It’s not often that we are in the position of having to wake the children up in the morning, in fact that goes against every fibre of our beings, but on Saturday morning we excitedly crept through the house stirring the little ones while it was still dark outside. We packed up our thermos of hot chocolate and bacon sandwiches and bundled everyone into their warmest clothes before setting off.
Our destination was the Marais de Sionnet where we were meeting Jonathan Guillot who owns Salva Fauna. If you haven't heard of this company before, they run ethical guided wildlife tours in beautiful natural settings in Switzerland, France and Italy with expert guidance in both wildlife and photography.
There are a wide range of locations and packages to choose from including a sunset tour at Creux du Van spotting things like Alpine Ibex and Chamois, morning bird watching around Lake Geneva or discovering the wild wonders of Valais.
We opted for the Sunrise at Marais de Sionnet tour and met Jonathan at the location at 7am. It was just starting to get light and after a really tough week, there was something magical about the peace and calm of the world waking up around us.
Jonathan is great. He speaks French and English fluently and is very interesting and passionate about wildlife. We loved the fact that the tour felt very natural - a bit like taking a walk with a friend who paused to help us spot the amazing things we would usually miss.
Not only is he an expert in all things wildlife, he is also a professional photographer and combines advice on photography with discovering nature during his tours. As we walked around the beautiful nature reserve on Saturday we spotted an impressive 22 species including some magnificent herons and kestrels soaring above us in the early morning light.
The tour at Marais de Sionnet is completely flat so we took the double push chair so that Elio could travel comfortably and Alba could hop in when her legs got tired. We stopped about half way to have a croissant and a cup of hot chocolate and enjoyed the impressive sight of about 80 gulls settled on a field in front of us.
The emphasis of the tours is really to discover and learn about wildlife, and for people like us who only have a very small amount of knowledge of the treasures around us to appreciate a bit more the creatures we probably see often without realizing. The children were interested in helping us look for birds too and if we can encourage them to care for and respect nature by teaching them more, we’ll be happy parents. Salva Fauna donate 10% of their tour fee to a wildlife charity local to the tour location which is just brilliant as it means you are making a contribution to nature at the same time.
I can’t emphasis enough what a beautiful experience this was and thank you to Jonathan for encouraging us to look up at the sky, to take time to study our surroundings more closely and more actively enjoy the tranquility and beauty of nature.
We were also very grateful for his patience and humour as we paused while Alba decided to roll in the mud and pacified Elio who seemed intent on scaring the birds away.
We wholeheartedly recommend these tours and I can already think of a few hard-to-buy-for people who would be delighted to receive a gift voucher (available on the Salva Fauna website - see the bottom of the page) as a Christmas present. The children really enjoyed it and we spent the car journey home discussing the things we had seen. We learned a lot and have downloaded a bird spotting phone app so that we can better appreciate our feathered friends next time we go for a walk.
If you would like to find out more about the tours and see a larger selection of Jonathan's beautiful photographs, you can take a look at Salva Fauna’s website below. We will be organizing a fantastic competition together soon so keep your eyes open.
Parking : Yes
Toilets : No
Baby Change Facilities : No
Accessibility : Dependent on the location