Ornithology in Cuba

In Cuba, lakes and humid regions favour the settling of different kinds of birds. So, here we propose a bird watching tour.  Cuban Troggon, Todus multicoloris, Bee Hummingbird, and so many other interesting species. You will leave Cuba with so many new and lovely images and souvenirs on your head!!!!

Cuba is also a country with many lakes and wetlands suitable for nesting birds. It is therefore an ornithological stay that we offer here. You are on the hunt for some of the country's iconic birds and see many of the Red-headed, Northern Caracara, Trogon and other Hooded Orioles and Solitaries of Cuba ....

Itinerary

  • Day 1 Welcome to Cuba!

    Arrival at Havana airport. Transfer to the city centre and your accommodation in a private hostel.

    Accommodation: Private Hostel
    Dinner included

  • Day 2 Havana - Las Terrazas - San Diego

    Early in the morning, you leave Havana and head West. After 20 kms you reach the beautiful landscapes of Lago Niña Bonita where you can observe the following birds:
    - Green Heron (Butorides virescens)
    - Redhead Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
    - Northern crested caracara (Caracara cheriway)

    Back on the road, a few kilometers further along, you can spot the following birds:
    - Dives genus (Dives atroviolaceus)
    - Cuban trogon or tocororo (Priotelus temnurus)
    - Cuban Oriole (Icterus melanopsis)

    Lunch on the road. Accommodation at hotel San Diego de Los Baños.

    Accommodation: Hotel
    Meals included

  • Day 3 San Diego

    Spend the day bird-watching in the San Diego region, exploring the area around Poratles Cave and Guira Park. The Cueva de los Portales cave housed the Headquarters of the Western army during the 1961 missile crisis. Many birds can be spotted here including the Cuban Solitaire (Myadestes elisabeth).

    Accommodation: Hotel
    Meals included

  • Day 4 San Diego - Ciénaga de Zapata

    Early in the morning, you head East to Zapata Swamp, a real paradise for birds. Installation in your accommodation in the small village of Soplillar for the next 3 nights. As the sun rises, you can admire Blue-headed quail-doves (Starnoenas cyanocephala or Paloma Perdiz) and bee hummingbirds (Mellisuga helenae or Zunzuncito)...

    Accommodation: Casa particular
    Meals included

  • Day 5 Ciénaga de Zapata

    Early this morning, before dawn, you head to Bermejas. At sunrise you will be positioned deep in the heart of the forest ready to observe the Grey-fronted quail-dove (Gundlach Dove or Geotrygon caniceps). Afternoon transfer to the natural area of Laguna de Las Salinas where many surprising species of birds live.

    Accommodation: Casa particular
    Meals included

  • Day 6 Ciénaga de Zapata

    This morning, you head towards the peat bogs to observe 2 emblematic Cuban birds, the Zapata Wren (Ferminia cerverai or Ferminia) and the Zapata's Sparrow (Torreornis inexpectata or Cabrerito de la Cienaga)...

    Accommodation: Casa particular
    Meals included

  • Day 7 Zapata - Najasa - Camaguey - Granja de Belen

    Take the road to colourful Camaguey, visit of the colonial squares in the historical downtown. Then continue to Belen Farm, where two endemic birds can be found, the Cuban Palm Crow (Corvus minutus or Cao Pinalero) and the Giant kingbird (Tyrannus cubensis)...

    Accommodation: Homestay
    Meals included

  • Day 8 Camaguey - Cayo Coco

    Transfer to Cayo Coco paradise island, the second most important bird watching spot in Cuba (after Zapata swamp). After your early afternoon arrival, you can devote the rest of today and tomorrow to observing the birds which populate your surroundings. Night in a hotel by the sea.

    Accommodation: Hotel
    Meals included

  • Day 9 Cayo Coco

    A full day birdwatching in Cayo Coco...

    Accommodation: Hotel
    Meals included

  • Day 10 Flight to Havana

    Flight to Havana. Transfer from the airport to your accommodation in the historical neighbourhood and time to explore the old town.

    Accommodation: Private hostel
    Meals not included

  • Day 11 Havana - End of the tour

    After breakfast you may have time for a few last visits and shopping. Transfer to the airport and onwards travel.

    Breakfast included

The details in this programme are updated regularly but imponderables and unpredictable circumstances may result in inaccuracies. In order to provide the adventure which is best suited to your demands, the weather and the operational conditions, changes to the programme may be made. For safety reasons, we reserve the rights to interrupt your participation in this programme at any time if your technical level or fitness are deemed unsuitable or if you are seen as a danger to the group or yourself. This will in no case give rise to refunds or compensation.

