A BirdsCaribbean Partnership Tour
CUBA: Cultural Immersion & Endemic Birding
BIRDS & WILDLIFE
From: $4,750 (See details)
Cost is per person, double occupancy from Miami, Florida (MIA)
6 - 10 Participants
March 2020: 2 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.
Highlights of CUBA: Cultural Immersion & Endemic Birding
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.
Length of Tour
Day 1 – Havana & Viñales.
Day 2 – Viñales.
Day 3 – La Güira / Hacienda Cortina / Zapata.
Day 4 – Zapata.
Day 5 – Zapata.
Day 6 – Zapata to Sancti Spiritus.
Day 7 – Sancti Spiritus to Cayo Coco.
Day 8 – Cayo Coco Cays.
Day 9 – Cayo Coco to Havana.
Day 10 – Havana.
Day 11 – Return Home.
Day 1 – Havana & Viñales
Meet up with our Cuban bird guide, Ernesto Reyes. Lunch in Havana and departure to Viñales Valley, the land of tobacco farms and beautiful landscapes with limestone formations called mogotes. Birding along the way, looking for Snail Kites and waterbirds in dams built near to the highway.
Day 2 – Viñales
Morning birding nearby in 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.
An afternoon visit to a tobacco farm, to bird along the road to the El Albino Reservoir, we’ll search for Olive-capped Warbler and Yellow-headed Warbler before sunset and cocktails at 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 – La Güira / Hacienda Cortina / 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. The target bird at Hacienda Cortina is the Giant Kingbird; with many other birds possible, including Tawny-shouldered Blackbird. The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and eco-village, Las Terrazas, offer close-up views of endemics and a lovely setting for our family style lunch on a patio.
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 – Zapata
Early breakfast and departure for Bermejas (45 minutes) 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.
Afternoon visits to Cueva de los Peces and Los Hondones. Opportunities for great views of the gorgeous Blue-headed Quail Dove at Cueva de los Peces, Cuba’s largest underwater saltwater cave; optional swimming and snorkeling at the lovely reef just off the beach. 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.
Day 5 – Zapata
Morning birding at Las Salinas Refuge (nearby flat, dry-dirt roadway 1+ miles). 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.
Afternoon birding at Santa Tomas where we will have a peaceful ride into the swamp via pole-powered boats. Santa 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.
Day 6 – Zapata to Sancti Spiritus
Morning departure heading east towards our destination, Sancti Spiritus, with birding stops en route to look for the Cuban Gnatcatcher and Palm Crow. Cultural stops may include Cienfuegos and 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 the night in another beautiful historical town, Sancti Spiritus, one of seven original villas founded in 1514 by the conquistador Diego Velázquez.
Day 7 – Sancti Spiritus to Cayo Coco
Today we make our way to Cayo Coco and nearby offshore cays on the northern (Atlantic) coast which provide great habitat for a diversity of waterbird species, including the West Indian Whistling-Duck, migrants, and restricted-range and endemic subspecies. Since 1988 Cayo Coco has been connected to the mainland by a 27km causeway. The islands offer pristine white-sand beaches, mangrove flats, low coastal scrub and crystal clear waters, however, the area is being rapidly developed for “sun and sand” tourism and the habitat of many important species may become threatened. We still stop en route to look for Snail Kite, White-cheeked Pintails, Fulvous Whistling-Ducks and others.
Day 8 – Cayo Coco Cays
Early morning birding on Cayo Paredón Grande, the most northeastern cay in the archipelago and one of Cuba’s important migratory landfalls. We will search for the Bahama Mockingbird, Cuban Gnatcatcher, Oriente Warbler, Gundlach’s Hawk, Scaly–naped Pigeon, Mangrove Cuckoo. Thick-billed Vireo and a subspecies of Zapata Sparrow are also target birds for the archipelago. Lunch at the hotel. The afternoon will be spent spotting migratory birds on Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Romano. Cueva del Jabali is a great place to spot Key West Quail-Dove, Zenaida Dove, Cuban Tody, Oriente Warbler, La Sagra’s Flycatcher, Red-legged Honeycreeper and many migratory warblers. Overnight at our hotel.
Day 9 – Cayo Coco to Havana
Today we make our way back to Havana (~5 hrs) with brief birding stops and lunch en route. In the afternoon 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 Hemmingway fans and great for non-fans as well as it also offers excellent birding on the property!
In the afternoon we will visit with 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 andprominent figure. After dinner we will have optional music and dancing!
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, shooting of canon at Cabaña Fort, etc. We will also visit with 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 and live Cuban music and optional dancing into the evening.
Day 11 – Return Home
Breakfast, check-out and transfer to the Havana Intl Airport for the one-hour flight to Miami.
Cost is $4,750 per person, based upon double occupancy, from Miami, Florida (Airport code MIA).
This trip ends in Miami, Florida (Airport code MIA).
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).
If a single room is preferred, or we are unable to find a suitable roommate for you, a single supplement fee of $500 will be assessed.
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.
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.
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: 2 (Note: 1 is easy and 5 is difficult)
Fairly easy trails, but a fair amount of time driving between locations.
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.
$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.
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.
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.
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.