Tour At A Glance

Cost:

3499.00

Deposit:

1000.00

Single Room Supplement:

125.00

Tour Code:

Fairly intensive with some early starts and long days in the field

Group Size:

Seven plus leaders

Bee Hummingbird Yellow-throated Warbler Cuban Sparrow Cuban Green Woodpecker Cuban Screech Owl Stygian Owl Cuban Parrot American Kestrel Fernandina's Flicker

Cuba - Antillean Endemics

Date: 4th - 15th March 2019 [SPACES]
Leaders: Andy Mitchell & local guides

Itinerary

 

DAY ONE
Fly London/Havana. We arrive at Jose Marti International airport, Havana early evening and board our air-conditioned bus for the 2 hour drive to San Diego de los Baños in the western province of Pinar del Rio and our first stop, Hotel Mirador.

DAY TWO
There will be birds around the hotel gardens but then after breakfast we’ll take our bus to get our real first taste of Cuban birds. Today is mainly about getting to know the commoner species – some of which are endemic like Cuban Blackbird, Cuban Tody, Cuban Trogon and Yellow-headed Warbler – and three species in particular that we won’t see anywhere else on the trip: Cuban Grassquit, Cuban Solitaire and Olive-capped Warbler. These are found in the limestone hills west of San Diego, a beautiful area where along a river valley we may find many American migrants such as Cape May, Black and White and Magnolia Warblers. After lunch back at the hotel there will be some free time before we head out to a nearby area of landscaped parkland where the target is more exciting and colourful migrants! Olive-capped Warbler is our main target though, and once we have found this species we can take a gentle stroll through the park to look for other species. Pools hold Northern Waterthrush and diminutive Green Heron, and roving flocks may add Tennessee Warbler, Red-legged Honeycreeper and our first views of both West Indian and Cuban Green Woodpeckers. 

Overnight at Hotel Mirador.

DAY THREE
Today is taken up with the long drive east to the offshore cay of Cayo Coco, connected to the mainland by a 17km causeway. This will take around 11 hours, but of course we will make stops along the way including a longer one for lunch which will enable us to do a little birding for waterbirds. A large freshwater lake is superb for seeing large flocks of Lesser Scaup, Blue-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, American Coot, Pied-billed Grebe and herons - Great and Snowy Egret, Little Blue and Black-crowned Night-Herons. Caspian Tern, Brown Pelican and Ring-billed Gull are also likely here. . We will arrive on Cayo Coco in the early evening, at our all inlcusive tourist style hotel. All your drinks are included during our stay here, including the cocktails!

Overnight Hotel Sol Cayo Coco.

DAY FOUR
An early start to visit various sites on the island for Cuban Sparrow, Oriente Warbler, Key West Quail-Dove, Cuba Vireo, Cuban Green Woodpecker and much more besides – and with luck, Gundlach’s Hawk. We visit some drinking troughs for the quail-dove in particular, and this area is often very good for migrants too with Black-throated Blue Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, Ovenbird and Grey Catbird all possible. After lunch and a siesta back at the hotel we head over to adjacent Cayo Guillermo in search of Bahama Mockingbird, only found here in the whole of Cuba. There are some superb wader pools nearby and we will spend some time watching a variety of ducks and waders as well as migrating swallows and with luck Clapper Rail and Cuban Black Hawk. The pools offer a wonderful opportunity to compare various American shorebirds at close quarters - expect Kildeer, Short-billed Dowitcher, Willet, Stilt Sandpiper, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs as well as American White Ibis and Yellow-crowned Night-Heron.

Overnight on Cayo Coco.
 

DAY FIVE
We need a very early start for another nearby cay, Cayo Paredon Grande. Here the specialities are Cuban Gnatcatcher, Oriente Warbler and Thick-billed Vireo. This is also an excellent spot for Mangrove Cuckoo and if conditions are right, many migrants around the lighthouse. Cuban Black Hawk is especially easy to see in this area too. We return to our hotel for lunch and to check out and drive to Camaguey city which takes around 3 hours.
Overnight at Hotel Camaguey on the edge of the city.
 