Period & budget

When to travel?

The best period for travelling is during the following months:

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Price

From 1390 € per person (based on 2 travellers)

The budget is an indication of the price per person, subject to availability. Your local agent will send you a customized quote with the exact price. The price can vary according to availability, level of services, period of travel, number of participants, booking time frame and other items.

Included

  • 10 nights in hotels and private house accommodation with breakfasts
  • Entrance fees to sites as per itinerary
  • Domestic flight from Cayo Coco - Havana on Day 10
  • Accompaniment by an English speaking guide and ornithologist
  • Our English speaking assistance 24h / 24h

Not included

  • International flights
  • Tourist card (necessary to enter the country)
  • Meals: Lunch Day 1 and meals Day 10
  • Drinks, tips and personal expenses - all that is not 'included'

Additional Options
  • Single Room Supplement: Consult us

Terms and conditions

Booking conditions

Booking a trip with Altaï Cuba implies acceptance of the terms and conditions of sale. Each customer is required to complete a registration form and, subject to availability at the time of registration, travellers are expected to pay a deposit of 30% of the total price to complete their booking. Payments can be made online or by bank transfer. You will receive an e-mail with your booking confirmation.

Invoice procedure

Once your booking is confirmed you will receive an invoice by e-mail. The full balance of the trip must be received at least 30 days before your departure date. Altaï Cuba reserve the right to cancel your booking, free of charge, if this deadline is not respected.

Cancellation policy

If for any reason you have to cancel your trip, Altaï Cuba require written confirmation of your decision. The money you have paid will then be refunded according to the following deductions:

  • Cancellation received more than 30 days prior to the departure date: a sum of €50 per person will be retained
  • Cancellation received 30 to 21 days before the departure date: your deposit, 30% of the total trip price will be retained
  • Cancellation received 20 to 14 days before the departure date: 50% of the total trip price will be retained
  • Cancellation received 13 to 7 days before the departure date: 75% of the total trip price will be retained
  • Cancellation received less than 7 days before the departure date: 100% of the total trip price will be retained

Special cases:
Please note that, regardless of the date of cancellation or modification if you have agreed to pay for services such as hotel reservations, flights or additional activities, these services are usually non-refundable so additional fees may apply.
  • Fixed airfares: if your airline ticket was issued in advance, often done to avoid significant surcharges, you will be charged 100% of any non-refundable fees if you wish to change or cancel your flight plan.
  • Fixed in-country costs: early charges for firm bookings will be charged if you cancel or modify your trip.
  • Insurance costs: if you have taken out comprehensive or cancellation insurance, the cost of insurance is due and cannot be refunded.

Please note that fees apply according to the date we receive your cancellation or modification request in writing.

If we have to cancel a departure due to an insufficient number of participants, you will be informed no later than 21 days before departure and a full refund will be issued, you will not be entitled to further compensation. We reserve the rights to cancel departures due to exceptional circumstances which may impact the safety of participants. Such circumstances include those amounting to 'force majeure' in which case participants will receive a full refund but they will not be entitled to any compensation.

Changes to travel contract

If you wish to make a change to your booking please contact Altaï Cuba in writing; you will be expected to pay any fee which might arise from this change. In the event of unforeseen external events, Altaï Cuba may change some aspects of the travel contract. If any changes are necessary you will be informed as quickly as possible.

Pricing

The prices on our website are updated regularly and all of the prices we advertise are accurate when published. Altaï Cuba reserve the rights to make changes to any of these prices. Before you make a booking we will give you the up-to-date price of your chosen holiday including any supplements, upgrades or additional activities you may have requested. If the number of travellers is fewer than the indicated number of participants on the website, a small group surcharge may be applied. For all of our trips we include details of services, prices and what is/is not included but please be aware that changes to the prices may be necessary in accordance with exchange rates or price changes of various components of the journey.

Contract transfer

If you are unable to travel for any reason, you can transfer your booking to another person in which case our modification conditions apply. Both the transferor and transferee will be jointly and severally liable for payment of the total holiday price and other associated expenses. Some airline carriers treat name changes as cancellations and you may be required to pay for the cost of a new ticket.

Insurance

By law, all tourists visiting Cuba must have travel insurance to cover medical costs. You may be asked to provide proof of your travel insurance policy when you arrive at the airport.

Altai Travel Insurance Options

You have up to 14 days, from the day you book your Altai trip, to subscribe to our travel insurance. Travel safely and benefit from our partnership with Assurinco and Mutuaide Assistance. We offer two different insurance packages tailored to meet your needs, cancellation insurance (3% of total trip price) and multirisk insurance (4% of total trip price). Please contact us for more details.

