Visit your favourite destinations
|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Tenerife, Fuerteventura and La Gomera, 7TH - 20TH JULY 1997,This report is republished here with the kind permission of Bren McCartney of the Berkshire Birds Web Page
We travelled on a package tour with Thomson Holidays, flying with Britannia Airways and staying in Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife on a self-catering basis in the Teidemar Apartments. We flew to Fuerteventura independently on a pre-booked flight with Binta Canarias (a subsidiary of Iberia). Attempts to pre-book accommodation for the two nights in Fuerteventura were abortive due to the failure of any pension/hotel investigated to either answer the telephone or reply to a letter or fax! We hired a car for three days on Fuerteventura and seven days on Tenerife, both through Holiday Autos. Main holiday, Tenerife/Fuerteventura flights and car hire were all booked through Sally Travel, Bolton, now A T Mays.
Thomson Holidays. As usual efficient in their arrangements. Under "special requests" when booking, we asked for a quiet, top-floor room in the apartment block (no one clomping around above us in the early hours!) and were given one. Rep was regularly available if required (which she wasn't!). When the incoming flight at the end of the holiday was delayed due to bad weather in Greece, with a "knock-on" effect leading to a fourteen hour delay, we were accommodated overnight in a five star hotel in Playa de las Americas with a slap-up buffet breakfast "on the house".
Britannia Airways. Must be the best of the UK charter airways. Comfortable, friendly, efficient and with tolerably good in-flight meals! Free drinks on the return flight to compensate for the delay.
Puerto de la Cruz. Ideal base. Well situated for exploring the rest of the island. Well connected by buses to several birding sites (e.g. Aguamansa, Las Canadas) either directly or via Santa Cruz, although obviously a car is the best option. Also close to Los Rodeos Airport (Tenerife North) for Fuerteventura. Quieter than the south coast resorts and with an interesting and fairly unspoiled old town. No shortage of good places to eat. Cloudy much of the time, so doesn't really attract the bucket-and-spade beach brigade, but still very warm. Prices are cheap throughout the Canaries. A substantial single course meal for two, including a bottle of wine, costs under £15. There are branches of Barclays Bank in Puerto and in Santa Cruz and cash machines accept VISA, MASTERCARD, CONNECT and other cash/credit cards.
Teidemar Apartments. Comfortable, good-sized studio apartment. Would be cramped with three but ideal for two (supplement payable). Simply but adequately furnished and well-equipped. Good-sized balcony had table and chairs. There was a useful small wall safe (charge and deposit). The apartments are in the La Paz district, with a steep walk down to the town (even steeper back up!), but correspondingly quieter. Also easy to drive too and from, without having to negotiate Puerto, and with plenty of parking nearby. Good restaurants nearby, especially the "Shanghai" Chinese, part way down the steps into town, and the "Bellamar" on the cliff-top near the top of the steps which has more traditional cooking with excellent seafood and steaks.
Unfortunately Thomson are not going here next year, although they are still using other accommodation. For interested independent travellers, the address is Apartamentos Teidemar, Cl Los Acevinos 19, Urbanizacion La Paz, 38400 Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife. Tel. (922) 38 02 24. [Note, when telephoning the Canaries, dial the international code and then the province code omitting the 9, so Tenerife is 22 rather than 922, and Fuerteventura is 28. Between islands, use the full 3-digit province code.]
Sally Travel/A T Mays. Very helpful, especially in booking the Fuerteventura flights which were with a carrier they do not usually deal with.
Holiday Autos. We used them in Lesvos last year and were most impressed. Equally impressed this year. They are a UK firm who use local car hire companies - "Orlando Rent a Car" in the Canaries. They are highly competitive (Group A, 7 day hire on Tenerife cost under £100) and extremely efficient. Hire charge covers everything except petrol and there is unlimited mileage. No hidden extras unless you want the car delivered to the apartment. We were met at the airport by reps in Fuerteventura and Tenerife. In Fuerteventura we paid about £20 for a full tank of petrol, car to be returned to the airport empty. In Tenerife there was no charge or deposit, the tank was about a quarter full, and we left it the same outside the apartments for collection. We booked a "bottom of the range" Seat Marbella, but in both cases had a free upgrade. (Opel Corsa on Fuerteventura, Ford Fiesta on Tenerife.) Holiday Autos can be booked through A T Mays, or direct on (UK) 0990 300 432 (8am-8pm, 7 days a week). RAC members get £10 off each full weeks rental.
