Expert's Corner

Hello! I’m Bernie Solymar, and I kindly invite you to join our Cuba nature tours, an odyssey of the country's culture, agriculture, ecology and beautiful nature. We'll explore the historic cities of Havana and Trinidad, visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves, tour organopónicos and visit with Cuban farmers, explore forests, caves and mountains, swim in mountain rivers, meet and talk with numerous Cuban experts in the fields of permaculture and conservation, partake in traditional local food dishes, enjoy some Cuban music, rum, and camaraderie, and much, much more. Do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions!
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Even though, there has been some relaxation in the travel restrictions to Cuba, Americans can not go to Cuba for tourist activities. Bird watching and similar nature oriented tours are considered as ordinary tourism; therefore, it is not permitted for US travelers.
Among the large mammal species, the protected Antillean manatee is reproduced in more than 20 breeding groups, in the Ciénaga de Zapata and Villa Clara.

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Cuba Nature Toue, 4 Biosphere Reserves

Overview



Working under the auspices of Cuba’s foremost environmentalist and nature conservation organizations, the Long Point UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Canada and Authentic Cuba Travel has gained access to the most pristine natural Cuban sites of this tropical paradise, from UNESCO Biosphere Reserves and National Parks to Protected Areas, and invite North American nature lovers, bird watchers, naturalist, biologists, environmentalists and nature conservationist to witness the great biodiversity of the largest and most unspoiled island in the Greater Antilles.

This official Cuba nature tour of Cuba's Protected Areas captures the Cuban natural beauty and biodiversity of flora and fauna that defines the island as a unique Caribbean destination for eco tourism. As you travel through the UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, national parks and protected areas, you will interact with local communities, ornithologists, scientists and naturalists, and enjoy cross cultural/ people-to-people experiences that will remain with you for the rest of your life.

You will be fascinated by the Cuban people, the culture of Cuba, and the social/political/economic structure of Cuba. Cuba is a relatively poor, developing country with 2% of the Latin American population that somehow manages to produce 11% of its scientists!

Cuba’s diverse wildlife stems from its unique natural history. Cuba was not originally in the Caribbean Sea but in the Pacific Ocean, where the island was situated 100 million years ago, before the forces of continental drift slowly brought it into the Caribbean. As the island migrated over the ages, an astonishing variety of life arrived by air, sea, and possibly by land bridges that may have once existed. Over time, these animals adapted to their new environment.

Cuba is home to some of the most unusual creatures on earth, including the feisty Cuban crocodile, the world’s smallest bird and frog, and migrating land crabs.

This tour is also a brilliant way of seeing the real Cuba; such a passionate and patriotic people have transformed this country into a very environmentally friendly place (Cuba is one of the few self sustainable countries in the world); partly because of the trade embargo, meaning that nearly everything the Cuban population uses is made and produced in Cuba and as a result is sustainable.

Please, check the day-by-day itinerary below. Welcome Aboard!

Cuba Nature Eco Tour Highlights

  • Meet with directors of Cuba's UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.

  • Tour UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Peninsula de Zapata.

  • Travel to UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Buenavista.

  • Explore UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Guanahacabibes.

  • Travel to UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Sierra del Rosario.

  • UNESCO World Cultural Landscape Heritage Site, Vinales Valley.

  • Explore the Santo Tomas Cave in Vinales Valley.

  • Bird Watching exploration in Las Salinas Wildlife Refuge.

  • Travel to Topes de Collantes National Park.

  • Travel to Caguanes National Park.

  • Travel to Cayo Santa Maria National Park.

  • Visit to Guama Crocodile Breeding Farm.

  • Guided tour of UNESCO Heritage Site, Havana Historical Centre.

  • Guided tour of UNESCO World Heritage Site, Trinidad.

Notice to US Environmentalist

United States of America Schools for Resource and Environmental Studies, Wildlife Conservation, Earth and Marine Sciences and others can organize a for-credit structured educational and research program to Cuba under a General License. Under such a program professors, students and staff can travel to Cuba legally to conduct research on resource and environmental issues as well s wildlife conservation.

