Photo Vuelo… Photos on Flight

Photo Vuelo - Photos in FlightCuba’s protected natural areas, geographic isolation, and limited development combine to create an ideal destination.  The country’s diverse habitats support over 360 avian species, 26 of which are endemic to the island. Join us to explore the karst southern coast of Cuba.  During your travels, meet Cuba’s friendly people and discover the rich history and culture for which the country is known.

Trip Details

Plan to meet in Tampa for dinner on November 13th, for travel to Havana early on November 14th via Southwest Airlines. Details to follow.

Upon arrival in Havana, we will be transported via bus to our accommodations. We will be staying at private run homes, like Air B&B that support private families.  They are clean, with private baths, have AC and are very safe.  Some are rooms in homes, others are like private apartments.  We will always be close to one another and I will always make sure you are comfortable and happy with your accommodations.  I have stayed at private homes for more than 20 years, and have never had any issues, I actually prefer them to hotels.  At this time, this is the only legal accommodation option available as part of the “Support the Cuban People” policy of the Treasury Department.  If there are any changes regarding our travel policies with Cuba, I will be sure to let you know.  Most hosts speak enough English to accommodate tourism.  Breakfast is included with your room.  We will coordinate a dinner plan and have some on your own time with an orientation.  Havana has many options for culture, music, dance, history.  We can customize a plan that meets everyone’s interest once you are registered.

Field Trip Groups- We will be broken into smaller groups to ensure that everyone gets to see the birds, and that disturbance to the birds is minimized.  You will be assigned to a group the first day by a drawing.  Usually you pick a paper out of a bin that will assign you to a group, I think you will also be given a code name to use to load your photos on the computer if you choose to enter the contest.  You are NOT required to enter to contest if you would rather just be on the field trips and enjoy the ride.  You still have to join a group, you just don’t have to obsess about your photos or even take photos if you don’t want to.  IF you enter the contest, it will be helpful to have a thumb drive and a laptop with whatever photo software you might need.  They will have computers available to load your entries onto for the judges to view the last night and make decisions.  Many people join this event to see the birds, enjoy the experience and visit Cuba for a very good price. Some are serious photographers and take some great photos.  YOU DECIDE what your experience will be for you.

Possible trails for exploration are:

  • Sopillar – This historic community is where Fidel visited the poorest of the poor, the first Christmas after the revolution. It is made up of wetland forest floor.
    The Salinas – Named for the long abandoned salt pans at the end of this sunny, limerock peninsula.  Flamingos are among the variety of wading birds seen here.
  • The Hondones Community – This community of 40+ casitas (little homes) are inhabited by workers of the forest. There is a unique rocky outcropping forest community with a variety of birds to be seen. Many biologists have purchased homes here to live among the unique environment and begin forming an environmental community.
  • Enigma de Roca – This unique feature is full of limestone outcroppings among a forest and gorgeous cenote, a large hole in the limestone with water, similar to a sinkhole; perfect for swimming.
  • Bermejas – This refuge offers low lying forest with some unique species.
  • La Turba – a long shaded dike to the grasslands where the Zapata Sparrow might be seen.  Zapata sparrow and Zapata wren are likely to be seen here.
  • St. Thomas – A small community of less than 40 people that the government is slowly moving into town. There is a poled John-boat ride in the canal to a site where you can get out and quietly look for the Zapata wren and sparrow.

Agenda Day by Day:

November 14 – Depart Tampa for Havana, bus to private home accommodations, orientation and on your own exploration or group with me to explore.

November 15 – Early breakfast, depart at 8:30 AM, for Caleton, a fishing village in Playa Larga located in the Zapata Swamp at the head of the Bay of Pigs.
11AM check in and welcome cocktail at private homes.
Take bus for lunch at Los Pitines Farm, run by a local family who produce organic food for the community.
4 PM we will go to Playa Giron Hotel to received an orientation to the program schedule and rules of the contest. Meet the technical council and contestants of the event.
7 PM Inauguration dinner and overview of the event activities.
Travel back to private home for the night.

November 16, 17, 18 – Same Private home accommodation as November 15th
Depart each morning at 6:30 AM for field trip on the trails. Includes 2 trails a day one in the
morning and one in the afternoon with such at local restaurants.
Return to accommodations
7:30 PM dinner and other activities

November 19 – after breakfast we will depart for Playa Giron hotel for the photographers to select and submit their photos for each categories. If you are not entering photos, there is a pool, the ocean for swimming, and up the street the Playa Giron Bay of Pigs Museum that I recommend you visit, it will only take an hour at most. It is $2 entrance fee and show a Cuban perspective of the bay of pigs invasion by the expatriated Cubans of Miami. There is also time to go after lunch on your own, I should be able to go with you before lunch if you wish to be escorted. The Jury will begin their work after lunch at 1PM and I must participate in the jury.  In the evening we will have closing activities, awards ceremony and traditional Cuban dinner with a show. Return to accommodations.

