Bird watching Tour in Cuba
PHOTOS BY ERNESTO REYES Copyright
A fifteen day escorted Bird watching tour of Cuba designed to see the endemic and near endemic bird species. This tour can be shortened or tailor made so please enquire for a tailor made tour. Ideal group size is 6 people upwards but we can organize a trip for any number of people. The best time to visit Cuba for bird watching (to see migratory birds as well) is February – April. Depending upon availablability, we will have Cuba's best known bird watching guide, Senor Orestes Martinez (known by all as 'Chino') who lives in Playa Larga.
Day 1 Havana. Hotel Nacional **** D
For UK visitors, the twice weekly Virgin Atlantic flight from London Gatwick direct to Havana (Mondays and Thursdays) is recommended. On arrival at Havana Airport, you will be met by your bilingual tour guide. Private bus to Hotel Nacional and check in. Dinner and free time. We have plenty of suggestions for the night owls to enjoy Havana night life.
Day 2 Vinales National Park, Hotel Rancho San Vicente *** BD
Breakfast. Early departure west of Havana to Vinales valley. During the trip we will stop a few times to see both waterfowl and forest birds. Today we have the chance to see the smallest bird in the world: the endemic Bee Hummingbird along with the Cuban Parrot, the Cuban Crow and many others. After lunch en route, we continue to Vinales arriving at the hotel. Check in. Dinner at the hotel.
Day 3 Hotel Rancho San Vicente*** BLD
Breakfast. During the next two days, after our early optional bird walk and breakfast at our hotel, we will explore Vinales National Park, La Guira. This park is located in the Sierra de los Organos, a limestone area with Jurassic period geomorphology. The region is dominated by surreal, conical limestone knolls with vertical walls and rounded tops known as ‘Mogotes’. Its beautiful valleys make up a fertile plain known for extensive tobacco plantations with typical rural farms and houses. As we wander the rocky trails, we will look for ancient tree ferns, endemic snails, feral pigs and large termite nests. This is also a good area to find the endemic Yellow-headed Warbler. Lunch at a local restaurant. In the afternoon we will visit the cigar factory in Pinar del Rio which is housed in a former jail.
At the end of a busy day, the pool at our hotel will be very inviting. Cuban Green Woodpeckers add their voices to the forest calls as they chase each other in the grounds of the hotel and Cuban Pygmy-Owls shatter the stillness of the evening with their shrill piping whistle. Dinner at the hotel.
Day 4 Sierra del Rosario. Hotel La Soroa ** BLD.
After breakfast, we will set off for the short distance to the ‘Reserva Sierra del Rosario’, Cuba’s first Biosphere Reserve. Introduced forestry practices were so successful here that they became a model for similar forestry schemes in other parts of Cuba and the world. This is a very good area to listen to the haunting song of the Cuban Solitaire, a bird that is endemic to Cuba. After a hike along one of the many trails, we’ll have lunch in a typical farming hacienda. In the afternoon, we will visit the village of Las Terrazas, a model commune village. Our day will end with a visit to a restored 18th century coffee plantation, formerly owned by French coffee planters from Haiti, who fled to Cuba after the slave revolts. Check in Hotel Soroa where we have dinner.
Day 5 Cienaga de Zapata. Hotel Playa Larga ** BLD
Today we drive to the most famous birding place in Cuba – the wetlands of Zapata. We will start by visiting some of the dry forest tracts. Lunch in th Fiesta Campesina. Bird watching before and after lunch. Check into Hotel Playa Larga. After dinner, we have an evening birding session.
Day 6 Hotel Playa Larga ** BLD
Early morning start for a full day of Bird watching.
We drive to the tidal flats and mangrove shorelines at Las Salinas along the south shore of the Zapata Peninsula. The Common (Cuban) Black-hawk is found here as well as the endemic Cuban Martin nesting in dead snags sticking out from the salt flats. Las Salinas is justly famous for its waders and water fowl, including several Heron and Egret species and numerous shorebirds. In the afternoon, we visit Los Canales, an area of canals and rice fields that supports a large population of Snail Kites. Also there is a good chance of seeing the endemic Gundlach’s Hawk, a very scarce bird. An hour or two could be spent at the local museum, which commemorates the Bay of Pigs War. Return to the Hotel. Dinner at the hotel.