Monday 7th July - Puerto de la Cruz. Nothing particularly energetic planned since still recovering from arrival in the small hours. Plain Swifts flying around outside were the first life ticks of the trip, observed painlessly over breakfast! A morning walk to get our bearings in Puerto provided an unexpected life tick in the shape of several Monk Parakeets flying around the palms in the Plaza el Charco where we stopped for refreshments. Two came down to drink at a puddle of water, giving good views. Cafeteria Rustico, built into the cliffs and overlooking a small bay has good food, cold beer, and reasonable prices. Late afternoon to the Botanic Gardens (only a short stroll from the Teidemar), not mentioned by Clarke & Collins but listed in Gooders, WTWB in Britain and Europe, as a site for Canary. No Canaries on view, but good views of singing Blackcap, Greenfinches, and our third lifer of the day in the shape of Island Chiffchaff (recently speciated as Phylloscopus canariensis).
Tuesday 8th July - Ferry to La Gomera. TITSA Bus 102 leaving Puerto bus station at 6.15 (and stopping about ten minutes later on the main road some two hundred or so yards down from the Botanic Gardens) got us to Santa Cruz in time to have coffee and "donuts" in the bus terminal cafe before we caught the special bus to Los Cristianos which connects with the 9.00am Fred Olsen ferry "Benchijigua" to La Gomera. The bus was a large articulated job and half empty, so pre-booking not necessary. Anyone staying in Playa/Los Cristianos could either walk or catch a local bus to the ferry.
Bus to Santa Cruz cost about £1 each (one way). The ferry trip plus bus cost about £16 each (return). The crossing takes about 1hr 20mins. There were Cory's Shearwaters everywhere on both outward and return crossings. The outward crossing also provided the ubiquitous Yellow-legged Gull, a couple of pairs of Common Terns at Los Cristianos and Little Shearwater as we neared La Gomera.
At San Sebastian de la Gomera we negotiated for a taxi to take us to "Bar La Carbonera", leave us until 3pm, then fetch us back. The cost of just over £12 seemed reasonable considering the road. There were several taxis waiting on the jetty, trying to sell excursions to the Garajonay National Park. We ignored these, walked on, and eventually stopped one that was leaving. Once the driver realised that we really did want to spend over four hours sitting in a bar in the mountains, there was no problem, but we paid him nothing until he came back to collect us! With such a short time to spend, we decided to put all our eggs in one basket and stake out one spot. It was a good move. The Bar La Carbonera has good food, cold beer and an amiable proprietor who seems to be doing well out of people who come "to see the pigeons". He was happy for us to sit on the terrace, spinning out cold beer and lunch for a couple of hours. Although we only had a fleeting glimpse of a single Bolle's Pigeon, Laurel Pigeons gave several good in-flight views, including a pair spreading their tails as they disappeared into a tree. We also had Plain Swift again, and good views of Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. Just down the road, the trees held, amongst other things, Tenerife Kinglet, Blackcap and Island Chiffchaff.
We had a walk around San Sebastian before returning. Not much birdlife (bad time of day for a start) but a Hoopoe in the park near the "castle" and a Berthelot's Pipit in cultivations near the dried up river bed. The return ferry provided the final lifer of the day in the shape of Bulwer's Petrel - one distant, one very close to the ship.
Wednesday 9th July - Santa Cruz Not a birding day, but combining sight-seeing with the essential reconfirmation of our Fuerteventura flights at the Iberia offices in Avenida de Anaga. This is absolutely vital. Doubly so in our case, since we found that they had cancelled the early flight, on which we were booked, and we would not be leaving until 1100hrs. Annoying since we lost almost half a day's birding. Also we had to phone "Orlando" in Fuerteventura to get them to meet the later flight.
We did find a Common Mynah flying around the square outside the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion but resisted the temptation to tick it!
Thursday 10th July - To Fuerteventura: Barranco de la Torre and Caleta de Fustes. TITSA Bus No 102 from Puerto to Tenerife North Airport (Los Rodeos) for Binter Canarias 11.00am flight to Fuerteventura. Note the 103 does not stop at the airport. We took hand luggage only, which meant that, with no customs, immigration or baggage reclaim, we were off the plane and straight out of the airport. The plane was actually half empty, so despite info to the contrary, it is probably not essential (although perhaps advisable) to book in advance. Arriving Puerto del Rosario Airport at 11.45am, we picked up the hire car, and headed for Puerto del Rosario to find somewhere to stay. Not easy! Eventually we located the Residencia Apartamentos Ruben Tinguaro - C/. Juan XXIII, 48 (Tel (928) 85 10 88) at the north end of the town. It is unpretentious but clean and a room with private bathroom cost about £15 for two per night. The Cafeteria Las Escuenas, near the harbour in Avenida Los Reyes Catollicos, had decent food and cold beer. Apart from being a convenient central base for birding, Puerto del Rosario has little to recommend it. It is the last outpost of the Spanish Foreign Legion, and somehow one is not surprised! For anyone with money to burn, the Parador near the airport is even more convenient, luxurious, and costly!
