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THE LESSER ANTILLES

with Trinidad extension

Lesser Antilles Birding Tours: our Lesser Antilles bird watching holiday, which includes an extension to Trinidad, combines a series of endemic-rich, but little-visited Caribbean islands with one of its most popular bird watching venues. Our Lesser Antilles birding tour regularly records all of the endemic birds while we explore a whole chain of beautiful island-nations.

Sunday 26th May — Monday 10th June 2019
(16 days)


Trinidad Extension: Monday 10th June — Saturday 15th June (6 days)

Leader: Mark Van Beirs

Group Size Limit: 9

Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and comfortable accommodations

The three species of trembler (depicted here is Grey Trembler) are endemic to the Lesser Antilles and get their name from their almost constant wing-quivering  (Mark Beaman)

The three species of trembler (depicted here is Grey Trembler) are endemic to the Lesser Antilles and get their name from their almost constant wing-quivering (Mark Beaman)

Of all the bird-rich regions of the Americas, the Caribbean stands out as amongst the most endemic-rich in the entire Neotropical faunal region. Although the largest islands tend to be the best known amongst birders, collectively the many small islands that make up the remainder of the Caribbean hold a treasure trove of avian riches.

One area stands far above the others in this regards, the Lesser Antilles, which between them hold around 30 surviving endemic species (depending on the taxonomy followed) as well as plenty of the more widespread Caribbean specialities. The Lesser Antilles are a long arc of islands connecting Puerto Rico and the rest of the Greater Antilles to Trinidad and the South American mainland.

Settled by the Caribs (an Amerindian people originally from South America) at the time European explorers and invaders reached the islands, little remains of their influence and nowadays the Lesser Antilles are an eclectic mixture of English, French, Dutch and West African influences, both as regards the ethnic origins of the people and culture, and as regards the local political dispensation, for here are independent nations, British crown colonies, départements of France and even an affiliated state of the Netherlands! One island may have croissants and baguettes, the next English meat pies and reggae, contrasts which hugely add to the fascination of travelling through the isles. Many of the islands changed hands during the turbulent history of the Caribbean, where every European war had its distant echo, or became pirate bases for a time. Slaves were shipped from Africa to work the plantations of sugar and tobacco, owned by Europeans who lived in style in imposing plantation houses, and even now, approaching two centuries after emancipation, most Afro-Caribbeans are still waiting for economic opportunity to come their way.

With one of the richest concentrations of endemic bird species in the Caribbean, the Lesser Antilles are a very attractive venue for anyone with an interest in the avifauna of this beautiful part of the world. Good standards of accommodation and food, and mostly easy travelling and birding conditions, make for a highly rewarding journey.

We will commence our Lesser Antillean explorations in Antigua and work our way south, visiting ten of the islands in total. This beautiful, verdant and mountainous chain of islands has long attracted people who wanted ‘to get away from it all’ and it nowadays has a well-developed tourism infrastructure.

We start our travels in Antigua, which has no single-island endemics of its own but which does hold West Indian Whistling Duck. A day trip to the nearby island of Barbuda will turn up the endemic Barbuda Warbler, as well as our first Green Caribs and Lesser Antillean Bullfinches.

The volcanic island of Montserrat was half-destroyed by a huge eruption, but the endemic Montserrat Oriole still survives in good numbers and here we will have our first chance for such Lesser Antillean endemics and near-endemics as Bridled Quail-Dove, Purple-throated Carib, Antillean Crested Hummingbird, Forest Thrush and Brown Trembler.

The beautiful island of Dominica has no fewer than two endemic Amazona parrots, Red-necked Amazon and the much less common Imperial Amazon. Other specialities found amongst its splendid mountains and forests filled with tree-ferns include Lesser Antillean Swift, Blue-headed Hummingbird, Lesser Antillean Pewee, Lesser Antillean Flycatcher, Scaly-breasted Thrasher, Plumbeous Warbler and Lesser Antillean Euphonia. While staying on the island we will also make a trip offshore in search of Great Sperm Whales and seabirds.