Practical info

Staff

This trip is supervised by a Cuban Spanish speaking driver who is part of our Altai Cuba team. During the stay, your driver will be assisted by Spanish speaking expert local guides.

Food

Breakfasts, lunches & dinners
All breakfasts are included, served at our accommodation. For days when lunches are not included you can choose to purchase a picnic or to eat in a restaurant. Somtimes our hosts prepare lunches for us. Homestay accommodation often includes a homecooked evening meal prepared by our hosts. When dinners are not included you will discover restaurant options for every budget.

Eating Out
Due to the American embargo that has been raging in Cuba for many years now, state-owned hotels and restaurants offer simple Cuban cuisine, often limited in terms of variety. Menus served in state restaurants normally include chicken, fish or pork accompanied by congri (rice and kidney beans) and plantains (cooking bananas). Private restaurants are beginning to emerge, offering richer and more refined cuisine.

Homestay Meals
Homestay dishes are significantly more varied and plentiful. You will have a chance to sample local products like breadfruit, cassava, plantain, mango, guava, pineapple, papaya, coconut, pork, chicken , fish and sometimes lobster.

Drinks
In Cuba, we find excellent seasonal fruit juices, local beers (Bucanero and Cristal) and of course rum which features in many Cuban cocktails like mojitos, daïquiris and pina coladas. During your stay, all drinks, including mineral water, are your responsibility. You can fill your water bottles in villages, springs and hotels. We advise that you treat water with purifying tablets and avoid the purchase of plastic bottles which must then be recycled. If wish to buy bottled water, we advise you to invest in a large bottle or two (5 or 10 litres; available to purchase in Havana, Santiago or other main cities), from which to fill your personal water bottle up from as you go.

Accommodation

Homestay
For the most part you will stay in Casa Particular accommodation. You will be welcomed into the homes of local Cuban families. You sleep in a double / twin rooms; mostly with private bathrooms although in some places the bathroom is shared between 2 rooms.

Hotels
For some stages, we have chosen local 3-star category hotels with standard comfort. Please note that hotels in Cuba belong to the state meaning that we have no control over the quality of the services delivered. The rooms are always clean and spacious with private bathrooms but it may be that in some establishments, the rooms are not up to international 3* standards.

Other Accommodations
In Sierra, some steps require sleeping in rustic shelter accommodation with basic comforts. You sleep in a dormitory of 4 to 6 people. Blankets are provided but we advise you to bring a sleeping bag liner and or sleeping bag for cooler nights depending on the season.

Transportation

Transportation is provided by private air-conditioned vehicles. For some routes we use 4x4 vehicles.

Budget & exchange

Two currencies circulate: the Cuban peso (CUP) and the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) which is the only currency usable by foreigners.
1 CUC is more or less equivalent to 1 USD. Visit www.xe.com for the latest currency converter and exchange rates.
Only Visa and Master Cards  are accepted by hotels. You will find cash machines which accept only Visa cards in Havana and Santiago. To exchange your cash, go to one of the many "casa de cambios" at the airport or you can exchange money at hotels in the main cities of the country. Please not that American Dollars are not accepted.

Tips

An example of good tipping etiquette in Cuba is...
- 3 CUC per day and per participant for your English-speaking guide
- 2 CUC per day and per participant for your driver
- 1 CUC per day per participant for your Spanish-speaking local guide
Please note that tipping is not obligatory. It should be adapted according to the standard of living and the duration of your trip and it should be left to the discretion of each individual.

Vital equipment

  • A sleeping bag liner (or sleeping bag) for your night in a shelter (blankets provided)
  • Water purification tablets
  • A refillable water bottle or 2 (2L)

From head to toe
  • A sun hat
  • A bandana, to protect your neck
  • A pair of sun glasses (good quality, 3 or 4)
  • Thermal tops and bottoms
  • T shirts, shorts and trousers suitable for hiking
  • Appropriate underwear and pyjamas
  • A warm layer
  • A coat / jacket
  • A rain coat (good quality, breathable with hood)
  • Water proof trousers
  • A swimsuit & fast drying towel
  • A pair of hiking boots
  • Thick socks for hiking
  • A pair of casual shoes for evenings/gentle strolls
  • 1 pair of shoes for wearing in water for snorkeling, swimming, etc

Material

We prefer that you do not wear cotton clothing, including underwear, when participating in activities. When cotton gets wet from water or sweat it ceases to insulate and it does not dry fast. The best materials for outdoor activities are fast drying materials like polyester or materials which are warm when wet like wool. The most powerful materials against the wind and rain are 'breathable' materials like Gore-Tex or Nikwax.

