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Advice wanted please (1 Viewer)

Reader

Well-known member
Hi guys and gals

I live on my own and usually do my birding on my own as well.

I have been looking for something different and have come across a cruise / Hotel holiday that interests me starting on March 3rd -17th.

I have never been to this area before (apart from a quick stop at Abhu Dhabi on my way to South Africa a year last November) so I know nothing regarding what can be seen, what reserves / areas to go to or what arrangements can be made regarding car hire / Taxi to get around.

The itinerary included is as follows.

Day 2 & 3 at Aqabar, Jordan from 00.01 on day 2 to 20.00 on Day 3
Day 5. Port Sokhna (for Cairo) - EGYPT 01:00 - 21:00
DAY6 & 7. Safaga (for Luxor and Hurghada) - EGYPT 11:00 on day 6 to 22.30 on day 7.
DAY8: and for the rest of the holiday, Aqua Blu Sharm Hotel, Sharm El Sheikh

Obviously it is geared more for the tourist, which I am not, so I would have to go my own way regarding getting around and ignore what is lined up as part of the package.

Is it worth me booking this holiday and if so what am I likely to be able to see, first on the cruise from Sharm El Sheikh then once I am based for the last seven days.

Would I hire a car for those last seven days or a taxi and how would I get about on those days that the cruise liner has docked.

Any ideas and links you can throw my way will be gratefully received.

John
 

Barred Wobbler

Well-known member
Car hire at Sharm is expensive, and I don't think it's worth the trouble. You can't walk 10 yards there without a blue and white taxi honking his horn and asking you if you need a lift. I found they were fine for getting around, but remember to negotiate your fare before you get in. You'll also need a visa if you're travelling beyond the immediate resort areas to places such as Nabq protectorate and Ras Mohammed. There are checkpoints where it will be needed.

The drivers seem to be puzzled by any destination that isn't a hotel or other tourist spot, so you may have a little difficulty getting them to understand that you really want them to head west at the Marriot hotel in Naama Bay and drop you 4km into the desert at the dual carriageway that will put you in easy walking distance of one of the best spots, the sewage pools at Sharm. If the lift back doesn't turn up (as happened to me a couple of times) it's no big deal as it's only about 45 minutes walk back across the desert (which is gravelly and easy underfoot) to the main tourist area. (about 20 or 25 LE from Naama Bay seemed to be about the going rate. I once did it for 15 but I don't think I was very popular). Take plenty of water - you need it.

I stayed at Naama Bay, which was a few km closer to the pools than "your" hotel, which seems to be in Sharm .

The small pools just north of the airport also give the drivers some difficulty. Get dropped off at the roundabout just north of the airport and walk about a quarter of a mile to the pools. A good spot for spotted sandgrouse in the mornings ( I had them there last March from 7.30 until not long after 9am).

Check out the other trip reports to Sharm for more detail.

If you've got an underwater camera, take it. The snorkelling is out of this world. I photographed 80 species of fish on the reef just outside the hotel without ever swimming more than a hundred or so yards. The sea temperature in March is 21°, which I found comfortable, but after an hour and a half snorkelling in the afternoon it was strange to feel a shiver when I got back onto a sunbed with air temperatures about 29°.


Reef photos below. If you go for it, don't touch the living coral, particularly the yellow stuff. It's fire coral and it's nasty ( but easily avoided).

A handy website is here http://www.sinaibirds.com/ And a BF member, Doozer works in Naama Bay so it's maybe worth a pm to him.
 

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Reader

Well-known member
Thanks for the info.

Those reef photos are amazing. I wish I could go snorkelling but I have trouble in water plus I don't have an underwater camera.

I have checked out the car prices and the cheapest one I can get for the 7 days is £113, which I would be prepared to pay if it gives me the freedom to go where I want and when I want. What is it like to get around Egypt to find these reserves?

The Visa you are talking about. Is the £10 one you purchase when entering the country the one you need or do you have to buy a special one.

I will send a PM to Doozer tonight once I am back from work.

Is this a good time to visit Egypt, plus what is around the areas I will be stopping at when the liner docks for the days mentioned.

If anyone has any other info that might help I would be very grateful.

