Cuba / Destinations / Zapata & Bay of Pigs

Zapata & Bay of Pigs

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  • — Zapata, Guama
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Cuba's largest protected natural habitat

Accounting for the majority of southern Matanzas province, the Zapata Peninsula is a vast, low-lying wilderness comprising of swamps, lagoons and very little else, especially human activity.

Home to much of Cuba’s most important flora and fauna, the majority of the Zapata Peninsula comes under the protected auspices of the Ciénaga de Zapata Unesco Biosphere Reserve, known locally as the Gran Parque Natural Montemar. Not only is it the largest protected area in the entire Caribbean but also one of the most important in the Americas.

The Zapata Peninsula is especially popular with birdwatchers as it is home to some 175 species, many of them endemic such as the Zapata Wren, Zapata Rail and Zapata sparrow. The area is also home to the Bee Hummingbird, the world’s smallest species of bird.

Birdwatching aside (and we can arrange guided tours of the area), exploring the Zapata Peninsula’s interior is very difficult, in part a testament to efforts to protect the area’s natural habitat, but also a reflection of the lack of investment in eco-tourism across Cuba.

One of the few easily undertaken trips within the area is the boat trip across the lagoon at Guama, a short drive south of the main highway linking Havana & Santiago de Cuba. The boat trip is enjoyable enough and includes time at a fun, if slightly naff, replica Taino village.

Due south of Guama is the world-famous Bay of Pigs where an insurgent invading force supported by the CIA came-a-cropper. Considering what an important part this period plays in Cuban history, most visitors are surprised at just how little the event is marked in terms of museums, displays etc. You’ll need to use your imagination.

For anyone in the area, the Bay of Pigs area is home to two lovely beaches at Playa Larga & Playa Giron, as well as some excellent (much of it off-the-beaten-track) snorkelling locations.

Accommodation in Zapata & Bay of Pigs

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