Isabelle Willson, a WWF staff member, joined Natural Habitat Adventures’ Undiscovered Cuba adventure, a Cuba People-to-People Exchange with a strong focus on its pristine wilderness areas and lively culture and recounts a typical day on this adventure.
I wake up and I walk out on to the balcony of my room. We are leaving this town, Cienfuegos, today, so I take a few more pictures of the hotel’s amazing view.
After packing up, we hop on the bus and head to the Cienfuegos Botanical Garden, a tropical research center originally established to investigate sugar cane production methods. There we learn about the trees (especially palms), flowers, and birds of Cuba from one of the garden’s caretakers.
After leaving the garden, we pull over at what appears to be the middle of nowhere and a man comes out to greet us. Our guide introduces us to his friend and says that this is their “secret spot,” so we will hopefully be able to see what we came for: the bee hummingbird, the smallest bird in the world and endemic to Cuba. It weighs no more than 2 grams and is no bigger than 2.4 inches.
Someone next to me instinctively swats something away from her face only to realize that it wasn’t a large bug, but a tiny bird. Now, we know one is around, so it’s just a matter of time. We eventually spot it in a nearby tree. It is tiny!
We pile back on the bus and head to lunch at a beautiful beach. We eat and then put on our swim suits and enjoy the cool water of a lagoon and the wildlife: crabs and lizards!
After leaving the beach, we head to our accommodations for the night in Playa Giron on the Bay of Pigs, which was one of two landing sites during the Bay of Pigs Invasion. A casa particular is the Cuban term for a hotel run out of someone’s home, originally illegal these are now allowed by the government, all the other hotels in Cuba are government-owned.
After we settle into our rooms, we go and enjoy a drink and then dinner at the house’s courtyard turned restaurant. Our entertainment for dinner is the daughter of the hotel’s owner. She’s an accomplished oboist and had studied music in Russia. Turns out Cubans know all of the popular songs from the US. We compete to be the fastest to name the tune as she plays them on her oboe.
Time for bed; tomorrow we will go snorkeling and to Cienaga de Zapata National Reserve, an ecological haven, where a flamboyance of flamingos abound.
By Isabelle Willson, Manager, Web Production, WWF-US
All photos © Isabelle Willson/WWF-US