Zapata Swamp - Nature

Caleta Buena Península de Zapata, Matanzas

In the Zapata Peninsula, the sea has formed a series of natural pools by entering through underwater caves, creating the largest flooded cavern in Cuba. It has large colonies of different kinds of coral, plus a great variety of yellow-, violet- and orange-colored barrel-, tube-, basket-and cup-shaped sponges. In addition, there are many kinds of marine plants, large gorgonians and many tropical fish. Experienced, well-equipped divers can follow a 25-meter (83-foot) tunnel through the limestone leading out to the sea. There's no need for boats as the dive area is close. Night dives can also be arranged. The on-site restaurant is open until 5 and specializes in shrimp and lobster. 

Guamá Crocodile Breeding Farm Península de Zapata, Matanzas

Approximately 10 000 specimens of the 16 species of crocodiles are raised at the Crocodile Breeding Farm in Guamá, Zapata peninsula, approximately 100 km from Varadero. The original enterprise was the idea of Celia Sánchez, one of Fidel Castro's close companions and advisers, who was determined to restore the failing crocodile and caiman populations in the Zapata Swamp. Visitors may view the Cuban and American species as they sleep in the mud or taste its meat at the neighboring restaurant that specializes in exotic dishes.

Zapata Swamp National Park Playa Larga, Península de Zapata, Matanzas

The Zapata National Park was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The park covers an area of 4,520 km2 (1,641 miles2) encompassing mangroves, cactus, dry woods, savannahs, salt pans and forest, providing habitat for reptiles, mammals, and many birds. Bird-watchers from all over the world flock to this national park in hopes of feasting their eyes on some 190 bird species, including 21 endemic species such as the eponymous Zapata Rail and Zapata Wren, along with the red, white, and blue tocororo—Cuba's national bird and the zunzuncito (Bee Hummingbird), the smallest bird in the world. Even if you're not a passionate birder, you can still enjoy watching a mass of wading birds—flamingos, wood storks, sandhill cranes—feeding here. There are many marine and freshwater fish in the area, including Manjuaríes, which are considered to be living fossils because of the primitive nature of their bodies. Many pre-Columbian archaeological remains have been found on the Zapata Peninsula, and the region’s history also includes the narrow channels that early inhabitants dug to facilitate river travel. The main access to the park is via Playa Larga at the head of the Bahía de los Cochinos. 

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