22426
Cuba
Birding in Cuba: Discover the Island’s Endemic & Native Species
For birders, this could be the most elusive one of them all — a chance to spot endemic and stunning species that few Americans have on their life list. Come birding with us in Cuba.
Rating (4.78)
Program No. 22426RJ
Length
13 days
Starts at
5,649
Flights start at
395
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13 days
12 nights
36 meals
12 B 12 L 12 D
Getting There
See travel details and required documents
DAY
1
In Transit to Program, Orientation
Havana
D
Hotel Ambos Mundos

Activity note: From Jose Marti International Airport to the hotel is about 15 miles; approximately a 1/2 hour drive. Participants must book flights that arrive into Havana no later than 4:30 p.m. in order to attend the 6:00 p.m. orientation.

Afternoon: Upon arriving at the hotel, check in and get your room assignment. The Group Leader will be on hand to provide assistance as needed. Orientation: 6:00 p.m. The Group Leader – a birding expert who will also serve as the Study Leader on this program -- will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Periods in the schedule labeled “Free Time” and “At Leisure” offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable while going out to explore on your own, engaging in available activities independently, making new friends among fellow Road Scholars, or simply relaxing. The Group Leader will always be happy to offer suggestions. Meals on our program feature local cuisine. In most cases, they will be plated and served set meals. Beverages include water and coffee; other beverages are sometimes available for purchase. Unless otherwise specified, transportation during your program will be provided by air conditioned motorcoach. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At the hotel, we'll enjoy a Welcome Dinner.

Evening: We’ll review the next day’s schedule and the remainder of the evening will be at leisure.

DAY
2
Botanical Garden, Natural History Museum, Old Havana
Havana
B,L,D
Hotel Ambos Mundos

Activity note: From downtown Havana to the National Botanical Garden is about 15 miles; approximately 1/2 hour - 1 hour. City walking on mostly flat, paved surfaces, cobbled stones, and some steps.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We'll board a motorcoach and travel just outside Havana in preparation for our field trip to the National Botanical Garden. Our Group Leader will offer expert commentary as we explore the plant exhibits and learn about ongoing projects including environmental education. During the North American winter, it is common to spot migratory species in the gardens.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: We'll drive back to Havana for a visit to the National Museum of Natural History. The Group Leader will lead us through exhibits--paying special attention to the collections showcasing Cuba's flora and fauna. During this field trip, we will also learn about local songbird conservation initiatives during a talk with members of the local community who are engaged in citizen science and environmental education projects. The National Museum of Natural History is located at the Plaza de Armas--the city's oldest square-- and offers the perfect starting point for our walking exploration of Old Havana's historic quarters accompanied by our Group Leader and a local expert. A monument dedicated to a Cuban hero stands at the heart of the shady, tree-lined space where locals gather for evening musical concerts on Sundays. The plaza is surrounded by a handful of notable 18th century buildings such as the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, Palacio del Segundo Cabo, Palacio de los Capitanes and Museo de la Ciudad.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Bird list review led by our Group Leader plus a briefing of next day's activities. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
3
Sierra del Rosario UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
San Diego de los Baños
B,L,D
Hotel Mirador

Activity note: The drive from Havana to Las Terrazas is about 78 miles; approximately 1.5 hours. The drive from the Sierra del Rosario to San Diego de los Baños is about 26 miles. Walking on forest trails.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Following our hotel check out we will board a motorcoach and travel to Las Terrazas, located in the Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve, for some morning birding. The nature reserve (26,686 hectares) is part of a government-sponsored reforestation initiative and helps to protect mostly tropical dry and deciduous forest. Our target species at this site are the Cuban Tody, Cuban Green Woodpecker, Yellow Headed Warbler and Cuba's colorful national bird--the Cuban Trogon. Our visit will include some interaction with residents in the community to hear firsthand how they helped save this natural area.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Boarding the motorcoach, we will continue our journey to San Diego de los Baños. Once at the hotel we will check in and settle into our rooms. If time and weather permit, we hope to squeeze in some late afternoon birding on hotel grounds with our Group Leader.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Bird list review led by our Group Leader plus a briefing of next day's activities.

DAY
4
Cueva de los Portales, La Güira Reserve, Viñales
San Diego de los Baños
B,L,D
Hotel Mirador

