Join us for an endemic-filled CUBA BIRDING TOUR in 2016

I had the great fortune of meeting Arturo Kirkconnell, Cuba’s leading bird expert, in early 2015 when he gave a talk to my local bird club. Arturo’s infectious energy and incredible photos (like the one below) blew me away. This incredible destination and its 26 endemics are waiting to be explored. Join me for this guided birding tour of Cuba in March, 2016.

The resplendant Vinales Valley © Kmiragava The resplendant Vinales Valley © Kmiragava

Nature Travel Network is proud to announce that we have partnered with cuban bird expert Arturo Kirkconnell and Michael Sanders of Environmental Adventure Company on a people-to-people birding tour of Cuba – the BEST birding location in the West Indies. Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean and supports an incredible variety of habitats from interior tropical forests, montane forests, to extensive wetlands and mangroves. Lying only 90 miles from Miami, Cuba boasts 372 species of birds, 26 of them endemic species; by far one of the premier locations in the world to enjoy bird watching – and only a stone’s throw from Miami.

Leading this exclusive tour is master birder, educator, and extraordinary birding guide Arturo Kirkconnell.

Arturo is the bird curator at the National Museum of Natural History of Cuba. His curriculum vitae includes 77 scientific papers and he is the author of two books: A Field Guide to the Birds of Cuba, and A Birdwatchers’ Guide to Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and the Caymans. At present he is working on another project: The Birds of Cuba that will be published by the British Ornithologists Union’s BOU Checklist Series. Arturo has been leading birding tours in his native Cuba since 1988 and is the most sought after guide in the country. To date he has guided more than 200 birding groups maintaining the best birding itinerary and birding strategies in Cuba.

Environmental Adventure Company is licensed by the U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to organize and conduct legal people-to-people travel to Cuba.  Call or email EAC for more information and a detailed itinerary. You may also visit www.eactours.com or 1-888-422-5660. Email: [email protected]


2016 Dates: March 19-29, 2016

Birding Cuba Daily Itinerary

CUBA MAP

Day 1:

Depart from Tampa or Miami and arrive at Havana airport. Dinner and overnight at Hotel Memories Miramar Habana or similar.

Day 2:

Introduction to Cuba’s natural history. Visit the Museum of Natural History located at The University of Havana. The Museum highlights a unique collection of endemic (only found in Cuba) species. The collection is credited to Cuban scientist Felipe Poey and his collection research during the 19th century. The exhibit includes the world’s smallest bird, the Bee Hummingbird or Zunzun. Also included are several extinct species.

Bee Hummingbird © Arturo Kirkconnell Bee Hummingbird © Arturo Kirkconnell

The Museum tour is followed by a guided walking tour of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit the four main historical squares of Old Havana – San Francisco Square, Plaza Vieja, Plaza de Armas and Cathedral Square. The lush, tree-lined environment that surrounds Plaza de Armas may produce an observation of your first Cuban endemic species!

Lunch at a local restaurant then enjoy some free time in the famous handicraft market of Old Havana where you can purchase all sorts of crafts and souvenirs by local artisans.

Later, drive to Viñales – birding along the way (Las Terrazas, La Guira). Viñales, situated in Sierra de los Organos, is a delightful, small town in a beautiful valley with a distinctive landscape, with steep-sided limestone mogotes. It is located about 93 miles (150 km) west of Havana.

About 130 species have been reported from the area. Arturo Kirkconnell will present information on the status of the Cuban endemic bird population. Dinner and overnight in Viñales.

Vinales Valley, Cuba by Arturo Kirkconnell Vinales Valley, Cuba © Arturo Kirkconnell

Day 3: 

Early birding of the area, then begin drive to Zapata. Stop in Havana to pick up box lunch to enjoy on the trip. Dinner and overnight at Hotel Playa Larga in Zapata.

HIGHTLIGHT: ZAPATA’S BIRDS

Zapata Peninsula is, undoubtedly, the best bird watching area in Cuba, and possibly the entire Caribbean region. It supports all but three of Cuba’s 23 avian endemics, as well as many other native species, both winter residents and transients, along with several summer and spring visitors (which breed in Cuba but return south in fall). Over 260 species have been reported in the area.

Day 4: 

Cuban Tody © Arturo Kirkconnell Cuban Tody © Arturo Kirkconnell

Early breakfast and depart to Bermeja (a fauna refuge with national significance). The area is open with royal and cabbage palms, bushes and shrubbery, 12 km north of Playa Girón or Bay of Pigs. Here we will look for Fernandina’s Flicker. In addition, Cuba’s two endemic owls, Cuban Nightjar, Bee Hummingbird (Zunzun), Cuban Parakeet, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Tody, and all four quail-dove species (the two rarer species are frequently encountered) can also be seen here, as well as many Nearctic warblers. After lunch, continue birding in the afternoon in Bermeja area again. Excellent birding opportunities!

Dinner and overnight at Hotel Playa Larga in Zapata.

Day 5:

Early breakfast and depart to La Turba.

This is a marsh habitat where we will be looking for Zapata Wren, Zapata Sparrow and Red-shouldered Blackbird. Lunch will be at Caleta Buena (Optional) or Casa Luis. Enjoy an afternoon walk around the Playa Larga area; talk with the locals, take a swim in the bay or just relax and absorb the Cuban culture. Continue birding later this afternoon.

Dinner and overnight at Hotel Playa Larga in Zapata.