Afternoon to Barranco de la Torre. The "No Entry" sign has gone, but the track is easy enough to find. It is the first one on the left following the sharp right hand bend by the salinas (coming from P.d.R.) Park well clear of the track since it is used by heavy lorries. We walked along the track to what seems to be some sort of quarry area, and then down into the barranco near a "goatery", walking back towards the road. Almost the first bird we saw was Canary Island Chat, sitting in a low bush with a Spectacled Warbler for company. We walked slowly along the barranco until we reached the wet area with tamarisks, then cut back up to the road. There seems to be some replanting of trees going on here, which is encouraging. The site also provided, amongst other things, Buzzard, Kentish Plover, Southern Grey Shrike, Raven and Trumpeter Finch. Canary Islands Chats were very common here, so we didn't bother with Willis's Barranco at all.
Afterwards we searched the stony plain at Caleta de Fustes for Houbara Bustard until bad light stopped play. We ate at a hotel restaurant in Caleta de Fustes, not realising until later that there are cheaper and more "ethnic" eateries hidden away near the salinas.
Friday 11th July - El Cotillo and Los Molinos. The roads on Fuerteventura are far better than one might expect, well-surfaced for the most part and blissfully quiet. Even what appear to be tortuous and potentially hazardous mountain roads are easily driveable (with a little care for hairpin bends with sheer drops and no barriers!). Morning drive across the island to El Cotillo to look for Houbara etc, but the elusive Houbara remained elusive apart from a still-moist turd. At least it proves they are there! We did, however, get good views of Cream-coloured Courser (after much searching) plus Lesser Short-toed Lark and flight views of Black-bellied Sandgrouse.
Superb lunch at La Marisma fish restaurant in El Cotillo which has splendid fresh fish and shellfish and even takes VISA! In a back street and not easy to find, so best to ask for directions. Basically, turn left on returning from the birding site, go down through the town, and look for the sign for the restaurant on the left of the road.
In the afternoon we stopped off briefly in La Oliva to have a look at the "House of the Colonels" and saw Hoopoe, Lesser Short-toed Lark and Berthelot's Pipit without really trying! Then to Los Molinos reservoir in search of Marbled Duck. This site was a little disappointing since the tamarisks are well and truly dead and there is now virtually no cover, and certainly no sign of Marbled Duck. However, there were surprise Black-winged Stilt and Green Sandpiper, which shouldn't have been there but haven't read the book! Also Little Egret, Pallid Swift and Southern Grey Shrike. Also worth spending time watching the barranco on the opposite side of the main road just down from the bridge at Las Parcelas. We had excellent views of Egyptian Vulture from here.
Saturday 12th July - Las Penitas and Caleta de Fustes. First to Las Penitas. When you park near the bridge, spend time in the barranco on both sides of the road, since it is well-vegetated and has a good variety of passerines which are attracted to pools of standing water. We also had Hoopoe here. Then walk along the edge of the barranco towards the reservoir. It is easiest to cross just down from the bridge and then walk along the left hand side, through terraced areas, before descending to the dry river bed itself. The tamarisks along here are stuffed with Sardinian Warblers! The barranco is quite delightful, and even a non-birder would enjoy the walk. Look out for Barbary Ground Squirrels which seem to live in the retaining walls of the terraces. Also stop and listen for Barbary Partridge. Twice we saw family parties right on the edge of the barranco, amongst the rocks and low walls on the right hand side as you go towards the reservoir. At the reservoir itself we were treated to the wonderful sight of seven Marbled Duck on the water with eighteen ducklings! We also had Spectacled Warbler and Egyptian Vulture here, plus, surprisingly, several House Martins.
Pajara is a lovely old town and a good place to stop for lunch. Late afternoon we returned to Caleta del Fustes for a final, and unsuccessful, search for Houbara. This was our only "dip of the trip". Finally we left the car at the airport with the key under the mat! Note there is quite a reasonable little self-service cafeteria/bar at the airport and a cool roof terrace where one can sit with a cold beer. All very civilized!
