NEW! Trinidad, Tobago and St Lucia
Wonderful birding on THREE very different Caribbean islands!
Heatherlea Guide: Mike Coleman, plus experienced local guides on all three islands.
Max group size 12 clients.
Departures from London Gatwick.
Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge are FREE.
2014 DATES FULLY BOOKED - NOW BOOKING FOR 2015
Join Heatherlea on a Caribbean holiday with a real difference! We combine Trinidad and Tobago, the traditional holiday for birding this part of the world, with St Lucia, where five endemics and around a dozen other Antillean specialities make a great experience. Our carefully designed and well-planned itinerary offers a great way to enjoy the birdlife of these islands. Not too much exertion, yet rewarding and exciting as we seek a big list of neotropical species. This new, unique itinerary offers an ideal way to bird the southern Caribbean!
Heatherlea on St Lucia
As your transatlantic flight approaches the island, it is the enormous 'Pitons' which catch the eye. Two huge, heavily-forested mountains, these dominate the western side of St Lucia, and form an exotic backdrop to the first part of our holiday. We spend three nights here, based at a comfortable hotel a short transfer away from the airport. We could find nearly half of our targets within walking distance of our hotel. We spend our days birding for the five island endemics and a range of Antillean specialities and near-endemics. Birdlife here is notably different from Trinidad and Tobago.
Heatherlea on Trinidad at the world-famous Asa Wright Centre
Each day here begins with birding from the famous balcony, and many days we will be blissfully happy with ‘lifers’ before breakfast! Birding in the immediate vicinity of Asa Wright is superb, and some days we will birdwatch in the forest close to the Centre, with some free time to explore the trails in safety under your own steam. Optional early morning walking can be rewarding, and with dawn just after 6am, and nightfall at 6pm, expect to establish a rhythm around these times. We usually depart on excursions around 8.30 — 9.00 am. In this relaxing environment we can take it easy, with comfortable open-air wildlife viewing, early morning coffee, evening rum punch (not too strong!) and a good choice of appetising food at breakfast and dinner. We have visited this exceptional place many times, and our good relationship with the Centre and their highly experienced guides makes for great fun as well as highly rewarding birding.
Heatherlea on Tobago
Three nights on Tobago, in a comfortable beach-side hotel, gives us plenty of time to collect some superb new birds, and to take a boat trip to visit the bird colony on nearby Little Tobago.
This is not an exhaustive tour of the islands, rather a relaxed holiday throughout, featuring classic Caribbean birdwatching!
DAY 1: Monday 27 April
We take the scheduled morning flight with Virgin from Gatwick to St Lucia, and transfer to our comfortable hotel around 30 minutes from the airport. Our local guide will join us here, though we will almost certainly be adding new birds from the minute we arrive!
DAYS 2 - 4: Tuesday 28 April - Thursday 30 April
We travel to key places such as Millet Bird Sanctuary, Quilesse Forest Reserve, and the View Fort wetlands, searching for the five island endemics. The most famous of these is St Lucia Parrot, but the Oriole, Black Finch, Warbler, and Antillean Pewee all carry the island's name too. Other Antillean specialities/near endemics include St. Lucia Nightjar, Antillean Bullfinch, Purple-throated Carib, Green-throated Carib, Antillean Crested Hummingbird, White-breasted Thrasher, Scaly-breasted Thrasher, Pearly-eyed Thrasher, Gray Trembler, Antillean Euphonia, Lesser Antillean Flycatcher and Lesser Antillean Saltator. None of these birds is found on Trinidad or Tobago, so St Lucia is a valuable birding destination even if you have already been to the other two islands.
DAYS 4 - 9: Thursday 30 April - Tuesday 5 May
Enjoy some final birding on St Lucia, then we connect with international BA flights to make the short hop across to Piarco International Airport in Trinidad, and transfer to the fabulous Asa Wright Nature Centre high in the rain forest. The Centre is in a typical valley of Trinidad’s Northern Range, where coffee, cocoa and squash plantations are still maintained, and where natural secondary growth has festooned the abandoned plantation areas with vines and a host of epiphytes. The resultant effect is of being deep in a tropical rainforest, with the comforts of our well-appointed lodge around us – a great feeling. Above all you will experience the overwhelming presence of the tropical rain forest; a kaleidoscope of bird life, butterflies and wild flowers, all set against the impenetrable tangle of the forest.
We awake each day to the raucous noise of Crested Oropendola and a host of other exotic sounds. One of the world’s most enjoyable birding experiences awaits each morning on the verandah, and on the first morning here you may see 20 -30 new species before breakfast. We will soon be used to Bananaquit, White-necked Jacobin, Great Kiskadee, Tufted Coquette, Barred Antshrike and Green Honeycreeper, to name just a few. Hummingbirds are inches away on the feeders, tanagers and bellbirds, toucans, manakins and trogons are seen most days. The sheer delight of so many stunning new birds, and the riot of noise and colour is truly unforgettable – one of the world’s most impressive birding spectacles.
Because we are here for five nights, our first full day will be gentle, as we explore some of the trails which criss-cross this wildlife sanctuary in the company of our very capable local guide. We might see Violaceous Trogon, Channel-billed Toucan, Chestnut Woodpecker, White-bearded Manakin darting and displaying, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Bay Tanager, Golden-headed Manakin, Bearded Bellbird and many more. We visit the famous Oilbird colony in Dunstan Cave, using torches to see these fascinating nocturnal birds roosting. This strange bird lives and breeds in dark caves during the day, coming out at night to feed on fruit, which it plucks from trees while in flight. We spend time locally looking for the rarest of the island’s impressive birdlife including skulking and secretive Scaled Antpitta and Little Tinamou, and the enigmatic and highly elusive Trinidad Piping-Guan - the only endemic bird on the island.