Activity note: The drive from San Diego de los Baños to Cueva de los Portales is about 10 miles; Cueva de los Portales is about 7 miles from Hacienda Cortina at La Guira National Park. The drive from Cueva de los Portales to Viñales is about 22 miles; between 1/2 hour - 1 hour. The drive from Viñales to San Diego de los Baños is about 31 miles; approximately 1 hour. City walking and some steps; paved and unpaved undulating paths.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After breakfast, we'll travel by motorcoach to the Cueva de los Portales national monument and La Güira National Park for a bit of birding and a taste of history. The remote limestone cave and its environs served as Che Guevara's army headquarters during the Cuban Missile Crisis. La Güira's protected lands in the Sierra de los Organos (Pinar del Rio Province) are home to great biodiversity and include a large swath of landscaped grounds that belonged to a grand hacienda in the early 20th century. Some of the endemics we hope to see at this site include the Cuban Vireo, Cuban Oriole, Giant Kingbird and Cuban Solitaire. We might also spot Cuban Emerald, Cuban Pewee, Red-legged Thrush, Tawny-shouldered Blackbird and Cuban Bullfinch.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: We'll travel by motorcoach to Viñales for a walking exploration of its downtown area. While there, we will get to meet Nils Navarro--an outstanding wildlife illustrator and photographer. Some of his work can be seen in the "Endemic Birds of Cuba" field guide published by Ediciones Nuevos Mundos. Later, we'll drive to Viñales National Park for some birding before returning to our hotel in San Diego de los Baños. UNESCO declared this region a World Heritage Site in recognition of its unique landscape, unspoiled natural areas and traditional forms of agriculture still practiced by local farmers. Limestone mogotes draped in vegetation serve as backdrops to otherwise flat farmlands. Target species at this site include Gundlach’s Hawk, White-crowned Pigeon, Snail Kite, Cuban Grassquit, Cuban Tody, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Green Wookpecker, and Yellow-headed Warbler.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Bird list review and overview of next day's activities. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
5
Transfer to Playa Larga, Zapata Peninsula
Zapata Peninsula
B,L,D
Hotel Playa Larga

Activity note: The drive from San Diego de los Baños to Playa Larga is about 188 miles; approximately 3.5 - 4 hours. Walking on mostly flat, grassy or sandy terrain with very little shade. Hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and sports water bottle suggested.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After check out we'll begin our motorcoach transfer to the Zapata Peninsula.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Once at the hotel, we'll check in and settle into our rooms. Then, we'll get back on the motorcoach and drive to Sopillar, near Pálpite village, for some afternoon birding on local trails. Target species include the Bee Hummingbird, White-eyed Vireo, Cuban Northern & Fernandina's Flicker, Cuban Bare-legged Owl, and White-crowned Pigeon.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Bird list review and briefing of next day's activities.

DAY
6
Birding at Zapata Peninsula, Wetland Conservation
Zapata Peninsula
B,L,D
Hotel Playa Larga

Activity note: The drive from Playa Larga to Bermejas Forest Reserve is about 32 miles; just under 1 hour. Walking on mostly flat, unpaved forest trails. Wear loose and comfortable clothes, hat, closed-toe/heel shoes, sunscreen and insect repellent. Bring a sport water bottle.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Motorcoach transfer to the Bermejas Forest Reserve for birding activities led by our Group Leader. This site is a preferred nest-building area for a variety of woodpecker species. During our explorations we will look for endemics such as Blue Headed Quail-dove, Key West Quail-dove, Cuban Parakeet, Cuban Tody, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Pygmy-owl, Bee Hummingbird, Cuban Green Woodpecker, and Fernandina’s Flicker.

Lunch: At a local restaurant. We will enjoy a table talk with local conservationists from the Zapata area. Our special guests will talk to us about the latest efforts to preserve Cuba's largest wetlands.

Afternoon: In the rural town of Palpite we'll learn about local efforts to promote the arts during a meeting with members of the Korimacao Project. Aspiring artists, musicians and dancers come from around the country to attend classes here and hone their skills.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Bird list review and briefing of next day's activities.

DAY
7
Transfer to La Turba Area and Laguna de las Salinas
Zapata Peninsula
B,L,D
Hotel Playa Larga

Activity note: Birding from paths, trails, and canal roads. Wear loose and comfortable clothes, hat, closed-toe/heel shoes, sunscreen and insect repellent.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After breakfast we'll depart by motorcoach to La Turba (or Santo Tomás) area in the Zapata Swamp where we hope to spot the Red-shouldered Blackbird, Zapata Wren and Zapata Sparrow.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Next, we'll travel to Lagunas de las Salinas for wetland birding. The area's coastal lagoons, mangrove swamps and wooded areas attract many species of water birds. We expect to see flamingos, Glossy and White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbills, herons, pelicans, Snail Kite, Cuban Black Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, Peregrine Falcon and more. Return to the hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Bird list review and overview of next day's activities. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
8
Sancti Spiritus, Nuñez Jimenez Foundation
Cayo Coco
B,L,D
Sol Cayo Coco

Activity note: The drive from Playa Larga to Sancti Spiritus is about 148 miles; approximatley 2.5 hours. The drive from Sancti Spiritus to Cayo Coco is about 103 miles; approximately 2.5 hours.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After an early check-out we will board our motorcoach and initiate our transfer to Sancti Spiritus City for a visit to the non-profit Nuñez Jiménez Foundation for Nature and Humanity (FANJ). A member of the group will chat to us about local projects aimed at educating and promoting sustainable nature conservation in Cuba.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: We will transfer to Cayo Coco on the Caribbean coast of Cuba and expect to arrive at our hotel by late afternoon. Cayo Coco offers great opportunities for wildlife viewing along its many miles of powdery white sand beaches and undeveloped woods. Hotel check in and getting settled into our rooms.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Bird list review and briefing of next day's activities.

