Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office! Read more about our Pre-flight Service here!
Day 1: Sun 21 April 2024
After relaxing in our VIP Airport Lounge, we take the scheduled morning flight with British Airways from Gatwick to Saint Lucia, and transfer to our comfortable hotel on a historic 60-acre former sugar plantation, boasting elegantly decorated cottages and villas nestled on a secluded natural history site. Our local guide will lead a guided stroll of this remarkably preserved 18th Century plantation house and expansive grounds - steeped in history and with many features and machinery of the 1700s working plantation still in-situ, or take a stroll down to the private beach and slip into the placid waters of the Caribbean Sea before our welcome dinner. We will almost certainly be adding new birds from the minute we arrive! We spend the next three nights at the Balenbouche Estate.
Days 2 - 4: Mon 22 April– Wed 24 April
We travel to key places such as the primary forest towering trees, tree ferns, bromeliads and orchids of the Des Cartiers Trail, and the dry, broad-leaved Atlantic forests of the island’s north. We may also visit the Vieux Fort wetlands, as well as relaxing in the lush, tropical surroundings enjoying the views of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Soufriere and Les Pitons. We will be searching for the six island endemics among other key species - 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, Lesser Antillean Bullfinch, Purple-throated Carib, Green-throated Carib, Antillean Crested Hummingbird, White-breasted Thrasher, Scaly-breasted Thrasher, Pearly-eyed Thrasher, Gray Trembler, Caribbean Elaenia, Black-whiskered Vireo, Lesser Antillean Swift, Antillean Euphonia, Lesser Antillean Flycatcher and Lesser Antillean Saltator. None of these birds is found on Trinidad or Tobago, so Saint Lucia is an exciting birding destination on this outstanding itinerary. Our itinerary is full of birds, though we find time to relax over a candlelit dinner on the veranda of the hotel, accompanied by the soothing sounds of Lesser Antillean Whistling Frogs.
Days 4 - 10: Wed 24 April – Tues 30 April
Enjoy some final birding on Saint Lucia then take the short flight to Trinidad, and transfer to the area of Grande Riviere, staying at Mount Plaisir, for two nights, where giant Leatherback Turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. We enjoy local birding for the first look of the elusive, enigmatic, and endemic Trinidad Piping Guan (or Pawi), with other birding highlights including Grey-headed, Plumbeous and Swallow-tailed Kites, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Channel-billed Toucan, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Silvered and White-bellied Antbirds and Black-tailed Tityra. We then journey to the warm, lowland Aripo Savannah and Arena Forest before transferring to the Asa Wright Nature Centre, high in the rainforest where we spend the next three nights.
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.
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 day sees us visit the Aripo savannah - a protected area of vegetated wetlands holding large stands of Moriche Palms surrounded by rolling hills and framed by the Northern Range mountains. We seek key species like Red-bellied Macaw, Epauletted Oriole, Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Red-breasted Meadowlark, Yellow-chinned Spinetail along with grassquits, seedeaters, doves and waders before heading east to Nariva Swamp. This is a vast and scrawling wetland complex that encompasses both fresh water and brackish water habitat, boarded by dense forest mangrove, marshes and lagoons. The landscape is characterised by a network of winding waterways, channels and open water expanses all of which provide a variety of niches but different species to thrive. We look for waders, Pinnated Bittern, caracaras, antbirds, kingfishers, and more macaws before having dinner in the field and seeking owls and nightjars en route back to base.
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 Long-winged Harrier, 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, Ruschenberger’s Tree Boa and Silky Anteaters, 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 10 - 14: Tues 30 April - Sat 4 May
Our final island destination is Tobago, where we enjoy three full days birding, staying at the Blue Waters Inn. Upon arrival, we will visit some major wetland sites (where Heatherlea found Tobago’s first-ever Azure Gallinule on a previous trip) on the way to our beach-side hotel. Targets during our stay will include Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Blue-backed Manakin, White-tailed Sabrewing, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Rufous-vented Chachalaca (the ‘national’ bird of Tobago), Trinidad Motmot, Collared Trogon, Great Black Hawk, Yellow-legged Thrush, White-fringed Antwren, Plain Antvireo, White-throated Spadebill, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Red-rumped and Golden-olive Woodpeckers, White-necked Thursh and Gray-throated Leaftosser, many of which are to be found in dark, damp trails of the Main Ridge Forest Reserve - an area we hope to visit at least once during our stay on this lush, tropical island. 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 Turnstone will be feeding beneath our dinner tables, and other 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 transfer back to the airport where we fly back to Gatwick via St.Lucia, arriving early on Sat 4 May.
Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).