November 20 – Breakfast and check out, departure to Havana at 10 AM, we will drop our luggage and explore Havana. Our rooms will not ready for us until after 3 PM. We will make a plan the night before on who wants to do what. A city tour, museums, on your own, meet for dinner, etc.

November 21 – Depart for Tampa

Regulations of the Competition

The photographs entered will be subject to the conditions of participation, use and contents established below:
Those who officially register and pay their participation fee in the workshop-photo contest, regardless of nationality and country of origin.

  • The photographs to be entered must be taken during the days of the contest Photo to flight 2021.  Photographs of animals in captivity or zoos, or taken outside the Ciénaga de Zapata will not be accepted.
  • Each contestant will select up to 5 photographs according to the different categories, regardless of the amount they have taken. The selection will be deposited in the folders of the PCs enabled for the contest in JPG format and with a resolution quality of 300 dpi.
  • Digital photographs must have been taken with a resolution greater than 4 mega pixels. – It will be competed in 3 general categories:
    • Birds in Flight
    • Endemic bird.
    • Bird in its habitat.
    • There is talk that there might be a single prize for a digiscope photo. More info at the event.
  • Photomontages and manipulated images are excluded from this contest. Minimal corrections of color, definition, contrast, etc. will be accepted.
  • The photos that are awarded or receive mention will be displayed with their respective credits on the event’s website (, on the website of Tropikvedeta and the Travel Agency ECOTUR S.A. (
  • By participating in the photo contest, the TTOO Tropikvedeta, the Travel Agency ECOTUR S.A and the Cubanacán Group are automatically granted the right to make use of the photographs for promotional purposes of the destination Cuba.
  • The copyrights of the photographers participating in the contest are respected, being able to make use of the images.

Jury and Selection of Winners

  • The jury will be made up of national and international photographers, of recognized trajectory, who will value both the content and the artistic and technical quality of the images presented. (Later the names of these will be announced).
  • The decision of the jury will be final and un-appealable.
  • A Grand Prize will be awarded and 1 winner will be selected for each category. 2nd and 3rd places will be awarded, as well as mentions to the photographs that the jury estimates.
  • For the Grand Prize, the Cubanacan Hotels Group will award you 3 nights with 4 days in an All Inclusive Hotel with a companion.

Frequently Asked Questions

We will be spending U.S. Dollars in Cuba.  They recently made this change in their economy.  I suggest bringing at least $200 a person depending on how much you drink or want to spend on items to take home.  Bring bills in good condition, they won’t take anything ripped or worn.  Get clean small bills from your bank.  $20 and under.

Recommended tips include 10% for restaurants, $1/day for housekeeping, $20/day for guides.

You may have a different guide each day so maybe be prepared to tip at the end of the day just in case.

As of September 2020 we are no longer allowed to bring back rum and cigars. If this changes before we travel I will let you know.

If you are an insomniac, here is some reading.

If want to bring gifts, here are suggestions.  Please bring items in good condition such as: cash, lightly worn shoes, meds like antibiotics, Tylenol, Advil, vitamins, towels, new socks, new underwear, new kitchen sponges, M&Ms, nice soap, field guide, backpacks, almost anything is appreciated.

Most Cubans that interact with visitors speak enough English to be understood.  If you would like to do a few basics on Duo Lingo, a free app for your phone, I encourage you to do so to learn some basics.  Also, download a translation app that works without the WIFI.  This is handy for museums where your camera can read the Spanish and translate.  Also helps with communication in conversations.

DO NOT DRINK THE WATER! We will buy bottled water. Water filters are also useful. Tap water put through a filter will be fine. It uses less plastic but takes more time. It’s up to you. I can bring some filters and see who is interested in using it.

Suggested media includes:

  • Havana Nactura – the mob in Havana
  • Cuba and Cameraman – 60 years of following 3 families and a nation
  • – weekly newsletters regarding Cuba also has a reading list at the end of each issue.
  • Look things up on google, trip advisor, maps, etc. see how familiar you can get virtually before

Thank you and we look forward to traveling on this exciting trip.