Authentic Cuba Travel specializes in working with US Schools and Universities in creating custom-made structured courses and educational field trips to Cuba that meet the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Cuba travel regulations, while also meeting the learning goals and the needs of your university or school.
Cuba's nature displays the smallest of a number of animals, such as the tiny frog Monte Iberia Dwarf Eleuth (Eleutherodactylus iberia) only 0.3 inches long and exclusively found in some mountainous regions of eastern Cuba; the butterfly bat (Natalus lepidus), which is only 7 inches from wingtips and weighs just a couple of grams; and the endangered zunzuncito or bee humming bird (Mellisuga helenae) roughly 3 inches long. There is also a dwarf scorpion (Microtityus fundorai) between 0.3 and 0.7 inches long among males.
nature cuba tour, Guanahacabibes Biosphere Reserve
The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Peninsula de Guanahacabibes is one of the country's largest natural reserves. Nature tourism is a major atraction since the area is inhabited by 172 species of birds belonging to 42 families, 11 of which are endemic and 84 are migratory. Experts also believe that 4 of the 7 species of marine turtles living on the planet have survived in the Guanahacabibes Peninsula. The coastline also contains preserved coral reefs, with the northern coast being lined by the cays and isles of the western Colorados Archipelago.
Exploration of Viñales Valley, containing the most spectacular scenery in Cuba and some of the most interesting and varied geological formations on the island. The valley is particularly famous for its great freestanding rock formations called mogotes.
Santo Tomas Cave, Cuba's largest cave system. The cave is spectacular, especially where the roof has collapsed and you walk into a green jungle paradise sunk into a mountaintop. Several cave rooms are connected over an area of 45 kilometers in length, extend over seven levels. The rooms bear names such as "Salón del Caos" (Chaos Saloon), "Increíble" (incredible) or "Tinieblas" (darkness). Solid footwear and clothing are recommended.
Four rivers run through the evergreen and semi-deciduous tropical forest of UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Sierra del Rosario, natural habitat to one of the world's smallest frogs and more than 115 bird species including a large number of migratory birds that nest in Cuba’s tropical climate.

Peninsula de Zapata Biosphere Reserve contains the largest wetlands in the Caribbean with blue-water beaches, forests, rivers, lakes, flooded caverns. Natural habitat to the Cuban crocodile, the jutia and 175 bird species.
Las Salinas Wildlife Refuge, unique Cuban site for bird watching where two continental corridors of migratory birds coincide. Natural habitat to several bird species such as Roseate Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber), Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis), Roseate, Yellow-headed Warbler (Teretistris fernandinae), Spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja), Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris), Common Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus) and many others.
Topes de Collantes National Park in the Escambray mountains in Central Cuba. A perfect place for encountering the Cuban Emerald (Chlorostilbon ricordii), Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus), Cuban Parrot (Amazono leucocephala), Fernandina’s Flicker (Colaptes fernandinae) and others.
Nature Cuba Tour, National Park Caguanes, Cuba.
Caguanes National Park, in north-central Cuba contains marine, land and swampy areas, with a wealth of well-preserved natural attractions suited for nature lovers and bird watchers alike! Its cave system has over 35 grottoes and caves, which contain the largest expressions of rupestrian art in central Cuba. One of the singular features of this national park is the group of stone formations called Piedras Cays, which are surrounded by the sea and have coastal cliffs, natural arches and sea niches that serve as refuges for many species of flora and fauna.
UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Buenavista protects nature ecosystems including mangroves, coral reefs, active dune zones, keys and natural reproductive zones for aquatic birds. Caves hold historically significant paintings.

Day 1. Friday 5 May 2017. Hello Cuba

Arrival at Santa Clara International Airport.

Meet your Cuban tour guide and bus driver.

Private transfer to Havana City.

Check in at your hotel Habana Libre Hotel located at the cultural center of Havana City.

Group check-in.