For the rest of our stay we make trips away from the centre, for a stunning programme of exceptional birding. Crossing the Northern range to the seaside village of Blanchisseuse we look for Turquoise, Swallow and Speckled Tanagers, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, White-tailed Trogon, Ornate Hawk-eagle, Black, Grey and White Hawks and Bat Falcon, and at the coast we may see our first Magnificent Frigatebird, Brown Pelican, Osprey and Green Kingfisher as we enjoy lunch on a palm-shaded Caribbean shore.
Another highlight is our visit to Caroni Swamp, an extensive mangrove holding rare wildlife in its interior. Here our day ends with the spectacular flight of flocks of bright red Scarlet Ibis coming to roost, surely one of the natural world’s most dramatic moments. Birds may also include Anhinga, Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns, Striated and Tricolored Herons, Bicoloured Conebill, Red-capped Cardinal, Black-necked Stilts, Greater Flamingo, Laughing Gull, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Clapper Rail, American Pygmy and Ringed Kingfishers and Common Potoo, but there’s more: Spectacled Cayman, Cook’s Tree Boa, Silky Anteater, this is an exceptional experience! We also visit the Waterloo mudflats, where our lists may be boosted by a range of waterbirds.
Our day at Nariva Swamp on the east coast is very different. On the way we might see Savannah Hawk, Red-breasted and Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Southern Lapwing, White-headed Marsh Tyrant and Green-rumped Parrotlet. This is the largest area of freshwater herbaceous swamp in Trinidad, where mangrove trees grow to over 80 feet, and holds Pearl Kite, Silvered Antbird, American Purple Gallinule, Wattled Jacana and we might see Red Howler Monkey and Tree Iguana. We stay until dusk, waiting for flocks of Red-bellied Macaw returning to roost as we sip rum punch alfresco.
The journey to lowland Aripo Savannah and Arena Forest will provide yet more birds. In the savannah, Shiny and Giant Cowbird, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Yellow-headed Caracara, various spinetails and cuckoos, Blue-black Grassquit and Pied Water Tyrant are likely. In the Arena Forest, we could see cuckoos, trogons, woodpeckers and parrots. We should have time as we travel to round-up anything we may have missed, and might find Sulphury Flycatcher, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, and rare Moriche Oriole as we enjoy good birding in a number of locations.
DAYS 9 - 12: Tuesday 4 May - Friday 8 May
Our final island destination is Tobago, where we enjoy two full days birding. One day will be spent with one of the excellent local naturalist guides, and our targets will include Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Blue-backed Manakin, White-tailed Sabrewing, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Rufous-vented Chachalaca (the national bird), and many more. Our second day features a trip to the nearby jewel of Little Tobago, aboard a glass-bottomed boat. As we approach the island, we will begin to see circling seabirds including such exotic species as White-tailed Tropicbird, Magnificent Frigatebird, Red-footed Booby and Brown Booby. Our hotel is on the beach, where waders might include Solitary and Least Sandpiper, together with a variety of seabirds perhaps including Royal Tern and Brown Noddy. After a last relaxing morning around the grounds of the hotel, we take an early-evening flight from Port of Spain back to Gatwick, arriving early on Saturday 9 May.
Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).
More Holiday Information:
Accommodation is in comfortable hotels in St Lucia and Tobago with all rooms en suite. The world famous Asa Wright Centre, Trinidad, is a large establishment with accommodation in chalets separate from the main administration building. The main building contains reception, a small shop, a comfortable dining area and the wonderful verandah which overlooks the treetops. You will enjoy many hours birding from here! It often also contains lizards and Palm Tanagers which sometimes roost inside the building. Accommodation is spacious, with en-suite showers. Everything at Asa Wright is on a single floor, though some accommodation requires walking up a steep slope.
Food You can expect fresh local produce including meat, poultry and fish. Fresh local fruit and vegetables are usually available and very tasty. Picnic lunches will be provided, and include a variety of local produce plus soft drinks. Water is included with your evening meal. Vegetarian and other diets are welcome.
Walking The holiday is not strenuous, but the atmosphere is often very humid and it will be hot! Leisurely walking, sometimes up slopes which can be steep, is the only physical requirement. Most of the time birding will be close to our transport, or within a short walk.
Weather On any given day during April , you can expect early morning temperatures to be around 80 degrees. Temperatures typically rise during the day, to an average of 85 degrees in the early afternoon. The temperature will decline by early evening, to approximately 72 degrees. Overall, temperatures during April average around 80 degrees. Sunshine should be plentiful, but wind, cloud and rain are possible.
Insects There are biting insects, insect repellent is recommended.
Group size is restricted to 12 clients maximum.
Flights are by scheduled airline, from London Gatwick. We may be able to offer flight arrangements from another airport and/or or quote without flights so you can make your own arrangements. If you wish to add an extension either before or after your holiday, please contact us and we will be happy to arrange this for you.
Mike Coleman is an experienced birder and a top guide with a very friendly manner - a Heatherlea favourite! Mike will be joined by local expert guides on each of the islands.
What's included in your holiday price:
* scheduled return flights from London Gatwick - St Lucia - Port of Spain, Trinidad - Tobago. Airport taxes and transfers.
* ground and boat transportation as outlined.
* eleven nights full-board accommodation, including breakfast, lunch and dinner.
* the services of your leaders.
* field trips as specified.
* The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included free of charge subject to terms and conditions. Read more....
What's not included in your holiday price:
* personal insurance, drinks and other personal expenses, visa costs where necessary, optional tips to local guides/other staff, and any other costs not specified as 'included'.
WHY CHOOSE HEATHERLEA?
Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.
Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.
The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;
* We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 22 years, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
* Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
* Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
* All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
* Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
* Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).