The next hire car awaited us when we arrived back at Los Rodeos. No problems!
Sunday 13th July - Chanajija, Aguamansa and Las Canadas Visitors Centre. First stop Chanajija. At the moment there are major road works near La Orotava, and locating the Las Canadas road is an interesting exercise. If travelling from Puerto, stay in the right hand lane (signed La Orotava); if coming from the Santa Cruz direction, get into this lane. You may then find that, having got off the motorway, you are immediately forced on again due to a bridge closure. Do not despair! Get off on the next service road, which turns right back on itself to cross the dual carriageway, and follow signs for Las Canadas or Teide. Note Sunday is not a good day for this trip, as we later discovered, since the whole of Tenerife goes picnicking at weekends. Mid-week would be far better, but it is no good at all if there is a band of cloud around the mountains. Note also that even if Teide appears totally obscured by cloud from Puerto, you will come out of it by Las Canadas but the forest will have impossible visibility for birding.
Chanajija was very easy to find following Clarke & Collins and was excellent for Bolle's Pigeon: we saw eleven within an hour, with two excellent perched views.. Park by the picnic site and walk down the track to where a bend round a rocky outcrop gives views right along the upper slopes to right and left. Then just wait! There is also good general birding on both sides of the track. We had Buzzard here and also our first views of common Chaffinch. It doesn't sound much like a common Chaffinch, doesn't look much like a common Chaffinch, so how come it's still a common Chaffinch when Island Chiffchaff has been speciated?
If you are ready for lunch by now there are plenty of eating places between here and Aguamansa. We ate at the "Bar Restaurante Chanajija", where a huge lunch of (well-cooked!) grilled chicken, chips, salad, fresh bread and beer cost £9.50 for two!
Next stop was La Caldera at Aguamansa. By now the cloud was closing in, and it was not anyway a good time for birds. In addition, the entire local population seemed to be barbecuing in the picnic site, with drumming and loud music. We walked around the edge of the caldera and saw our only Robin of the trip (strikingly different from the British ssp) and not much else. If you want to bird here, make an early visit (i.e. don't try to combine it with Chanajija as we did) and avoid weekends. However, Las Lajas is so brilliant for Blue Chaffinch (see later) that Aguamansa is not really an essential stop.
Our final stop was at the Las Canadas Information Centre where we stayed until early evening looking for Canary but without success. There was no water in the drinking pools which might have had something to do with it. If you hear a Canary, don't get too excited - there are some caged ones at the El Portillo bar-restaurant next door! The botanical garden is well worth a visit anyway, and has some impressively large (and confiding) Fire Lizards (= Canary Lizard) as well as Golden Skink (= Canary Skink).
Monday 14th July - Las Lajas and Parque National del Teide. Las Lajas picnic site is a delightful place. We arrived early and were alone apart from a couple of men clearing up mounds of litter from the previous day. Don't come here at a weekend either!
The birds were obviously relieved to have the place to themselves again and were out in force. Blue Chaffinches were everywhere! We turned on a few of the water taps to fill the stone basins below, and soon had excellent views as they came down to drink. There were also several Great Spotted Woodpeckers around and they too came very close. Canaries are here, but as everywhere seemed much less confiding than most other birds and did not come into the picnic area. Walk down the path past the kiddies play area and keep going beyond the picnic area until you see broom bushes in a slight hollow on the left. Wait here and listen for the twittering of Canaries which seem attracted to the broom pods but are very mobile.
Las Lajas is a pleasant spot to pass the heat of the day, and the "Cabana Bar" does excellent snacks (try the garlic soup!). We spent the afternoon exploring the fantastic "Parque National del Teide", which is worth a couple of days to itself for the scenery and plants alone.
Tuesday 15th July - Punta de Teno. The road to the point is open again (even though there was still a "Road Closed" sign up when we went!) and is surfaced right to the end. The very end, around the lighthouse itself, is closed to the public, but there are plenty of good vantage points and fantastic views of Los Gigantes.
No sign of Barbary Falcon on the cliffs, but then it was blowing a gale, almost impossible to stand upright let alone focus, and we've seen them before anyway! However, definitely worth a trip for the scenery alone.
Wednesday 16th July - Santiago el Teide, Arguayo, Masca. First to Santiago del Teide to look for Rock Sparrow. No Rock Sparrows in sight, but the cultivations on the right, beyond the town, are a good birding area. We had Canary here in good numbers. On to Arguayo, but Rock Sparrows still conspicuous by their absence. Lunch by the harbour down in the (very upmarket) resort of Los Gigantes. Good restaurants here and very reasonable prices, but parking difficult.
