South America Natural Adventures

Nature travel, wildlife and birding tours, with a side of culture, to Peru, Colombia, Guyana, Ecuador & Galapagos,
Costa Rica,
Honduras, Panama, Belize, Guatemela, Cuba and more

CUBA


Welcome to Cuba, the most fascinating island in the Americas



Our next tour to Cuba begins April 22 2017

 

Our second Nature Travel Specialists people-to-people birding tour of Cuba has a slightly revised itinerary compared to our first Cuba trip. We’ve added two locations, changed the order of where we go, and added extra days to journey at a more relaxed rate. Our cultural content has increased with no diminishing of our birding and nature time. We’re also using more particulares and paladares, small private accommodation places and restaurants operated by local Cubans (most hotels and restaurants used by international visitors and many Cubans are Government-run). These are always wonderful opportunities to directly interact with the Cubans, and also to reward them for their business acumen. 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, about 23 of them endemic, with several more that we’ll see likely future splits resulting in endemicity for the Cuban form. The date and locations Birds of Cuba bookvisited are designed to give us the maximum opportunities to see and learn about Cuba’s birds while sharing knowledge and skills with the Cuban people during our stay.

Leading our exclusive tour is ornithologist, 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 (available in both English and Spanish with more information in the Spanish edition), 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. Our cultural Guide is Gustavo Perez, who has a wealth of knowledge about Cuban history, politics and general life, much of it discussed from his own life’s experiences. And just to ice the cake, he’s also an accomplished birder. Once again our overall group leader is Andrew Haffenden, making his third trip to Cuba in 18 months.

As a People to People program tour we continuously engage participants with the warm, friendly people of Cuba in addition to our strong emphasis on birds, nature and culture. You will experience Cuba in a most personal way, through the eyes of the Cubans. We meet with local biologists and naturalists as we visit reserves and other nature areas where Cuban endemic species as well as specialty bird species are located. We also visit local farmers, art galleries and have other cultural opportunities to exchange our experiences and ideas of the US so as we learn about Cuba, the Cubans learn about us. Most restaurants feature musicians, as the arts are considered a real career in Cuba so are fostered and supported. We often get the chance to discuss the music with them, sharing our different experiences and perspectives. Our meetings and interactions with all the people we meet along the way, from Professors to farmers to everyday Cubans serve to promote two-way understanding and insight to Cubans from people who live outside the Cuban borders and to bring skills and knowledge to local Cubans to improve their life within Cuba.

Open a pdf of this tour that can be saved to your device here.


 

ITINERARY

 

Day 1 – Saturday, April 22: US/Santa Claracuban blackbirds
che guevara memorial We arrive in Santa Clara, pass through immigration and customs, exchange money then board our bus to visit the Che Guevara Museum. Along the way we’re likely to see our first Cuban endemic, Cuban Blackbird, and non-endemics such as Smooth-billed Ani and Greater Antillean Grackle. The Memorial is a very interesting series of exhibits, and Gustavo’s knowledge in addition to what we are seeing will help us understand the background to the Revolution; in addition our own perspectives will be valuable for Gustavo. We then drive to Cayo Coco, about 3.5 hours away, one of several cays in the Jardines del Rey Archipelago off the central north coast. A 17 mile long causeway gets us onto the cay, and we are likely to make several stops along it for shorebirds, waders and even flamingos. This evening Arturo will give us an overview of the natural history of Cuba, especially the status of endemic birds, and efforts being made to conserve them and Cuba’s natural environment in general. This will enable an informative interchange between our Cuban guides and tour members’ own experiences in the US. Tonight we are staying in a paladare, private accommodation operated by by local Cubans, rather than the typical government run hotel. This will give us our first opportunity to socialize with local Cubans in a personal way.

Day 2 – Sunday, April 23: Cayo Cocozapata sparrow
We spend today birding around Cayo Coco, starting off early at the cuban gnatcatcherDisco (Jubali) Cave for Key West Quail-dove and a number of endemics, including the northern race of Zapata Sparrow, Cuban Gnatcatcher, Oriente Warbler, Cuban Tody and near endemic Cuban Emerald among others. Non-endemics include Zenaida Dove, the Cuban race of Western Spindalis, one of the brightest colored, Mangrove Cuckoo and closer looks at Greater Antillean Grackle. We’ll visit several areas for other endemics such as Cuban Green Woodpecker, waders and many others. We should be able to find resident West Indian Whistling-duck on a small lake near out hotel. We may also visit a market where local artisans and craftspeople sell goods. One or two nights we will go out after dark to spotlight for nocturnal birds, including endemic Cuban Nightjar and with luck the, for most birders, near-mythical Stygian Owl.


Day 8 - Monday, April 24: Paredón Grande/Cayo Guillermo
An early breakfast this morning then we depart to Paredón Grande, cuban black kawkwith its famous black and yellow lighthouse. This area is another endemic high point, with Cuban Bullfinch and Cuban Vireo being in our sights. This is also the best place to find the extremely restricted Bahama Mockingbird, and also Thick-billed Vireo, also restricted to just part of the archipelago. Zapata Sparrow and Cuban Gnatcatcher are also here, given us a second chance if either was missed yesterday (though we have plenty of time to search again on Cayo Coco during our stay) as is endemic Oriente Warbler, and of course the ever-present and active Cuban Emerald. We return to our hotel for lunch and some free time, or more local birding, then later in the afternoon head west to Cayo Guillermo, with American Flamingo being our main target. But today we’ll see many other birds as well, likely including a range of waders and shorebirds, the endemic Cuban Black Hawk, Antillean Palm-swift, Crested Caracara, LaSagra’s Flycatcher and a number of our own warblers, colored up and about to leave for the US and Canada.

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