OAS Bird Cruise
In March 2023 a group of Ocmulgee Audubon Society members will set sail for a seven-day birding adventure on the beautiful Holland America Line ship MS Nieuw Statendam. Departing from Fort Lauderdale on March 11th, the planned itinerary includes field trips in The Bahamas, Dominican Republic, and Turks and Caicos (note: Key West was on the original itinerary but was replaced by Nassau). In addition, we are planning a number of bird-themed meetings and activities onboard.
The trip will operate as independent birders traveling as a flock. In other words, each of us will be responsible for making our own arrangements. The "flock" will meet for field trips and various onboard activities, all of which are completely optional. All of the planned field trips are within walking distance from where the ship docks. Our field trips and other activities will be organized and led by participants. We do not plan on hiring any professional guides to lead the field trips, but rather we will rely on the wisdom of the flock. Of course, you are welcome to hire guides if you wish to travel separately from the flock.
As is the nature of cruises, almost certainly there will be changes, so flexibility is key. It is possible that one or more of the field trips will have to be canceled or tweaked. Likewise, one or more of the participants (or trip coordinators) may have to cancel. Neither the Ocmulgee Audubon Society nor the trip coordinators are responsible for any costs related to changes or cancellations. We highly recommend that all participants consider trip cancellation insurance.
If you plan on joining us, please let us know once you have a confirm booking for the cruise.
Below are the planned field trip locations and some useful information about cruising. If you have any questions, please send them to OcmulgeeAS@icloud.com
On Grand Turk we plan to visit Hawkes Nest Salina, which is about a 15 minute walk from the cruise port. The salina is a popular spot for many shorebirds. American Flamingos, often called Caribbean Flamingos in this area, visit the salinia from Inagua National Park (40 miles away) where about 60,000 flamingos live and breed.
Half moon cay
Our most interesting port of call in The Bahamas is a private island called Half Moon Cay. Our target birds include the Bahama Mockingbird, Bahama Woodstar, Thick-billed Vireo, and the Burrowing Owl. Other possible species include White-tailed Tropicbird, Magnificent Frigatebird, Bananaquit, and Zenaida Dove.
In the Dominican Republic we will visit Amber Cove, which is a purpose built cruise center near Puerto Plata. Here we hope to see the Antillean Palm Swift, Hispaniolan Woodpecker (pictured above), Palmchat, Black-crowned Palm-Tanager, and West Indian Whistling-Duck. All of these, and more, can be seen without leaving the cruise center.
Key West was on the original itinerary but was replaced by a stop in Nassau, these things happen on cruises. Birding near the port in Nassau is not fantastic; however, there are some excellent guides available to take folks on independent birding tours. We've seen Pied Imperial-Pigeons (pictured above), Bahamas Woodstars, Great Antillean Bullfinches, and much more on these tours. We'll share more about Nassau's options with those who decide to come along.
March 11: Depart Fort Lauderdale
March 12: Nassau
March 13: Day at Sea
March 14: Amber Cove
March 15: Grand Turk
March 16: Day at Sea
March 17: Half Moon Cay
March 18: Arrive Fort Lauderdale
This itinerary will also be very attractive to nonbirding partners, friends, and family members. Each port has readily available ammenities such as the beautiful pool area at Amber Cove (pictured above), sandy beaches of Half Moon Cay, duty-fee shopping on Grand Turk, and the Straw Market in Nassau. Onboard, there are many entertainment and leisure activities, great food, shopping, and much more.
What might you see?
Below are photos of some birds you might expect to see, all of these are residents in the areas we will visit. There are many more species you will see; however, the photos are birds you probably won’t see in Georgia :-) We took the photos in November 2022 while we visited the three main field trip locations (Hawkes Nest Salina, Grand Turk; Amber Cove, Dominican Republic; Little San Salvador, Bahamas). All photos were taken within walking distance of where the ship docked and did not require guides, entrance fees, or any additional charges. Most are quite unique to the region - see species name in captions.
Tips for New Cruisers
Cruising is a great way to comfortably visit (and bird) in a variety of locations. It is important to understand the total cost of the cruise. Here are a few tips:
There are many stateroom options, ranging from inside cabins (no view of the water) to palacial suites. The cabin fare for an inside cabin is MUCH less than a suite. For example, an inside cabin might be around $600 per person, while a suite can easily cost $3000 per person (or more).
Cabin prices change often. A professional travel consultant can help you with the bookings.
Cabin prices are normally quoted per person based on double occupancy. There is a hefty single supplement for solo cruisers.
The advertised fare does not include mandatory fees/taxes and crew appreciation (approximately $300 per person), or possible fuel surcharge.
The fare does include meals, onboard entertainment, and some non-alcoholic drinks (normally tap water, coffee, tea, lemonade, ice tea).
The fare does not include alcoholic drinks, specialty restaurants, spa, or similar premium activities.
You should also consider the cost of transportation to/from Fort Lauderdale, any pre/post cruise hotels, and parking.
You should consider travel insurance, both in terms of out-of-country medical coverage and trip cancellation.
Passports are highly recommended. Although it is often possible to sail without one, it is not recommended.
Each traveler is responsible for all of their own arrangements. Neither the Ocmulgee Audubon Society or the trip coordinators are responsible for any costs related to changes or cancelations. We highly recommend that all participants consider trip cancellation insurance.