DAY 1: Thursday 23 April
After relaxing in our airport lounge, we take the scheduled morning flight with British Airways 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: Friday 24 April - Sunday 26 April
We travel to key places such as Des Cartiers Trail, Quilesse Forest Reserve, and the Vieux Fort wetlands, searching for the six island endemics among other key species. Endemics are St Lucia Parrot, St Lucia Oriole, St Lucia Black Finch, St Lucia Warbler, and St Lucia Pewee. 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 an exciting birding destination on this outstanding itinerary. Our itinerary is full of birds, though we find time to enjoy lunch at a local restaurant one day in the company of our St Lucian Guide.
DAYS 4 - 9: Sunday 26 April - Friday 1 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 area of Grande Riviere, where giant Leatherback Turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. The following day we enjoy local birding before an evening excursion in search of these wonderful animals, and we hope to see one egg-laying. The following day we journey to lowland Aripo Savannah and Arena Forest. 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 might find Sulphury Flycatcher, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, and rare Moriche Oriole as we enjoy good birding in a number of locations, before transferring to the fabulous Asa Wright Nature Centre high in the rainforest.
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 rainforest; 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.
At the centre 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 also look 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. We enjoy a full day birding across 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.
On our final morning at Asa Wright we relax with local birding before transferring to Tobago.
DAYS 9 - 12: Friday 1 May - Monday 4 May
Our final island destination is Tobago, where we enjoy two full days birding. One day will be spent with an excellent local naturalist guide, 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. We will take lunch in the field at a favoured local restaurant on this day. 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 Tuesday 5 May.
Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).