Day 6: 

Cuban Trogon by Arturo Kirkconnell Cuban Trogon © Arturo Kirkconnell

Early morning birding of the area then we begin our drive to Camaguey. Arriving around 5 PM, we’ll have the opportunity to bird the grounds around our hotel, which has produced several endemics during our past visits. With recommendations from your guide, explore some to the highlights of the beautiful city of Camaguey – a historical landmark of Cuba. Dinner and overnight at Hotel Gran Camaguey.

Day 7:

Early breakfast and depart to Najasa for spectacular birding in the La Belen reserve. Later, depart for beautiful Cayo Coco and the coast. Beach Time! Enjoy the warm inviting waters of one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. Optional afternoon activities will include beach exploring, interacting with the Cuban residents or just relaxing in the crystal clear waters Dinner and overnight at Hotel Tryp of Cayo Coco.

HIGHLIGHT: Najasa and La Belen Reserve birds

Located about 70 km southeast of Camagüey city, this is a protected area of open country with many palm groves and a mixture of semi-deciduous woods at the foothills of low elevations. About 120 species of birds have been reported: Plain Pigeon, Cuban Parakeet, Rose-throated Parrot, Bare-legged Owl, Cuban Pygmy-owl, Cuban Palm Crow, three species of woodpeckers and Giant Kingbird.

The birds of Cayo Coco

The second-largest key in Cuba that has recently been connected to the mainland by    

a rock-fill road. Located 70 km northwest of Morón, and mostly covered by semi-deciduous forests; there are also mangroves, coastal shrubs, patches of grass, and lagoons. Over 200 species has been reported, including many Cuban rarities with several new birds to add to the list: Cuban Gnatcatcher, a race of Zapata Sparrow and Oriente Warbler

Also, species such as: Western Spindalis and Cuban Bullfinch. There are many waders and one of the largest groups of American Flamingo. In the fall, Merlin and Peregrine Falcon are not uncommon. Piping Plover is a winter resident on these keys.

Day 8:

Early breakfast and depart to Cayo Paredón Grande then later to Cayo Guillermo.

Located between a coastal lake and a beautiful beach, this is a perfect place to relax, photograph the native flamingos or maybe try a fishing trip in the same waters Ernest Hemingway wrote about in his masterpiece novel, The Old Man and the Sea.

Dinner and overnight at Hotel Tryp of Cayo Coco.

The birds of Cayo Paredón Grande

Your destination will soon become recognizable in the distance due to its black-and-yellow painted lighthouse. The main habitat is sandy coast vegetation and mangroves. Well over 100 species have been reported in the area including Thick-billed Vireo (of the recently described endemic subspecies cubensis) and Bahama Mockingbird (very rare in this area) among them. Near the lighthouse is where during the fall migration of many North American warblers can be spotted. It is also an excellent area for Mangrove Cuckoo, Cuban Gnatcatcher and the Oriente Warbler. 

Cayo Guillermo is situated 34 km northwest of Cayo Coco. This is a sandy key with xerophytic vegetation and lots of  Coccothrinax species palms. This habitat is famous for finding the Bahama Mockingbird.

Day 9: 

Early morning birding around Cayo Coco then drive to the beautiful city of Santa Clara. Enjoy afternoon birding and visiting this historical city including the memorial to Che Guevara. Dinner on your own to explore the beautiful city of Santa Clara. Overnight at Hotel Los Caneyes.

Day 10: 

Drive to Havana, (3 hours). Visit Ernest Hemingway’s Finca Vigia then enjoy some free time and later meet for a farewell dinner at a private restaurant in La California. Overnight at Hotel Memories Miramar Habana.

Day 11: 

Depart Havana with wonderful memories a fabulous birding experience!


Cost: $3799 double occupancy. Single supplement is $500.

Included in your tour cost

  • Expert master birder, Arturo Kirkconnell, will be guiding throughout the program.
  • Airport transfers: We meet you at José Martí Int’l Airport in Havana and take you to your hotel upon arrival. We return you to José Martí Airport for departure.
  • Hotels as listed in tour itinerary or similar.
  • All breakfasts and welcome dinner. Other lunches and dinners as listed in tour itinerary.
  • All activities, services, speakers, meetings and meals as described in tour itinerary except those noted as “optional” or “not included in cost.”
  • Luxury air-conditioned coach transportation and a full-time professional driver.
  • Official Cuban medical insurance coverage during your island stay.
  • Emergency collect call access to our North American staff while in Cuba.
  • Emergency U.S. cash advance if needed.

Not included in your tour cost

  • International airfare to and from Cuba. We work with Airline Brokers Inc. in Miami to book the charter flights.
  • Cuban tourist card.
  • Gratuities for Cuban tour guide, bus driver, chambermaids, restaurant staff, porters, etc. Please see gratuities guidelines.
  • Cuban airport departure tax of 25.00 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC).
  • Optional travel interruption and cancellation insurance with USI Affinity. Your tour cost already includes an excellent mandatory Cuban medical policy. Contact us for more info.

 

ALL TOURS & TRAVEL LOGISTICS ARE HANDLED BY MICHAEL SANDERS AT ENVIRONMENTAL ADVENTURE TOURS and their affiliate Authentic Cuba (US). Please direct tour questions to Michael and inquire about the “Nature Travel Network tour.”

Environmental Adventure Company is licensed by the U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to organize and conduct legal people-to-people travel to Cuba.  Call or email EAC for more information and a detailed itinerary. You may also visit www.eactours.com or 1-888-422-5660. Email: [email protected]

 

 

Leave a Comment

  • bonnie bradshaw January 16, 2016, 15:07

    Will a similar trip be offered in Dec 2016?

    Reply