the best known birding spots around the globe. To witness tens of thousands of migrating storks and raptors is truly one of the world’s greatest avian spectacles. This does happen, twice annually in fact, and combined with the millions of passerines that also journey through Israel on their voyages North and South, you have the makings of a birding extravaganza comparable to nothing else in the world.
Moderately Active. May involve some moderate hikes in forests and nature reserves, getting in and out of vehicles and rocking boats, and walking in uneven pavement in archaeological sites, in some cases in extreme weather conditions, heat, high elevation and humidity.
It can be quite hot in Israel during the summer months – June through August and cool in the winter (January/February.) Generally, best time to visit is March through May and October/November. However, one needs to take into consideration the Jewish and Christian holidays when it is too crowded and very expensive in Israel. The birding migration takes place usually March-May, returning October-November.
Depart USA and next day arrive Tel Aviv where you connect with your flight to Eilat, your gateway to the Red Sea. You’ll be met and escorted to your home for the next four nights. Time permitting this afternoon, visit Yotvata to scan the fields for White-tailed Plover and the gorgeous Caspian Plover. Next day, journey to the Eilat International Birding & Research Center, a strategic birding flyway and staging area for Palearctic migrants. It’s possible to see thousands of migrating birds here, including raptors, waders and passerines. Next, take to the mountains to look for high elevation species. Finish the day at North Beach to watch as migratory flocks move through the area and where it is not unusual to observe ten or more species at any given time. ISROTEL YAM SUF HOTEL. (Meals Aloft,D; B,D)
Your visit the Eilat Bird Sanctuary starts early. Lying at the intersection of three continents, Africa, Asia and Europe, Eilat is a principle refueling stop for migrating avian species. During the migration season, between 500 million to a billion birds are estimated to cross Eilat’s skies including some 30 species of birds of prey which take advantage of rising warm air above the Eilat Mountains. The saltpans, pools, trees and bushes of Eilat host migrant passerines such as shrikes, flycatchers and warblers. This afternoon escape the heat while snorkeling in the Red Sea. ISROTEL YAM SUF HOTEL. (B,D)
This morning’s drive is to Eilat’s odiferous sewage pools and expansive saltpans which attract a wonderful variety of birds, including crakes, herons, egrets, Slender-billed Gull and Whiskered Tern, and migrating flamingos. Continue to Ein Netafim where, in the spring, you may see desert species, including Sand Partridge, Tristram’s Starling, Trumpeter Finch and a variety of larks and wheatears. This afternoon, drive to an excellent birding venue, the Lotan Nature and Bird Reserve (LNBR) which provides sanctuary to numerous indigenous as well as migratory species such as Rufous bush Robin and Spanish Sparrow. ISROTEL YAM SUF HOTEL. (B,D)
En route to the Dead Sea region stop at Mizpe Ramon and the Ramon Crater which is the largest erosion crater in the world. At 500 meters deep, 40 kms long and 10 kms wide it is an amazing geomorphologic formation. The crater and the surrounding Negev Mountains are all part of the largest Nature Reserve in Israel. While in the region visit the ancient fortress of Masada where Zealots held out against the Romans for three years. A very unique experience then awaits you as you bird in the surrounding areas of the Dead Sea. Named for the region, which is part of the Judean Desert, the pretty little Dead Sea Sparrow can be found, singing with its head pointed skyward from exposed perches. In addition, Fan-tailed and Brown-necked Ravens, Arabian Babblers, Blackstarts, Crag Martins, Scrub Warblers and White-crowned Black Wheatears may be observed, as well as the occasional Barbary or Sooty Falcon. Also visit Ein Gedi Reserve to see the waterfalls at this oasis in the desert which hosts exotic plants and animal species. DEAD SEA ISROTEL HOTEL. (B,D Daily)
Drive north towards Tiberias this morning and visit Caesarea, an archeological park with Roman, Byzantine and Crusader ruins. As dusk approaches, continue to Kibbutz Ma’agan Mikhael on the lower reaches of the Carmel mountain range where you can find Great Blackheaded Gull, Armenian Gull and both the Greater Sand Plover and Spur-winged Plover. Spend the entire next day in the Hula Valley, comprised of a vital wetland where over 200 species of birds find refuge including, cranes, storks, and cormorants. HAGOSHRIM KIBBUTZ GUESTHOUSE. (B,D Daily)
Proceed to the Gamla Nature Reserve, a wonderful combination of nature, landscape and historical remains in the Central Golan Heights. For its small size, the Reserve is home to a globally unique number of raptors, including the numerous Eurasian Griffon Vultures that nest here. Best observed from an observation station on the edge of the nesting cliff, Griffon Vultures are incredible birds and they have the distinction of being the highest flying bird. HAGOSHRIM KIBBUTZ GUESTHOUSE. (B,D)
Embark on a tour of Jerusalem. Take in the rich history of this amazing city as you see some of the sites. In the afternoon, duties permitting, meet with Dr. Yossi Lesham, Director of the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration. Dr. Lesham will provide information on the significance of bird migration and what is being done in Israel to insure the survival of the millions of birds that pass through the country. Late this evening transfer to the airport for your overnight flight home. (B, Meals Aloft)
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