Francophone Guadeloupe holds the endemic Guadeloupe Woodpecker and some very approachable Bridled Quail-Doves, while Martinique, another French territory, is home to the endemic Martinique Oriole as well as Grey Trembler, White-breasted Thrasher and Lesser Antillean Saltator.

Saint Lucia is justifiably famous for its amazing scenery, where the near-perfectly conical ‘pitons’, extinct volcanoes, rise abruptly from the western coast. Here we will seek out four more single-island endemics, St Lucia Amazon, St Lucia Warbler, St Lucia Black Finch and St Lucia Oriole, as well as the distinctive St Lucia form of the Lesser Antillean Pewee.

The island of Saint Vincent is home to the endemic St Vincent Amazon and the delightful Whistling Warbler, as well as Grenada Flycatcher and Lesser Antillean Tanager.

Our final ports of call with their single-island endemics will be Barbados, for Barbados Bullfinch (and the interesting local form of the Western Barn Owl), and Grenada, home to the endangered Grenada Dove.

After all these idyllic islands and so much sun and sea, never mind such relaxing and enjoyable birding, it is going to be hard to drag ourselves away!

During the optional extension we will explore the much larger island of Trinidad. Famous internationally for carnival, calypso and cricket, Trinidad’s mixed-race human population are a friendly, warm-hearted, fun-loving people who demonstrate one of the world’s most admirable examples of integration and racial harmony.

Situated at the far southeastern corner of the Caribbean Sea, the island lies on the continental shelf close to Venezuela; indeed, Trinidad’s northwestern peninsula extends to within 10 miles (16 kilometres) of the Venezuelan coast, and a few thousand years ago the island was joined to the mainland. The island’s Northern Range, which rises to almost 3300ft (1000m), in fact represents the farthest extremity of the Andes!

Accordingly, the islands’ avifauna is dominated by the continental, rather than the oceanic, elements of the region. Trinidad, about the size of an English county, has a bird list of over 400 species, comprising no fewer than 68 families, of which a remarkable 247 species breed on the island. This amazing diversity for such relatively small island reflects the luxuriant tropical conditions, with habitats ranging from montane and lowland rainforests, cultivated areas, savannas and scrub to freshwater and brackish swamps, marshes, sea coasts and offshore seabird islands.

Trinidad has long been considered to offer exciting Neotropical birding in a compact area and with very easy birding conditions. What with idyllic accommodation at Asa Wright), a relaxed atmosphere and great birding often starting right at the doorstep, what more could one want? The famous Asa Wright sanctuary is home to what must surely be one of the best bird feeding stations in the world and is a paradise for birders and photographers.

While based here we will also experience the strange, nocturnal, cave-dwelling Oilbirds that feed on fruit and navigate by echo-location, find the endemic Trinidad Motmot, hear the deafening call of the Bearded Bellbird, admire the incredible antics of two different species of manakins as they perform their amazing displays to an accompaniment of grunts, buzzes, snaps and wheezes, and enjoy the mind-blowing sight of hundreds of Scarlet Ibises speeding over the mangroves to their roost. And this is before even mentioning the parrots, trogons, jacamars, toucans, ant-thrushes and many other exciting birds!

Finally, in the far northeast of the island around Grand Riviere, we will search for the endangered endemic Trinidad Piping-Guan and encounter huge Leatherback Turtles on the beach.

Birdquest has operated tours to the Lesser Antilles since 2004 and to Trinidad since 1996.

Trinidad-only Option: You may opt to take just the Trinidad section as a stand-alone tour.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels are mostly of good standard, occasionally of medium standard. Road Transport is by minibus, car or 4x4 vehicle and roads are variable in quality.

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but there are several moderate grade walks.

Climate: Almost always warm or hot at this season, with dry and sunny weather interspersed with overcast and rainy intervals (not usually of long duration).

Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile in the Lesser Antilles and good on Trinidad.