Breakfast is complimentary from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

Cuba is renowned for its exceptional biodiversity. Its ecosystems are among the richest and best preserved in the Caribbean. Cuba boasts more than 84 protected areas, making up almost 14% of the lands and 16% of the shelf, along with 6 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. Its flora is abundant and varied; it is estimated that the 110,992-square-kilometre archipelago contains almost 4% of all the world’s plant life.

Day 2. Saturday 6 May 2017. Havana

Morning: meeting with representatives of Cuba’s National Center for Protected Areas (CNAP). The Center, created in 1995 by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, is responsible for the management of Cuba's National System of Protected Areas. With a network of 15 provincial environmental groups, CNAP is the maximum authority responsible for conservation in Cuba. CNAP also has experience implementing conservationist projects with international funding such as UNEP-GEF, WWF Canada and CIDA.

Lunch at La Mina restaurant.

Afternoon: guided walking tour of Old Havana, UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Visit to Square of Arms, ancient military parade ground for Spanish soldiers and surrounded by impressive buildings such as:

Palacio de los Capitanes Generales was the former seat of colonial government. Today the building houses the Museum of the City.

Palacio del Segundo Cabo, the seat of the second authority of the island.

Castillo de la Real Fuerza. The second oldest fortress built by the Spaniards in the West Indies. The castle was recently renovated and reopened in June 2008 to hold the impressive maritime museum. Well laid out exhibits chart Spain and Cuba's naval history.

Visit to San Francisco Square, one of the oldest in the historical quarter.

Visit to Plaza Vieja, the only civic square of colonial times. Notice it doesn't have a church or government building around. Here we will visit important institution for visual arts.

Visit to the Cathedral Square, the most beautiful and private 18th century colonial plaza of Cuba, named after the masterpiece of Cuban baroque architecture: the Cathedral of Havana built by the Jesuit order.

Free time in the famous handicraft market of Old Havana where you can purchase all sorts of crafts and souvenirs by local artisans.

Evening: tonight we have a Cuban band playing for us! You'll learn to dance to Salsa, Son, Rumba, and other popular Cuban rhythms with instruction from bandleaders.

Day 3. Sunday 7 May 2017. UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Guanahacabibes

Morning: early transfer to Maria la Gorda at the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Peninsula de Guanahacabibes.

The Guanahacabibes National Park is one of the country's largest natural reserves. It is separated from the rest of the island by white sand plains where one of Cuba's largest lakeside areas lies. A relatively small area holds some 100 lakes, as well as the largest and purest fields of silica sand, which is 99.8% pure.

Nature tourism is a major attraction since the area is inhabited by 172 species of birds belonging to 42 families, 11 of which are endemic and 84 are migratory.

Experts also believe that 4 of the 7 species of marine turtles living on the planet have survived in the Guanahacabibes Peninsula. The coastline also contains preserved coral reefs, with the northern coast being lined by the cays and isles of the western Colorados Archipelago.

Check in and lunch at Maria La Gorda resort.

Afternoon: free so that you embark on your favourite natural expeditions. Worth mentioning:

  • Trails such as Las Perlas Cave, Forest Facing the Sea, Guanahacabibes before Columbus, La Majagua and Hoyo del Palmar.
  • Birds watching spots such as Currents Cape, La Bajada, El Bosque, Hoyo del Palmar and Herbazal de Cienaga.
  • Scuba diving. Maria la Gorda offer 39 diving sites of high level diving, some are still not named, all of them are less than hour cruise, some at even a few minutes away.
  • Day 4. Monday 8 May 2017. UNESCO World Heritage Site, Vinales

    Morning: transfer to Vinales Valley in Sierra de los Organos mountain range, declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999, in the category of Cultural Landscape. Among the reasons listed is the following: "The Vinales Valley is an outstanding, calcic landscape in which the traditional agricultural methods (particularly the tobacco harvest) have been preserved without alteration for centuries. A rich vernacular tradition is preserved as well in the region in terms of architecture, handcraft and music".

