With an affordable day-to-day cost for tourists, and a capital accessible by air or rail from most other European cities, Hungary is playing host to an increasing number of avitourism enthusiasts. The growing popularity of birding in Hungary should come as no surprise, given 10 percent of the nation’s land is devoted to national parks. While it may not be able to boast the extraordinary numbers of species found in other renowned international destinations, numerous birds can be found in Hungary and there is plenty of undisturbed land from which to watch them. At the end of your eco adventure when you’re ready for a bit of culture, the city of Budapest awaits your exploration with its historical streets and notable nightlife.
4. Southeastern United States
If you’ve got your own vehicle and a fair amount of time to explore, then take advantage of seasonal migration routes and birding trails in the southeastern part of the United States to rack up some really fantastic bird sightings for your life list. The Great Florida Birding Trail is a worthy place to start, and should include a stopover at Fort De Soto Park, a major birding site during migratory events. Georgia’s Colonial Coast Birding Trail is also of note, and includes the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, a location worth stopping to enjoy for a few days. The Texas Coastal Birding Trail is also quite extensive and offers its fair share of bird-spotting opportunities, including the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, which plays seasonal host to the largest wild flock of whooping cranes in the world.
3. Costa Rica
With nearly 900 recorded species of birds and some of the most spectacular natural forests in the world, it’s no surprise that bird watching in Costa Rica has caught the attention of avitourism enthusiasts around the world. While you can spot your feathered friends throughout the country, one of the best places to do so on a family vacation is the Monte Verde Cloud Forest. In addition to plentiful birds, you’ll find cooler weather, fun eco activities for the kids, a fair trade coffee cooperative to tour and loads of Quaker (that’s right) heritage to explore. It’s also a great place to shop for art and grab some downtime. The roads are beyond rustic, however, so be sure to rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
2. Mindo, Ecuador
Jacquie Whitt of Adios Adventure Travel leads birding tours on a regular basis. Her top pick? Mindo, Ecuador. The area is home to more than 350 bird types, spectacular scenery and a variety of affordable eco lodges from which to enjoy your birding adventure. With rooms as low as $50 per night and bargain fares from Miami into Quito being offered on virtually a daily basis, birders on a budget can take advantage of the lower cost of living in this South American country and experience one of the prime birding destinations on the planet. Once you’ve checked out all the birds you can handle, there are loads of other tourist options in this part of Ecuador as well, making the airfare well worth your while.
Yes, that Uganda. While you may already be familiar with the popularity of game viewing in this African country, the possibility of traveling to Uganda for bird watching may not have occurred to you. In fact, scores of people go there each year specifically for that purpose. Uganda is home to roughly half of the bird species on the African continent, according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority. And with the country’s significant number of national parks, a bird-spotting vacation there will mean you’ll have more than ample opportunity to spot your feathered friends in their natural environment. In fact, if you’re lucky, you might even start spotting when you step off the plane. The main international airport is in Entebbe, about 35 miles from the capital of Kampala. Located along the shores of Lake Victoria, the airport is adjacent to an area populated with a number of bird species. So if birding is your vacation agenda of choice, you’ll be able to get started right away.
To get started with a birding hobby, check out the American Birding Association or Bird Life International for information on responsible birding and other prime spotting destinations. Birding is a great hobby in its own right, but also fits in well with a love of travel and makes a great eco activity.