Wild Macaws of South America

Harold Armitage


M y wife is a parrot nut in general and a macaw nut in particular. Through watching too much television this led to the idea that it would be nice to see macaws in the wild. It's possible to go on expensive eco-tours however, for us poor people, my previous experience had shown that one can travel anywhere in the world for half the price independently. This is especially true of third world countries where macaws are to be found, what's missing is the detailed information about where to go. Our own "thing" was macaws and South America, however what follows applies to whatever birds your interest is in.

Basic information about the range of macaws an be found in such tomes as Forshaw's Parrots of the World however this is pretty general and can be out of date.

So how is it possible to arrange one's own personal trip? Having established the range of the particular macaw in question the next thing is to view the internet for further and more up to date detail. Also to be found on the internet these days are the websites of local tour operators who can fix it for you to see exactly what you want. Usually they can be cross questioned by Email. The local tour operators almost invariably speak English, the actual guide's English is more debatable. Few speak no English, all are anxious to improve their English by talking to you. Often you may end up with a team of guides all with different tasks (I have had up to four, ranging from cooks to mechanics, drivers, pilots, woodcraft experts, bird experts, etc.)

I use the Lonely Planet travel guides, which list ecotour operators and give some idea of their performance. A recommendation in the LP guide counts for a lot, the tour operators arc anxious to please. I have yet to be let down by one recommended in this guide. The Lonely Planet reader-

ship is very active in sending in amendments to the editors. The expen-

operators invariably use these same local operators, you get the same thing for a lot less money, I' 111 a great believer in cutting out the middle man!

run a standard trip which takes in what you want to see. Typically a standard trip will cost between $30 and $I 00 per day, depending on the technologies involved and the 

number of participants. (which have to be rounded up, you may have to help in this') This is fine so long as the participants have similar interests. if they haven't this can lead to problerns.

However it's easily possible to arrange your own personal and specialized trip for not much money, typically $I 00 to $150 per day (inclusive of everything.) For this you can go where you want and stay as long as you like. Time costs virtually nothing, only fuel and maintenance count. These days you can make arrangements by fax or Emai I to operators in the most unlikely and remote places. It's as well to find out from your proposed operator exactly what experience they have in your particular interest. In some places I've just hired a taxi for a day (it's not expensive.)

It's possible to just turn up at your destination and arrange things on the spot, however you may have to hang around for a few days, time means very little in the third world. There's usually sornething of interest to do in the meantime. One has to adapt to these things!

It's important to research the following categories beforehand:

J. The range and habitat of the species you are interested in (although you may have some surprises when you get there). Also have pictures of it/them, these are invaluable to not-very-well-educated guides.

2. Any political/security problems in the area you propose to visit. Ignore press and TV reports. consult your own foreign office.

3. The cost or the international airfare, your biggest expense.

4. Guide Books. plenty about. Lonely Pla11e1 is just one of them.

5. Magazines.

6. I ntcrnct search.

7. Brochures about expensive tours, sometimes useful nuggets or information can be gleaned.

8. Television documentaries. (usually wildly exaggerate the di lliculties and remoteness of thesite).

9. Tourist information centres and offices, (a poor last in this case). 10. Have good travel insurance - you never know.

If you've never been before, where to start? Well Peru is a good place. There is a wide range of habitats, a well developed tourist infrastructure, additionally lots of other things for the family to do and see. Costa Rica is also pretty good. However with a little Spanish, your guide book and the necessary information there's no limit to where you can travel.

I've never been to a place where there was no one willing to take me to see what I wanted to see. I've never failed to have an exciting and enjoyable time. I've usually seen what I came to see an often other things I never expected to see. •!•




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