December 2017 Cuba Bird Survey with David Sibley

An exclusive U.S.-led, U.S.-managed birding program in Cuba’s Western Mountains, Zapata Peninsula, Northern Archipelago, Escambray Valley, and Havana presented by BirdWatching magazine in partnership with the Caribbean Conservation Trust, with special guest host David Sibley, on December 7-16, 2017.

December 7-16, 2017

Cuba’s Wild Western Peninsula, Western Mountains, Zapata Peninsula, Northern Archipelago, and Havana Cuba Bird Survey

December 16-17, 2017

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.

For the third time, BirdWatching magazine, in collaboration with the Caribbean Conservation Trust (CCT), is promoting an exclusive, U.S.-led and U.S.-managed birding program to Cuba, the Caribbean’s largest and most ecologically diverse island nation. (Our two previous trips were huge successes. Here are summaries and trip lists of our February 2016 and December 2016 bird surveys.)

Where We Travel

Our Cuba Bird Survey begins and ends in Havana, with an evening in a comfortable hotel in a quiet residential part of the city. We return to Havana at the end of the birding program, spending an afternoon and evening as described below.

Las Terrazas Community

Las Terrazas Community

Our Cuba Bird Survey begins in the forests surrounding Las Terrazas Community, established in 1968 as a reforestation
and community integrated development project. In Cuba’s post-revolutionary history, the community
has blossomed as a model of sustainability, and is currently a prime destination for ecologically based tourism.

Cuba’s Western Mountains
Cuba’s western mountains include two of the country’s most diverse and dramatic ranges: the Sierra del Rosario and Sierra de los Organos. We will explore an area common to both ranges in search of western-range endemic species such as Cuban Solitaire.

A highlight of the trip will be a visit to 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 Cuban Solitaire, Cuban Grassquit, Giant Kingbird, and Olive-capped Warbler. Other potential endemic species for western Cuba include Cuban Oriole, Cuban Green Woodpecker, Cuban Pewee, Cuban Pygmy-Owl, Cuban Tody, Cuban Trogon, Cuban Vireo, and Yellow–headed Warbler.

Zapata Peninsula - Bay of Pigs
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. The peninsula is a Ramsar Convention-designated site (the Ramsar Convention is an international conservation treaty) and 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 2,800 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 swampland, 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, Blue-headed and Grey-fronted Quail-Doves, and Tawny-shouldered and Red-shouldered Blackbirds are among the many birds we will hope to find (three nights).

Cayo Coco and Cuba’s Atlantic Archipelago
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-long causeway in 1989. Cuba’s academy of sciences maintains a research facility here. The barrier islands and keys offer opportunities for Cuban Gnatcatcher, Oriente Warbler, Thick-billed Vireo, Bahama Mockingbird, and West Indian Whistling-Duck, as well as numerous shorebirds and aquatic birds. We may also see rare endemics such as Zapata Sparrow and Gundlach’s Hawk. Accommodations are in a modern beachfront resort (two nights).
Our program concludes in Havana, one of Latin America’s best preserved and most compelling colonial cities. You will have an opportunity to enjoy two evenings in Havana. A full-day extension option will include all meals and a guided city tour, including a walking tour of Habana Vieja (Old Havana) and the four 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 Field Guide to the Birds of Cuba (Comstock Books).

Registration, Trip Costs, Terms, and Conditions

Land costs for the ten-day program are $ 4,675.00 per person for shared accommodations. (Add $ 575.00 for a single room.) The popular one-day/night Havana extension is $ 345.00 per person sharing (add $ 85.00 for a single room) and includes all meals, guide services, ground transportation, and a guided exploration of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most unique destinations in the Caribbean. Trip costs are based on 14 fully paying participants. A lower number of participants may result in a modest small group supplement.


What is included:

CCT programs include: 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, national park fees, 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 fulltime driver. Program fees help support Caribbean Conservation Trust’s bird conservation efforts in Cuba.

Not Included:

Travel to Havana, Cuba; airport departure taxes ($ 30 departing Cuba),  and Cuban health insurance (required by law and approximately $3 per day). These costs are priced into all airline tickets between the U.S. and Cuba; however.  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 of Cuba, other fees not listed in the program. Cost estimates are as of late 2017 and are subject to change.


No flights are included unless specified as such in the program description for your trip. All flights between the U.S. and Cuba are with U.S. based commercial airlines. We prefer to arrive in Cuba on a direct flight from South Florida, unless otherwise specified. Private groups often use other departure points in the U.S. with direct flights to Cuba, including New York, Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Los Angeles. The best arrangements we have experienced are on Southwest Airlines from Fort Lauderdale.  We prefer that everyone arrive on the same flight to Cuba (or at the same time if a different flight is required), which tends to make arrival easier for everyone.  CCT staff will help arrange ticketing and visas acquisition for all travelers. Our U.S. leader will meet travelers at the American departure airport and arrive with the group in Cuba.  Our driver and guide will meet the group at the airport in Cuba upon arrival.


Regarding payment for the land portion of the tour, a $ 700.00 deposit is due as soon as possible to reserve space on these programs. This can be paid by wire transfer, check or money order payable to:

Caribbean Conservation Trust
353 West Todd Street
Hamden, CT 06518

(Please do not write CUBA on check)

Balance Payment and cancellation and refund policy *

Full payment is due 90 days prior to departure. You will receive a detailed receipt/invoice following receipt of your deposit and reservation form. All cancellations must be done in writing and are effective upon receipt in the CCT office. Should it become necessary for you to cancel, all payments will be refunded after a deduction of our cancellation fee outlined below:

  • More than 90 days prior to the tour……….. $ 350.00 per person (land only)
  • Fewer than 90 – 75 days prior to the tour.… FULL DEPOSIT
  • Fewer than 75 days prior to the tour………. NO REFUND (unless we can fill your place)

In the unlikely event that we must cancel the tour, a full refund less a $100.00 processing fee for your license application will be forwarded to you, should cancellation occur after your license has been processed.

* Please be aware that the refund policies apply only to the land portion of the trip, and that airlines may have different policies that exist beyond our ability to control. Additional registration fees may apply. As with all international travel programs, we highly encourage trip cancellation and travel insurance policies.

Caribbean Conservation Trust and its agents and constituents reserve the right to make changes to the itineraries.

Land and air arrangements may be subject to price increases beyond our control.