    Over arrival visit to Cueva de Santo Tomas, Cuba's largest cave system. The cave is spectacular, especially where the roof has collapsed and you walk into a green jungle paradise sunk into a mountaintop. Several cave rooms are connected over an area of 45 kilometers in length, extend over seven levels. The rooms bear names such as "Salón del Caos" (Chaos Saloon), "Increíble" (incredible) or "Tinieblas" (darkness). Solid footwear and clothing are recommended.

    Lunch at El Mural de La Prehistoria.

    Afternoon: exploration of Viñales Valley containing the most spectacular scenery in Cuba and some of the most interesting and varied geological formations on the island. The valley is particularly famous for its great freestanding rock formations called mogotes.

    Meet with local farmers that have been passing from generation to generation the secrets of growing the best tobacco in the world.

    Visit to Mural de la Prehistoria, a huge painting on the side of a Mogote.

    Explore Viñales town at your leisure: its open-air craft market, Parque Marti, town church, and other interesting sites of this charming colonial hamlet.

    Visit Carmen and Caridad Miranda’s botanical garden, called the Viñales Botanical Garden. The two widows maintain a garden full of fruits, orchids and medicinal plants.

    Check in at Los Jazmines hotel. Time to relax by the swimming pool!

    Day 5. Tuesday 9 May 2017. UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Sierra del Rosario

    Morning: check out your hotel and transfer to Las Terrazas eco-community in Sierra del Rosario, first UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Cuba.

    Four rivers run through the evergreen and semi-deciduous tropical forest of Sierra del Rosario, natural habitat to one of the world's smallest frogs and more than 115 bird species including a large number of migratory birds that nest in Cuba’s tropical climate.

    Group welcome by Dr. Maritza Garcia, Director of the Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve. We’ll exchange with the environmental scientists and technicians responsible for the restoration of the jungles and forests of Las Terrazas to learn the principles, approaches and practices that combined serve to sustain the region.

    Later we visit the ruins of a French Coffee Plantation built in 1801 where we will have lunch.

    As we explore the area, we can spot birds such as the Cuban Trogon (Priotelus temnurus), the national bird of Cuba, Red-legged Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes cyaneus), Gundlachs hawk (Accipiter gundlachi) and others.

    Mid-afternoon: transfer to Peninsula de Zapata National Park, declared UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and Ramsar Site, located in the southern coast of the island.

    It covers an area of 5000 square kilometres of woods and seacoast vegetation, marsh and mangroves. The park is the natural home to over 160 bird species and 900 varieties of higher plant families. It is also a favourite stop for tens of thousands of migratory birds!

    This is the habitat of endemic bird species such as the Zapata Rail (Cyanolimnas cerverai), the Zapata Wren (Ferminia cerverai) and Zapata Sparrow (Torreornis inexpectata). The swamp is also the natural habitat of the Cuban Crocodile (Crocodrylus rhombifer Cuvier), considered as a national symbol after its resemblance with the geography of the island.

    Check in at Villa Playa Larga. Dinner at hotel

    Day 6 Wednesday 10 May 2017. UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Peninsula de Zapata

    Early morning expedition to Las Salinas Wildlife Refuge, unique Cuban site for birdwatching where two continental corridors of migratory birds coincide.

    We will be looking for the Roseate Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber), Sand hill Crane (Grus canadensis), Yellow-headed Warbler (Teretistris fernandinae), Spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja), Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris), Common Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus) and others.

    Visit to La Boca and Guama Ceramic Workshop.

    12:30 p.m. Lunch at La Boca restaurant.

    Afternoon: meet with Dr. Jorge L Jiménez, Director of the Zapata Swamp Biosphere Reserve, to learn about their conservation work in the area and the challenges they face today.

    UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Peninsula de Zapata, is the largest protected area in the Caribbean. There are numerous areas designated for environmental conservation, such as the Zapata Swamp Natural Reserve and Las Salinas Wildlife Refuge.

    The swamp is not only known for its size but also for being the best preserved wetlands in all of the Antilles, designated as a "Wetland of International Importance" by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 1971.