DAY
9
Cayo Paredon Grande, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Coco
Cayo Coco
B,L,D
Sol Cayo Coco

Activity note: The drive from Cayo Coco to Cayo Paredon is about 23 miles, just over 1/2 hour; from Cayo Parendon to Cayo Guillermo is about 45 miles, just over 1 hour. From Cayo Guillermo to Cayo Coco is about 26 miles; just over a 1/2 hour. Walking on trails through coastal scrub. Wear loose and comfortable clothes, hat, closed-toe/heel shoes, sunscreen and insect repellent. Bring a sport water bottle.

Breakfast: Early at the hotel.

Morning: A motorcoach transfer will take us to nearby Cayo Paredon Grande for a morning of birding activities on coastal trails. During our field trip we hope to spot Bahama Mockingbirds, Thick-billed Vireos, Cuban Gnatcatchers, Oriente Warblers, Cuban Pewees and many more.

Lunch: At the hotel.

Afternoon: We will search for aquatic species in Cayo Guillermo and the nearby lagoons with the expert help from our Group Leader. This is a likely area for us to see Roseate Spoonbills, Great Flamingos, Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, Black-necked Stilts, Black-bellied Plovers, Short-billed Dowitchers, and Pied-billed Grebes. Motorcoach transfer back to our hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Bird list review and briefing of next day's activities.

DAY
10
Cueva del Jabali & Vereda de los Marquez, Free Time
Cayo Coco
B,L,D
Sol Cayo Coco

Activity note: Birding from trails and paved roads. Wear loose and comfortable clothes, hat, closed-toe/heel shoes, sunscreen and insect repellent. Bring a sport water bottle.

Breakfast: Early at the hotel.

Morning: We will drive a short distance before disembarking and continuing on foot to bird from Cayo Coco's Cueva del Jabali and Vereda de los Marquez trails. Our Group Leader will lead our search for the Zapata Sparrow, Oriente Warbler, Cuban Gnatcatcher and other forest and migrant species. We'll return to our hotel in time for lunch.

Lunch: At the hotel.

Afternoon: Free time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Bird list review and overview of next day's activities. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
11
Transfer to Camagüey
Camaguey
B,L,D
Casa Particular (Privately Owned Bed & Breakfast)

Activity note: The drive from Cayo Coco to Camagüey is about 133 miles; approximately 3 hours.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Hotel check out and motorcoach ride to Camagüey. Camagüey is among one of the earliest Spanish settlements established in Cuba. Its historic center has retained much of its colonial charm, expressed through its many town squares, monuments and religious buildings.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: After checking into our casa particular, the rest of the afternoon will be free. This would be a good opportunity to walk along the pedestrian street, do some people watching, and familiarize ourselves with the city.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: Transfer to our accommodations. The rest of the evening will be at leisure.

DAY
12
Sierra de Najasa Protected Area
Camaguey
B,L,D
Casa Particular (Privately Owned Bed & Breakfast)

Activity note: The drive from Camagüey to Najasa is about 28 miles; approximately 1 hour. Birding from forest trails. Wear closed toe/heel shoes, insect repellent and comfortable clothes.

Breakfast: Early this morning, enjoy a home cooked meal prepared and served by our Cuban hosts at our casa particular.

Morning: After boarding our motorcoach, we'll journey southwards in preparation for our morning birding field trip in the Najasa Protected Area. This protected area, located near La Belén National Park, is a semi-deciduous forest with abundant avian fauna. Walking on the edge of the park we may see the Palm Crow, Giant Kingbird, Cuban Parakeet, Cuban Parrot, Plain Pidgeon and Cuban Grassquit. In the more wooded areas, Gundlach’s Hawk is regularly seen (a bird which, until 1980, was thought to be extinct). Target species include Blue-winged Teal, Cuban Tody, Merlin, American Purple Gallinule, Common Moorhen, White-winged Dove, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Magnolia Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Palm Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, and Tawny-shouldered Blackbird. Some species endemic to Cuba that we may see here--in addition to the Cuban Palm Crow and Cuban Grassquit--include the Cuban Green Woodpecker, Giant Kingbird and Cuban Blackbird. Butterflies are also abundant and varied. We'll ride back to Camagüey, arriving in time for lunch.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: We'll drive and walk to Plaza del Carmen in order to visit the Estudio-Taller Martha Jimenez. The respected Cuban painter and sculptor is known for her whimsical compositions, symbolism and Rubenesque women. In addition to being one of Cuba's leading contemporary artists, Martha Jimenez is also a great promoter of art education for children. She has been an active participant in Pincel Con Alma de Beso (Paintbrush with the Soul of a Kiss)--a community project that introduces children to painting and sculpture and encourages them express their creativity through art.

Dinner: At a local restaurant we'll have our farewell dinner and share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: Final bird count session at the hotel. Prepare for check out and international travel tomorrow morning.

DAY
13
Program Concludes, In Transit from Program
In Flight
B,L

Activity note: See your program’s travel details regarding transfers at the conclusion of the program.

Breakfast: Early breakfast or bag breakfast by the casa particular.

Morning: After breakfast, we will join our Group Leader in an orientation to Camagüey's historic center--a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We'll walk and also use bicycle taxis to get around the city.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: We will transfer by motorcoach to the international airport for travel to North America. This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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