John
 

Barred Wobbler

Well-known member
Thanks for the info.

Those reef photos are amazing. I wish I could go snorkelling but I have trouble in water plus I don't have an underwater camera.

I have checked out the car prices and the cheapest one I can get for the 7 days is £113, which I would be prepared to pay if it gives me the freedom to go where I want and when I want. What is it like to get around Egypt to find these reserves?

The Visa you are talking about. Is the £10 one you purchase when entering the country the one you need or do you have to buy a special one.

I will send a PM to Doozer tonight once I am back from work.

Is this a good time to visit Egypt, plus what is around the areas I will be stopping at when the liner docks for the days mentioned.

If anyone has any other info that might help I would be very grateful.

John


hi John

The visa is the one you buy when you enter the country. I must say you've surprised me with your car hire price. The ones I was looking at were dearer than that. The traffic in the towns is pretty chaotic. In a line of two lanes, they'll think nothing of squeezing through between them to make a third line at traffic lights and they don't always use lights at night.

I was there last March - the only time I've been to Egypt - and at the time I was aware that I would be too early for some of the migrants such as the white-cheeked terns and sooty falcon, but I still found plenty to keep me happy. The walk across the new pools and the trip around them got me the following within the first hour and a half of birding - I've left out the common stuff such as greenshanks, etc.

On the walk from the road to the embankment we had Northern, desert and Isabelline wheatears. At the embankment we were greeted by the first spur-winged plover. On the top we flushed a nearby Steppe eagle that circled, landed again and allowed some photo shots. Next were a couple of brown-necked ravens feeding out on the desert, then rock martins among the hirundines feeding over the pools at the north end of the complex.

A Sykes yellow wagtail was feeding on the bank with a host of meadow pipits and a water pipit. (A few days later I caught up with half a dozen red-throated pipits at the same place). I then got my eye on a couple of raptors with what appeared to be plain rufous tails. I took them to be cirtensis long-legged buzzards, but further investigation showed that they were steppe buzzards.

As I turned back towards the pools a large eagle which at first I took to be the steppe eagle from earlier took off close by. Another look showed it to be an immature Eastern imperial eagle.

Next was black-headed wagtail and on the walk back across the desert to Naama Bay we saw desert grey shrike and kicked up a pair of cream-coloured coursers (the only ones of the trip).

The desert birds are thin on the ground and you may walk a mile for a couple of wheatears, but there are some gems amongst them. I saw a bimaculated lark that I just got the camera onto when it was flushed by a northern wheatear and never seen again.

I don't know what the situation is at your docking areas, but one thing that struck me on the trip was the sparsity of gulls and other marine birds in comparison with what we are used to at home. I spent some time sea-watching and all I saw was sea, with a back-drop of the mountains of Saudi Arabia. The gulls we saw included sooty, white-eyed, Baltic lesser-black back, Caspian and a single slender-billed gull. We saw Caspian terns at several locations.

I think that while you are at sea you might have a better chance. I'd been hoping for brown booby from the shore, but never saw one.

The roads to the reserves appear pretty straightforward, but there are a number of police checkpoints to negotiate and it appears that they aren't fans of cameras and binoculars being used in their sight.

A word of warning for when you go to Nabq. The protectorate is easy to find - you just follow the road north through Nabq resort area and go through the checkpoint at the end (visa, passport and entry fee needed). Do not under any circumstances leave the road for the first few kilometres. The beaten and battered barbed wire fence along the roadside marks a minefield.

Further on, near the mangroves, it's OK to explore.

Watch the road for your car. Most of it is great - hard-packed sand and dirt, but there was one section where some soft sand had built up that I wouldn't attempt without a 4x4. It put my taxi driver off, anyway.

I missed the expected green heron there, but there were white and dark phase reef herons, greater sand plover, hooded wheatear etc, etc there, but typically all in small numbers.

The longer trip (about 2-2.5 hours drive) to St Catherines at mount Sinai got us Sinai rosefinch, white crowned black wheatear, Tristram's grackle, desert lark, but I missed out on bar-tailed lark and blackstart there. We left the hotel in a taxi at 4am to get there for sunrise and the views over the desert as the blackness of the night turned to dawn were incredible.