Helpful equipment

  • Your personal toiletries
  • Sun-cream (body and lips)
  • Head torch and spare batteries
  • A pair of hiking poles
  • A waterproof bag cover (or plastic bags) to protect your belongings

Luggage

Please bring two bags; a small rucksack to use as a day bag and a larger bag (35L min) to store the rest of your belongings in.
Your day bag should be comfortable to walk with and big enough to carry your lunch, water, swim stuff, spare layers and any personal belongings/medications. We ask that your larger bag is a flexible rucksack or holdall bag rather than a hard cased suitcase for easy transportation. Please note that it is possible to do laundry in the middle of your trip.

Medicine

Our guides are all certified First Aiders and will carry a First Aid Kit in case of emergencies. We recommend that you bring a small personal first aid kit containing any medication you may need such as inhalers, plasters, antiseptic and painkillers.

Passport

Most travellers require a passport which is valid for at least two months beyond the proposed duration of their stay. It is your responsibility to confirm your specific passport requirements and please be aware that proof of onwards travel may be required.

Visa

Most travellers need a tourist visa known as a Tourist Card and proof of onwards travel may be necessary. The tourist card enables travellers to stay in Cuba for up to 30 days; it can be obtained from your Cuban Consulate in person or by post (£39). It is your responsibility to confirm your specific visa requirements.

Mandatory vaccines

No mandatory vaccinations are required. Recommended vaccines include Tetanus, Diphtheria, Poliomyelitis, Polio, Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. A consultation with your doctor is a prerequisite for any trip.

Health information & recommendations

Please take the usual precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitos. The risk of Malaria is very low but other mosquito‐borne and spread viral disease are present - follow your doctors advice. Tap water is not drinkable in Cuba. Please take extra care to observe basic hygiene measures effectively such washing your hands frequently and before each meal and take care to properly disinfect any skin wounds.

Weather

The subtropical climate of Cuba is influenced by the mild trade winds of the northeast. Temperatures vary very little throughout the year and only two seasons are clearly identifiable:
- The wet summer which lasts from May to October.
- The drier winter is from November to April. Average temperatures range from 22°C (71°F) in February to 30°C (86°F) in July and August
The east of the island is slightly warmer than the west. September and October hold rain records and correspond with the peak of the hurricane season.

Electricity

Most electrical outlets are flat 110V two pin plugs as in the USA. Some places are also equipped with 220V round two prong plugs as in Europe. Always check before plugging anything in and use appropriate adapters.

Local time

Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)/ Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) - 5 hours. Daylight Saving Time (DST) is observed.

Sustainable tourism

Altaï always aims to have as little impact on the environment as possible. As adventure and wilderness travel experts who run trips to some of the most remote parts of the world, we take responsible tourism very seriously.

Since the beginning, we have advocated for responsible tourism and the importance of equitable and sustainable principles. Harmonising these fundamentals ensures a fair distribution of economic benefits, improved working conditions for local teams and an increased awareness of the importance and practice of environmental protection.

We kindly request that you adopt the following simple actions when travelling with Altaï Cuba in order to support our ethical, sustainable and responsable tourism policies:
  • Avoid dropping litter - use bins or carry your rubbish with you.
  • Use drinking water sparingly - avoid wasting water, take showers not baths, report leaks, etc..
  • Support the preservation of cultural sites - resist the temptation to touch statues, moves stones etc..
  • Exchanges are prefarable to donations - generations gifts can destabalize the local economic balance.
  • When walking, be aware of fragile ecosystems, observe wildlife from a distance, stick to trails, limit trampling and do not steal from the nature - resist the temptation to pick flowers, collect fossils or stones...
  • Some hotels have air conditioning - to avoid excessive energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, please use sparingly and remember to cut the aircon when you are not in the room.
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Ivan

My local agent
Ivan

  • Native to Havana
  • A guide for over 20 years
  • Director of Altaï Cuba
  • Languages: Spanish, English and French
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Region
Centre East La Havana West
Activity
100% Cuba
Duration
11 days
Code
CUORNITFIT
Price
From €1,390
Level
3/5
Comfort
3/5

Strengths

  • A different way to discover Cuba
  • Bird watching everyday!
  • 2 full days in the Zapata region, a real paradise for birds
  • A full day birdwatching on the paradise island of Cayo Coco

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