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BirdNote in Cuba, April 18-29, 2017

It was a great trip! This special trip, arranged exclusively for supporters and listeners of BirdNote, offered a unique opportunity to experience the culture, birds, and nature of Cuba, through a collaboration between Victor Emanuel Nature Tours and International Expeditions and its People-to-People program. A portion of the trip fee supports BirdNote programming.


Casting a pot in Camagüey

Participants will explore the countryside and the historic sections of the cities of Camagüey, Trinidad, and Havana. We’ll travel to different geographic regions to explore swamps, scrubby vegetation, dry forest, the coast, and wetlands. We’ll visit some of the island’s most beautiful natural areas, from the lush Viñales Valley to the Zapata Peninsula and the legendary Bay of Pigs. Our itinerary offers a breadth of immersive experiences in cultural exchange, education, and nature. It is the aim of the program to strike a balance of activities that provide a complete travel experience. In engaging with the Cuban people — their history, their culture, and their natural history heritage — we learn about the transformative power that real face-to-face contact can have on us all.

BirdNote hosts for this trip will be Dr. J. Drew Lanham, board member, and Sallie Bodie, managing director of BirdNote. David Ascanio, a master birder and naturalist, will be our guide.


Day 1: Meet in Miami

Meet your guide and BirdNote hosts and enjoy a welcome reception.

On the street in Camagüey

Day 2: Charter flight Miami to Camagüey

This 500-year-old city was one of the first seven villages founded by the Spaniards.

Day 3: Birding in La Belén or city tour of Camagüey

While some of us search for the Cuban Crow, others will enjoy an architecture and historical tour of Camagüey. Then, we’ll head across the 17-mile-long causeway to the beautiful beaches of Jardines del Rey on Cayo Coco, on the Atlantic Coast.

Day 4: Cayo Coco and neighboring keys

Visit the Jardines del Rey park, then relax on the beach or go in search of American Flamingoes.

Bell tower in Trinidad

Day 5: Travel to the Caribbean Coast

We’ll drive across large tracts of sugar plantations and farmland en route to the Caribbean side. There, we’ll visit the unique Valle de los Ingenios, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, before arriving at the picturesque town of Trinidad. A walk through the colonial heart of that city will give us time to visit with shop owners and sample local fare as we go.

Day 6: Head toward the Bay of Pigs

On the way, we'll visit Ciénaga de Zapata National Park, where we'll observe the world’s smallest bird, the Bee Hummingbird. Enjoy time on the beach at Playa Giron or in the pool before dinner.

Blue-headed Quail-Dove

Day 7: The Bay of Pigs and Zapata Peninsula

Visit la Ciénaga de Zapata Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO site and Cuba’s most important wetland area

Day 8: On to Soroa

We’ll pass through Soplillar, in search of the Cuban Pygmy-Owl. Then on the eastern edge of Havana, in San Francisco de Paula, we’ll pay homage to Ernest Hemingway at his former home, Finca Vigía. After lunch in Havana, we'll continue our drive west, to the hilly country of Soroa.

Hand-rolling a cigar

Day 9: Soroa & Viñales

Viñales is another UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most frequently visited locations in Cuba. It’s also where the finest tobacco in the country is grown! We hope to visit a farm and see the cigar-making process.

Day 10: Soroa Orchid Garden, Las Terrazas, and on to Havana

At Sierra Del Rosario Biosphere Reserve, in the planned eco- community of Las Terrazas, we’ll learn about life there from local residents and taste a superb Cuban coffee. That night in Havana, we’ll head off on a “Hemingway Walk” to visit some of Papa's favorite haunts.

Day 11: Havana

For an entire day, we’ll enjoy the people, architecture, old vehicles, and local artists of the famed Cuban capital. We’ll end the day with a wonderful meal and a Buena Vista Social Club musical review.

Day 12, April 29: Depart for home on a charter flight for Miami

View the entire itinerary and sign up here!


Cuban Trogon - Jerry Oldenettel CC

Viñales Valley - mtcl, Flickr Creative Commons
Cuban Tody - Rodrigo Medel, Flickr Creative Commons
Trinidad at dusk - Rogerio Tomaz, Jr. , Flickr Creative Commons

In the Soroa Orchid Garden - Barry Cornelius, Flickr Creative Commons
Trinidad pottery - Dani Figueirdo, Flickr Creative Commons
Casting a pot in Camagüey - Craig James, Flickr Creative Commons
On the street in Camagüey - Craig James, Flickr Creative Commons
Bell tower in Trinidad - Glenn Forbes, Flickr Creative Commons
Blue-headed Quail-Dove - Ross Tsai, Flickr Creative Commons

Hand-rolling a cigar - Abraham Wallin, Flickr Creative Commons