It was a great trip from my perspective. I'm hoping to go back this autumn to pick up some of the stuff I missed last spring.

Time will tell.
 

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NicoleB

Nature addict
I think March should be a good time for raptors.
The Nature preserves are fairly easy to find, the sewers and such as well.
Not sure, if this link works, but here's a link (I hope) to my google map. I've put the birding spots like the sewers and the parks on there, at least for Sharm.
Need to add Nabq and Dahab.
If the location markers contain links, they won't work (photos most likely will be scrambled too), since my website crashed....
If you need any Info down there that Doozer can't provide, let me know, maybe I know something.
Best wishes!
 

Reader

Well-known member
Hi Nicole

Thanks Nicole

I was talking to Alan on the phone (Barred Wobbler) and the impression I get are the roads are ok but the Police checks are numerous.

How much hassle would it be for me to go it alone. Should I hire a car myself and try and find these reserves myself or should I hire a taxi driver for the week and do it that way, and how expensive would be the latter.

BTW would April be a better time to go. There is one cruise / hotel itinerary that starts on April 21st which means I will be in Sharm El Sheik around April 28th. There are also the same trips going each fortnight between March through to the April 21st sailing, so I was wondering out of those sailings which one might be best.

Regards
John

I think March should be a good time for raptors.
The Nature preserves are fairly easy to find, the sewers and such as well.
Not sure, if this link works, but here's a link (I hope) to my google map. I've put the birding spots like the sewers and the parks on there, at least for Sharm.
Need to add Nabq and Dahab.
If the location markers contain links, they won't work (photos most likely will be scrambled too), since my website crashed....
If you need any Info down there that Doozer can't provide, let me know, maybe I know something.
Best wishes!
 
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NicoleB

Nature addict
If you rather have your privacy, you can easily do it yourself.
There are a bunch of small check points, but they usually don't bother with 'white people'.
One big one is out of Sharm on your way to Ras Mohamed and back in. But they only check passport and Visa.
Same if you go out of Sharm to St. Catherine.
One pain in the behind check point these days is at the big sewers (raptor paradise).
But there's a way around it. You could try to pass them, if they ask you where you are going you could say horse riding or squad tour (there's a horse riding place) and park the car there. From there you could walk a detour and come from the back (mountainside) to the sewers. Sounds like a pain, but if they hassle you, there's still a way around somehow.
Or you could try to bribe them with some cigarettes.
That check point is the only one that has ticked me of two times in ten months there.
Also take some bribes for the small sewers in Nabq, in case you want to go there.
I can give you directions for that too, when time comes.
It sure sounds more complicated than it is :)

Uh, for the right time you best really try to get in touch with Doozer, or check their website. They have bird sighting lists there per month.

Best wishes!
 

Reader

Well-known member
Hi Nicole

It doesn't sound as bad as I first thought but I can see that I am going to have to buy a couple of hundred cigarettes to take around with me if I do go (I don't smoke) just in case I get pulled up.

I will check out Doozers site tonight when I get home from work.

Thanks for your help and advice. If I do go I may ask you for any specific directions to some of the places to visit.

Thanks
John

If you rather have your privacy, you can easily do it yourself.
There are a bunch of small check points, but they usually don't bother with 'white people'.
One big one is out of Sharm on your way to Ras Mohamed and back in. But they only check passport and Visa.
Same if you go out of Sharm to St. Catherine.
One pain in the behind check point these days is at the big sewers (raptor paradise).
But there's a way around it. You could try to pass them, if they ask you where you are going you could say horse riding or squad tour (there's a horse riding place) and park the car there. From there you could walk a detour and come from the back (mountainside) to the sewers. Sounds like a pain, but if they hassle you, there's still a way around somehow.
Or you could try to bribe them with some cigarettes.
That check point is the only one that has ticked me of two times in ten months there.
Also take some bribes for the small sewers in Nabq, in case you want to go there.
I can give you directions for that too, when time comes.
It sure sounds more complicated than it is :)

Uh, for the right time you best really try to get in touch with Doozer, or check their website. They have bird sighting lists there per month.

Best wishes!
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
I can see that I am going to have to buy a couple of hundred cigarettes to take around with me if I do go (I don't smoke) just in case I get pulled up.

