The Peninsula de Zapata: Gran Parque Natural Montemar
The Gran Parque Natural Montemar was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2001. Despite being located in one of Cuba’s largest municipalities, the Peninsula de Zapata Reserve is one of the most untamed and least inhabited regions in the country and in the Caribbean.
The Zapata Swamp is a wildlife paradise with more than 900 autochthonous plant species, 175 species of birds, 31 different species of reptiles and more than 1,000 invertebrates. Many travelers to Cuba come specifically to spend time bird watching, capturing images of unforgettable foliage and fauna images and enjoying the ultimate bird watching scene in the Caribbean.
Many naturalists plan their trip to coincide with the migration of 65 North American bird species that pass through Cuba en route to South America in what can only be describe3d as a wildlife happening. The Zapata Swamp is also home to many reptiles endemic to Cuba.
The Gran Parque Natural Montemar actually consists of two protected natural reserves: the Zapata Swamp and the nearby Las Salinas wildlife sanctuary. If you are a nature lover and your People-to-People tour does not include time spent enjoying theses environs, you are missing one of the greatest natural reserves on the planet. Need help planning your People-to-People Cuba tour? Contact Yordi or Dave at Info@trevelguidecuba.com.
The Peninsula of Zapata is one of 14 municipalities in Cienaga de Zapata province. The largest city is the provincial capital, Playa Larga which rests quietly at the northern end of the Bahia de Cochinos. According to the 2004 census, only 8,611 persons lived in Zapata at that time. The municipality consist of 4.162 square kilometres making it one of the least dense areas of the country.
Meanwhile, the Reserve’s wildlife is diverse and one of the most densely populated areas of the Caribbean. Cuba’s government continues efforts to encourage natural growth and a safe environment for many of endemic animals including the Cuban Crocodile which has been reintroduced to the Lanier Swamp.
But, the Zapata Peninsula is first and foremost known as the finest bird watching site in Cuba and in the Caribbean. Here, bird watchers can expect to observe bee hummingbirds, cranes, ducks, hawks, tocororos, parrots , partridges, herons, ibis, owls and many, many other bid species.
If fishing is your fancy, Zapota is the place to be. The Peninsula is a fisherman’s dream. All fishing on the peninsula is catch and release. Sport fishing and fly fishing thrive on the peninsula. With amazingly abundant stocks of palometa, sabalo, robalo, and bonefish and many other game fish, fisherman come from around the world to test their skills in the peninsula’s, wild waters.
One of the more unusual catches might be the manjuari with its alligator-like head and fishlike body and regarded as Cuba’s most primitive fish. This prehistoric looking fish has surprised many an experienced angler.
The Zapata peninsula offers 14 different vegetation formations including mangroves, cactus, wood and dry wood, savannahs, selva and massive salt pans. The marshes are filled with birds. A rocky central tract preserves the sanctuary.
Tourism is the main industry in the Gran Parque Natural Montemar but experienced guides warn visitors to be prepared for an active mosquito population. Interested in learning more about the Zapata Peninsula? Contact Yordi or Dave for more information at Info@Travelguidecuba.com.
Travelguidecuba.com is not a licensed People-to-People tour provider but works closely with licensed providers to help interested travelers enjoy the magic of Cuba. Complete Cuba People-to-People tours are licensed (CT-2013-299822-1) by the United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to engage, organize and conduct authorized people-to-people travel to Cuba that engages participants in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba.