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For many years Israel has been well known as the bird migration Capital of the Old World. Due to its strategic location, juxtaposed between the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa, the narrow land mass of Israel forms a major migration ‘bottleneck’ for hundreds of bird species twice a year.
Israel’s geographical position also means that many African, Eurasian, and Mediterranean species can be found at the limit of their range but still within the country’s borders. Despite its small size (only slightly bigger than the state of New Jersey) Israel is blessed with amazing landscapes, pristine deserts, abundant wildlife, and natural beauty. Above all Israel is a modern, comfortable, and safe country to visit, offering good tourist infrastructure and accommodation allowing for some exceptionally fruitful days in the field.
Our tour coincides with the final pulse of autumn migration as large numbers of birds arrive every day and many species from further north settle into winter territories. This tour covers most of the country and all the major birding sites. Beginning in Tel Aviv we work our way southeast through the Negev Desert to Eilat, then head north along the Syrian-African Rift Valley via the Dead Sea, passing through the amazing Bet Shean and Hula Valleys, and ultimately cruising all the way up to the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon. Birds and wildlife be the primary focus of the tour, but we also intend to incorporate a few famous cultural and historical sites for which Israel is justly renowned.
- Fly direct from select airports in the eastern US to the dynamic, vibrant city of Tel-Aviv
- Stay on a working Kibbutz in the Western Negev where some of the best birds of the tour are right outside your chalet
- Watch raptors, storks, and pelicans migrate over the dramatic, breathtaking scenery of the great Syrian-African Rift
- Witness remarkable concentrations of raptors in the Hula Valley and Western Negev desert
- Experience the thrill of finding rare larks and wheatears in the vast, scantly vegetated deserts of the Negev and Southern Arava
- Enjoy the never-to-be-forgotten wonder of thousands of Common Cranes departing from overnight roosts in the Hula Valley—pure magic!
- Indulge in the healthy, varied culinary riches typical of the Middle East and Mediterranean Regions
- Spend two nights in the ancient city of Jerusalem including a tour of the Old City given by a fully qualified guide
Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary may occur to account for weather, road conditions, closures, etc. and to maximize your experience.
Thur., Nov. 2 : Arrivals in Tel Aviv, Israel
Our group assembles in the hotel lobby at 6:00 PM, where we meet our local guide, enjoy a welcome drink, and have a briefing. After meeting we head out for dinner at a local, authentic restaurant in the Yemenite quarter of Tel Aviv.
Accommodations at the Isrotel Sea Tower Hotel (D)
Fri., Nov. 3 : Judean Plains
Today the tour starts in earnest. A typically excellent Israeli breakfast includes freshly chopped salads, hummus, baba ghanoush, pita bread, delicious bourekas, fresh fruit juices, and much more, all served buffet style. As we leave urban Tel-Aviv our first birding stop is in the Judean plains where we check some reservoirs and rolling agricultural areas.
This area hosts large numbers of wintering ducks and birds of prey. We put in time to see the endangered White-headed Duck as well as Ferruginous Duck and many other more common ducks and waterfowl. After lunch we continue south toward the Negev desert watching the landscape gradually change from agricultural fields to arid, stony desert regions.
Towards evening we arrive at the Kibbutz Gvulot situated in the far Western Negev, and nestled amid palms, pines, and citrus groves. This lovely spot is our base for the next two nights.
Accommodations in Kibbutz Gvulot, Negev (B,L,D)
Sat., Nov. 4 : Kibbutz | Western Negev
We start the day with an optional pre-breakfast stroll around the Kibbutz. The gardens surrounding the guest rooms hold a wonderful variety of birds such as Syrian Woodpecker, Eurasian Hoopoe, Palestine Sunbird, Graceful Prinia, Great Tit, White-spectacled Bulbul, Common Myna, and many more. If we’re lucky we might even find roosting Long-eared and Barn Owls.
Following breakfast, we head out to the vast fields and loess plains of the Western Negev. This area combines agriculture with semi-desert native habitats and happens to be a very important area for a number of wintering species. We get our first taste of desert species and search for several rare birds that spend the winter here such as Eastern Imperial Eagle, Saker Falcon, and the endangered Sociable Lapwing. Besides the three mentioned species, the Western Negev is a spectacular place for other birds of prey as well as great concentrations of larks, wheatears, and other passerines. After lunch at Kibbutz Gvulot we continue exploring.
Accommodations in Kibbutz Gvulot, Negev (B,L,D)
Sun., Nov 5 : Nizzana | Sde Boker
We leave the Kibbutz early to the vast steppe-like wilderness of Nizzana. This area is very close to the Egyptian border, so close in fact that we clearly see the border fence during our visit. Moreover, this area is Israel’s last publicly accessible refuge for the endangered Macqueen's Bustard. We search for this beautiful creature while the surrounding terrain hosts many other species including up to four species of sandgrouse, larks, ‘Desert’ Little Owl, Chukar, Arabian Babbler, and with a bit of luck, Cream-colored Courser. A variety of mammals such as Dorcas Gazelle, Golden Jackal, Arabian Wolf, and even Striped Hyena can be found though most are crepuscular, and none are guaranteed.
In the afternoon we visit the area of Sde Boker and the adjacent Zin Valley. The overlook from David Ben-Gurion’s Tomb is one of the most scenic viewpoints in the country. Nearby, Ein Avdat canyon hosts Eurasian Griffon Vulture as well as rare Lanner and Barbary Falcons. We check a roost site for the regionally endemic Syrian Serin before arriving at our hotel located on the edge of the historic Kibbutz Sde Boker.
Accommodations at the Kedma Hotel, Sde Boker (B,L,D)
Mon., Nov. 6 : Crater Rim | Southern Negev Plateau
Following breakfast, we visit the Ramon Crater visitor center on the rim of the Ramon Crater, which includes a great exhibition about the crater itself as well as the Israeli space program (based around the story of Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon). Birding along the rim of the crater should find us a mix of resident desert species and winterers such as White Crowned and Eastern Mourning Wheatears, Rock Martin, wagtails, pipits, Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, and more. Brown-necked Raven are always present and, if we’re lucky, can be seen sparring with Lanner Falcon along the impressive cliffs.
Afterwards we start driving towards Eilat (passing through the Ramon Crater) via the southern Negev plateau. We bird a few excellent desert sites along the southern Negev and search for specialties such as larks, wheatears, sandgrouse, Asian Desert Warbler, and more. We arrive in the resort/port town of Eilat in late afternoon and could perhaps squeeze in a visit to the famous Eilat North Beach at the head of the Red Sea.
An evening at the beach could produce specialties such as White-eyed Gull and Western Reef Heron, as well as Caspian and Sandwich Terns, Black-headed and Slender-billed Gulls. The first of three nights at the Kibbutz Eilot Country Lodging hotel, a favorite among birders and hosts of the 2023 and 2024 Eilat Bird Festival and the annual ‘Champions of the Flyways’ bird race and fund-raising event.
Accommodations at the Kibbutz Eilot Country Lodging, Eilat (B,L,D)
Tues., Nov. 7 & Wed., Nov. 8 : Two Full Days Exploring Eilat & Arava Valley
Eilat is well established as one of the most exciting places in the Old World for bird watching, with a rich (and well documented) history of bird migrations involving raptors, amazing fallouts of songbirds, and an enviable collection of annual rarities. European birders flock to Eilat every year such is its reputation and, being a mere four hours flying time from Europe, it’s no surprise that Eilat has a magnetic draw for birding folk.
Eilat, combined with the southern Arava Valley is a fabulous place to visit even during late autumn and winter and during our time here we visit the famous K20 salt pools and the K19 reservoirs which support impressive numbers of Greater Flamingo, waterfowl, and shorebirds, as well as raptors. The Eilat Birdwatching Park and Ringing Center is a haven for migrant passerines and, remarkably, Oriental Honey Buzzard following swarms of migrating bees to the region and have become a regular feature in recent years. A visit to the barren yet strikingly beautiful Eilat Mountains should produce highly specialized desert residents such as Sinai Rosefinch, Hooded Wheatear, Sand Partridge, Streaked Scrub Warbler, and Trumpeter Finch, and we closely scrutinize the Acacia trees as we search for the enigmatic Pallid Scops Owl, a master of camouflage that can hide in the scantest of trees in the desert.
All of these species are capable of surviving in an environment that, on average, receives only one inch of rain per year! The views overlooking the Red Sea are not to be ignored, and from certain vantage points one can see the countries of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt (Sinai) all from one spot. The open expanses of desert near Eilat should hold some of the rarer larks and wheatears found in the region and here we search for Temminck's, Greater Hoopoe, and Bar-tailed Lark, as well as Basalt and Desert Wheatears, Asian Desert Warbler, and more.
Further north, the agricultural elements of the Arava Valley surrounding the settlement of Yotvata could produce Black Scrub-Robin and Namaqua Dove. We might just stay here after dusk to search for mercurial, crepuscular species such as Pharaoh Eagle Owl and Egyptian Nightjar. A delicious buffet supper and another night awaits us at the Kibbutz Eilot Country Lodging.
Accommodations at the Kibbutz Eilot Country Lodging, Eilat (B,L,D)
Thurs., Nov. 9: Arava Highway | Dead Sea Region
We leave Eilat after an excellent and varied buffet breakfast and start working our way north along the Arava Highway. We should have time to check some local wadis (a ‘wadi’ being a natural valley or water course) where we may find a few Cyprus Warbler, an endemic breeder on Cyprus but regular on passage/winter in Israel.
Mid-morning we plan to visit a desert nature reserve where we search for the range restricted Red Sea Warbler (formerly Arabian Warbler). The reserve is the last major stronghold of this charismatic species in Israel though quite a few pairs frequent the Acacia ‘park-forest’ here and it is present throughout the year.
In the early afternoon we arrive at the southern Dead Sea region. We visit some flood pools that hold water year-round with Gray-headed Swamphen as well as regional specialties such as Dead Sea Sparrow and Clamorous Reed Warbler being found here with patience. After checking in to our hotel in late afternoon we opt for an early dinner and head out for a night safari looking for two of the rarest birds in the West Palearctic region—Desert Tawny Owl and Nubian Nightjar. Visitation of both enigmatic species requires the presence of a permit holding guide and together we put in a major effort to find them.
Alternatively, some may prefer to opt out of the night safari in preference for a relaxed evening at the hotel in Ein Bokek along the shores of the southern Dead Sea.
Accommodations at the Isrotel Ganim Hotel, Ein Bokek (B,L,D)
Fri., Nov. 10 : Judean Desert | Masada | Qumran National Park
Following another sumptuous Israeli breakfast, we head north to the dramatic escarpment that forms the eastern edge of the Judean Desert. Here steep sided cliffs tower over the western shore of the Dead Sea offering mile after mile of spectacular views. Our first port of call is Masada, one of the most famous and iconic sites in Jewish history. The site was a hilltop home to a small Jewish community that held off Roman assault for three years before falling in a very morbid and historic manner. Over 900 people stood firm against the Roman siege and, rather than surrendering to the Romans, committed mass suicide in one of the most dramatic of all biblical events. After the Romans conquered the site, Herod the Great took over the Table Mountain and built impressive castles, water systems, and more. In the modern era, the area has become a national park and is home to a handful of specialty bird species such as Fan-tailed Raven and Tristram's Starling. We are joined by a tour guide who gives us a guided tour of the site.
From Masada we head north along the Rift Valley to the equally famous Qumran National Park, home to the site of the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls. Birding of the area and nearby Wadi Kalia might just produce Striolated Bunting and Eastern Mourning Wheatear too. We drive north through the Jordan Valley skirting around Jericho and watching the landscape turn gradually yet dramatically ‘green’ as we leave the pure desert regions behind. If time allows, we perhaps enjoy a glorious sunset over the Sea of Galilee, yet another site steeped in Biblical History.
In the evening we arrive at our hotel in the Hula Valley, our base for the next three nights.
Accommodations at the Hagoshrim Hotel, Dan (B,L,D)
Sat., Nov. 11 : Golan Heights | Mount Hermon | Druze Village
By way of complete contrast to the Dead Sea and Judean Desert, we head north up to the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon. The Hermon is Israel's highest mountain peaking at 2,814 meters and the only place in the country where ‘Alpine’ fauna and flora exist. Locally iconic species such as Rock Nuthatch, Sombre Tit, Rock Bunting, and others should be found with a little patience. We bird the foothills and if weather permits, we head up to the top of the mountain.
After the Hermon we visit a Druze town for a delicious traditional Druze lunch and then drive south through the Golan Heights to Gamla Nature Reserve, formerly home to one of the biggest colonies of Eurasian Griffon Vultures in the Middle East. Sadly, the vulture population has crashed in recent years and only a handful of pairs remain. However, the rather dramatic gorge is still an amazing place to visit and a stroll through the reserve to the canyon lookout should produce ‘upland’ species such as Woodlark, Alpine and Little Swifts, Bonelli's Eagle, Cinereous Vulture, and more. Rock Hyrax and Mountain Gazelle are common in the area and should be among the mammals seen.
Accommodations at the Hagoshrim Hotel, Dan. (B,L,D)
Sun., Nov. 12 : Agamon Hula Park
A full day in the magical Agamon Hula Park. The park evolved as a result of an interesting story that dates to Israel's early days when the first government of the young developing country decided to drain the historic Hula Lake. Following several projects over recent years, the park as it stands with its impressive body of water, is now managed by the Jewish National Fund and is built around the birds and nature with public viewing and education very much in mind.
An early departure is required for our ‘sunrise date’ with tens of thousands of wintering Common Cranes. We start with the ‘famous’ mobile hide tour, which brings us up close and personal with the cranes as they leave the roost. We then spend most of the day in the park where we enjoy personalized access with our own minibus to all areas of the park. The cultivated fields, creeks, and flooded areas host a huge diversity of birds and wildlife. This is a raptor-lover's paradise with impressive numbers of Great Spotted and other eagles, Steppe and Long-legged Buzzards, up to four species of harrier, Black Kite by the hundred and several species of falcon should also be present. Shorebirds and ducks are concentrated in numbers and the ever-present bugling of tens of thousands of Common Cranes creates a magical atmosphere for the whole day. The park is also very good for mammals ranging from the introduced Nutria (or Coypu) to Egyptian Mongoose, Wild Boar, Golden Jackal, and the majestic yet mysterious Jungle Cat.
Accommodations in the Hula Valley (B,L,D)
Mon., Nov. 13 : Arbel Cliff | Jordan River Valley Reserve
This morning we check out from our hotel and return south along the Sea of Galilee to the Arbel Cliff. Mount Arbel is a beautiful natural escarpment towering over the city of Tiberius. It is one of the most scenic parks in Israel and is home to a nice range of bird species. Here we search for the range restricted Long-billed Pipit and perhaps Wallcreeper which have been found wintering here in recent years. The latter is rare and solitary but is also unmistakable and with patience we might just get lucky!
Continuing south to the Bet Shean Valley we enter a low-lying area dominated by agriculture, fishponds, and the Jordan River Valley Reserve. The area is one of the best birding spots in the country and boasts huge numbers of gulls (including Armenian and Pallas's Gulls), Great and Pygmy Cormorants, Great White Pelican, and numerous herons and raptors. The alfalfa fields often host rarer ‘eastern’ passerines such as Oriental Skylark, Richard’s Pipit, Siberian Stonechats, and more.
Finally, the Bet Shean Valley is often the best place in Israel to find Dead Sea Sparrow and Desert Finch. We spend the afternoon here and then drive south to Jerusalem for two nights at Yearim Hotel nestled in the hills outside the city.
Accommodations at Yearim Hotel, Jerusalem (B,L,D)
Tues., Nov. 14 : Jerusalem Bird Observatory | Old City
Following an early breakfast, we head to the Jerusalem Bird Observatory for a banding session and some up close and personal interactions with some of Israel’s wintering species. The Observatory is the only birding center in the world present on parliament grounds. It is located next to the Knesset and is an important center for urban nature study in the middle of the busy metropolis of Jerusalem.
We also spend some time in the adjacent Rose Garden, which is an excellent site for Syrian Woodpecker, Hawfinch, thrushes, and more.
After the birding we meet with a tour guide specializing in Jerusalem who escorts us on a tour of the main sites of the Old City of Jerusalem. This amazing ancient city normally requires a few days to explore but our tour includes the major holy sites as well as some of the gates, the ‘walls promenade,’ and the markets where we also have some time for shopping and a light lunch. The guided tour ends in the early afternoon with free time until the end of the day.
Accommodations at Yearim Hotel, Jerusalem (B,L,D)
Wed., Nov. 15 : Departures
This morning we should have time to revisit the Jerusalem Birding Observatory and bird the grounds of the observatory before returning to the Yearim Hotel where our tour concludes around 12:00 noon.
Transfers can be arranged for those traveling home the same day via Ben Gurion International Airport. Other guests may prefer to stay on in Jerusalem and explore more of the city, or simply stay for longer and explore much more of Israel! (B)
Cost of the Journey
Cost of the Journey is $7290 DBL / $8450 SGL, based on double occupancy, per person.
The tour price includes airport transfers, 13 nights’ accommodations, all meals from dinner Day One through breakfast Day 14, professional guide services, park and preserve entrance fees, and miscellaneous program expenses.
Cost of the journey does not include airfare from your home to Tel Aviv, Israel or items of a personal nature, such as drinks from the bar, telephone, and local guide gratuities (at your discretion, we will give some guidelines).
Please plan to make air travel plans only after the minimum group size has been met. We will send you a confirmation email as soon as the trip has been confirmed.
The airport for this tour is Ben-Gurion International Airport (TLV) in Tel-Aviv.
Arrive: November 2, 2023 by 3:00 PM
Depart: November 15, 2023 after 3:00 PM
*Note, most flights usually depart from the United States on November 1, 2023. Some flights depart in the evening from Tel Aviv, resulting in arrival in U.S. on November 16, 2023. Our travel agent can assist with flight arrangements, please ask.
Browse below for trip reports and species lists from past versions of this and other tours from this destination.
Gerard Gorman is a deeply experienced birding and wildlife guide, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe where his knowledge of the wildlife sites of the region is second to none, having visited every country from the Baltic to the Black Sea. In recent years he has led several Naturalist Journeys groups across Europe and Africa. Gerard is also an author, and his books include Central and Eastern European Wildlife (Bradt, 2008) and Birding in Eastern Europe (WildSounds, 2006). His main ornithological interest focuses on woodpeckers, and he is regarded as an authority, authoring an unprecedented seven books on the family, including the acclaimed Woodpeckers of the World (Bloomsbury, 2014) and Woodpecker (Reaktion, 2017). His latest works include, The Wryneck (Pelagic Publishing, 2022), is the definitive monograph on this fascinating species and The Green Woodpecker (Pelagic Publishing, 2023). Gerard is also interested in wildlife tracking, and his Pocket Guide to Tracks and Signs of European Wildlife (Bloomsbury) was published in 2014.
Photo credit: probirder.com
Other trips with Gerard Gorman
Essential Information +
This information is important for being prepared for your journey; we want you to have the best experience possible. If you only read one section, this one is key!
Ahead of your tour:
- Make sure your passport will be valid at least six months after the date of your scheduled return to the U.S. No Visas are required for U.S. citizens for stays less than 90 days in Israel. If you are from another country, please contact the Embassy of Israel website for guidelines.
- Please check current CDC recommendations for travel to Israel and consult with your doctor about general travel vaccinations you should have as precaution for travel. See the “Health and Inoculations” section below.
- Travel insurance in case of serious medical emergency is strongly recommended. Full health coverage and repatriation is available through Allianz Travel Insurance, agent number 176098.
- Plan your flight reservations arriving into and departing from Ben-Gurion International Airport (TLV). Send a copy of your itinerary to the Naturalist Journeys office please.
- Soft sided luggage/duffel bags are easiest for packing the vans. Pack essential medications in your carry-on luggage, as well as one day of clothing and optics in case of luggage delay.
Arrival into Ben-Gurion International Airport (TLV)
Please note: If you are delayed in travel, please refer to your emergency contact list, and contact the ground operator listed for the country you’re traveling to with a copy to our office. You may also phone or text your guide. Quite a few of your guides will set up a WhatsApp connection so you can also reach your guide by phone.
Please plan to arrive at Ben-Gurion International Airport at your leisure on the first day of the tour. Please note that flights will usually depart from the United States on the previous day. The Ben-Gurion International Airport (TLV) in Tel Aviv is welcoming, and it should not be difficult to pass through immigration, collect your luggage and pass-through customs before exiting to the public areas. ATM’s are available in the main airport area.
Birdlife Israel will arrange the main transfer of guests from Ben Gurion airport to the hotel in Tel Aviv. Travelers unable to make the main transfer can take a taxi to the hotel at their leisure for about $40.
We will coordinate your pick-up close to your departure with operators and guides once we have all travelers’ completed travel information. Please make sure we have both your ARRIVAL and DEPARTURE information. It is imperative that we have your correct TRAVEL information; we appreciate if you email us a copy of your flight reservation. Our operator will check for your updated flight information.
A driver will be sent for you and they may come inside to meet you, holding a sign, or they may be just outside the main doors at the curb looking for you. We have asked them to wear binoculars to help identify themselves and you can help them by doing so also. If for any reason you do not find them, there is a tourist office that can help you phone them, or you can get on the Wi-Fi or cell to check for messages.
Our group will assemble in the hotel lobby at 6 p.m., where we will meet our local guide, enjoy a welcome drink and have a briefing. After meeting we’ll head out for dinner at a local, authentic restaurant in the Yemenite quarter of Tel Aviv.
Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.
Departures from Ben-Gurion International Airport (TLV)
Please plan departures from Ben-Gurion after noon on the last day of the tour. Please note, some flights do depart in the evening from Tel Aviv, resulting in arrival in U.S. the next day. Our travel agent can assist with flight arrangements.
On your last morning we should have time to re-visit the Jerusalem Birding Observatory and bird the grounds of the observatory before returning to the Mount Zion Hotel where the tour will conclude around 12 noon. Transfers can be arranged for those traveling home the same day via Ben Gurion International Airport. Other guests may prefer to stay on in Jerusalem and explore more of the city, or simply stay for longer and explore much more of Israel!
Please check the Travel Details section of this tour for additional information and updates.
Passport, Visas & Documents
You must have a passport that is in good condition and is valid for six months AFTER your scheduled return to the U.S. You should have at least one blank page per stamp. The blank pages need to say “Visas” at the top. Pages marked “Amendments and Endorsements” will not be accepted. If you are from another country, please contact the Israel embassy website for guidelines. Information for US citizens can be found at travel.state.gov.
It is always advisable to check for changes 60-90 days ahead but, at the time of writing, a tourist visa is not required for stays less than 90 days. You will need proof of a return ticket. The necessary documents will be distributed by your airline while in flight or provided for you upon arrival. We advise that you bring your eContact list of hotels for use at immigration as well.
Passport Note: Due to a lack of diplomatic relations between Israel and many Arabic or predominantly Muslim countries, those with Israel entry stamps in their passports will not be allowed to enter the Arabic countries in question. To alleviate this issue, visitors are now given an entry card instead of a stamp on arrival to Israel, which you must keep until you leave. As of March 2017, foreign nationals may be refused entry to Israel if they have publicly called for a boycott of the country, or support an organization that has called for it.
It’s wise to carry a color photocopy of your passport ID page in a separate location while traveling, and to leave a copy with your emergency contact person at home. You may want to take a photo with your phone and have a copy there, along with a photo of the BAR CODE on your luggage tag. If your passport is lost or stolen, or your bag is misplaced these photos will greatly expedite replacement.
General Health & Inoculations Information - Be Prepared!
We will share your health information with your guide. This information will be kept confidential but is very important as we want to be best prepared in case of medical emergency. Bring any prescription medications with you and it’s best if you have a copy of the prescription in case of loss. Including a supply of standard over the counter medications for common ailments is recommended.
Anti-malarial drugs are not required for any area that you visit. At the time of writing, all visitors to Israel are required to hold health insurance with coverage for the treatment of COVID-19 for the duration of your trip. The CDC recommends that all travelers be up to date with routine vaccinations and basic travel vaccines (such as Polio, Hepatitis A and Typhoid) before traveling to any destination. Please check with your doctor for recommendations at least 4-6 weeks before departing on your trip. A helpful website for planning is the Center for Disease Control (USA) or by phone (800) CDC-INFO.
We recommend that you bring a travel-sized first aid kit and medications for common ailments, as well as an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses. You should bring an adequate supply of any prescription drugs you use, and in addition, a list of generic names of your medicine as “back-up” in case it is necessary to purchase drugs while abroad. When traveling with medication, it is a good idea to pack any drugs you take regularly in your carry-on luggage. You’ll want to keep medications in their original, labeled containers. It is also a good idea to carry with you an up-to-date record of known allergies or chronic medical problems so that emergency treatment, if necessary, can be carried out without endangering your health.
Weather & Climate
In general, the weather during your stay should be pleasant, ranging from the low 40’s and highs in the mid-70’s°F. A jacket is recommended. Temperatures are generally higher in the south of the country and the Galilee area, and cooler in Jerusalem. It might rain occasionally. Check your favorite weather website like, www.weather.com, closer to your departure to better predict what the weather will be on your adventure.
Food & Drinks
Tap water is safe to drink throughout Israel. Bottled water is widely available. Milk is pasteurized and dairy products are safe for consumption. All local meat, fish and vegetables are considered safe to eat.
Bottled water will be available for field trips and drinking water is provided for you to refill a bottle. One of the many ways we strive to do our part for the environment is by trying to reduce our consumption of plastics; if convenient we appreciate if you can bring reusable water bottles. Your guide will let you know when bottled water is preferable.
Packing, Clothing & Laundry
Dress is very informal and laundry services are available for a fee at our hotels. While some people will change for dinner, it is usually just to a drier or cleaner version of what they wore during the day.
Please, pack light. We are serious about this – we move around a lot; you just do not need much to cope with tropical life! Please do not bring anything more than you must. Lay out your hopeful things to take and then do a serious paring down please! And please do not pack any essential medications, or your vital optics, in your checked luggage!
TRAVEL TIP: Imagine NOT getting your suitcase. Wear your most important shoes for the field, have one day’s clothing change, and a change of underwear!
The official currency in Israel is the shekel (ILS/NIS). We advise you carry a mix of different types of payments, such as cash, an ATM card, and a credit card. For the current exchange rate, please refer to an online converter tool like www.xe.com, or your bank. After you leave the baggage claim area at Ben Gurion Airport, there are ATM machines where you can withdraw funds using your credit card for a reasonable exchange rate. U.S. dollars in good condition (no rips or tears) are also taken as a form of payment but the exchange rate will not be in your favor and shopping for smaller handicrafts may necessitate using local currency.
ATM machines are widely available in Israeli cities, and allow you to choose an English language interface. Make sure your PIN code has only 4 digits. When using the ATM to withdrawal cash, keep in mind it might only accept cards from local banks or not allow cash advances on credit cards, , and there are often transaction fees for withdrawals. Check with your bank before departure. You must become familiar with how to use your ATM card and PIN number ahead of the journey.
We suggest you have more than one card available, if possible. You may want to bring more than one brand of card (VISA and Mastercard are commonly accepted; American Express is less common). You can use credit cards at lodges to pay your bar and gift tabs. Not every shop will accept every card. Some smaller shops and restaurants, or taxis require cash, so it is always a good idea to ask before making a purchase. We recommend that you advise your bank or credit card company that you will be traveling abroad to avoid questions, card freezes, or charges. If you have a choice of cards, bring one with no foreign exchange fees.
Traveler’s checks are not widely accepted. They can be difficult to exchange. We do not advise you use them.
Tipping throughout the tour is at your discretion. Some guidelines follow. At larger (mostly city) hotels, tip maids and bar service as you would at home. At eco-lodges, there is typically a staff tip box in a public area; the going rate per person is $6-$10 a day, which is shared among staff for maid service, and general staff service at the lodges. Gratuities for group meals are already included. Your Naturalist Journeys host will take care of smaller tips such field trip services by boat drivers, night drive outings, single activities. Your additional tip is encouraged for birding tour guides and drivers who are with you for several days or the full trip; $10-$15 per day per guest is standard for guide service, and half that for a driver. If you have more than one local guide at a location, they will share the daily amount. We encourage tipping for the local teams hosting you; anything extra for your Naturalist Journeys host is at your discretion.
Cell Phones & Internet Service
If you plan on using your cell phone on this trip, please check with your wireless provider to see if your phone and service will work in your destination country. Options include activating international roaming, purchasing a local SIM card at the airport (newer phones may not accept SIM cards), or simply turning off cellular service and relying on Wi-Fi to make calls and access the internet. If bringing a laptop or tablet, get a good dustcover to protect it at all times.
Israel is a small country and reception is good almost everywhere. Your hotels, public places and most local restaurants provide Wi-Fi at least in their common areas.
If you plan NOT to use your cell phone, we highly recommend that you turn off your cellular data. This will ensure that you do not incur international roaming charges. Another technique is to put your phone in airplane mode when not connected to WIFI, you can still use it for photos and the battery will last longer too.
Please refrain from taking or making cell phone calls in the vehicles when traveling with other passengers, unless it appears to be an emergency. This disrupts other guests, plan on cell phone call use on your own time.
The standard voltage in Israel is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. Power plugs and sockets are of type C and H. You will need a power plug adapter and a voltage converter to use electric devices in Israel. More information available at power-plug-sockets.com.
Israel is on Israel Daylight Time (UTC/GMT +3, 7 hours later than New York City. Israel observes daylight savings time from March to October. Check www.timeanddate.com before leaving home for your conversion.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at email@example.com or telephone at our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey!
Pace & Protocols +
Pace of the Tour & What to Expect
You will receive a Schedule-at-a-Glance and list of hotels (our eContact List) a few weeks before your departure. This will serve as an outline for each day and alert you to any recent changes made in the schedule or to our hotels, if needed.
Our journeys are set up to follow the rhythm of nature. Our focus is on birding and nature; we offer full, well-planned field days and often get up early for that magical time around dawn. We generally follow the published itinerary, but we stay flexible to the weather, wildlife opportunities and the interests of the group. Your guide will keep you apprised of the next day’s schedule at each evening meal, noting what to bring and what to prepare for. Questions and/or concerns are welcome.
The pace of our Naturalist Journeys tours is moderate; to fully participate you should be able to get in and out of vehicles several times a day, and walk 1-3 miles over uneven terrain. It is important to participate with a flexible attitude as adjustments may be made in our schedule to make the most of our time in the field or for other purposes at your guide's discretion. We are not a “listing” bird company that drills down on target species, but at times we do wait for those special species unique to the places we visit. During the day, we take time to stop for photos and for educational opportunities to learn about conservation projects, landscapes, and geology. We appreciate other taxa as well as birds, with mammals often the biggest draw but plants and butterflies are also very popular. Our clients often lend their own expertise to the mix.
