DAY 1 - Arrival and night in Havana.
DAY 2 - From Havana, we will drive southwest to the Soroa area where we will visit an orchid garden, known locally as the Orquidaerio, that has one of the largest orchid collections in the world and has thus been named a national monument. Birds to watch out for at the flower garden include endemics such as the Fernandina's Flicker, and Bare-legged Owl, as well as the elusive Stygian Owl and Antillean Palm-Swifts.
Later on, we'll explore trails at Maravillas de Soroa. Here, we hope to spot our first Cuban Trogon, a stunning and unique bird that is the national bird of Cuba! A brilliant study in pink and green, the Cuban Tody is expected here, alongside other endemics like Cuban Grassquit and the Cuban Pygmy-Owl. In flowering trees we could find birds like Western Spindalis and Red-legged Honeycreepers, looking for food. With a little luck, we'll find a Cuban Vireo and perhaps we'll encounter of flock of wintering wood-warblers, many of which breed in Canada and spend the winter in the caribbean. Zenaida Dove is quite common, but it will most likely take some more effort to find the Key West Quail Dove.
DAYS 3 & 4 - On the morning of day 3, we will travel to La Guira National Park, an area of rolling hills covered in lush forests where several natural caves can be found. The birding here is top-notch, with some of the expected species including West Indian Woodpecker, Giant Kingbird, Olive-capped Warbler, Cuban Grassquit and the bizarre Great Lizard Cuckoo. The woodlands here echo with the cooing calls of the Cuban Trogon, chosen as Cuba's national bird because it posesses all the colors present on the Cuban flag.
We will visit one particular limestone cave, called Cueva de los Portales, which was the headquarters for Che Guevara during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s. The cave, which is now considered a national monument, is interesting from both historical and geological perspectives. The lovely ringing song of the Cuban Solitaire can often be heard in this area. Wintering North American warblers we could encounter include American Redstart, Cape May Warbler, Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and Palm Warblers.
Nearby, in Vinales, we'll explore the Maravillas de Vinales, a trail system where some sought-after birds can be found. Perhaps one of the more sought-after birds of this area, the Gundlach's Hawk, might present itself to us here during our visit. Other avian delights to look for include Cuban Bullfinch, Greater Antillean Oriole and the Yellow-headed Warbler. Before departing the area, we'll have a look at one of nature's living fossils, the Cork Palm.
DAYS 5 to 8 - We will make the transfer to the south side of the island this morning, where our explorations of the famous Zapata Peninsula will begin. From Vinales, it is about a 4 hour drive to Zapata, though we will make some stops along the way. Our destination will be the fabled Zapata Swamp, the largest wetland complex in the insular Caribbean region. This area, encompasses 628,171 hectares and was declared a bioshpere reserve in 2000 and a Ramsar site in 2001. After our arrival, we will spend the afternoon exploring the Bermejas and Soplillar, areas rich in endemics such as Zapata Sparrow, Zapata Wren, Bee Hummingbird, Cuban Trogon and Cuban Tody to name just a few.
Another area we will explore at Zapata is Ondones, where, by traveling along a road through the reserve, we will have access to a variety of habitats including savannah, mangrove thickets and sub-tropical forests. The vast marshes here are home to an array of herons, egrets, shorebirds and other marsh species. We could see Clapper Rails slinking through the marshes, Ospreys hovering overhead, and Cuban Black Hawk hunting along edges of the mangroves. In the woodlands of the Zapata Peninsula, other species we will look for include the rather elusive Blue-headed Quail Dove, Key West Quail Dove, as well as the lovely Cuban Parrot. Smooth-billed Ani is rather common here, as are Cuban Emerald, Bee Hummingbird, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Crow and with some luck, Bare-legged Owl! Speaking of owls, one night we will take a nocturnal excursion in hopes of finding one or two owls or nightjars! Perhaps we'll see the elusive Stygian Owl, or with some luck, we could encounter a Cuban Nightjar.
DAY 9 - From Zapata, we'll make the 3 hour drive to Trinidad, where we will visit the World Heritage UNESCO Site, Cubano National Park, situated along the Guaurabo River. Here, amongst the farms and woodlands, we'll look for the lovely Red-legged Thrush, as well as Yellow-faced Grassquit, and the Cuban Green Woodpecker. Other birds to be on the lookout for include Scaly-naped Pigeons, Cuban Pewee, La Sagra's Flycatcher, Loggerhead Kingbird, Western Spindalis, and Tawny-shouldered, and Cuban blackbirds,
After a visit to the Trinidad Historical Center, we'll explore the Casilda Swamp this evening, home to the tiny Cuban Gnatcatcher, as well as Palm Crows and Giant Kingbirds, as well as a variety of shorebirds.
DAYS 10 & 11 - This morning we transfer to Cayo Coco, making stops along the way. Upon arrival, we will try and track down some of the local highlights, which include a variety of gulls and terns, as well as shorebirds on the lovely beaches of this region. Zapata Sparrows are often seen in this area, as is the endemic Oriente Warbler and Cuban Gnatcatcher. We will be on the watch for Bahama Mockingbird and West Indian Whistling-Duck during our stay here as well. Another of the attractions here are the large gatherings of American Flamingos. While at Cayo Coco, we'll be staying beachside at an all-inclusive property.
DAY 12 - Return to Havana this morning where tour concludes.