After lunch, back up to Santiago del Teide and a left turn onto an "interesting" road to the beautiful village of Masca, which should not be missed by anyone. There are places to eat here, saving the trip to Los Gigantes. Again no sign of Rock Sparrow, although it looks a promising area, but there were a few birds around, including Buzzard, Sardinian Warbler and Canary. Also look out for the grey "furry" Cochineal Insects on the Prickly Pears. Squash one for instant cochineal!
We left Masca north along the road which eventually drops down into Buenavista (on the Punta de Teno - Garachico road). Be warned! This road collapses into a rough track at one point where long-term repairs seem to be taking place. Not far along this, where there was also thick cloud to contend with, worried Spaniards coming from the opposite direction stopped us to ask the way! The surfaced road does reappear eventually, however!
Thursday 17th July - La Laguna and Las Montanas de Anaga. Via Tacaronte, Tejina and Tegueste to the outskirts of La Laguna. (We thought it easier to come in from that direction than to find the right road via the unbelievably complicated one-way system of La Laguna!) Followed Clarke & Collins directions to the Serin site, and lo there were Serins, right on cue! No problems with walking on the busy road - just walk on the (unsurfaced) service roads, up one side and down the other. The "small stream" mentioned was virtually dry and fairly well inaccessible, but we did see Grey Wagtail on what looked like a vegetable patch, plus Blackcap in the roadside trees.
Las Montanas de Anaga were wreathed in cloud and useless for birding, but spectacular nevertheless. Unless you have a death wish, I would avoid the Chamorga road which we got onto by accident, having missed the turn for Taganana due to the scale of the map. We found ourselves on an ever-narrowing and increasingly "interesting" minor road, just wide enough for one vehicle, in thick cloud, and with what seemed to be sheer drops on both sides at times! Having met another (lone) Englishman who assured us that Chamorga had nothing whatsoever to offer, we turned and eventually found the road to Taganana and an excellent beach-side fish restaurant at Almaciga called Bar Casa Africa - no menu, just go in and look.
Note that if you are trying to get to Taganana from the La Laguna direction, the map looks as though you turn left off the Santa Cruz road on the Chamorga road, then left again at El Bailadero. You don't! You stay on the Santa Cruz road down the hill for a few bends, then turn left for Taganana. The road goes through a tunnel under El Bailadero, hence the confusion!
If you are not single-mindedly birding, La Laguna is an interesting old town and well worth exploring on the way back.
Friday 18th July - Parque National del Teide and Vilaflor. A final trip to the Teide National Park, this time doing the circuit the other way around - up through La Orotava and then through the cloud to emerge in sunshine once again. We drove across the Caldera de las Canadas and then took the road to Vilaflor to look for (joke!) Rock Sparrow. Again no Rock Sparrow but a fascinating Guanche Museum - well worth a visit. It also has a restaurant (limited menu, but OK).
Saturday 19th July - La Orotava. No birding - just exploring!
Sunday 20th July - Puerto de la Cruz. No car now (left outside apartments, keys left in reception!) so stayed in Puerto. A cold beer in the Plaza el Charco was rewarded, eventually, with another view of Monk Parakeets and also two Barbary Doves (if you believe in Barbary Doves!) which joined the Collared Doves in the square. Also another Grey Wagtail near the harbour - they seem to like harbours!
Books and Maps
The only decent road map I could find was free from the local tourist information office. It is worth writing to them as they sent a lot of useful material, including an accommodation list. The address is Cabildo Insular, Calle Rosario 7, Puerto del Rosario, Fuerteventura. Note that the Spanish National Tourist Office in London was much less useful, sending some totally irrelevant material; it is far better to write to the individual islands (all addresses are in the "Essential Canary Islands" guide).
An enjoyable and rewarding trip. The islands have much to offer, birding and otherwise, although a car is essential to get to most of the best (and quieter) places. Even in summer there are plenty of good ticks, and the endemics can all be found fairly easily with patience (and good planning!). Two weeks is quite adequate for everything. A base on Tenerife with three days on Fuerteventura and a day trip to La Gomera seems just about the right combination. Good hunting!
This report is republished here with the kind permission of Bren McCartney of the Berkshire Birds Web Page ( links)
Tenerife Total: 29 Species
Trip Total: 58 species
LA GOMERA: [Includes ferry crossing]