We like to make meals a fun and memorable part of the experience, too. Breakfasts are often at hotels, and we carry snacks, fruit, and water in the vans each day. Lunches are a mix of picnics in the field (weather dependent) and a chance to dine with locals at small cafes and restaurants. For dinner, we pride ourselves in our homework to keep up with the best choices for dining, choosing restaurants with atmosphere that specialize in local foods. On occasion we keep dinner simple to go back out in the field for sunset wildlife viewing or night walks. In some remote locations, our choices are limited. If you are tired, room service for dinner may be an option you can choose.
Naturalist Journeys International Trips: Guide Role
Naturalist Journeys supports ecotourism and the development of excellent local guides. Once we know our international partners and guides well, we can send out small groups working directly with these trusted partners, adding a Naturalist Journeys guide to assist the local expert when we have a group of 6-7 or more. This helps us keep your costs down while retaining tour quality. The local guide is your main guide. You can expect your Naturalist Journeys guide to be well-researched and often they are experienced in the destination, but their role is not to be primary, it is to help to organize logistics, help you find birds, mammals, and interesting other species in the field, keep reports, help facilitate group interactions, and to keep the trip within Naturalist Journeys' style. Local guides live in the countries we travel to, know the destinations intimately, and are often the strongest force for conservation in their countries. They open many doors for us to have a rich experience.
Smoking is not permitted in any vehicle or in any situation where the group is participating in an activity together, such as a vehicle excursion or a guided walk. Please respect all designated smoking areas at hotels and restaurants.
As a courtesy to each other, we ask that all travelers please rotate seating. On international trips we may all be in one small bus, on some trips we are in vans, particularly the roomy Sprinter Vans when available. Some areas require us to be in smaller 4-wheel drive or safari vehicles. Rotation allows you to sit with different drivers and alternate front and back seating.
Photo Release & Sharing
We take many group photos and will share photos with the group. And after your tour, we will organize a chance to share photos via Dropbox or Google Photos. Please note that this is our policy and if you prefer to be excluded, we need to know ahead of your tour.
By registering for this tour, you agree to grant to Naturalist Journeys and its authorized representatives’ permission to record on photography film and/or video, pictures of my participation in the tour. You further agree that any or all of the material photographed may be used, in any form, as part of any future publications, brochure, or other printed materials used to promote Naturalist Journeys, and further that such use shall be without payment of fees, royalties, special credit or other compensation.
You are traveling in remote areas. Naturalist Journeys strongly recommends you have full medical and evacuation insurance from a company such as Allianz, for all international travel. If you do not have medical coverage or evacuation coverage on your existing travel insurance policy or for some reason elected not to take that out, we advise getting an evacuation plan with Global Rescue, World Nomads, Medjet, Allianz (they can do evacuation only) or a similar company. These plans are typically $300-$400 for a year for multiple destinations. This coverage may be a part of a larger Travel Insurance policy but can also be purchased on its own.
Please contact Naturalist Journeys by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone our office: (520) 558-1146 or toll free: (866) 900-1146 if you have any questions. Many thanks for traveling with us and we hope you enjoy your journey.
Packing List +
Please Pack Light!
Soft luggage is much easier for us to pack than a more rigid hard sided piece, so if you have the choice, please use your soft luggage. Be sure to have your name and address on the inside of the bag, as well as on the luggage tag on the handle. It is our hope that you can pack in one checked suitcase that does not exceed 45 pounds. Be sure to pack your personal medication, airline tickets, passport, binoculars, camera, and other essential items in your carry-on bag. You will want a day pack for field trips, so this is an ideal carry-on. Please reconfirm your airline’s baggage weight and size restrictions about a week or so before departure.
In general, the weather during your stay should be pleasant, with highs averaging in the mid-70’s, and lows in the mid-50’s°F. A jacket is recommended. Check your favorite weather website like, www.weather.com, closer to your departure to better predict what the weather will be on your adventure.
Dress is comfortable and informal throughout the trip. Dressing in layers is the best way to be comfortable. Lightweight long-sleeved shirts and long pants make ideal field clothing as they are more protective from sun and vegetation. But if you like to wear them, by all means bring some shorts. Also, choose clothing you don’t mind getting dirty or muddy and things that are comfortable and easy.
Clothing & Gear
- Lightweight long pants, 2 pairs
- Shorts (optional)
- Lightweight long-sleeved shirts (2-3)
- T-shirts or equivalent (3-4 – remember you may be buying some!)
- Personal underclothing and pajamas
- Socks – lightweight and easy to wash and dry
- Comfortable clothes for evening (a cleaner version of your field clothes or a skirt, sundress, etc.)
- Bathing suit (optional)
- Hat with broad brim for sun protection
- Bandana (gel bandanas work well to keep you cool)
- Comfortable walking shoes (such as tennis shoes)
- Lightweight hiking boots
- Sandals for evenings, travel days (optional)
- Sweater or jacket; fleece fabric is ideal, but a sweatshirt will do
- Lightweight raincoat or poncho (great if this doubles as windbreaker)
- Field vest (optional), a great source is Big Pockets
Equipment & Miscellaneous
- Airline tickets
- Passport with copy kept elsewhere (for international travelers)
- Photo Identification
- Small daypack or fanny pack for your field gear – make sure it seals well to protect from dust
- Walking sticks (optional, but recommended if you usually hike with them)
- Small flashlight with fresh batteries
- Alarm clock (or use your phone)
- Sunscreen/Chapstick with SPF
- Insect Repellent
- Toiletry articles
- Spotting scope and tripod (optional)
- Camera and extra batteries/battery chargers, film or digital chips, lens cleaning supplies and your instruction manual (optional)
- Tablet or laptop for personal use and/or transferring photos, USB cord and charger (optional)
- Chargers for cameras and/or phones, and three prong adapters if needed
- Water bottle (or you can use one of ours and refill during the journey)
- Notebook or journal and pen (optional)
- Field guides (optional)
- Earplugs (if hotel noise or roommates snoring may bother you; optional)
- Cell phone
- Laundry soap for hand washing, a couple of clothespins, travel sewing kit
- Rechargeable power bank (optional)
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND TRAVELING WITH PRECIOUS OR VALUABLE JEWELRY – don’t tempt anyone and don’t bring things you’d regret losing - your mind will be at ease!
