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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

China: Yunnan Province

Tour Information

Note: The information presented below has been extracted from our formal General Information for this tour. It covers topics we feel potential registrants may wish to consider before booking space. The complete General Information for this tour will be sent to all tour registrants and of course supplemental information, if needed, is available from the WINGS office.

ENTERING CHINA: United States citizens will need a passport valid for at least six months from date of departure and with at least two blank pages for entry and exit stamps.  A tourist visa is also required. Visa information is available from the Chinese Embassy, Washington DC at http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/ . If required by the embassy or visa-granting entity, WINGS can provide a letter for you to use regarding your participation in the tour. 

Note: At the current time no health certificates are required to enter China.   

COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/china.html, and the CIA World Factbook background notes on China at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ch.html.  

PACE OF TOUR AND DAILY ROUTINE: This is not an easy tour. There is a fair amount of travelling and several of the days are long and tiring. There is as well a considerable amount of walking involved although none of it is particularly strenuous. Although we are in mountainous area for much of the tour there will only be a few uphill walks and these will be taken at a gentle pace. See “HEALTH”, below, for the altitudes we reach on the tour. If you have any questions about your ability to take part in any of the walks, please contact the WINGS office. The tour manager will be happy to discuss this with you. 

Sunrise in western Yunnan at this time of year is at about at 7:15 am and sunset at around 6:30 pm. On a clear and cloudless day, it is usually sufficiently light to bird watch for 20 minutes either side of these times. Due to the early morning bird activity, we will want to be out in the field early each day. This will occasionally mean being out before 7:00 am. Throughout most of China, hotel breakfasts are rather poor so on a good number of days we will have picnic breakfasts provided for us by our ground agent. These will usually consist of cereal (often muesli or cornflakes), yoghurt, fruit juice, instant noodles, biscuits, muffins, bread with jam or possibly honey, peanuts, sausages and boiled eggs plus tea and coffee and supplemented, where possible, by fruit, chocolate and steamed local bread.

Depending on the weather we’ll probably either have picnic breakfasts in the leader’s room or out in the field before we start our birding. We expect to have picnic lunches almost every day (on wet or very windy days we may return to the hotel for lunch) and will compile a checklist of the birds we’ve seen just before or just after dinner (usually about 7:00 pm in our hotel) and then retire early to bed (especially when we are making an early start next day). 

We will occasionally have more than one vehicle with us and the emphasis will be on flexibility. We will try to make as many of our birding excursions as possible optional, so that so that anyone who is tired, or would like a break can take some time off. Essentially, we aim to provide dawn to dusk birding for those who want it and as many opportunities as possible to opt out for those who wish to pursue other interests or simply relax. Note that we are frequently moving on, and it is not always possible to take an entire day off. 

HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. 

They further recommend that most travellers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid. 

Please contact your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure. 

The most current information about travellers’ health recommendations can be found on the CDC’s  Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/china?s_cid=ncezid-dgmq-travel-single-001.  

Malaria: Malaria exists in Yunnan Province, especially along the Myanmar border. The CDC suggests a malaria prophylaxis.  Please consult your physician. 

Altitude:  We’ll reach a maximum altitude of just over 9000 feet on one day and much of our birding will be between 5000 and 6000 feet. We have one hotel night at about 8000 feet.

Miscellaneous: Very few biting insects are active in South China in winter, but there still may be isolated concentrations of day-flying mosquitoes at one or two sites. We recommend that you bring an insect repellent and, if you are sensitive to bites, an antihistamine. On some of the forest trails during the early part of the tour we may encounter a very few small terrestrial leeches. These are well known to travellers in Asia and are not harmful. They are found on the forest floor and the best way to prevent them from getting onto your ankles is to spray your boots with insect repellent. 

Tap water is not safe to drink anywhere in China. Bottled water and soft drinks are widely available. We will provide bottled water in the vehicle during the day. 

Smoking: Smoking is not allowed in the vehicle, at meal times or when the group is gathered together for the checklist. If you are sharing a room with a non-smoker, please don’t smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, please stand down wind of the group.. If any lodge, accommodation or location where the group is staying or is gathered has a more restrictive smoking policy than WINGS’ policy, the more restrictive policy will prevail.   

Note: None of the hotels that we’ll use have designated non-smoking rooms so the rooms we use might have been previously occupied by a smoker. While the bed linen will certainly be clean, cigarette odors in the bed rooms are fairly common.  Note too that many Chinese men, and an increasing number of women, smoke heavily. We will not permit our drivers or locals guides to smoke in our vehicle or in close proximity to the group but we have no control over anyone else and inquisitive strangers may come up to us and smoke nearby. Moreover while we will eat most, if not all of our sit down meals in private dining rooms very occasionally we might have to eat in the common dining hall where there might be smokers. This does not happen on every tour, or even on every other tour, but it can happen.  

CLIMATE:  The average daytime temperatures on this tour can range from as low as 2 or 3°C (36 or 37F) to possibly as hot as 31°C (88F). Days with highs in the 70-80 F range are the norm. Humidity is usually low and conditions for birding are often ideal. 

Precipitation is infrequent but possible, particularly in the Gaoligong Mountains, and as mentioned above, may fall as snow at Lijiang.

ACCOMMODATION:  We stay in a variety of hotels from excellent 5-star equivalent hotels with all the amenities that you would expect from hotels of this standard such as a bar, a business centre, internet access in the rooms, a gym and an indoor swimming pool, to standard Chinese hotels where all the rooms have en suite bathrooms with western toilets, showers and 24 hours hot water. In one case we stay three nights in a nature reserve guest house This is the simplest place we stay but the rooms are clean - each has two beds, 24 hours electricity and an en suite bathroom with hot showers and western toilet. Please note that single rooms cannot be guaranteed here – we will try our best but there simply aren’t very many rooms available. 

FOOD: Chinese cuisine is well known and widely appreciated. Beer, soft drinks and green tea will be served with the meal. Western brands of alcohol are not always easily obtainable (and where they are available, they are usually expensive), so you may wish to consider bringing your own supply. The Chinese often also drink a hard liquor, bai-jiu, with the food.

The Chinese way of eating differs from that in the west in that those sitting at the table share selections of different dishes. Food is almost always plentiful. Only a small number of the restaurants that we’ll visit provide knives and forks. Instead chopsticks, often disposable wooden ones, are used. 

In contrast to evening meals, typical Chinese breakfasts are disappointingly poor and unappealing to most westerners. They consist mostly of cold dishes – soya milk, steamed dumplings and rice porridge. Consequently, away from the international style hotels in Lijiang, Tengchong and Beijing where a variety of more western style dishes are available, we will, as noted above, have very few hotel breakfasts. 

Drinks:  Bottled water and/or a soft drink or a beer is provided at sit down lunches and dinners, as is coffee or tea.  

Food Allergies/Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions. 

TRANSPORTATION: At the start of the tour we will fly from Beijing to Lijiang while at the end of the tour we will fly from Baoshan to Kunming and Kunming back to Beijing. Most of our other journeys will be by a small minibus or coach. Our coach however will not be able to negotiate the small road to the White-speckled Laughingthrush site near Lijiang or the smaller, rougher road above Baihualing at Gaoligong Shan. For these days journeys our Chinese agent will arrange a fleet of two or three smaller, local vehicles. 

Tour participants should be willing and able to ride in any seat in our tour vehicles.

Updated: 21 April 2017