Days 7 & 8 Hotel Playa Larga ** BLD
Early start. Search for the endemic Zapata Rail (may now be extinct) and the Zapata Wren. Visit the deciduous forests at La Ceiba, near the village of Bermejas, in search of woodland species. Mixed warbler flocks should be present, and we have a chance of seeing a dozen or more North American neotropical migrants, including Worm-eating Warbler. The endemic Yellow-headed Warbler is quite common in these woodlands, as is the Great Lizard-cuckoo. These woodlands also support the endangered Fernandina’s Flicker, a truly exquisite bird that is becoming increasingly more difficult to locate, along with the incredibly beautiful Blue-headed Quail-dove. In the afternoon, we visit the El Cenote, so named because of the deep sinkhole in the limestone that connects to the sea.Lunch followed by a refreshing swim in the clear water, among the colorful marine fish. Further evening bird session. On this last evening in Zapata we will have a fabulous lobster dinner in a private paladar restaurant (other dishes will be available).
Day 9 Camaguey, Najasa, Hotel Finca Belen *** BD
Departure to the third oldest city in Cuba, Camaguey. Some birding en route. Lunch on the way. Check into Hotel Finca la Belen at Najasa with dinner.(From Playa Larga to Camaguey City the distance is 425 kms so prepare for a long journey)
Day 10 Najasa. Hotel Finca Belen **BLD
Visit the ‘Sierra de Najasa’ and the protected reserve of La Belen where one finds an area of unspoilt lowland with a great diversity of plant life. The two main species to be found here are the Cuban Palm Crow and the endangered Giant Kingbird which is now endemic to Cuba. Other species to be seen in this area include Cuban Parakeet, Fernandina's Flicker, Cuban and Yellow-faced Grassquits, Gundlach's Hawk and wintering North American warblers as well as the West Indian Whistling-duck. Dinner at the hotel.
Day 11 Hotel Playa Coco **** All inclusive resort
Today we drive to the paradise island known as Cayo Coco over a fantastic causeway separating the island from the land, reminiscent of Key West. On the journey, we will be able to spot large numbers of waders, snail kites and gulls, terns and flamingoes. Check into the hotel resort by the beach and relax the rest of the day. Bird watching session possible.
All meals and drinks are included at the hotel along with non-motorized water sports and entertainment.
Day 12 Hotel Playa Coco **** AI
Breakfast. Today we look for new species including the Cuban Sparrow, Oriente Warbler, Cuban Gnatcatcher, Thick-billed Vireo, Bahama Mockingbird, and Piping Plover on the beach. Greater Flamingo, Roseate Spoonbill, Great Blue Heron, and the Cuban subspecies of the Common Blackhawk (another possible split and likely to be known as the Cuban Crab Hawk). Return to the Hotel. Dinner and free time at leisure.
Days 13 Havana. Hotel Nacional**** BD
Short flight from Cayo Coco to Havana. Check into the hotel and relax until evening when we visit the fortacross Havana bay known as 'El Morro Cabañas' to witness the authentic cannon shooting ceremony. Farewell dinner at La Divina Pastora restaurant with wonderful views across to Havana with Cuban Music group.
Day 15 Departure day
Departure to the airport for your flight home.
End of services
One Tour leader goes free for 10 persons plus (does not include international flight)
Cubawelcome Tour Operator has an office in London and Havana and is registered with the Cuban Tourist board in the UK. The ATOL licence number is 6547.
- Air conditioned bus for all transport and visits described in the program.
- Welcome, farewell and handling care for the whole itinerary by a bilingual tour guide specialist.
- An Ornithological specialist guide.
- The Bird watching tours described in the program including entrance charges to National Parks
- Accommodation described in the program and all breakfasts and dinners including one drink per meal.
- City tour of Havana
- Evening tour to Havana fort with dinner included
- Cuban Visa / tourist card for UK passengers
Price does not include:
- Travel insurance (essential)
- Airport taxes out of Cuba (25 CUCs - approx £17)
- Beverages where not included Lunches