Medical & First Aid Items
- Personal prescription medications
- Motion sickness preventatives if likely to be needed on bus, van drives, etc.
- Personal first aid kit and medications for general ailments
- Band-Aids, moleskin to protect against blisters
- Foot powder, lotions for dry skin, general “comfort” items
- Small bottle of hand sanitizer
- Copy of eyeglass prescription, medical prescriptions, vaccination records, and any medical alerts
- Insurance information
- Extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts
Suggested Reading List +
There are many titles of interest for Israel; the following are a few that we have enjoyed that can get you started. Your guide will also have a selection of reference books and materials for participants to share.
Merlin App – Israel Pack. A phone-based birding app from Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. Before departing the U.S., download the app for free, then from within the app, download the “pack” for Israel.
- Birds of the Bible
- Birds of the Middle East and North Africa
- Finding Birds in Israel
- Photographic Guide to the Birds of Israel and the Middle East
- Bird: The Definitive Visual
- The Birds of Israel
- Collins Bird Guide App at the Apple App
- Collins Bird Guide App on Google Play
History & Culture
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Useful Links +
Israel – An Encyclopedic Overview
Gvulot (Kibbutz in southern Israel)
Nature, Wildlife & Biology
Birds of Israel – En Encylopedic Overview
“Birding in Jerusalem: An Ancient City With 300 Bird Species” – Article by Annie Novak for The Cornell Lab
Birding Arava Valley – Article by Keith Marsh from Bird Forum
Species that live in Israel – iNaturalist
Endemic Animals of Israel
Threatened Species in Israel
Article - "Tristram Starling – The Bird That Flirts!"
Flora and Fauna of Israel
Conservation, Parks & Reserves
Israel Ornithological Center
Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel
Jerusalem Bird Observatory
Global Nature Fund – Dead Sea
Qumran National Park
Gamla Nature Reserve
Agamon Hula Park
Jordan River Nature Center
Geology & Geography
Geology of Israel
Geography of Israel
“Travels in Geology: Soaking up the Dead Sea: A trip to Israel's salty sea is a geological and historical delight” – Article by Earth Magazine
Makhtesh Ramon (Ramon Crater)
History & Culture
Old City of Jerusalem
Israel’s History and Culture
Helpful Travel Websites
Ben-Gurion International Airport (TLV)
National Passport Information Center
Homeland Security Real ID Act
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Foreign Exchange Rates
U.S. Department of State International Travel Information - Israel
Center for Disease Control (CDC) - Israel
Canada Travel Advice and Advisories - Israel
Travel Health Pro (UK) - Israel
Electricity and Plugs - Israel
Date, Time, and Holidays - Israel
Photo credits: Gamla Gorge, James P. Smith; Common Cranes, Jonathan Meyrav; Hooded Wheatear, James P. Smith; Ramon Crater, James P. Smith; Sinai Rosefinch, Jonathan Meyrav; Eilat North Beach, James P. Smith; Golden Jackal, Jonathan Meyrav; Little Green Bee-eater, Jonathan Meyrav; Sand Partridge, Jonathan Meyrav; Eilat Mountains, James P. Smith; Syrian Woodpecker, James P. Smith; Wadi Ha'basor, James P. Smith; White Pelicans, Jonathan Meyrav; Semi-collared Flycatcher, James P. Smith; Little Green Bee-eater, James P. Smith; Ramon Crater, James P. Smith; Kibbutz Gvulot, James P. Smith; Spur-winged Lapwing, Jonathan Meyrav; Nizzana, James P. Smith; Spotted Sandgrouse, James P. Smith; Eilat North Beach, James P. Smith; Eilat Mountains, James P. Smith; Southern Dead Sea Pools, James P. Smith; Syrian Woodpecker, James P. Smith; Rock Hyrax, Jonathan Meyrav; Nubian Nightjar, James P. Smith; White Pelican, Jonathan Meyrav; Golan Heights, James P. Smith; Golden Jackal, Jonathan Meyrav; Palestine Sunbird, Jonathan Meyrav; Sinai Rosefinch, Jonathan Meyrav; Arava Valley, James P. Smith; Black Stork, Jonathan Meyrav; Bonelli's Eagle, Jonathan Meyrav; Eastern Mourning Wheatear, Jonathan Meyrav; Kibbutz Gvulot, James P. Smith; Nizzana, James P. Smith; Nubian Ibex males, James P. Smith; Southern Dead Sea Pools, James P. Smith; Spur-winged Lapwing, Jonathan Meyrav; White-eyed Gull, Jonathan Meyrav.