Cuba: Between the provinces of Holguin and Guantanamo
By Dr. Martin Luis
Cayo Saetia, with an area of little more than 40 km², is near the Nipe Bay, the largest bay in Cuba. More than 50% of Saetia is covered by forests, while the rest has vegetation similar to that of the prairies where free animals, autochthonous or introduced, graze. For instance, bulls, zebras, deer and others.
From the hotel , Villa Cayo Saetia, you can join the different proposed excursions, although those who are not living in the hotel can join them too. We are going to give you some examples of the tours you can make, either by horse, jeep safari or by yacht.
One of them is into the mountains, in a place known as Pinares de Mayari, which is tableland at 680 meters over the sea level. There you find excellent lodging, where you can depart tracking to watch the abundant local flora and fauna, particularly birds. The endemism of the flora is quite significant. During the tour you see beautiful attractive landscapes, whether natural or planted, fruit trees, sugar cane, coffee and rice plantations which alternate with the pine trees that can also be planted or natural.
You can also visit the Guayabo waterfall, located in the small river of the same name. You descend from it through a path of about 1 km, where you find interesting plants and birds, native or migratory. These tours can take two or more days.
Baracoa_CityThe following day, you can go eastwards to Baracoa City at 170 km. The journey is long and beautiful, so we recommend taking a brief break in Moa, located at 120 km from Saetia. If you want you can visit the National Park Pico Cristal, at the very heart of the mountains forming Cristal Mountain Range. This park was created in 1930 and is the second oldest one in the whole Neo Tropic.
The tour, next to the coast, allows you to see Levisa, Cabonico and Sagua de Tanamo Bays. Furthermore it gets away from the coast in the direction of the mountains, towards Sagua de Tanamo village, taking the road that leads to Moa. After taking a break in that village, the tour continues again along the road next to the coast, seeing to the right the forests and the high mountains.
The tour is beautiful, for you frequently see many rivers and small bays, among them Cañete and Yamanigϋey. Passing it, you cross the Jiguaní River and arrive in Guantánamo province and the National Park Alejandro de Humboldt. At a few kilometers you get to the visitors center located at Taco bay, a place of extraordinary beauty. There you receive information about the best way to visit this park. Near this bay is the Nibujón village where the Maguana Hotel (2*) is. We suggest staying here because the area is very beautiful and you can enjoy a tour in Moa and its surroundings.
Next we give you some information about this National Park which is not easy to summarize for it has so many values. The park has great significance not only for Cuba but for the whole Caribbean and it is highly valued from several points of view.
The park has a surface of 72 800 hectares, that is to say, 728 km² of which 2 641 hectares are in the sea. Its origin comes from the 60´s when the Jaguaní and Cupeyal del Norte Natural Reserves were created. Later, around the 90´s, the creation of the Ojito del Agua Fauna Refuge was authorized, because the existence of the Royal Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis bairdi) was suspected.
National Park Alejandro de HumboldtIt was in 1996 when the two reserves and the fauna refuge came together and became this National Park. It occupies the best preserved area in Cuba and the insular Caribbean of the mountain ecosystems and the tropical forests regarding the preservation of the natural conditions, biodiversity and endemism. The Park is the nucleus area (the most important part) of the Biosphere Reserve Cuchillas del Toa. Besides, UNESCO declared it World Heritage in 2001 because of the already mentioned values.
This territory has also another characteristic of its own, and is the fact that it receives the largest amount of rain in the whole country. As a result, it brings about a unique ambience with the highest number of flora and fauna species in the Caribbean. Regarding the flora, in a small area, as compared with the rest of the planet, it has the 2% of the universal flora species, having a great amount of endemic species of the Antilles.
The most important vegetation of the Park, taking into account its extension and endemism, are the jungles with all the Cuban varieties. It is good to point out that this is the less explored place in Cuba. Among the most interesting plants there are very primitive kinds and some small carnivorous species. In the coast, there are also interesting plants. For instance, in the sea you find seaweed of different colors and in the rivers of the region you can watch the manatee (Trichechus manatus), a family of the Sirénidos, which gave origin to the mermaid legends and which feeds itself with the manatee herb (Syrigodium filiforme). It is important to say that the manatee is considered an endangered species.
Regarding the fauna, it is also the richest in the country because of its variety and abundance. It has interesting records, as for instance, being the 11th to have endemic reptiles and the 22nd in superior vertebrates. It is outstanding the presence of four interesting species, considered among the smallest in the world: the Butterfly Bat (Natalus Lepidus), the small frog of Alto de Iberia (Eleutherodactylus Iberia), the little hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae) and the scorpion (Microtytus fundorai).
The Almiquí (Solenodon cubanus) still lives in this place, an insectivorous mammal which is among the biggest in the world and very hard to be watched, the Caguarero Sparrow hawk (Chondrohierax wilsoni) and the mentioned Royal Woodpecker (Campephilus pricipalis bairdi), the largest woodpecker in the planet, which is suspected to exist some left. There are also beautiful mollusks of the Polimyta species. In their rivers inhabit two exclusive species of these territories: the Guajacón (Gambusia punctata) and the Joturo de Guantánamo (Cyclasoma ramsdeni).
In next articles, you will receive more information about Guantánamo province and the program of the Alejandro de Humboldt Park.
Dr. Martin Luis is a Cuba vacations website blogger and content collaborator at http://www.umbrellatravel.com
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Views expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of CaribbeanChoice, its staff or members.