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 MEXICO: Mexico now requires a valid passport for entry by U.S. citizens. Tourist cards are required and are distributed by your entering airlines. Citizens of other countries may need a visa and should check the nearest Mexican embassy or consulate. If required by the embassy or visa-granting entity, WINGS can provide a letter for you to use regarding your participation in the tour.
Your passport, as a general rule, should be valid for at least six months after the date the tour ends. It is always a good idea to take photocopies of your passport and air ticket with you when traveling abroad. They can prove invaluable in helping you get replacements if your original documents are lost or stolen. You should pack the photocopies separately from the originals.
COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_970.html, and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Mexico at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mx.html.
HEALTH: The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations can be found on the Centers for Disease Control’s Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list. Specific vaccinations and proof thereof may be required to enter the country. For entry and exit information please visit the U.S. State Department’s website at http://travel.state.gov/content/travel/english.html. We strongly recommend contacting your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure.
It is the opinion of the Centers for Disease Control that travelers to the Mexican state of Nayarit (where San Blas is) are at risk for malaria. You should consult further with your doctor about the CDC’s recommendation and what action you should take. No specific immunizations are necessary, although up-to-date tetanus protection is always a good idea. Special medications may be unavailable so bring enough to cover your needs for the entire trip.
We have found that careful eating habits are important in order to avoid most intestinal problems. In most of Mexico it is unwise to drink untreated water, although bottled water and soft drinks are reliable. Don’t forget that the sun in Mexico can be very intense. Please bring adequate protection, including a sun hat and a strong sun screen of at least 15 SPF rating.
We recommend using insect repellents with a high concentration of DEET. Newer products containing tick- and chigger-repelling chemicals are particularly effective. Camping supply stores sell such a product containing permethrin 0.5%, which can be applied directly to your clothing. This non-staining, odorless chemical is non-toxic to humans and protective on clothing through several launderings.
SMOKING: Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a non-smoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, we ask that you do so well away and downwind from 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.
PACE OF THE TOUR: This is about as relaxed as a Neotropical tour gets! As with all tours in the tropics though, we’ll try to be in the field around dawn which, given the configuration of planets, sun, and local time zones, means 6.30 a.m. Most birding sites are within 5 minutes’ walk to 30 minutes’ drive of our hotel in San Blas, which puts on great buffet breakfasts before we leave in the mornings. The first morning at Puerto Vallarta we’ll be in the field for a few hours before breakfast (coffee should be available at the hotel). We’ll return to fill up with a hot brunch before packing the van and heading to San Blas. Lunches will be at the hotel restaurant except for one or two picnic lunches. Dinners will be at the hotel which, in the opinion of many, has some of the best food in all of Mexico.
Birding in and around San Blas we’ll be on trails and roads that are mostly flat and present no particular problem; one uphill cobbled road is steep in places though, and we take our time and rest when necessary. On a couple of days we have boat trips on the river for up to 5 hours—by now we’ve figured out where to make bathroom stops if needed! Most days we’re in the field for 5-6 hours (birding, walking slowly, resting when necessary) before returning for lunch, a siesta and/or swim in the pool, and an afternoon birding near town. The exception is an all-day trip to some pine-oak forest at 4000-5000 feet elevation on Cerro de San Juan, about an hour’s drive from San Blas, and we’ll be back in time to rest and shower before dinner.
FOOD: WINGS tours are all-inclusive, and no refunds can be issued for any tour meals participants choose to skip. While our restaurants and ground agents make every effort to insure the comfort of all participants, please note that not all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Many restaurants offer set menus and are unable to accommodate all special requests within a group. Thus, clients with significant food allergies or special dietary needs should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs can, regretfully, not be accommodated. Our tours are carefully scheduled to insure the best possible birding experience. Meal times can generally not be adjusted; any participants who need to eat earlier or later than the times scheduled for the group should bring supplemental food with them.
LANGUAGE: The official language in Mexico is Spanish. English-speaking persons are seldom encountered. Your leader will speak Spanish, but understanding even a few basic words will add interest to your trip. You might consider bringing a small English-Spanish dictionary or phrase book.
CLIMATE: San Blas is in the tropical lowlands, so the climate is usually hot and variably humid. This is the dry season though, so rain is unusual - but it always best to bring a small umbrella or poncho, just in case. The early mornings, especially at Cerro de San Juan, can be cool enough for a jacket and light gloves but things soon become warm to hot.
ACCOMMODATIONS: The first night we stay in the Hotel Hacienda Buenaventura, a resort hotel by the beach in Puerto Vallarta which has all the usual tourist facilities, but not an elevator. In San Blas we stay at the family-run Garza Canela Hotel, which has many years catering to birding groups and has a justly famous restaurant, friendly and helpful staff, an open air pool, and gift shop. The rooms are spacious and very comfortable with air conditioning and a ceiling fan, television, but no phone?you’re on holiday! Phone calls can be made and faxes sent from the front office, where there is also wireless internet during business hours and into the evening, after which time we should be asleep. The beach and town square are about 10 minutes’ walk in opposite directions from the hotel.
TRANSPORTATION: We will be traveling by 12-passenger van. Participants should be able to ride in any seat in tour vehicle(s).
Updated: March 2015