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


Your Cuba tour continues...

 

Day 6 – Playa Larga/Trinidad
This morning we drive west to Trinidad, a small historical colonial city. Along the way we’ll stop at the Cienfuegos Botanical Garden, and good place for warblers, Red-legged Thrush, Scaly-naped Pigeon, Cuban Parakeet, Loggerhead Kingbird, and especially Gundlach’s Hawk. In Trinidad we enjoy a guided walk around the town center to learn some of the history and interact with local Cubans. There are mud and sand flats just south of the city which we’ll visit for waders and shorebirds.

Day 7 – Trinidad/Camaguey
We have a longish drive this morning to Camaguey, but break it up with stops listening for endemic Cuban Palm Crow; we should also see and hear Cuban Crow to compare the calls. We also look for the Cuban form of Eastern Meadowlark and for Cave Swallows along the way.

Day 8 – Camaguey/Cayo Coco
We make a very early start this morning, with breakfast in the field, as we travel to the Najasa area in search of Giant Kingbird and Cuban Palm Crow, as this is the most reliable area in Cuba for both, and adding records of their continued existence – both are endangered due to land clearing. Once we have achieved our goals we turn towards the northern coast, and the Archipelago Jardines del Rey, where we stay for three nights on Cayo Coco. We should arrive late afternoon, giving us time for a slow drive along the 17 mile long causeway to the Cay. Royal, Caspian and Sandwich Terns and Brown Pelicans can be seen over the water, and often Flamingos and Black-necked Stilts, and other waterbirds may also be seen. In bushes along the road warblers, vireos and Red-legged Thrush are common, and Cuban Black-hawk and Northern Caracara are usually present.

Day 9 – Cayo Coco
We spend today birding around Cayo Coco, starting off early at the Disco (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, Western Spindalis - the Cuban race is perhaps the brightest colored, Mangrove Cuckoo and 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 can also visit a market where local artisans and craftspeople sell goods. As they speak at least some English, our wandering around provides opportunities to interact with these entrepreneurial Cubans.

Day 10 – Paredón Grande/Cayo Guillermo
An early breakfast this morning then we depart to Paredón Grande, with 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, Cuban Gnatcatcher and Oriente Warbler are also here, 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 one of our targets along with Bahama Mockingbird if we dipped earlier in the day. But we’ll see many other birds as well, likely including a range of waders and shorebirds, a variety of ducks often including whistle-ducks, the endemic Cuban Black Hawk, Antillean Palm-swift, Crested Caracara, Greater Antillean Grackle, LaSagra’s Flycatcher and a number of our own warblers, either colored up and about to leave for the US and Canada or taking it easy after their Fall return.

Day 11 – Cayo Coco/Havana
We have a long day of travel today, though broken up with several stops along the way as birding opportunities present. Our first stop is a wetland near Morón, and our main stop is Santa Clara, where we have lunch at a hotel with nesting Antillean Palm-swift in the roofing material, and visit the fascinating Che Guevara Museum and Mausoleum (except November). On our way into Havana we stop at Revolution Square, with the impressive José Martí Memorial facing the huge square where Fidel Castro gave his famous very lengthy speeches.

Day 12 – Havana
Today we explore Havana, founded in 1519, full of both restored and decaying old buildings, arts, music and people – over two million live here, about 20% of Cuba’s total population. Old Havana is not just a tourist area, but a living one, with homes and schools. Flanked by forts and churches, the narrow streets and four historic plazas make for easy walking around Habana Viejo, the old part of the city contained within the old city walls, parts of which still remain. And, of course, there are the American vintage cars. We’ll enjoy a full day walking tour, learning of the history both old and recent, including the hotel Hemingway stayed in before buying Finca Vigía, and his favorite bar, Bodeguita del Medio. And speaking of bars, we’ll seet Sloppy Joes, the origin of the sandwich – and still selling it – and the most famous bar in Havana back when Cuba was a weekend place for visiting Americans ranging from movie stars to mobsters. We’ll also visit the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes with a superb collection of mostly modern Cuban art, and there may be time to visit the Museum of the Revolution for those who would like to. We make time to visit the artisan and artist market, a huge affair housed in a wharf warehouse. Unlike at many such markets, everything has to be made in Cuba, and other than t-shirts and similar most are not factory produced. While there are plenty of the typical and tacky souvenirs ranging from the ubiquitous Che-emblazoned t-shirts to fridge magnets seen in other countries, there’s some great artwork, often with the artist in attendance, and other worthy purchases. And it’s not just for tourists; many of the people wandering around are Cubans, who buy things for their homes and clothing for their children here, among other things. To return to our Casa Particular we join together in groups of three or four and take a 1950’s American car for a one hour tour, which will go to places we didn’t get to, including Lennon Park and areas outside the old city for a true understanding of Havana. A walk along the famous Malecón is also a tradition with Habaneros, as long as the wind isn’t blowing seawater over the edge, which it does regularly.

