Tour Details

Dates:10th of Apr - 17th of Apr 2024
Availability:8Guaranteed departure
Group Size:Minimum 4, maximum 12
Grading:Easy walks
PricesFull price: £1,575.00 / person Single room supplement: £195.00 / person Deposit: £150.00 / person
Price includes: Accommodation, all meals, ground transportation, services of your guides, and a holiday report
Not included: International travel, drinks and other personal items, holiday insurance

Tour Highlights

  • A variety of enticing bird targets, including Greater Flamingo, Calandra Lark, Bonelli's & Short-toed Eagles, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Great Spotted Cuckoo
  • Some special spring butterflies to look for too, including Spring Ringlet, Chapman's Green Hairstreak, Black-eyed Blue, Southern & Spanish Festoon, Provence Orange Tip
  • Wonderful strolls in the scenic flower-rich limestone hills of Les Alpilles
  • Other interesting wildlife, including Ocellated Lizard, European Pond Terrapin, Stripeless Tree Frog
  • A donation will be made to the European Butterfly Group, supporting proactive research and conservation

Tour Description

Popularised by the travel writer Peter Mayle, Provence is renowned among naturalists as one of Europe’s finest all-round wildlife destinations – featuring a variety of habitats, from the world-famous Camargue wetlands to the steppe-like grasslands of La Crau, the biologically rich limestone hills of Les Alpilles, and the alpine wilderness of Mont Ventoux.

A visit to this beautiful region of France in the early spring guarantees a wonderful variety of wildlife. Chief amongst this is, of course, the birdlife. We will spend a couple of days exploring the vast Camargue, with its nearly one thousand square kilometres of freshwater reedbeds, saline lagoons and salt pans. The saltpans hold thousands of Greater Flamingos and can be heaving with passage waders moving through on their way north, including Greenshank, Curlew and Wood Sandpipers. The scrubby woodland edges hold good numbers of Cettis’ Warblers and Common Nightingale, and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers are still relatively common here. Other specialist species we will look for include Ashy-headed Wagtails, Spectacled Warbler, Slender-billed Gull, Purple Gallinule, Red-crested Pochard, Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover, and Garganey.

La Crau is the last remaining breeding location of Calandra Larks in France, along with the elusive Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and Little Bustards, and we will spend a day exploring this rare habitat. A visit here often provides views of Lesser Kestrels and Great Spotted Cuckoo, Stone Curlew, and Southern Grey Shrike.

Situated just inland from the wetlands of the Camargue and the steppe grassland of La Crau are Les Alpilles. This ridge of limestone hills rising over the Rhone valley make for an impressive sight; we will take easy trails that lead up into the hills clad in Mediterranean scrub, yielding stunning views, a wide range of bird and butterfly species, and some orchids too. Highlights may include Bonelli’s Eagle, and spring butterflies like Black-eyed Blue and Provence Orange Tip.

Speaking of birds and orchids, both will be prominent during our visit to the Pont du Gard, the tallest and best-preserved Roman aqueduct in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visually stunning, it is also a breeding site for Crag Martin and Alpine Swift. The limestone crags surrounding the gorge are a haven for wildflowers.

During the course of the week, we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for other wildlife too – we’d hope to encounter the likes of Ocellated Lizard, European Pond Terrapin, Stripeless Tree Frog, and doubtless some other surprises too. One of the joys of these holidays is the combined skills and interests of our guests, added to the expertise of our guides, providing everyone with an enhanced and enjoyable appreciation of many different aspects of the wildlife we encounter.

However, this wouldn’t be a Mariposa Nature Tours holiday without some special butterflies thrown into the mix! In particular we’ll be hoping to find one of Europe’s more enigmatic and extremely localised Erebia ringlets, Spring Ringlet, on the slopes of Mont Ventoux; and will also be searching elsewhere for Chapman’s Green Hairstreak, Southern Festoon, and Spanish Festoon. Doubtless we’ll find many other spring butterflies along the way, with Swallowtails, Cleopatra and Baton Blue in particular on the wing and eye-catching at this time of year.

Tour Leaders

For as long as he can remember, David has been passionate about birds and wildlife. This has led to a varied career in conservation, mainly working for the RSPB, and leading wildlife tours in Europe and beyond.

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Emmanuelle is a keen naturalist and former ranger for the National Trust, with a particular interest in butterflies and birds, and wildlife photography in general. She also plays a mean game of petanque!

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Tour Location


Tour Itinerary

  • DAY 1

Meet at Marseille airport* and transfer to Arles.

Local exploration in the vicinity of Arles.

  • DAY 2

The Camargue Part i.

Our first of two days in the birding hotspot of the Camargue, concentrating on the abundance of waterbirds to be found in the wetlands here.

  • DAY 3

Les Alpilles.

Exploring the ridge of limestone hills that flanks the Rhone valley, today will involve gentle walks in the warm spring sunshine, with birds, butterflies and wildflowers all featuring in this biologically rich and varied area.

  • DAY 4

La Crau.

  • DAY 5

Mont Ventoux.

  • DAY 6

The Camargue Part ii.

The second of our two days focusing on the immense wetland habitat of the Camargue - we will visit and explore different areas, searching for new species and better views still of those we've already seen.

  • DAY 7
  • DAY 8

Depart Arles, and transfer to Marseille airport

As with all of our tours, we want our guests to enjoy the very best views of the very best wildlife and, as such, we think it’s important to retain a little flexibility in the holiday itinerary. This means that we may choose to swap days around to take into account local weather conditions, or the timing of the flight or flowering season we find upon arrival at our holiday destination. Rest assured, we will ensure you visit all the best sites, and we have your best interests and comfort at heart!

*We’ll meet at the airport as this is a convenient travel hub for many. However, we appreciate that some guests may have chosen to come overland via rail to Marseille. The main railway station in Marseille is Marseille-Saint-Charles; there are frequent trains from here to the station at Vitrolles-Aéroport-Marseille-Provence and, from the latter, there is a frequent aerobus service to the airport.

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