A BirdsCaribbean Partnership Tour

CUBA: Cultural Immersion & Endemic Birding

Cuban Tody Gabriel Lugo IMG_0300 copy

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BIRDS & WILDLIFE

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SCHEDULED TOURS

2022 :: November 6 - November 16
2023 :: March 21 - March 31
2023 :: November 2 - November 12

TRIP LEADERS

TOUR COST

From: $5,250 (See details)
Cost is per person, double occupancy from Miami, Florida (MIA)

GROUP SIZE

6 - 10 Participants

AVAILABILITY

November 2022: 1 spaces available
March 2023: 8 spaces available
November 2023: 10 spaces available

PRIVATE TOUR OPTION

This tour is available as a private trip for any size group. The tour cost will vary with the number of people and any custom requests.

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TESTIMONIALS

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Highlights of CUBA: Cultural Immersion & Endemic Birding

  • A wonderful culture full of color and tradition
  • Beautiful landscapes ands architecture
  • 371 recorded species, including 26 endemics
  • 30 species that are considered to be globally threatened

Description of CUBA: Cultural Immersion & Endemic Birding

Cuba is well-known for its amazing landscapes, vibrant culture and unique biodiversity. Birding in Cuba is extraordinary. According to the new Endemic Birds of Cuba: A Comprehensive Field Guide, 371 birds have been recorded in Cuba, including 26 which are endemic to the island and 30 which are considered globally threatened. Due to its large land area and geographical position within the Caribbean, Cuba is also extraordinarily important for Neotropical migratory birds—more than 180 species pass through during migration or spend the winter on the island.

Our itinerary takes you to several of the best and most beautiful birding locations in Cuba, providing opportunities to see many of Cuba’s endemic species and subspecies as well as many migrants. Along the way, we will meet people in local communities, stay mainly in Bed & Breakfast establishments (casas particulares) and eat in private restaurants (paladars), allowing you to experience Cuba’s rich culture, delicious food, friendly people, and generous hospitality.

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Length of Tour

11-Days/10-Nights

 

Brief Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival

Day 2 – Viñales

Day 3 – Viñales / Zapata.

Day 4 – Zapata.

Day 5 – Zapata.

Day 6 – Zapata

Day 7 – Zapata / Cienfuegos / Trinidad

Day 8 – Trinidad

Day 9 – Trinidad / Habana

Day 10 – Habana

Day 11 – Return Home

 

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1 – Havana to Viñales
Meet up with our Cuban guides. Lunch in Las Terrazas and departure to Viñales Valley, the land of tobacco farms and beautiful landscapes with limestone formations called mogotes. We’ll have chance for our first endemics during lunch.
Birding along the way.

Day 2 – Viñales
Morning birding nearby including Viñales National Park in pursuit of endemic Cuban Solitaire, Cuban Grassquit, Cuban Tody, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Blackbird, Cuban-Green Woodpecker and Western Spindalis, as well as some migrant species like warblers, tanagers and buntings. We’ll search for Olive-capped Warbler and Yellow-headed Warbler before sunset.

Today we will visit the home of Nils Navarro, renowned Cuban wildlife artist and naturalist and author of newly-published Endemic Birds of Cuba: A Comprehensive Field Guide.

Day 3 – Viñales / Zapata
Early breakfast and departure to Zapata Swamp (+ 5 hours), with stops en route to pick up more endemics and migrants and enjoy the magnificent scenery. With many other birds possible, by late afternoon we reach Playa Larga, a lovely little beach town on the Bay of Pigs on the Zapata Peninsula.

Zapata Swamp is the third largest wetland in the Americas and the region offers the best birding in Cuba. About 254 species have been recorded for Zapata. It is a Biosphere Reserve and a Ramsar Site, where it is possible to see more than 20 Cuban endemics.

Day 4-6 Zapata

We’ll be birding different locations around this area with some time for optional swimming and snorkeling at the lovely reef just off the beach.