    Visit to Guama Crocodile Breeding Farm, that has successfully bred one of the largest reptiles of Cuba since 1974. The Cuban Crocodile (Crocodrylus rhombifer Cuvier) is considered an endangered species that can be found at the Zapata Swamps and Lanier Swamps only. The Cuban Crocodile (Crocodrylus rhombifer Cuvier) is one of the two most aggressive species of crocodiles in the world and endemic to Cuba.

    Late afternoon: transfer to Trinidad City. Check in at all-inclusive Trinidad del Mar beach resort. You'll have time for dinner and a swim in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea.

    Day 7. Thursday 11 May 2017. Topes de Collantes National Park

    Morning: we will board former Russian army trucks for Topes de Collantes in the Escambray Mountain Range, Cuba's second highest mountain range- reaching 3,700 feet atop Pico San Juan. The mountains are home to small mountain villages and are a delight for birders and walkers alike. Slopes are swathed in Caribbean pines, ancient tree ferns, bamboo, and eucalyptus.

    Arrival at Hacienda Codina, an old Spanish Hacienda, once part of a large Spanish coffee plantation where we will have a typical lunch. Followed by a walk around this area to admire the beauty of the surrounding landscape.

    Topes de Collantes National Park in the Escambray mountains in Central Cuba, a perfect place for encountering the Cuban Emerald (Chlorostilbon ricordii), Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus), Cuban Parrot (Amazono leucocephala), Fernandina’s Flicker (Colaptes fernandinae) and many others.

    Afternoon: guided walking tour of UNESCO World Heritage Site, Trinidad’s Historical Center, a perfect relic of the early days of the Spanish colony with beautifully preserved streets and buildings with hardly a trace of the 20th century anywhere.

    We will stop at a mirador (lookout) over the Sugar Mill Valley, where the sugar barons used to have their countryside mansions and mills. This site is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Trinidad is well known for its pottery makers. We meet with a family that has been passing the tradition for generations: the Santanders.

    Day 8. Friday 12 May 2017. Buenavista Biosphere Reserve- Caguanes National Park

    Morning: departure to Caguanes National Park in UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Buenavista.

    The Buenavista Biosphere Reserve is situated on the northern coast of Cuba, in parts of the Villa Clara, Sancti Spiritus and Ciego de Avila provinces, covering a total surface area of 313,502 hectares. The Buenavista Biosphere Reserve has eleven core areas in two National Parks: Caguanes and Santa Maria Key. Other ecological reserves are established on Cayo Francés, Cayo Santa María, Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Coco, while a fauna reserve is set up on Cayo Las Loras.

    Caguanes National Park, in north-central Cuba contains marine, land and swampy areas, with a wealth of well-preserved natural attractions suited for nature lovers and bird watchers alike! Its cave system has over 35 grottoes and caves, which contain the largest expressions of rupestrian art in central Cuba.

    One of the singular features of this national park is the group of stone formations called Piedras Cays, which are surrounded by the sea and have coastal cliffs, natural arches and sea niches that serve as refuges for many species of flora and fauna.

    En route, we will meet with Ernesto Pulido, director of Buenavista of UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, in its offices in Sancti Spiritus.

    Check in at all inclusive Cayo Santa Maria Beach Resort, located in Cayo Santa Maria Key, a small 13 km long island located in the province of Villa Clara.

    Day 9. Saturday 13 May 2017. Buenavista Biosphere Reserve- Cayo Santa Maria

    Enjoy a day of relaxation and adventure.

    Laze on secluded sandy beaches. Slip on a snorkel and flippers and head out into sparkling waters to glimpse rainbow fish and coral. Or pull on your hiking boots and keep your eyes peeled for rare birds, lizards and other native animals.

    Here, life is all about making the most of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve’s natural beauty. There’s a sugar-white sandy beach that stretches for 13 kilometres, the whole island is a bird-watcher’s dream, and there’s just a smattering of shops.

    Day 10. Sunday 14 May 2017. Departure

    Early morning departure to Santa Clara City International Airport for departure.
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