I would be rather cautious in offering bribes - though it may work, you are also exposing yourself to additional possible hassles and if you don't know how to give a bribe, I would say do not. As a tourist, I also think it truly is not necessary anywhere in the Middle East or North Africa.

Looking at your ideas, I personally think you would be better just taking one of the many cheap package deals to Egypt and, unless it particularly appeals to you, forgoing the cruise element - you are in all likelyhood probably not going to see many additional species being out in the Red Sea over and above those viewable from the coast.

I have travelled extensively in Egypt and never rented a car. Nile Valley sites easily accessible even without taxi, Sinai sites perhaps require a car, but maybe easier with a taxi. That said, if you can get a car cheaply, why not ...but driving in the cities will be fun, especially if you get the urge to drive in Cairo.
 

Reader

Well-known member
Hi Jos

I did think of a cheap package holiday, and even priced some, but those giving the equivalent all inclusive (which I won't really need) were quite expensive with quite large single supplements on them. I looked at half board and they were not that far off either. In fact the hotel I would be staying at would be nearly £900 for a week and for a further £300+ I am getting a cruise thrown in as well.

I quite fancy the cruising bit as it is something I have never done. I have done a six day Pelagic and that was great but it would be nice to relax a bit before doing a weeks birding. Anything seen from the boat would be a bonus, plus don't forget I will have two days at Aqaba, Jordon and two days at Safaga as well as being at Port Sokhna until 9pm from 1am. If I can get around in those places I might get some bonus birds.

Unfortunately I can't get around like you. I remember how fit you are but unfortunately I have a condition that is giving me Angina symptoms (it's not Angina as an Angiogram proved a few weeks ago), but even so long walks are out for me at the moment until they find the cause and treatment.

John

I would be rather cautious in offering bribes - though it may work, you are also exposing yourself to additional possible hassles and if you don't know how to give a bribe, I would say do not. As a tourist, I also think it truly is not necessary anywhere in the Middle East or North Africa.

Looking at your ideas, I personally think you would be better just taking one of the many cheap package deals to Egypt and, unless it particularly appeals to you, forgoing the cruise element - you are in all likelyhood probably not going to see many additional species being out in the Red Sea over and above those viewable from the coast.

I have travelled extensively in Egypt and never rented a car. Nile Valley sites easily accessible even without taxi, Sinai sites perhaps require a car, but maybe easier with a taxi. That said, if you can get a car cheaply, why not ...but driving in the cities will be fun, especially if you get the urge to drive in Cairo.
 

njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
An alternative cruise that might give a lot of birds is the Nile from Luxor to Aswan taking in along the way a lot of the old temples etc. Sitting on top of a boat under a cover with the telescope, the bar in easy reach and watching several exotic birds including ll green bee-eater and african skimmer was nice!. That can be combined with a stop in Cairo and some days in Sharm, at least it could several years ago when I did that trip. We rented a car (not to bad if you don't drive in Cairo and are used to alternative driving from other strange places). If you have a week, do spend a night at the monastery (Sct Katarina/Catherine or however the different religions spell it) so that you can bird the vicinity before the hordes descend from the top of the mountain. We were there in September so cannot comment on the timing issue.

Niels
 

Reader

Well-known member
That's an excellent suggestion Niels.

I have checked up on a few of them and there looks like some good deals.

There is seven days on the Cruise and seven days in the Hilton Hurghada Long Beach Resort after the seven day cruise..

The cruise itinerary is:

Day 1: Luxor
Embarkation. Lunch on board. Your afternoon will be free at leisure. Dinner and overnight on board in Luxor.

Day 2: Luxor / Esna
After breakfast, visit the East Bank of Luxor: walk among the colossal temple of Amun Ra and the avenue of the sphinxes between the Karnak and Luxor temples, an experience that you will never forget. Back on board for lunch. In the afternoon, the ship will sail to Edfu via Esna. Dinner and overnight on board.

Day 3: Esna / Edfu / Kom Ombo
Discover the huge temple dedicated to the God Horus in Edfu by horse carriage and tour it with your guide. Visit the colorful local bazaars on your way where you can buy your souvenirs. Lunch on board. Sail to Kom Ombo Dinner and overnight on board.

