Birdwatching

More than 80% of Cuba's bird species can be viewed in the Zapata National Park, about 4 hours drive south east from Havana. Highlights for birders include the Cuban Solitaire, the Cuban Tody, the Zapata Wren, and the Bee Hummingbird, the world's smallest bird weighing less than two grams and just one and a half inches long! 
Cuba is also a favoured stopover for many migratory birds, particularly spoonbills and flamingos which can be seen in their thousands feeding in the mudflats and enclosed lagoons of Cayo Coco. The mountains of eastern Cuba are an excellent site for birdwatching as well, containing several biosphere reserves designed to protect endangered species, particularly the ivory-billed woodpecker which was discovered there only recently.

We at Havanatour can tailor make you a trip to suit your travel needs.

Below is an idea of the sort of itinerary we can arrange for you.

                                             

Prices start from £1329 per person
 

DAY 1  

HAVANA - Plaza Hotel 3*
On arrival at Havana Airport, welcome by an English speaking Havanatur specialist.
Transfer to hotel in Havana.
Free time.
 
DAY 2   

HAVANA TO CAYO COCO – Sol Cayo Coco 4*

Breakfast at  Plaza hotel.
An early start is needed for the long drive to our next destination, Cayo Coco, where we stay for two nights. This is a cayo off the north coast of Cuba, now linked to the mainland by a causeway some 17 km long. En route we will doubtless encounter some of our first endemics and West Indian specialties, such as Cuban Blackbird, Cuban Oriole and Greater Antillean Grackle. Even difficult birds like Gundalach’s Hawk.
We should arrive at our hotel on Cayo Coco with time to commence our exploration of the area. Dusk provides an excellent opportunity to search for the globally threatened West Indian Whistling Duck.
Lunch and dinner at the hotel.

DAY 3   

CAYO COCO – Sol Cayo Coco 4*

Breakfast at the hotel.
Cayo Coco, off the north coast of Cuba but linked by a causeway to the mainland, was once a wilderness known only to fisherman (including Ernest Hemingway). Nowadays, the region has been extensively developed for tourism, but especially during migration this is an exciting place to be, with a long list of rarities having been recorded. However, we will be mainly concentrating on finding the breeding specialities: an endemic subspecies of Thick-billed Vireo is found only here, whilst Cuban Gnatcatcher and Oriente Warbler are close to the westernmost limits of their ranges, and Mangrove Cuckoo and Bahama Mockingbird are, in Cuba, largely or wholly restricted to the area. There is also a good chance for Key West Quail-Dove, whilst a different subspecies of Zapata Sparrow is much easier to see than in Zapata. Numbers of terns and gulls can be seen offshore and the causeway is the best place in the West Indies to see Red-breasted Merganser, as well as being the regular haunt of a large flock of American Flamingos, and many waders and herons.
Lunch and dinner at the hotel.
 
DAY 4    

CAYO COCO –  Plaza Camaguey 2* 

Breakfast at the hotel.
In the morning we will search for any missing endemics and specialties, with the principal option being to search for Bahama Mockingbird, should we have missed it earlier in Cayo Guillermo. Following lunch in the hotel, we will drive to Camagüey, the third-largest (and oldest) city in Cuba, where we will arrive in the late afternoon.
Dinner at Plaza Camaguey hotel.
 
DAY 5   

CAMAGUEY – Plaza Camaguey 2*

 After breakfast at the hotel, driving south from Camagüey to the environs of the small town of Najasa, we spend much of today looking for some of the unique birds, which live, in the open savannah in this area. Endemics will be to the fore as we search for the very rare Giant Kingbird, a huge Tyrant-flycatcher which dwarfs the more familiar members of this powerfully-built genus, Cuban Parrot, Cuban Parakeet, Cuban Pygmy-Owl, Plain Pigeon and Cuban Palm Crows. The Cuban appellation is an indication of the number of birds peculiar to the island and already at this early stage of the tour we are likely to have seen half a dozen or more species with this prefix. Following lunch in the hotel, in the afternoon we will enjoy a city tour of Camaguey, including a visit to the city’s cathedral to search for the endemic breeder, Cuban Maring. This species, which is very similar to Purple Martin (which migrates through Cuba), is unknown anywhere else in the world, but is absent from the island between autumn and late January.
Dinner at hotel restaurant.

DAY 6    

PLAYA LARGA – Playa Larga 4*

After breakfast at the hotel , long drive to the Zapata Peninsula, our base for the next three nights, with stop for lunch en route.
Dinner at hotel  restaurant.