Birding in Santo Tomas where we will have a peaceful ride into the swamp via pole-powered boats. Santo Tomas, with its sawgrass tussocks, is the typical Zapata Swamp habitat, and a classic location to see the Zapata Sparrow and Zapata Wren, both among Cuba’s most limited range endemic birds. It’s a great location also to see White-crowned Pigeon, Great Lizard Cuckoo, Smooth-billed Ani, Cuban Tody and Cuban Bullfinch.

Another area we’ll visit is Bermejas for birding in mixed forest habitat (flat, easy-walking trail system 2+ miles). Excellent chance for Bee Hummingbird, Grey-fronted Quail-Dove, Key West Quail-Dove, Ruddy Quail-Dove, Cuban Parrot, Cuban Blackbird, Cuban Bullfinch, Loggerhead Kingbird, Bare-legged Owl and Cuban Pygmy Owl. The threatened Cuban Parakeet, Fernandina’s Flicker, and Blue-headed Quail-Dove are also likely.

At Cueva de los Peces and Los Hondones we should have opportunities for great views of the gorgeous Blue-headed Quail Dove. Cueva de los Peces is Cuba’s largest underwater saltwater cave. Los Hondones is an eco-village where the community is developing organic farming and planting fruit trees, great attractions for many endemic birds such as the Cuban Parrot, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Tody, Great Lizard Cuckoo, Cuban Emerald and many migrants. Evening birding for Stygian Owl, Bare-legged Owl, Cuban Pygmy Owl and the Greater Antillean (Cuban) Nightjar.

One morning birding at Las Salinas Refuge (nearby flat, dry-dirt roadway. Habitat is varied among low, dense forest, mangrove, marsh, and open wetlands. Here we are likely to encounter the endemic Cuban Black Hawk as well as numerous shorebird, seabird, and waterbird species, including American Flamingo, Roseate Spoonbills, Reddish Egret, Wood Stork, and Clapper Rail.

Day 7-8 – Zapata to Cienfuegos to Trinidad
Morning departure heading east towards our destination, Trinidad, with birding stops en route to look for the Cuban Gnatcatcher and Palm Crow. Cultural stops may include Cienfuegos and definitely Trinidad, two historic cities, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Cienfuegos, a bay-side city founded by French émigré and known as the “Pearl of the South” has a Parisian feel to it with its parks, tree-lined boulevards and colonnades. Trinidad is a one-of-a-kind, perfectly preserved Spanish colonial settlement. We will have a little time to explore the cobblestone streets and enjoy the pastel-colored colonial mansions, plazas and churches (built from huge sugar fortunes) and laid-back atmosphere. We will spend two nights in this historical city. Also some birding at Ancón Peninsula and near Trinidad looking for Oriente Warbler, Giant Kingbird, Cuban Palm Crow and more.

Day 9 – Trinidad to Havana
Today we make our way back to Havana (~5hrs) with brief birding stops and lunch en route. After dinner visit to a ceremony known as the Firing of the 9 O’clock Cannon at the San Carlos de Cabaña Fortress. Hundreds are present every night to witness this once in a lifetime experience. If going in person is not possible we can hear it from the distance walking in El Malecón. (All activities depends on the actual COVID mandates at the locations).

Day 10- Havana
Full day in Havana with diverse cultural activities including a walking tour of Old Havana, old fashioned cars, visits to art galleries and museums, historical buildings and monuments, central park, walk on Malecón, etc.

We will visit Finca Vigía (Lookout Farm) to tour Ernest Hemingway’s estate, located in the town of San Francisco de Paula, 10 miles east of Havana. Hemingway purchased the property in 1940 and lived there for 20 years. This is where he wrote his celebrated novels: The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls.
The beautiful house and property, restored by the Cuban government, is now a museum, with Hemingway’s furniture, books, paintings, animal trophies, and other collectibles from his travels around the world on display. The house is listed as one of the 11 Most Endangered Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and on the World Monuments Fund’s list of 100 Most Endangered sites. Visiting Finca Vigía is a must for Hemingway fans and great for non-fans as well as it also offers excellent birding on the property!

We will also visit (if COVID allows it), Orlando Garrido, greatly respected retired naturalist and author of the Field Guide to the Birds of Cuba to see his private ornithological collection and chat about the history of Cuban ornithology of which Orlando is a colorful and prominent figure.
Final dinner at a nice restaurant in Old Havana.

