Indiana Audubon 2020 Cuba Birding Tour II
February 29- March 10, 2020
Cuba’s Western Mountains, Zapata Peninsula, Northern Archipelago, and Escambray Valley
You are invited on an exclusive Indiana Audubon Society authorized birding tour to Cuba! The program is managed by the US based Caribbean Conservation Trust, Inc. (CCT). In 2020 CCT staff will begin their 24th year of managing bird conservation and natural history programs in Cuba. All our trips are legal for U.S. Citizens. Along with IAS expert guide, Wes Homoya, our team will include the esteemed Cuban author & artist Nils Navarro, a bilingual Cuban tour leader and local naturalists in 4 different birding regions. They will guide you through some of the best bird habitat in Cuba, the Caribbean’s largest and most ecologically diverse island nation.
In addition to Cuba’s incredible birds, we will learn about the ecology and history of regions we visit. Finally, and especially given the ongoing changes in U.S. – Cuban relations, we can expect some degree of inquiry into fascinating aspects of Cuban culture, history, and daily living during our visit.
According to BirdLife International, which has designated 28 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Cuba, “Over 380 bird species have been recorded in Cuba, including 26 which are endemic to the island and 29 considered globally threatened. Due to its large land area and geographical position within the Caribbean, Cuba represents one of the most important countries for Neotropical migratory birds – both birds passing through on their way south (75 species) and those spending the winter on the island (86 species). “
Our itinerary provides opportunities to see many of Cuba’s endemic species and subspecies, as listed below. This trip will also focus on the many neotropical migrant species that migrate south to Cuba in the fall, and are abundant in Cuba during the winter months (endemic species and endemic subspecies in italics):
Bare-legged Owl, Cuban Oriole, Bee Hummingbird, Blue-headed Quail-Dove, Gray-fronted Quail-Dove, Cuban Black Hawk, Cuban Blackbird, Cuban Bullfinch, Cuban Gnatcatcher, Cuban Grassquit, Cuban Green Woodpecker, Cuban Parakeet, Cuban Parrot, Cuban Pewee, Cuban Pygmy-Owl, Cuban Solitaire, Cuban Tody, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Vireo, Fernandina’s Flicker, Giant Kingbird, Gundlach’s Hawk, Eastern Meadowlark, Cuban Nightjar, Red-shouldered Blackbird, Tawny-shouldered Blackbird, Oriente Warbler, Yellow-headed Warbler, Zapata Wren, Zapata Sparrow, Cuban Crow, Palm Crow, Cuban Emerald, Bahama Mockingbird, Thick-billed Vireo, & Western Spindalis.
Our Cuba Bird Survey begins in the forests surrounding Vinales Valley, among Cuba’s most dramatic landscapes. Cuba’s Western Mountains include two of the country’s most diverse and dramatic ranges: The Sierra de la Rosario, & Sierra de los Organos. We will explore an area common to both ranges in search of western range endemic species of birds and other fauna. The Western Mountains includes habitat unique to much of the world that is often captured in photos and paintings of rural Cuba. Here we will encounter sub montane seasonal rain forest, pine forest, and tropical karstic forest. A highlight of the trip, we will visit the magical, unusually beautiful karstic landscape of mogotes– the towering, lushly vegetated, flat-top limestone monoliths that dominate the Organos Mountains. This is the only region in which we will likely see the Cuban Solitaire, Cuban Grassquit, Giant Kingbird, & Olive-capped Warbler. Other potential endemic species for western Cuba include Cuban Oriole, Cuban Blackbird, Cuban Green Woodpecker, Cuban Pygmy-Owl, Cuban Tody, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Vireo, & Yellow–headed Warbler.
We will also explore the diverse wetland region of the Zapata Peninsula, Cuba’s richest and most important birding destination located in the historic Bay of Pigs. This peninsula is a Ramsar Convention (international conservation treaty) designated site and is among the most important wetlands in the West Indies. Here, the best local guides will lead us through protected areas in Cienaga de Zapata National Park and other natural sites off the beaten track. The Zapata Peninsula covers more than 2800 square miles and features easily accessible, everglades-like ecology and habitat. Framed by the pristine Caribbean coastal environment of the Bay of Pigs, the peninsula features vast open swamp land, low coastal forests, sparkling white sand beaches, healthy and accessible coral reefs, and refreshing natural limestone pools called cenotes. Bee Hummingbird, Cuban Black Hawk, Zapata Wren, Zapata Sparrow, Fernandina’s Flicker, Bare-legged Owl, Tawny- shouldered and Blue-headed and Grey-fronted Quail Doves, Red-shouldered Blackbird are among the many birds we will hope to find (3 nights). The entire trip itinerary is here.
