Tour 3: Viva Cuba!

Daily Itinerary + Pricing

The utterly endearing and pugnacious Cuban Tody (photo© James Hanlon)

The utterly endearing and pugnacious Cuban Tody (photo© James Hanlon)

 

 

Islands that we will visit on this tour:

Cuba and neighboring islands of Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Romano (all accessible by road from Cuban mainland)

 

Tour Dates

November 18th - 28th 2019:  now accepting bookings for this tour. Please click here to learn how you can reserve your space on this tour or to request additional information about this tour.

 

Daily Itinerary

Day 1

La Habana (Havana)

Music is the lifeblood of the City

Music is the lifeblood of the City

 

We arrive at the Jose Marti International Airport and journey into the beautiful historical city of Havana. On our first evening we take a scenic stroll through the vibrant streets of Cuba's capital, decorated by spanish colonial architecture, vintage cars and a water side promenade, before enjoying a sumptuous feast of local dishes at our Meet and Greet Dinner.

Vintage cars line the streets outside Spanish colonial style architecture in downtown Havana

Vintage cars line the streets outside Spanish colonial style architecture in downtown Havana

Day 2

La Soroa

We begin our journey by traveling an hour from Havana into the breathtakingly beautiful forested landscapes of western Cuba. In a vast area of outstanding natural beauty our journey along the autopista culminates at an idyllic spot (La Soroa). The forest trails here are lined with an incredible range of tropical trees, interspersed with wild orchids and flowering epiphytes, but it is likely the sheer volume and diversity of species of brightly colored birds which best explains why locals affectionately refer to this region as the "Rainbow of Cuba".

 

The magnificently plumaged national bird of Cuba - The Cuban Trogon frequents La Soroa region (photo© James Hanlon)

The magnificently plumaged national bird of Cuba - The Cuban Trogon frequents La Soroa region (photo© James Hanlon)

Greater Antillean Grackle (photo© James Hanlon)

Greater Antillean Grackle (photo© James Hanlon)

It is within this lush, tranquil forest setting that we are treated to our first stunning views of a number of the island's treasured endemics - including the national bird of Cuba, the magnificent Cuban Trogon, the unmistakable Blue-headed Quail Dove, minuscule Bee Hummingbird (smallest bird in the world at a mind-boggling 2.25") and comparatively bland , but gifted songster: the Cuban Solitaire. La Soroa also promises to yield views of a number of other species, which while not endemic, are indigenous to the region. These include such gems as West Indian Woodpecker, Cuban Emerald, Greater Antillean Grackle, Scaly-naped Pigeon, and La Sagra's Flycatcher.

 

As with all Birding The Islands tours we only stay in local accommodation for the duration of our time on an island. Our bed each night will either be an all-inclusive locally-run hotel or the uniquely Cuban - Casas Particulares. These colourful, quaint guest houses are run by local families who serve to give us a glimpse into the Cuban lifestyle and an authentic taste of local cuisine and culture. Their warm personalities, good manners and humor will no doubt leave you with a deep fondness for this island's people.

 

Day 3

Parque Nacional La Guira

Tranquil pools fed by natural springs are dotted throughout La Guira

Tranquil pools fed by natural springs are dotted throughout La Guira

Our second day in the west sees us travel into the vast La Guira National Park. This 20,000+ hectare national treasure is characterized by a vast cave network (including Cuevas de los portales - Che Guevara's hideout during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962), spectacular mountain range, sweeping valleys, secluded ponds and vast pine forests. The birding here is phenomenal, with Great Lizard Cuckoos, Yellow-headed Warblers, Loggerhead Kingbirds and Cuban Green Woodpeckers frequenting the scrublands, and Olive-capped Warblers flitting amongst the very pines which represent the preferred roosting site of one of their main predators on the island - the majestic Stygian Owl.