Day 4: Aswan
This day, the boat sails to Aswan. Once in Aswan; you will go off shore for the visits of the gigantic high dam, unfinished Obelisque and splendid Philae temple of Isis the mother goddess. Dinner and overnight on board the ship in Aswan.

Day 5: Aswan
A.m optional visit to Abu simbel.
P.m visit the botanical garden by felucca
Overnight in Aswan

Day 6: Kom Ombo / Luxor
In the early morning, your ship will sail to Kom Ombo, where you will visit the unusual double temple dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek and the god Haroeris. Lunch on board while sailing to Luxor.

Day 7: Luxor
After breakfast it is time to focus on the West Bank of Luxor: explore the great valleys of the Kings & Queens where generations of Pharaohs and Nobles were buried in crypts cut into the cliffs and guarded by the two huge Colossi of Memnon. You will then visit the temple of Queen Hatchepsut. Enjoy your lunch and afternoon free on board. Dinner and overnight in Luxor.

I wouldn't be interested in the excursions but the places we are visiting could be good for birds. What do you think, especially what looks like two days at Aswan.

The seven days at Hurghada, what sites are near there and how far is it to the Monastery you mentioned from Hurghada.

John

An alternative cruise that might give a lot of birds is the Nile from Luxor to Aswan taking in along the way a lot of the old temples etc. Sitting on top of a boat under a cover with the telescope, the bar in easy reach and watching several exotic birds including ll green bee-eater and african skimmer was nice!. That can be combined with a stop in Cairo and some days in Sharm, at least it could several years ago when I did that trip. We rented a car (not to bad if you don't drive in Cairo and are used to alternative driving from other strange places). If you have a week, do spend a night at the monastery (Sct Katarina/Catherine or however the different religions spell it) so that you can bird the vicinity before the hordes descend from the top of the mountain. We were there in September so cannot comment on the timing issue.

Niels
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
That's an excellent suggestion Niels.

I have checked up on a few of them and there looks like some good deals.

There is seven days on the Cruise and seven days in the Hilton Hurghada Long Beach Resort after the seven day cruise..

The cruise itinerary is:

Day 1: Luxor
Embarkation. Lunch on board. Your afternoon will be free at leisure. Dinner and overnight on board in Luxor.

Day 2: Luxor / Esna
After breakfast, visit the East Bank of Luxor: walk among the colossal temple of Amun Ra and the avenue of the sphinxes between the Karnak and Luxor temples, an experience that you will never forget. Back on board for lunch. In the afternoon, the ship will sail to Edfu via Esna. Dinner and overnight on board.

Day 3: Esna / Edfu / Kom Ombo
Discover the huge temple dedicated to the God Horus in Edfu by horse carriage and tour it with your guide. Visit the colorful local bazaars on your way where you can buy your souvenirs. Lunch on board. Sail to Kom Ombo Dinner and overnight on board.

Day 4: Aswan
This day, the boat sails to Aswan. Once in Aswan; you will go off shore for the visits of the gigantic high dam, unfinished Obelisque and splendid Philae temple of Isis the mother goddess. Dinner and overnight on board the ship in Aswan.

Day 5: Aswan
A.m optional visit to Abu simbel.
P.m visit the botanical garden by felucca
Overnight in Aswan

Day 6: Kom Ombo / Luxor
In the early morning, your ship will sail to Kom Ombo, where you will visit the unusual double temple dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek and the god Haroeris. Lunch on board while sailing to Luxor.

Day 7: Luxor
After breakfast it is time to focus on the West Bank of Luxor: explore the great valleys of the Kings & Queens where generations of Pharaohs and Nobles were buried in crypts cut into the cliffs and guarded by the two huge Colossi of Memnon. You will then visit the temple of Queen Hatchepsut. Enjoy your lunch and afternoon free on board. Dinner and overnight in Luxor.

I wouldn't be interested in the excursions but the places we are visiting could be good for birds. What do you think, especially what looks like two days at Aswan.

The seven days at Hurghada, what sites are near there and how far is it to the Monastery you mentioned from Hurghada.

