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  • A great month for gardens, celebrations, and all of our tours

November 2013

  • Bi-annual International Choral Festival. Calling all choristers and music lovers – international choirs invited. Non-competitive festival.

Birding in Eastern Cuba

Arrival Day – Santiago de Cuba

Depending on when you arrive in Santiago we include a visit to a fern and orchid garden which is full of birds all day. It is a sheer delight and a great antidote to travel.

Includes Eco-Tour 2 – Fern and Orchid Garden

Visit to an internationally acclaimed fern and orchid garden with the most complete collection of tropical ferns in the Americas.  The collection numbers some 3000 ferns and over 300 exotic and indigenous orchids.  This is the life work of the Director of the Institute which he has created over the passed 30 years. Lunch in the garden

Day 2 – Santiago

This is a really early start – packed breakfast and a snack. Later lunch. There is time for a swim at the beach or a walk along the beach and cliffs, or time to sit and doze on a splendid veranda. The garden you visit and the surrounding area are a favourite haunt of humming birds.

Includes Eco-Tour 5 – Birds, Butterflies and Bats

Early morning start to see the owls coming home, as the dawn washes over the heavily forested slopes of the mountain side you greet dawn on the top of the mountain, the best time to see both endemic and visiting birds is during the very early morning feeding. Butterflies are late risers so you have time to explore their habitat along with that of the amazingly colourful forest birds.  You end the day near the coast,  where thousands of bats make their perfectly timed exodus from their coast cave to the mountain side for fruit, nectar and pollen.   Lunch at the beach.

Day 3 – Santiago

Packed breakfast and a snack so that you can greet the dawn and watch the birds feeding.

Includes Eco Tour 4 – Wetland Birding

This fresh water lake and its tidal channels are a haven for endemic and visiting water birds.  A morning along the channels and cannel will net avid birders lots of species for their checklist.  For those who just enjoy a wonderful journey there are fresh water dolphins, rare crocodiles, and neon-brilliant crabs.  Early morning birding through the coast.  Late morning visit to a garden.  Late afternoon birding along the coastal strip completes the day.  Lunch in an Artisan Village.

Day 4 – Santiago to Baracoa

Depart Santiago for Baracoa – this is a spectacular drive with lots of stops along the way for water and other birds – and just to enjoy the splendid vistas.

An early departure takes you through the surrounding mountains, into the small villages and farms of Secunda Frente. Golden mists drift above the plume waving sugar cane, and royal palms sail on a sea of clouds. A magical moment of every fresh day. The road winds along the coast, passing through Cuba’s desert, and through the small towns surrounded by farms benefiting from the new water sources and irrigation.

The town of Baracoa was isolated from the rest of Cuba, except by sea, until the engineering feat of the Farola highway; winding its way over precipitous slopes and vertiginous cliffs – the images of mountain upon mountain, and verdant valleys are a photographer’s delight.

The highest point of the Farola crosses from the watershed of the Caribbean.

Day 5 – Baracoa

Includes Eco Tour 1 – Birding on the slopes of El Yunque

This massive mesa, first recorded by Columbus, and still not totally explored, dominates the views of the town.  Its almost vertical sides are clothed in tall trees, and dense tropical growth.  Crystal clear waters  tumble in waterfalls and rivers rush down to the sea.  The unique structure of the mountain ranges on the north coast of this part of the island, and its physical isolation have provided unique eco-niches for flora and fauna alike. Receiving over 400 cms of rain a year makes this truly a paradise for all things living. This tour takes you around the lower slopes of El Yunque and into a nearby eco-reserve.  Lunch is a barbeque on the banks of the river (bring your swimsuit), followed by afternoon birding near a black coral beach

This tour does not include climbing El Yunque. If you wish to do so, please let us know in advance and we will arrange for local guides.

Day 6 – Baracoa

Includes Eco Tour 2 – Birding Humbolt Park

Created as a World Heritage park, this is the last known home of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.  The park has many different eco-zones; scrub land, forested head waters, and dense mangrove coastal fringes, making it the perfect environment for birders and naturalists.  Ornithologist led walks and a boat ride make for a full experience.  This tour starts very early.  Breakfast en route, snack, and Lunch during the day.

Day 7 – Baracoa to Santiago

Departure to Santiago – for small groups we recommend returning by bus – the only highway is the one to Santiago – and the bus will give you a different view and perspective.

Day 8 – Additional Day in Baracoa

Includes Eco Tour 3 – River Toa

The river Toa has the largest volume of water of all the rivers of Cuba.  Rising in the Crystals, it makes its way to the coast just outside Baracoa.  Naturalist led tour of this unique environment, with possible overnight stay.  Breakfast en route, snack and lunch during the day.  Overnight includes traditional dinner.

The tour price includes:

  1. Pick up and drop for arrival and departure in Santiago (we are happy to arrange other transfers and pickups – Please note that Holguin is in Eastern Cuba and has both charter and scheduled flights from Canada and elsewhere)
  2. 7 nights accommodation – double occupancy – in homestay accommodations in Santiago and Baracoa
  3. Meals in homestays – breakfasts and dinners – except for early start days when a breakfast and snack are supplied. All days
  4. Lunches are included with all full tour days, and for the travelling days.
  5. Tours are all led by one of Cuba’s outstanding ornithologists. He has worked in the area for 30 years and is sought out by academics and international birders, and for environmental impact studies.
  6. Bilingual tour co-ordinator
  7. We provide checklists and the loan of a birding book on Cuba. We do not provide binoculars, cameras, or other technical equipment. Please note that chargers are not available in most of Cuba – make sure that you have your charger with you. Memory cards may be available – but the supply is not guaranteed. Laptops may be brought into Cuba with periphery equipment.

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