Day 11 – Return Home

Breakfast, check-out and transfer to the Havana Intl Airport for the one-hour flight to Miami

Cost

Cost is $5,250 per person, based upon double occupancy, from Miami, Florida (Airport code MIA).
This trip ends in Miami, Florida (Airport code MIA).

Additional Costs

A VISA is required… cost of $50 plus processing fees. The visa will be pre-ordered by Wildside, using the name and passport information in your client information form. However, this will need to be paid for in cash upon arrival at the airport check-in.

The required Health Insurance certificate ($25) has been included in trip cost as part of your flight costs to Havana. NOTE: This is a government required certificate and is NOT trip insurance).

Single Supplement

If a single room is preferred, or we are unable to find a suitable roommate for you, a single supplement fee of $550 will be assessed.

Deposit Requirements

A $1,000 deposit per person is required to hold each space on this tour. Deposit may be made online by clicking the "Book Your Trip Now" button and using any credit card. If you prefer, you may call us at 888-875-9453 to pay by phone. You may also mail us a check, however, remember that all space is held on a first come-first served basis as deposits are received.

Minimum Number

If fewer than the minimum number of required participants are registered, we may still be able to run the trip by adding a small-group supplement fee, per person, determined by the number of participants registered.

How to Book

In order to hold your space, click the "Book Your Trip Now" button above and complete the deposit process, including payment of the deposit through our Paypal portal using ANY CREDIT CARD. Upon completion of deposit, please visit our secure, online CLIENT INFORMATION FORM to complete your registration.

Final Payment

For all land-based tours: full payment by check is due 120 days prior to the departure date.

For all boat-based adventure cruises of 7-days or longer: full payment by check is required 180 days prior to departure.

NOTE: If you prefer to use credit card for final payment, a 3% fee may be added to cover the credit card merchant fees we incur.

We will be using all locally owned B&B style accommodations to align with the USA rules regarding where we can stay.

Activity Level Rating: (Note: 1 is easy and 5 is difficult)

Fairly easy trails, but a fair amount of time driving between locations.

Cuban Visa

Your Cuba Travel Card (aka visa) will be issued at the Miami airport on the morning we check in. Be sure to have CASH to pay Gabriel for the visa at that time.

Cuba Health Insurance

Your Cuba health insurance certificate ($25) is pre-paid in the cost of your MIA/HAV flights that have been booked by Wildside and included in the cost of your tour.

Exchanging Cash

$US can be exchanged for the CUC upon arrival in Havana. Although it is an even exchange ($1US= 1 CUC), there will be an exchange fee and tax charged, totaling about 13%… so really 1 CUC = US 87¢.

Note: Credit cards and debit cards cannot be used anywhere in Cuba. BRING CASH for alcohol, snacks, souvenirs and gratuities.

 

Purchasing Flights

Do not purchase your flights until the trip has been confirmed to go.

Detailed Trip Information

Upon notification that final payment is due (120 days prior to departure for land based tours / 180 days for boat based tours), you will receive a trip package of detailed information for your tour.

Any additional information about the trip, including lodgings, contacts, participants, meeting locations, etc., will sent about 2 weeks prior to the trip departure, or after final payment is received for late registrants.

Travel Insurance

As with all tours, we highly recommend purchasing Travel Insurance to cover your investment. Please see our section on Travel Insurance.

Passport & Visa

US Citizens may require a visa to enter certain foreign countries. See above for any required visa information.

Participants arriving to the USA from a foreign country may need to get a travel visa to enter the United States. Be sure to check the requirements for your country of origin.

Itinerary Changes

The trip itinerary is developed many months ahead of time. Occasionally, despite our best planning, changes may occur during the trip, or we may be forced to alter our plans. Changes may occur because of weather, road conditions, safety concerns or other circumstances. In these situations, it is the leader(s) responsibility to carefully consider and implement appropriate alternatives. Any additional costs incurred because of changes will be the responsibility of each individual participant. Refunds will not be issued as a result of itinerary changes.

Location Map