Thursday, January 3, 2013

For Fans of Birds (Bird Watching in Tunisia)



As warm weather returns to Tunisia, so do the birds: by the hundreds of thousands. Tunisia, along with Gibraltar and the Levant, is one of the major migration routes for birds flying from Europe to Africa in the fall and back in the spring.
Perhaps the most exciting time and place to see such migration is right now at the end of the Cap Bon peninsula, in northeast Tunisia. It is the last jumping-off point for birds before flying to Europe by crossing the Mediterranean. During April and May, visitors are treated to the rare sight of migrant eagles who cross through the peninsula over the verdant hills of Haouaria and Ras ed-Drak. Besides the eagles, birdwatchers can recognize the Spotless Starling and Moussier Redstart.
Haouaria Cap Bon Tunisia

A summer festival dedicated to the Sparrowhawk in Haouaria has been organized since 1967. The main show is hunting displays by the hawks, who are caught in March and trained for the performances.
All told, there are around 400 species in Tunisia, including sedentary birds that are native to the country and migratory birds that pass through.
This unique diversity of bird life brings bird lovers from the UK, the USA, and Canada in winter, spring, and autumn. Habib Ghazouani, the head ranger at Ichkeul National Park, a major site for such bird watching, estimated that between 50,000 and 60,000 visitors representing 20 nationalities visit the park every year.
Sparrowhaw (Alsef) of Haouaria

The park, which affords visitors the sight of Purple Gallinule, Coots, and even Pink Flamingos, provides telescopes for curious naturalists. An eco-museum has been created to show the diversity of the site in fauna and flora. The park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
An other exciting place for bird-watching in Tunis is the island of Chikly in the Lake of Tunis. This island can be seen from the TGM commuter rail or the road that links Tunis to La Goulette. It hosts a Spanish fort built in the 16th century, and provides an opportunity to see some species that come for wintering or nesting like the Black-Necked Grebe and the Eurasian Spoonbill.
Ornithology as a part of eco-tourism contributes in the development of the Tunisian interior regions as many of the country’s parks, lakes, and hills are located in the interior. An average one-person trip to one of the national wonders of Tunisia’s interior costs around 120€ per day. This kind of tourism also doesn’t require large, luxurious hotels with big swimming pools; visitors can connect with local culture by arranging for a local family to host them.
Eurasian Spoonbill

Tarek Nefzi, one of the few guides in Tunisia specializing in eco-tourism and environmental education, said that the main reason this kind of tourism is not as popular as it could be is the absence of good advertising. He also reported that the proper education at the Tunisian schools of tourism is not available.