Cayo Coco and Cuba’s Atlantic Archipelago provide excellent birding opportunities on Cuba’s Atlantic coast. These previously uninhabited and relatively unexplored islands were connected to the mainland by an 18+ mile causeway completed in 1989. Cuba’s academy of sciences (CITMA) maintains a research facility here. These barrier islands and keys provide unique opportunities for: Cuban Gnatcatcher, Oriente Warbler, Thick-billed Vireo, Bahama Mockingbird, West Indian Whistling Duck, as well as numerous shorebirds and aquatic birds. This region also provides additional opportunities to see rare endemics such as Zapata Sparrow & Gundlach’s Hawk. Accommodations are in a modern beachfront resort (2 nights).
Sancti Spiritus, the Escambray Valley and Caribbean Coast are a great birding destination. The outskirts of Sancti Spiritus in central Cuba provides a peaceful and welcome location as we move south and east from Cuba’s Atlantic coast. This lovely region is surrounded by lush valleys and foothills of the Sierra de Escambray Mountains. From here we will bird the Escambray Valley, bordered on the north by dramatic vistas of Cuba’s third largest mountain range, and to the south by the Caribbean Sea and its picturesque coastline. A lunch stop in historic Cienfuegos follows our search for Palm Crow and other resident birds.
Our program concludes in HAVANA, among the most authentic colonial cities in the Americas. Upon our return to Havana at the end of the birding program, you will have the option of spending two evenings in Havana, one of Latin America’s best preserved and most compelling colonial cities. Our full day EXTENSION OPTION in the city will include all meals, a guided city tour, including a walking tour of Habana Vieja (Old Havana) and the 4 original plazas, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. Old Havana is like a living museum, and is currently undergoing rapid, energetic change. As a special treat we will also visit the home and private ornithological collection of Orlando Garrido, Cuba’s most prolific living naturalist and senior author of the Field Guide to the Birds of Cuba.
Our program is designed and managed in the United States and is professionally staffed and field tested over 20 years in Cuba. We provide participants with informative nature-oriented experiences with the help of our highly skilled local leaders.
Full-time U.S. Field Leader –
Wes Homoya is a firm believer in practicing Hoosier hospitality- living graciously with each other on this planet we all call home. This ethic was instilled in him by his parents: Barb, a nature-loving nurse who taught him compassion for little things like salamanders, and Michael, a botanist and author who exemplified not only why it’s important to know the names of the flora and fauna around you, but why we must share this knowledge with others. Eventually this desire to learn led to studying ecology and ornithology at Purdue. Various employments since have allowed him to live, work, and bird in places as varied as Australia, Maui, Brazil, the Galapagos, Hungary, SE Asia, and Ecuador. Currently, Wes spends his days in the Great Midwestern Corn Desert doing eagle surveys, foraging wild ingredients for his brother’s libations at Ash & Elm Cider, and being an ambassador for birds and conservation in any way he can, whether via the Lights Out Indy project for the local Audubon chapter or getting folks pumped up about birds n booze at his popular event series Feathers & Fermentation.
Full-time Cuban Field Leader –
Nils Navarro has dedicated his life to the study and conservation of the biodiversity of his native Cuba as well as other areas of the West Indies and Latin America. He holds a degree in Fine Arts and worked for 10 years as a taxonomist and curator in the Museum of Natural History in Holguin, Cuba. An extraordinarily versatile and internationally recognized wildlife artist and illustrator, Nils’ work is characterized by refined technique combined with a profound understanding of the biodiversity of the Caribbean Region. Nils is the author and illustrator of ENDEMIC BIRDS OF CUBA A Comprehensive Field Guide, which will be included in the program cost to all participants. The book contains illustrations as well as photographs, and provides detailed and invaluable information describing habitat, distribution, behavior and physical characteristics of Cuba’s 26 endemic birds, and another 22 species endemic to the West Indies.
Our Cuban Naturalists
We work with a very competent team of biologists and museum curators in Cuba. Our full time Cuban birding guide will be with us throughout the program in the field and will assist in finding and identifying birds, as well as providing a broad overview of Cuban natural history. He may share specific information relative to the flora, fauna, geology and other natural features of the environments we visit. Additionally, we will work with regional naturalists from the national parks and biosphere reserves that we visit around the country. We work with a very competent team of biologists, museum curators and naturalists in Cuba. Our full time Cuban biologist and primary Cuban birding guide will be with us throughout the program in the field and will assist in finding and identifying birds, as well as providing a broad overview of Cuban natural history. He may share specific information relative to the flora, fauna, geology and Cuban Pygmy Owl other natural features of the environments we visit. Additionally, we will work with regional naturalists from the national parks and biosphere reserves that we visit around the country.
