Bird watching Tour in Cuba
PHOTOS BY ERNESTO REYES Copyright
March or April 2021, depending upon Covid situation
Day - 1 Havana city
Meet and greet at Havana airport on arrival and transfer privately to a good quality private home in old Havana. Information will be given in the briefing in Havana about the trip and where to eat, drink and entertainment in Havana.
Day – 2 Soroa Area
In the morning we will drive from Havana to Soroa (a 2-hour drive) to visit the major attraction: The Orquideario, an orchid garden, one of the world’s largest that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here we will find many endemic birds, such as Fernandina's Flicker and the Antillean Palm Swift. Later we will visit the Maravillas de Soroa, a trail with lots of interesting birds, including the Cuban Trogon. It is a good opportunity to see the Cuban Grassquit and the Cuban Pygmy Owl.
We will find many Cuban Toddies calling in the forest, tiny jewels that combine wonderful green, pink and red colours. The Black-throated Blue Warbler is a migrant easy to find in the trees. The Red-legged Honey Creeper is a noisy bird that moves in flocks looking for food in flowers and ripe fruits; breeding males are a beautiful combination of blue, black, and red. The Indigo Bunting is a rare sighting, but the striking Stripe-headed Tanager, or Western Spindalis, is quite common. To find the White-eyed Vireo, we will follow its melodious call. The Key West Quail-Dove is a rare bird that will require a careful search. Zenaida Doves are easy to observe, and can even be seen in flocks in cultivated fields. It is likely that we will also see the Cuban Vireo, an endemic species. We will also see the Cork Palm (Microcycas calocoma), considered a living fossil, in its natural setting.
Accommodation: Breakfast and dinner in a casa particular (private Cuban guest house), where we will stay for the night. Optional activities: walking to Salto del Arco Iris, a waterfall with connecting trails, including a 2.5 km hike to reach the mountaintop and panoramic views.
Day 3, 4 - La Güira National Park
At 7:00 am we leave for La Güira National Park. (1 hour from Viñales). Here Great-Lizard Cuckoos scuttle along the branches, looking for lizards and tree frogs, in a beautiful park-like setting. This former estate has some standing colonial buildings, and its woodland trails echo with the song of the beautiful Cuban Trogon, Cuba's national bird, so chosen because it displays the colours of the Cuban flag in its plumage. We can find the West Indian Woodpecker, Giant Kingbird, Cuban Grassquit, Olive-capped Warbler, Cape May Warbler and many others. We will also visit Cueva de los Portales, a limestone cave that is interesting from both a geological and historical point of view: it was the headquarters of Che Guevara during the Cuban missile crisis and became a national monument. Around the cave it is possible to hear the beautiful voice of the Cuban Solitaire. We will visit the Maravillas de Viñales, a wonderful trail with lot of interesting birds — Gundlach's Hawk, Cuban Bullfinch, Greater Antillean Oriole, Yellow-headed Warbler and many others.
Accommodation: Breakfast, dinner and overnight in the Viñales area at a casa particular that serves excellent traditional Cuban food.
Day 5, 6, 7, 8 - Zapata area
Departure at 7:00 a.m. for trip to Zapata National Park, a 4-hour direct drive from Viñales Valley but we will break up the journey with a number of stops. Our destination is the fabled Zapata Swamp, which was declared a biosphere preserve in 2000 and a Ramsar site in 2001. It covers an area of 628,171 hectares and is the largest and best-conserved wetland in Cuba and the Caribbean. We’ll spend the afternoon birdwatching in Zapata (Bermejas and Soplillar areas), where we can find the Zapata Sparrow, Zapata Wren, Cuban Emerald, Bee Hummingbird, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Tody and many others.
We will explore the Ondones part of the Zapata Peninsula, renowned as the largest marsh in the insular Caribbean. We will travel along a road in the Fauna Reserve that makes its way through savannas, mangrove thickets and sub-tropical forests.
This 91-thousand-acre salt marsh is one of the most important flyways for migratory birds in the northern Caribbean. The mud flats support large numbers of Egrets, Whistling Ducks and shorebirds as well as the Cuban Black Hawk, Clapper Rail and Osprey. In the afternoon, we will observe forest birds and some interesting shorebirds in the Palpite zone: Blue-headed Quail-Dove, Key West Quail-Dove, Cuban Parrot, Great Lizard-Cuckoo, Smooth-billed Ani, Bare-legged Owl, Cuban Pygmy-Owl, Cuban Emerald, Bee Hummingbird, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Tody, Cuban Crow and many others.
Accommodation: Breakfast, dinner and all nights in a casa particular. Optional activities: snorkeling, visit to the Bay of Pigs museum.
Days 9, 10 - Sierra de Najasa, La Belen
Visit the Sierra de Najasa, which encompasses the protected reserve of La Belen where one finds an area of unspoiled lowland with a great diversity of plant life. This is the only place to see the rare Cuban Palm Crow and the easiest place to see the endangered Giant Kingbird, which is now endemic to Cuba, and the Plain Pigeon. Other species in this area include Cuban Parakeet, Fernandina's Flicker, Cuban and Yellow-faced Grassquits, Gundlach's Hawk and wintering warblers, as well as the West Indian Whistling-Duck. We might also see a barn owl at the rancho.
Accommodation: We will have breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner and overnight at Rancho La Belen or another bed & breakfast. Optional activities: horseback riding, swimming in the pool.
Days 11, 12 - Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo
Early in the morning we will drive to Cayo Coco (a 3-hour trip), making some stops along the way. We’ll settle into our accommodation and set out in the late afternoon to look for the Zapata Sparrow (which is even easier to observe here than in the Zapata Swamp). We’ll see large numbers of Greater Flamingo, the Oriente Warbler, the Cuban Gnatcatcher, the Piping Plover, Black-Bellied Plover, Sanderlings, and other shorebirds, West Indian Whistling-Duck, Cuban Black-Hawk and perhaps a Gundlach’s Hawk. The Bahama Mockingbird and Thick-Billed Vireo are also found in this region of Cuba.
Accommodation: All-inclusive resort/hotel for birding and relaxing at the beach.
Day 13 - Return to Havana early in the morning
7:00 am transfer to Havana or a hotel for extension of your trip. This is a 7 hour drive from Cayo Coco with stop for lunch in Santa Clara. Spend next 2 nights in a charming casa particular B&B.
Day 14 – Havana
Guided city tour of old Havana to see all the important sights. Visit the Arts and crafts market to buy any souvenirs. Free afternoon and evening.
Day 15 – Departure flight
Transfer privately to Havana airport for flight home