There are many advantages to booking your own birding trip rather than traveling with an organized group:

a) You can travel at your own pace and visit the spots you want to see
b) You can plan around your own target list rather than having to go along with the booked route
c) You can change the itinerary as you go – if you have seen your targets you can have a lie-in or take the afternoon off to relax!
d) The cost is often cheaper.
Having said that there is a fair bit of work that you will have to do – I love it but for some it maybe too much!


1) Choose your country – often the hardest step because there are so many places to go but once you have decided you are on the way. (I use Avibase checklists to provide details of the birds in the country/region)

2) Look on line with the organized trip companies (Wings, Rockjumper, VENT etc.) and see what time of year they go to your chosen country. It maybe that you don’t have to go at the same time as them depending on your targets but it is always a good place to start.

3) Check other trip reports on line – review both the organized trips and other people that have done their own tours. These will give you a fair amount of information:

a. List all the sites that they have visited – I plot them on a map of the country to start to determine the best route.
b. Gives you the location of specific species – I plot these on a spreadsheet.
c. Provides information on potential guides
d. Offers suggestions for accommodation.

4) Now I create the first draft of the trip:

a. Plot the sites that you have decided to make – based on your target list and the information gathered in #3 above – this may be a single site or a small area with a number of sites.
b. Look into flight schedules to make you’re your route still makes sense. (see side bar) Sometimes reversing your route or changes your dates can effect cost and the timing of connections.
c. Determine how many places you will need to stay and for how many nights. This is where you can really make it your own itinerary. My husband and I like to add in a few days to get over jet-lag, a break in the middle in a nice hotel and a couple of days somewhere nice at the end to make up for some of the birding accommodation we may have had to stay in!
d. Now start to select your accommodation:

i. I start with Google maps. If you enter the location that you are interested in and the select “Nearby” you can get a fairly good list of accommodation, the proximity to your birding site and an idea of the cost.
ii. Another good resource is often the website for your birding site (if there is one). They often list nearby accommodation
iii. Trip Advisor is a good resource
iv. Also look at the Trip Reports mentioned in 3 above.

5) Next I would contact some guides. You can Google, of course, and also see if any are listed in the Trip Reports. I normally email a couple of them and send my target list. I ask what route they would suggest. I can then compare this to the one I have drafted and see if there are any changes that made sense.
6) Once I have selected a potential guide, I will arrange to call them and discuss the itinerary. This way I can get a sense of their bird knowledge, their English and their approach to their clients.
I hope this helps – there are often several iterations before the plan comes together but it more often than not works well for us – and remember, if you are on your own and feel you have made a error you can always decide to switch things up when you are already there.

If you would like any additional information, please feel free to contact me via the email link on the intro page below the homepage map slider!