John

This itinerary is good - birding in the riverside fields at Luxor is good (take little ferry across river and bird up or down from town). Birding at Aswan is excellent (especially on the small islands, easy to get to by ferry). Take the optional trip to Abu Simbel, best site in Egypt for occasional Afrotropical species.

The monastry is not near Hurghada - it is in Sinai, a very long trip from Hurghada and, in my opinion, not worth it. Hurghada should get you all the gulls and Reef Heron, etc. Take a shorkelling trip out to one of the islands, all birds will be got this way, if not from the coast itself.

Be interested int he excursions, Egyptian sites are impressive even for total buffs when it comes to history and ruins. And all sites offer reasonable birding, wheatears and larks, etc.

Rememer to duck if any extremists start shooting.
 

Reader

Well-known member
Thanks Jos

I will price up the trip when I get home tonight. When do you think the best time is to go, March or April as I think these trips only go in these months. The Sharm El Sheik one I was looking at, the last trip started on April 21st.

Edit. Would all the birds be in the Collins European Field Guide (I also have a South African Field Guide) or would some birds be in another field guide and if so which would be the best one to get.

John

This itinerary is good - birding in the riverside fields at Luxor is good (take little ferry across river and bird up or down from town). Birding at Aswan is excellent (especially on the small islands, easy to get to by ferry). Take the optional trip to Abu Simbel, best site in Egypt for occasional Afrotropical species.

The monastry is not near Hurghada - it is in Sinai, a very long trip from Hurghada and, in my opinion, not worth it. Hurghada should get you all the gulls and Reef Heron, etc. Take a shorkelling trip out to one of the islands, all birds will be got this way, if not from the coast itself.

Be interested int he excursions, Egyptian sites are impressive even for total buffs when it comes to history and ruins. And all sites offer reasonable birding, wheatears and larks, etc.

Rememer to duck if any extremists start shooting.
 
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njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
I have not been to Hurghada so cannot comment on that, the trip I was on combined the cruise with Sharm el Sheik in Sinai.

I remember on the Kom Ombo stop going up to the temple and having the first Sooty Falcon of the trip come overhead, so if you include the temples, do bring your binoculars (and the historical sites do tend to blow you out of the water even as a dedicated birdwatcher).

I used a combination of the Lars Jonsson guide with Beaman and Madge (this second book stayed in my suitcase, the first in my backpack), and what was not in the first was in the second. I know that Collins have more species than Jonsson without knowing which, but check specifically for Senegal Thick-knee and the Skimmer; if those are included, then probably most other interesting species will also be. Also check for presence of drawings of eastern subspecies of Lesser Whitethroat, I remember those as major confounders (I was there in migration time).

Niels
 

Swissboy

Sempach, Switzerland
Supporter
Switzerland
.........DAY8: and for the rest of the holiday, Aqua Blu Sharm Hotel, Sharm El Sheikh

..........

Would I hire a car for those last seven days or a taxi and how would I get about on those days that the cruise liner has docked.

Any ideas and links you can throw my way will be gratefully received.

John

I strongly recommend using taxis. In another thread, I posted the contact info to a reliable taxi driver in Sharm el Sheikh both my brother and I have used: http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=182454

And the new edition of Birds of the Middle East was what I used as FG. But mostly, the "Collins" should do for that area. Not sure about the rest of Egypt.
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Thanks Jos

I will price up the trip when I get home tonight. When do you think the best time is to go, March or April as I think these trips only go in these months. The Sharm El Sheik one I was looking at, the last trip started on April 21st.

March and April should both be fine, though I would lean towards April as migration should be in fuller swing. You are also likely to see far more migrants in general taking the Nile option over the Sinai option.

South African guide is basically a waste of time in Egypt, virtually nothing overlapping. Collins is fine for everything, including the few specials of Egypt (also could take 'Birds of the Middle East', but little reason in Egypt (or indeed in Israel or Jordan) as Collins covers them well enough.

Car hire would not be necessary anywhere in the Nile Valley, and taxis not so often. Note, Senegal Thick-knee does not occur widely in the Nile Valley - basically only in north and west of Cairo, or thereabouts. I think no chance on your proposed route. Nile Valley Sunbird however is a doddle in the Aswan area.
 

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