Discover Jamaica’s 28 endemic bird species as part of a small group of like-minded travellers
Our Jamaica Small Group Birdwatching tour offers you a wonderful opportunity to discover Jamaica’s 28 endemic bird species, as well as the regional specialities and numerous northbound migrant species, in the company of a small group of like-minded travellers. There will also be some time for relaxation by the lovely pool or gardens and for private birding from your superb base, Greencastle Estate. However, if you would like to extend your holiday in Jamaica, this could be easily arranged and we would be delighted to help you with suggestions.
Greencastle Estate is a beautiful private reserve of 1,600 acres on the northern coast of the island, tucked between the forest-clad Blue Mountains and the turquoise Caribbean Sea. Over 20 miles of private trails radiate out from the lodge and make the birding here both easy and relaxing. There are various habitats to explore on the estate, including tropical forest, freshwater wetlands, mangrove swamps and open pastures. The coastline and beaches are very close by, as are other varied sites and attractions. All bar one of the endemics can be found within the grounds of the Greencastle Estate and it is very probable that you will see all 28 during the course of the week.
The Small Group Tour dates are –
10th to 18th January 2020
14th to 22nd February 2020
6th to 14th March 2020
DAY 1: Arrival and transfer to Greencastle Estate
You will be met at the airport at Montego Bay, by a driver with an air-conditioned vehicle and transferred to Greencastle Estate. Situated between the foothills of the verdant Blue Mountains and the Caribbean Sea, the Greencastle Estate is a privately owned, historic and remarkably beautiful 1600-acre property. It boasts breath-taking views and over twenty miles of walking trails through an unspoilt landscape, where 171 species of birds have been recorded to date, including all but one of the 28 Jamaican endemics. The beautiful location combined with superb accommodation and friendly staff, offers visiting birdwatchers every comfort, fine food and relaxed, easy birding in the safe and lush north eastern coast of Jamaica.
On arrival at the Estate House, you’ll be welcomed with a chilled scented towel and fresh local fruit juice (organically grown on the Estate). Light Dinner and overnight at Greencastle Estate House.
DAY 2: Green Castle Estate
The day will begin with an early birding walk in the gardens if desired, followed by a full Jamaican Breakfast at the Estate House at 8:30am. After breakfast, there will be a brief orientation with our registered bird guide, who will lead the group during the week at Greencastle. We will then spend a relaxing morning along the Waterfall Trail, hopefully encountering a dozen or so endemics: Jamaican Mango, Red-billed Streamertail, Jamaican Tody and Jamaican Woodpecker are usually the first to show.
After a light lunch at the Estate House, the afternoon will be spent walking a different trail through the estate, in search of more birds. Endemic sub-species that we are likely to encounter include Vervain Hummingbird, Jamaican Oriole and Greater Antillean Bullfinch. Dinner and overnight at Greencastle Estate.
DAY 3: Birding at Hardwar Gap in the Blue Mountains
This morning we will meet for early refreshments, ready for a 5:00am departure with our bird guide for the majestic Blue Mountains, approximately two hours away in an air-conditioned vehicle. After such an early start, a packed breakfast (including hot porridge) is most welcome!
We will spend most of the morning in the Hardwar Gap area, which offers a huge variety of species. Target birds include endemics such as Jamaican Blackbird, Blue Mountain Vireo and the elusive Crested Quail Dove. We will have a packed lunch in personal cool-bag.
We may stop for a cup of Blue Mountain Coffee at a roadside cafe before spending the afternoon exploring a little farther up the road, taking time to enjoy more of Jamaica’s birdlife amidst stunning mountain scenery. Dinner and overnight at Greencastle Estate.
DAY 4: Estate and Night Birding
Today we will have a more relaxing day, with either morning and evening birding or afternoon and evening birding with our bird guide, taking time to explore more habitats around Greencastle’s 1600-acre site, starting with a pre-breakfast walk for the early risers if desired.
After a Jamaican Breakfast at the Estate House 8:30am, we will visit different parts of the estate including Davey Hill, freshwater pools and the coast, where a different range of species can be found. Amongst a variety of waders and wildlife, we can usually find the scarce Caribbean Whistling-duck.
Lunch and Dinner at the Estate House and after dinner our bird guide will take us for a spot of night birding, in search of the endemic Jamaican Owl, which can be found close to the house. We should also encounter the cryptic Northern Potoo, which is an endemic Jamaican sub-species that may soon be split as a full species and also the Barn Owl. Overnight at Greencastle Estate.
DAY 5: Birding at Ecclesdown Road in the John Crow Mountains
We will again meet for early refreshments, ready for a 5:00am departure (with a packed breakfast). Today our bird guide will take us to the foothills of the John Crow Mountains, to an area called Ecclesdown Road. This offers superb birding and has good numbers of endemics; both Yellow-billed and Black-billed Parrots may fly overhead and we will look for another species that we will not have encountered so far – the Black Billed Streamertail. Packed Lunch in personal cool-bag.
For the remainder of the day, we will visit more woodland habitat, looking out for Jamaican Crow, Jamaican Blackbird, Jamaican Becard and Arrow-headed Warbler. American Wood Warblers are also a colourful feature of birding here. Then we head back to Greencastle, maybe stopping to visit various water areas, where White-tailed Tropicbirds are sometimes seen. Dinner and overnight at Greencastle Estate.
DAY 6: Estate and Night Birding
Today we will spend a more leisurely day around the estate, where we will explore new trails including visiting the reservoir.
Our usual Jamaican Breakfast at the Estate House at 8:30am, then during the morning, we should encounter such species as Jamaican Vireo, White-Chinned Thrush and Rufous-tailed Flycatcher. We may want to return to the coast to look for Antillean Nighthawk, Antillean Palm-swift and breeding Yellow Warbler (a Caribbean endemic subspecies). We will have a light picnic lunch, which can be eaten at the reservoir or at the Estate House.
After dinner at the Estate House, we will have time to look again for Jamaican Owl and Northern Potoo, as well as the West Indian race of Barn Owl, which breeds on the estate. Overnight at Greencastle Estate.
DAY 7: Estate Birding and/or Optional Sightseeing Trips
If we need to catch up with any endemics or revisit key sites, then today we will have ample time to do just that. Otherwise, we can relax around the house and pool, then take a trip (optional) out to local scenic spots such as Dunn’s River Falls or the Mystic Mountain. We could visit Sir Noel Coward’s house and the home of Ian Fleming at Goldeneye, where he wrote all the James Bond books, or visit a local craft market then take a walk on the natural eco-beach…the choice is yours! Dinner and overnight at Greencastle Estate.
DAY 8: Final Day Birding and/or relaxing
An early birding walk in the gardens if desired, followed by a full Jamaican Breakfast at the Estate House at 8:30am. There will then be plenty of time for packing, relaxing or birding around the gardens or trails before our air-conditioned vehicle sets off to the airport at Montego Bay for the overnight flight home. We may have time to stop at suitable habitat for our last experience of Jamaican birding on the way.
DAY 9: Arrive back to UK
There may be slight changes to the itinerary due to weather conditions or unforeseen events, but we will always strive to ensure that you see as much as possible during your stay. Birding in certain parts of the estate (for example, the reservoir) requires a reasonable level of fitness. Please let us know if you have any concerns regarding mobility; we will always do our best to meet your needs.