This the largest of the Caribbean Islands is surrounded by pristine palm-fringed sandy beaches and covered in lush tropical forests. It hosts a wealth of sought after birds that include 25 endemics of which 17 are globaly threatened. Amongst the profusion of avian delights, we shall search for a host of neotropic species, as well as many North American birds that spend the winter here. Superb birding awaits us with endemics such as Cuban Trogon, Cuban Tody, Cuban Solitaire, Cuban Vireo and many more. A big attraction is the Worlds smallest bird the Bee Hummingbird, and our tour has been timed to coincide with with this tiny birds most vocal period when males proclaim their territories from the tops of the highest leafless trees. Join us on this trip to a fabulous island teeming with endemic and special birds. This tour already has a waiting list so dont delay, book quickly!
Key West Quail-Dove
Cuban Palm Crow
Great Lizard Cuckoo
Cuban Green Woodpecker
West Indian Whistling Duck
Day 1 UK - Cuba - Wednesday 29th March
Plan on arriving today where we will tansfer you to a nearby hotel ready for start of tour tomorrow. Overnight Havana, Cuba. (D)
Day 2 Havana - La Guira NP
After breakfast we will set off on the drive to La Guira National Park where we will stay at the Hotel Mirador, San Diego de los Banos. Depending on our arrival time we may be able to familiarise ourselves with our first Cuban birds around the hotel gardens such as Zenaida Dove, Common Ground-Dove, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Cuban Blackbird, Yellow-throated Vireo, Palm Warbler, Northern Parula, Gray Catbird, Red-legged Honeycreeper and Antillean Palm Swift. A short walk in the early evening could find us Cuban Grassquit, Yellow-headed Warblers, Gray Kingbird and West Indian Woodpecker. The delightful Cuban Today is always ready to entertain.
Night Hotel Mirador. (B,L,D)
Day 3 La Guira National Park
We have the whole day to search this wonderful area of woodland for species such as the endemic Olive-capped Warbler which can only be found amongst Pine trees. Many other good birds and endemics include such species as Cuban Grassquit, Cuban Bullfinch, Western Spindalis, the gorgeous Cuban Trogon, Yellow-headed Warbler, Cuban Oriole and the tricky Cuban Solitaire which often gives itself away with its delightful song. As we check out other areas of forest we could find Cuban Green Woodpecker, West Indian Woodpecker, Red-legged Thrush, Loggerhead Kingbird, Cuban Pewee and possibly Cuban Pygmy-Owl or Black-whiskered Vireo. Many North American warblers winter in this area so if they are not already heading north we should see Palm, Northern Parula, Black-and-white, Cape May, Black-throated Green, Cape May, Black-throated Blueand American Redstart.
Night Hotel Mirador. (B,L,D)
Day 4 - 5 La Guira - Cayo Coco
After some final birding in this wonderful area we will take the long drive to the east to Cayo Coco where we spend the next two nights. This drive will take most of the day but we will of course stop along the way, especially at a reservoir close to Havana, which can be rewarding for waterfowl such as Ruddy Duck,and Blue-winged Teal as well as Green Heron, Snail Kite and Pied-billed Grebe. We will then have a full day in the area which will be first spent searching for the endemic Zapata Sparrow and Oriente Warbler, before taking a look in the coastal scrub and lagoons for a wide variety of both resident and migratory birds. The exceptionally beautiful Cuban Tody should be found, along with Cuban Vireo, Key West Quail-Dove and a few more migrants such as White-eyed Vireo, Worm-eating Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler. We should also see Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Roseate Spoonbill, Reddish Egret, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Crested Caracara, Caspian and Royal Terns and Clapper Rail alongside possibilities of many shorebirds and gulls. In the afternoon we will drive over to Cayo Guillermo to look for Bahama Mockingbird, Oriente Warbler, possibly Mangrove Cuckoo, La Sagra's Flycatcher, Cuban Gnatcatcher, Prairie Warbler and the critically endangered Thick-billed Vireo.