Day 13 – Havana/Home City
This morning we continue to explore Havana, likely visiting the amazing Fusterlandia, part of an inner suburb where an artist expansively decorated his house with tiles and tiled statues of all designs; locals asked him for help decorating their own homes. We have other options as well, and this morning’s activities will be decided by each group the evening before. Depending on your flight time you are transferred to the airport for your flight back to the US (some may miss the morning activity). While different airlines’ flights may vary, all have flights that arrive in time for a generous connection allowing for immigration and customs to continue to your home city.


All photos taken by Andrew Haffenden during actual group tours

 

 

2019 Dates

February 6 – 18: Tour Leader Bob Behrenstock - FULL
March 26 – April 7: Tour Leader Andrew Haffenden - FULL
November 1 - 13: Tour Leader Andrew Haffenden - Space Available
December 2 - 14: Tour Leader Andrew Haffenden - Space Available


Cost

$4890 per person double occupancy. Single supplement is $400. Maximum group size is 10, giving a maximum ratio of 5:1 as we have 2 bird guides throughout, plus a local guide in Zapata and La Belen.

Accommodation & Meals

In keeping with our desire to help individual Cubans we mostly stay in casas particulares – privately owned B&Bs – during the tour. All are selected as the most suitable for our needs in the area, and of high standard. The two accommodation exceptions are at Cayo Coco, where we stay in a modern all-inclusive resort, and sometimes Viñales, where we stay either Hotel La Ermita or Rancho San Vincente if our preferred casa particular is unavailable. Breakfasts are at our accommodation, and lunches and dinners, with the exception of Cayo Coco, all of which are at the hotel, are taken either at our B&B or at paladares - privately owned restaurants. One or two lunches and two breakfasts may be box meals eaten along the way or in the field.

What’s included: all group transfers in Cuba, all accommodation during the tour, meals from dinner Day 1 to breakfast Day 13 including bottled water and one local beer or soft drink with lunch and dinner, unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks at the all-inclusive Cayo Coco hotel, Tour Leader experienced with Cuban birds, Cuban professional bird guide and Cuban tour assistant throughout, professional local guides where appropriate, full day professional cultural guide in Havana, entries, tips at restaurants, for bellboys where available and for local guides, bottled water during travel and day trips and tour checklist. We travel in a modern comfortable air-conditioned bus with twice as many seats as tour members. Assistance with air fare and both Cuban and US requirements and paperwork for travel to Cuba and personalized attention by an experienced Cuba expert prior to travel by phone or email. What’s not included: domestic and international airfare (no internal air is required), Cuban Visa, accommodation, transfers or activities not included in tour, tips for musicians, chambermaids, the tour guides and leader and items of a personal nature such as laundry. Other than at the all-inclusive Cayo Coco hotel additional meal beer and soft drinks, and wine are not included. Your reservation kit includes information about Cuba, recommended packing list and pre-travel necessities and a laminated fold-up map of Cuba. In short, this is a very inclusive tour.

Flights

The tour starts and ends in Havana. Tour participants are responsible for booking their flights, however it is imperative to talk to us before doing so to make sure your arrival and departure times work with the arrival and departure days activities.

 

 


This tour operates under the General License for Humanitarian projects escorted group travel to Cuba, under OFAC Rule CFR 515.565. Nature Travel Specialists is the Sponsoring Organization subject to US jurisdiction. The Group Leader, Robert Behrstock, is the representative of this Sponsoring Organization.


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