Prices are provisional

Tour Price: £6350, €7230, $8320 Antigua/Grenada. Single Room Supplement: £675, €769, $884. Deposit: £800, €960, $1040.

Trinidad taken as an extension: £1850, €2100, $2420 Grenada/Port of Spain. Single Room Supplement: £200, €228, $262. Deposit: £250, €300, $330.

Trinidad taken as a stand-alone tour: £1750, €1990, $2290 Port of Spain/Port of Spain. Single Room Supplement: £200, €228, $262. Deposit: £300, €360, $390.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, water, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Also includes these flights: Antigua-Montserrat-Antigua, Antigua-Dominica, Dominica-Guadeloupe, Guadeloupe-Martinique, Martinique-St Lucia, St Lucia-St Vincent, St Vincent-Barbados, Barbados-Grenada, Grenada-Port of Spain. This long series of flights naturally adds up to a very considerable cost.

Base prices for this tour are in US Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.150.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

Sunshine, laid-back tropical islands, flowers and Purple-throated Caribs; that's what the Lesser Antilles is all about  (Mark Beaman)

Sunshine, laid-back tropical islands, flowers and Purple-throated Caribs; that's what the Lesser Antilles is all about (Mark Beaman)

The wonderful Scarlet Ibis is surely the signature bird of our extension to Trinidad  (Mark Beaman)

The wonderful Scarlet Ibis is surely the signature bird of our extension to Trinidad (Mark Beaman)

The pretty little Barbuda Warbler occurs only on this one small and arid island, far from its relatives on Puerto Rico and St Lucia  (Mark Beaman)

The pretty little Barbuda Warbler occurs only on this one small and arid island, far from its relatives on Puerto Rico and St Lucia (Mark Beaman)

The attractive Zenaida Dove is widespread in the islands  (Mark Beaman)

The attractive Zenaida Dove is widespread in the islands (Mark Beaman)

The lovely Blue-headed Hummingbird is one of the scarcer Lesser Antilles endemics  (Mark Beaman)

The lovely Blue-headed Hummingbird is one of the scarcer Lesser Antilles endemics (Mark Beaman)

When the birding is over for the day on Dominica one can enjopy a rum punch while looking for Sperm Whales!  (Mark Beaman)

When the birding is over for the day on Dominica one can enjopy a rum punch while looking for Sperm Whales! (Mark Beaman)

The handsome Martinique Oriole is one of a series of endemic orioles in the Lesser Antilles  (Mark Beaman)

The handsome Martinique Oriole is one of a series of endemic orioles in the Lesser Antilles (Mark Beaman)

The bold White-breasted Thrasher is restricted to just a few remaining areas of arid woodland on Martinique and Saint Lucia  (Mark Beaman)

The bold White-breasted Thrasher is restricted to just a few remaining areas of arid woodland on Martinique and Saint Lucia (Mark Beaman)

The dainty Whistling Warbler is the finest songster on Saint Vincent  (Mark Beaman)

The dainty Whistling Warbler is the finest songster on Saint Vincent (Mark Beaman)

On our extension to Trinidad, a major attraction of Asa Wright is the Oilbird cave, where the sole and strange member of this fruit-eating nocturnal family peers down at one from the gloomy recesses  (Mark Beaman)

On our extension to Trinidad, a major attraction of Asa Wright is the Oilbird cave, where the sole and strange member of this fruit-eating nocturnal family peers down at one from the gloomy recesses (Mark Beaman)

One of Trinidad's rarest and most endangered species is the impressive endemic Trinidad Piping-Guan  (Mark Beaman)

One of Trinidad's rarest and most endangered species is the impressive endemic Trinidad Piping-Guan (Mark Beaman)

A Wattled Jacana displays at one of Trinidad's marshlands  (Mark Beaman)

A Wattled Jacana displays at one of Trinidad's marshlands (Mark Beaman)

And other species include the stunning endemic Trinidad Motmot  (Mark Beaman)

And other species include the stunning endemic Trinidad Motmot (Mark Beaman)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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