2 Nights Cayo Coco. (B,L,D) All inclusive resort.
Days 6 - 7Cayo Coco - La Belen Reserve
After some final morning birding where we can catch up with any species we may have missed, we will drive to Rancho La Belen near Camaguey. Along the way we can search for a variety of species such as Great Lizard Cuckoo, Cuban Emerald, La Sagra's Flycatcher, Eastern Meadowlark and if we are lucky a couple of ponds that sometimes hold West Indian Whistling-Duck. Commoner species should include Tree and Northern Rough-winged Swallows. Once we reach our hotel it should be possible to see both Cuban Martin and Cuban Blackbird, although the Martin can often prove difficult. In the evening and following day we will vist La Belen Reserve an area of thorn scrub and secondary forest which holds a wealth of target and sought after species. Both Cuban Parakeet and Cuban Parrot can be found here alongside Plain, Scaly-naped and White-crowned Pigeons, Cuban Crow, Cuban Palm Crow, Red-legged Thrush, Greater Lizard Cuckoo, Cuban Pygmy-Owl, Tawny-shouldered Blackbird and the very rare Giant Kingbird. There will also be a walk with the possibility of seeing one of Cuba's rarest species, Gundlach's Hawk, which has nested inside the reserve. Water-loving birds in the area include Purple Gallinule, Northern Jacana, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Green Heron, Osprey, Snail Kite, Limpkin, Neotrop[ic Cormorant and Common Yellowthroat. 2 Nights La Belen (B,L,D)
Days 8 - 11 La Belen - Zapata
An early morning visit to a wetland may give us another chance for West Indian Whistling-Duck and other species such as Northern Jacana, American Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, Kildeer, Blue-winged Teal and Limpkin before we head to our next destination of Playa Larga on the Bay of Pigs. Situated on the Zapata peninsular this area undoubtedly offers some of the very best birding on the island. Over the next 3 full days we have the chance to search out many different sites and habitats where at least 18 of the islands 25 endemics can be found. Tropical birdwatching is best done at the very beginning of the day and at the end of each day. The birds are most active at these times, when it is cooler. Although this means early starts, we will return to the hotel at Playa Larga in the middle of the day for relaxing, sitting on the beach under a palm tree, swimming or a siesta. Now doesn't that sound good? Our experienced local guide will know every inch of the coastal woodlands, swamp and other habitats. He will also have tracked down certain difficult species for us to see as they begin to pair up for the breeding season and we will follow his advice on where to go on each day. Trips will certainly include walking into the dry woods near the tiny village of Bermejas. Flocks of warblers move through the trees, and the woodland trails have the endangered and endemic Blue-headed and Grey-headed Quail-Doves. Dead palm trunks may have owls or woodpeckers nesting in them. Cuban Trogons are calling all around and this is one of the best places to find the endemic and endangered Fernandina's Flicker. We'll spend another day in the dry woodlands, this time around the villages of Soplillar, La Majagua and Los Sábalos. As well as looking for Quail-Doves again (there are four species in Cuba) we should see flocks of noisy Cuban Parrots as well as Bee Hummingbird - the smallest bird in the world - and both the Bare-legged Owl and the Cuban Pygmy-Owl. At this time of year, we could see almost any migrant passerine on the Cuban list! Warblers, vireos, tanagers and thrushes are all mixed in with the resident species, and there is always a chance of the delightful Black-whiskered Vireo. For a very special place and special bird, we shall start early and drive into the Zapata Swamp. After a walk along a track where we may find the Zapata Sparrow and Red-Shouldered Blackbird, we shall look for the Zapata Wren which only occurs in this swamp. It may take some time to see the bird as they are uncommon across a huge area although we should hear their beautiful fluty song in the still morning air. We could also see Spotted Rail and Sora. On another morning, we will drive to La Salinas - the salt pans. All along the coral road are wader pools and we'll make frequent stops. As well as waders we will look for Double-crested Cormorant, Roseate Spoonbill and at the end of the road, huge numbers of American (Caribbean) Flamingo - a really spectacular sight. Northern Crested Caracara is also possible here. After having lunch and taking a short rest, we will go visiting the Salinas, a great area for shorebirds and water birds, but also for yet another endemic the Cuban Black Hawk. The road that crosses the Salinas, offers great birding opportunities and we can expect to make several stops to look for birds like American White Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird, Caspian Tern, Reddish Egret, Tricolored Heron, Blue-winged Teal, and a great diversity of shorebirds. We will return to our hotel in the evening, in time to get together for some eveningbirding in search of Cuban Nightjar and Stygian Owl.
4 Nights Playa Larga
Day 12End of Main Tour - 09th April
After breakfast there will be an opportunity for some early morning birding around the hotel in Zapata before we leave for Havana, arriving in time for lunch. We will then transfer to the airport in time for our international evening flights and conclusion of our tour.
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin rooms en-suite, all meals including picnic lunches where necessary, all entrance fees to National Parks, tourist visa (please check details with us), transport throughout and services of leaders.
Not included: International airfare, insurance, departure tax, drinks, tips and items of a personal nature.
Accommodation: The hotels used during this tour range from good to standard, all with en-suite facilities. We will stay in the best available lodges/hotels as close to the birding sites as possible.
Tour Code: This is a relatively standard birding tour with some early starts quite normal as this is when bird activity is at its best in the tropics. Walks are usually at a slow birding pace and along well worn trails. The weather should be warm at this time of the year, although there is always the possibilty of some light showers.