The Ciénaga de Zapata National Park contains extensive and varied ecosystems that range from mangrove forests, seagrass beds, coral reef barriers and deep reefs to the Cazones Gulf, an underwater canyon region where one can find large groups of porgies and groupers.
The Gran Parque Natural Montemar Biosphere Reserve houses the Ciénaga de Zapata National Park. The park forms a fundamental region of the Biosphere Reserve and the Ramsar site that share its name. The ecological fragility of the ecosystems has led to an intense effort toward conserving biodiversity and natural resources. The region was established as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2001, and it remains one of the Caribbean’s most untamed, least inhabited regions.
With this in mind, it is not shocking that the Ciénaga de Zapata has gained worldwide renown as a birdwatching region. In this region only visitors can find the Cuban Bee Hummingbird, the world’s smallest bird. Along the numerous hikes throughout the park you can also find Cuba’s national bird, the Tocororo, or Cuban Trogan, as well as the Cuban Pygmy Owl and Cuban Parrot. Along the ground, you want to look out for Cuban crocodiles that enjoy the Zapata swamps. This mangrove-ridden area of the park usually entices more intrepid visitors rather than traditional tourists who tend toward the sugarcane plantations farther north.
In following, the peninsula’s former sugar-mill town of Australia, located in the northeast, has become the park’s primary access point. South of Australia lies one of the area’s bigger tourist draws—Boca de Guamá. This area includes a reconstructed Taíno village whose construction remains unrepentantly modern despite its pre-Columbian intention. If you are looking for a crocodile farm, snack bars, and souvenirs, Boca de Guamá can be an enticingly cheesy way to take a break from the swampy heat.