DAY 7, 8 & 9   

PLAYA LARGA -  Playa Larga 4*

Very early in the morning after the breakfast, we will go to the specific localities where to see the Zapata Wren, the Zapata Sparrow, and the Red- Souldered Black Bird, all endemics to Zapata. Also we will see there a big population of the Common Yellow Throat.
Some of our main targets in this area will be the quail-doves, of which four species occur on the island. The spectacular Blue-headed Quail-Dove, which belongs to a monotypic genus, is the most difficult, whilst Ruddy Quail-Dove is widespread throughout much of the Neotropics, but Key West Quail-Dove is restricted to the Greater Antilles and the Florida Keys, and the globally threatened Grey-headed Quail-Dove is confined to Cuba. Time and patience are always prerequisites in the quest for these birds. Woodpeckers are another feature the region: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a common winter migrant, while West Indian Woodpecker, the endemic race of Northern Flicker and Cuban Woodpecker are all reasonably common residents. Most prized, however, is the rare and declining Fernandina’s Flicker, which is known from several sites in the area. The forest reserve of Bermejas will be one of our most frequently visited sites: Rose-throated (Cuban) Parrot, Cuban Parakeet and Bare-legged Owl are all regular there, in addition to the quail-doves and woodpeckers. We will search mixed flocks for the endemic Yellow-headed Warbler and Cuban Vireo, as well as Cuban Bullfinch, and be ever alert for the short rattling call of a Cuban Tody. The beautiful Cuban Trogon (Cuba’s national bird) and rather dowdier but still impressive Great Lizard Cuckoo are regular sights and sounds. We will keep a sharp watch for any signs of panic among the small birds, which may indicate the presence of the rare Gundlach’s Hawk.
One morning we will make an earlier than usual start for a locality within the famous Zapata Swamp. The open woodland around the swamp will afford chances for Northern and Louisiana Waterthrushes, as well as three island endemics, Cuban Pygmy Owl, Zapata Sparrow and Red-shouldered Blackbird. Our principal target, however, will be the extremely localised Zapata Wren, which is currently being seen at a site that does not require getting wet feet (unlike in the 1990s). This place is also home to Spotted and King Rails, Sora and a range of common marsh birds including various herons, Belted Kingfisher and Northern Harrier, but chances of the ultra-rare and highly secretive Zapata Rail are effectively nil. Another species synonymous with Cuba is the smallest bird in the world: Bee Hummingbird. We will visit several of its known haunts during our time in Zapata, affording us fine chances to catch up with this one of Cuba’s most-desired bird species. We will also make a couple of early-evening excursions. One to find Cuban Nightjar (which is now widely regarded as distinct from the form in Hispaniola), whilst, on the other hand, a pair of Stygian Owls is a regular feature of our hotel’s grounds. Each day will follow a similar pattern. After an early breakfast we will head to an adjacent area and bird until late morning before returning to the hotel for lunch and a short siesta, thereafter returning to the field mid-afternoon
Dinner will be at the hotel restaurant.

DAY 10  
  
PLAYA  ZAPATA –  Playa Larga 4*

 Breakfast at the hotel, following a final morning’s birding in the Zapata region, searching for anything we may have missed earlier, perhaps returning to Bermejas for another try for quail-doves or the swamp should we have been unlucky with Zapata Wren, we will have lunch and then transfer to the westernmost point of our tour. En route we will stop at one or two roadside wetlands for birds such as Snail Kite, herons and ducks.
Dinner at hotel restaurant.

DAY 11   

ZAPATA – El Mirador de San Diego 2*

Breakfast at the hotel, birdwatching in La Güira, lunch at hotel restaurant and with late afternoon transfer to Havana.
On our final full day in Cuba we will make an early start for La Güira National Park. This highland region is still well forested and is consequently excellent for endemics. However, our principal targets will be the endemic Cuban Solitaire and near-endemic Olive-capped Warbler, both of which are usually readily found. Finally, we will check a different area for the now very localised Cuban Grassquit. Although still common in the eastern third of the island, finding one in Cuba has become rather difficult in recent years due to the fact that many have been trapped by cage bird enthusiasts.

DAY 12  
 
HAVANA – Plaza Hotel 3*

Breakfast at the hotel, on this final day in Cuba we make our way back to Havana to catch a return flight to London. We may take the opportunity to see some of the faded colonial elegance of Havana, once the jewel in Spain's imperial crown. Many of the buildings bear witness to this former grandeur of this lively and interesting city. We’ll visit Cathedral square, Revolution museum, cigar factory.
Afternoon transfer back to Havana Airport.


Prices start from £1329 per person for a 11 nights/12 days trip in February/March 2014
The prices are based on a minimum of 2 people travelling.
Single supplement of £115 per person.

International flights & Tourist card/Visa are not included.
These can be arranged at an additional cost.

Private tours can be arranged, please contact us for prices.

Please note the above itinerary is a guide and is subject to availability.

Please contact us for further information.