A Bilingual Cuban Guide will be at our service throughout the program. Along with a professional driver, he or she will be with the group each day to tell us about Cuban history, culture, arts and lifestyle. He/she will also deal with logistics, meals, translation, and other nuts-and-bolts aspects of the travel experience.
Accommodations feature hotels in Havana and 4 additional provinces. Our Cuban accommodations are staffed by friendly hosts and in the countryside represent the best Cuba has to offer in the regions we visit. These may include refurbished vintage hotels, modern resort hotels, and simple beach-front bungalows. All accommodations are safe, clean, air-conditioned tourist facilities. It should be noted that standards in Cuba differ from those in the U.S. and other developed countries.
Physical Demands and Expectations
This program offers opportunities for several days of ambitious birding, early departure times on birding days, and occasional evening sessions. Birding days may provide leisure time after lunch and before our afternoon birding sessions. Physical exertion will be light to moderate most days, with the longest walks approximately 3 miles. Terrain is mostly flat and dry, with some hills present in western Cuba. Participants should be in reasonably good physical condition and prepared for strong sun, with temperatures in the mid-70s – 90s. Mosquitoes can be bothersome in Cayo Coco and the Zapata Region. Although unlikely, rain may occur as well, so bring adequate rain gear. Those with medical concerns should check with their physician before taking part in the program. Your health and well-being are very important to us!
Registration, Trip Costs, Terms, and Conditions
$4,395.00 per person IAS Member. $4,495.00 per person non-IAS Member.
Single Supplement: $495.00
$100 surcharge for credit card payments
Land costs for this program are $4,395.00 per person for shared accommodations, with an additional $495.00 for Single supplements. A portion of proceeds help support future IAS publications. Registration must be accompanied by a $ 700.00 per person deposit payable to Indiana Audubon Society. Deposits must be received within 1 week of registration. Enrollment is limited to 14 participants. IAS Cuba programs have historically sold out very quickly. Fewer than 12 participants may result in a small group supplement. Our very popular 1 day/night Havana Extension is $ 265.00 per person sharing ($ 75 single supplement)
What is included:
CCT Cuba Bird Survey Programs include the following: all accommodations, all meals in Cuba beginning with dinner on day 1, ending with breakfast on the last day of the program, guide services, most tips (guides, drivers, naturalists and restaurant and bell staff), airport/hotel transfers, ground transportation, bottled water, some drinks, admission fees (itinerary only), U.S. Department of Treasury authorization documents, and program management services which include the provision of all pre and post-program materials, a full-time Cuban bilingual guide, bilingual Cuban naturalists, and a full-time driver. Program fees help support Caribbean Conservation Trust’s bird conservation efforts in Cuba.
Travel to Cuba (approximately $ 250.00 round trip between Florida & Cuba; Cuban Visa ($ 50); items of a personal nature such as laundry, phone calls, additional beverages, bar and housekeeping tips, etc., U.S. passport fees, meals or accommodations outside Cuba, or other fees not listed in the program. Cost estimates are as of December 2018 and are subject to change.
We plan to arrive in Havana Cuba on a direct flight from South Florida. The best arrangements we have experienced on Southwest Airlines from Fort Lauderdale. No flights are included. Airlines tend to offer flight for booking no more than 6 months prior to departure. Our driver and guide will meet the groups at the airport upon arrival.
Travel Insurance Policy
Any U.S. citizen traveling internationally should consider insurance protection. Reasonably priced coverage is available to provide protection against financial loss due to trip cancellation or delay due to weather or other circumstances beyond our control, as well as lost baggage.
Although uncommon, cancellations due to illness, accidents, work-related schedule changes, and other unplanned or unwelcome events have happened. Other considerations include recent contractions in the airline industry, which have led to a reduction in the number of available flights domestically and internationally. Sometimes these reductions come on very short notice and can result in missed connections or significant delay. Unforeseen events which you have little or no control over can also effect travel plans. All of these factors make trip cancellation insurance a very important consideration.
If you are interested in buying a policy from TRAVELEX , call 1 800-228-9792. Be sure to reference the agent code 07-0067, for Caribbean Conservation Trust. Travelex, has a copy of our current license, issued to Caribbean Conservation Trust. If asked, the category our license falls under is HUMANITARIAN PROJECTS. Using the agent code above should be enough to satisfy your connection to our authorization.
A $700.00 deposit must be received within 1 week following online registration to reserve space on this trip.
To register or for more information, please contact Brad Bumgardner.