Cuban Green Woodpecker (photo© James Hanlon - link to James's Birds of Cuba Album:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/123755770@N02/albums/72157666508799522 )

Cuban Green Woodpecker (photo© James Hanlon - link to James's Birds of Cuba Album:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/123755770@N02/albums/72157666508799522 )

Day 4

Najasa

Cuban Martin (photo© James Hanlon)

Cuban Martin (photo© James Hanlon)

Following our travels through the national park, our journey takes us into the province of Camaguey in order to delve into the forests and highly productive woodlands and open savannahs located near to the town of Najasa, above which Cuban Martins effortlessly manipulate air currents in a seemingly endless pursuit of insects. Here, parrot lovers too will be in for a special treat, as both the Cuban Parakeet and Cuban Parrot frequent this area and can often be seen fluttering amongst the impressive spires of native Royal Palm trees. Camaguey is also a prime location for Cuban Grassquit, Cuban Palm Crow, the remarkably large (for a flycatcher anyway) Giant Kingbird and the secretive Gundlach's Hawk .

 

Day 5

Cayo Coco

American Flamingos in a mangrove swamp on Cayo Coco (photo© James Hanlon)

American Flamingos in a mangrove swamp on Cayo Coco (photo© James Hanlon)

Yellow-faced Grassquit (photo© James Hanlon)

Yellow-faced Grassquit (photo© James Hanlon)

Today we journey across the 17 mile causeway linking the Cuban mainland with Cayo Coco. Along the way we scan the seas for terns, gulls and frigatebirds as well as glimpses of flocks of American Flamingos! Although on Cayo Coco it is likely that we will be fortunate enough to enjoy splendid views of many migrant species of North American warbler and shorebird, our focus remains Cuba's endemics and other regional specialties . In this regard Cayo Coco, and it's affiliated islands of Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Romano are superb destinations. Here we have the best opportunity for among others: Zapata Sparrow, Cuban Gnatctacher, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Thick-billed Vireo and Bahama Mockingbird.

 

Days 6 + 7

La Zapata

Stripe-headed Tanager (photo© James Hanlon)

Stripe-headed Tanager (photo© James Hanlon)

Cuban Tody (photo© James Hanlon)

Cuban Tody (photo© James Hanlon)

After such a productive 5 days, it may seem unlikely that we could possibly have saved the best for last - but over the course of the next 2 days , I believe you'll agree that we have done just that. Our final birding hotspot sees us travel south towards the Zapata Peninsula and into the 3rd largest wetland in the Americas! The impressive Zapata swamp represents a mind-boggling 4% of Cuba's landmass and is an incredibly diverse 450km2 expanse of rich, vibrant wetland absolutely teeming with wildlife. Traversing this swamp promises rich reward as it is frequented by even more endemics including Cuban Pygmy Owl, Bare-legged Owl, Cuban Black Hawk, the delightful Cuban Tody, Red-shouldered Blackbird, Fernandina's Flicker and Cuban Vireo, along with a breathtaking array of regional specialties from the Key West and the Grey-headed Quail Dove, to the Western Stripe-headed Tanager. The swamp is also an extremely important wintering ground for numerous migrant waterfowl, Wood Storks, egrets and herons.

As with all Birding The Islands tours, our focus is not reserved exclusively for birds and here we will also be on the lookout for West Indian Manatee, and an impressive 16 species of reptile, including the most endangered species of crocodile in the New World - the very imposing Cuban Crocodile!

 

Cuba promises to be an exhilarating and extraordinary trip - I do hope you can join us!

The Bajan Birder

Pricing

Tour Dates: November 18th - November 28th 2019

Number of Species likely to be seen on tour: 238

Number of Endemics likely to be seen on tour: 25

Group Size: Maximum of 10 clients + The Bajan Birder and co-leader

Tour Price: US$ 2,966 per person NB -price is subject to change depending on fluctuating local fares

Included in Price: All local taxes, airport departure taxes, all accommodation, pre-arranged food+drinks (non alcoholic), transport to and from destinations on the islands, park admission fees, guiding fees, hotel and restaurant service charge

Not Included in Price: Your flight to Cuba and return flight home from Cuba, extra charges incurred for overweight or additional pieces of luggage on international or internal flights, travel insurance, laundering services, alcoholic beverages

Terrain and Pace: We cover a diverse range of terrain on this trip, however there are no steep ascents and trails are primarily well maintained and even underfoot. Any light to moderate ascents are conducted at a slow, steady pace with plenty of opportunities to rest along the way.