Caribbean cruises present plenty of opportunity for snorkeling and scuba diving, visiting beaches and soaking up the glorious culture while you enjoy the sun. But a trip to the Caribbean also provides a great opportunity to look to the skies and engage in a spot of bird watching.
Visitors to the Cayman Islands won’t fail to notice the incredibly diverse animal life that exists in the region. Bird life is particularly rich with over 200 species calling the islands home.
Most cruise ships will dock on the largest of the three islands, the Grand Cayman Island, which encompasses 76% of the regions lands mass. The Cayman Islands are carefully protected by the National Trust for the Cayman Islands and on this capital island you will find seven protected bird sanctuaries, all providing great opportunities to spot the Grand Cayman parrot, the Loggerhead Kingbird or the Red-Legged Thrush among hundreds of others.
Several migrating wetland birds also pass through the island including egrets and flamingos. If you want to take a short hike while you bird watch consider heading to the Mastic Trail, a two-mile path that leads through beautiful dry subtropical forests.
Breeding season for local species runs from May to July, while the main migration season is from October to November.
Another great Caribbean port for bird watching is Ochos Rios on the north coast of Jamaica. Once a fishing village this is now a tourist haven and is also alleged to be the first place that Colombus stepped foot on land. The Bond film Dr No also filmed some scenes here.
Bird life on Jamaica is plentiful, with over 200 species and 25 endemic species. Several varieties of humming bird can found on the island. If possible, you may want to hire a car and try to get a little out of town for the best bird watching opportunities. The tropical highlands are well worth a visit for any tourist to the area and bird watchers will be particularly well rewarded for their efforts.
The Cranbook flower forests are just 20 minutes drive from Ochos Rios port and offer great bird watching potential. It is possible to see species including the Potto, the Lizard Cuckoo and the Becard. For a different view of the tree dwelling birds you can take a zipline tour.
Off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula you will find the coral island of Cozumel where many Caribbean cruises dock. The beautiful island is home to a wealth of bird species, both endemic to the island and migratory.
Many of the species are endangered and are extremely rare, including the noted Cozumel Thrasher, a member of the mockingbird family, which is thought to be close to extinction. The Great Vireo and Great Curassow are also endemic to the island and are highlights on a bird watching trip. Several species of migratory birds can also be found on the island including the American Flamingo and the Lesser Nighthawk.
Wherever you stop on your Caribbean cruise, you are sure to find plenty of species of beautiful birds to appreciate, so be sure to keep your eyes on the skies and enjoy some of the world’s most diverse winged populations.