DAY SIX
We need an early start tfor the drive to La Belen where the local guide will take us along the bird trail to look for the special birds here which include Plain Pigeon, Cuban Parakeet, Giant Kingbird and Cuban Palm Crow. We will almost certainly catch up with Cuban Pygmy Owl here and much else besides. Small flocks of Cuban Parrots feed among fruiting trees and the two species of crow present on the island can be seen in the same area, giving us a chance to compare their amazing calls! Limpkin are often found feeding under the trees and American Kestrel [of the Cuban race] is common. Warbler flocks, as always, give us the chance to add new species too. We will have lunch at Finca La Belen, where we will take a break and there will be the opportunity to use the swimming pool for anyone that wishes. The afternoon is spent in the same area, to make sure we have connected with all the key species.
Overnight at Hotel Camaguey.
 
DAY SEVEN
We can have a leisurely breakfast before leaving for the drive to the famous Zapata Swamp, the best birding in Cuba and our base for the next four nights. It is quite a long drive [6 hours] but again we’ll have some stops along the way before arriving late afternoon at Hotel Playa Larga right on the beach in the Bay of Pigs. We will have time for a birding walk around the grounds before dusk - Kildeer are often nesting among the cabins! Loggerhead and Grey Kingbirds and La Sagra's Flycatcher are easily seen along the woodland edge and in the evening, a large flock of Cuban Parrots arrives to roost right by our accommodation.
Overnight Hotel Playa Larga.


DAYS EIGHT - TEN
The detail of our birding in Zapata is dictated by the intimate knowledge of our local guide and each evening you will get a briefing on the activities for the following day. The days will certainly have early starts, one of which will be very early indeed to get us on site at dawn to find the Endangered Zapata Wren, Red-shouldered Blackbird – and just maybe, a glimpse of the Critically Endangered Zapata Rail. We will have a morning looking for Blue-headed and Grey-fronted Quail-Doves – maybe more than one! – and a morning looking for another endangered species Fernandina’s Flicker. Cuban Screech Owl can be found at its daytime roost and sometimes the guide will have found a similar spot for Stygian Owl. If not, we should find this species on an evening hunt which will also include Cuba Nightjar.
We will spend some time a special site for Bee Hummingbird where up to six birds may be seen together. Cuban Martins will have returned from their winter quarters and we will find these as well as other breeding visitors such as Black-whiskered Vireo, Grey Kingbird and Antillean Nighthawk. One afternoon will be spent at a huge wetland site, Las Salinas, where there are thousands of waterbirds such as American Flamingo, Wood Stork, White Ibis, numerous species of wader, migrating passerines and with luck, a flock of Black Skimmer.

Overnights at Hotel Playa Larga.
 

DAY ELEVEN
Now it’s time for a little culture and we leave for Havana, about two hours away. After a walking tour of some of the sights of the older parts of the city, we will have lunch in a vibrant restaurant before we take the bus to the airport for our evening departure.
 
DAY TWELVE
We arrive back in London where the tour will conclude.

 

Additional Information

 

WHATS INCLUDED
Return flights London/Havana, ten nights accommodation, Cuban Tourist Card [visa], dinner, bed and breakfast, all lunches, ground transport in Cuba, services of leaders and reserve entrance fees. Drinks are also included while on Cayo Coco and soft drinks with lunches are included throughout.

NOT INCLUDED
Transport to/from London airport and any overnight stay that might be involved, travel insurance, drinks, tips and any items of a purely personal nature. Please remember that it is expected to tip for services in Cuba as people earn a very low wage. We will advise and collect on your behalf for the main tips [Havanatour guide, driver, and birding guides] but please remember to carry small notes/coins for tipping porters, toilet attendents etc as we go along. Budget around £100 per person overall for tips.

 

PASSPORT, VISA & HEALTH

UK nationals will require a Tourist Card, and this will be applied for on your behalf and the cost is included in your tour package. Tourist Cards will be sent out with the pre-tour information and you must then complete it and take it with you on board the aircraft. Passports must have 6 months validity beyond the return travel date. Standard health and innoculation requirements apply for UK nationals, visit www.masta-travel-health.com to check these and if necessary, download a free health brief to take to a travel appointment at your local medical practice. 

 

 

Tour Reports

 

2015   2017

 

Testimonials

 

" This was a brilliant trip - thoroughly recommended " L H MIddlesex

 

" This was a great trip with fantastic birding!!" R Y Gloucestershire

 

Back