Feb 18, 2018 - Harmony V
Our first full day along the southern side of Cuba was a very full one; some of us woke-up quite early in order to go birding in the Zapata Swamp Biosphere Reserve. The reserve is protecting one of the largest remaining stretches of continuous natural habitat in the country and includes the Caribbean’s biggest wetland. It is well known among birders as an amazing place to find several of those unique bird species endemic to Cuba and we really proved it today. We arrived to the location where a local birding guide was waiting for us and within minutes we had already seen three of those species. Not a bad start! We continued looking for birds along the rural road and into the forest trails, continuously stopping to watch and take pictures of many more species, including some wonderful sightings of the Cuban pygmy and bare-legged owls, the blue-headed quail-dove, the Cuban tody, the Cuban parakeet and of course the country's national bird, the Cuban trogon. We even had the immense pleasure to watch a true living jewel and the world's smallest bird, the bee hummingbird! In total we saw thirteen endemic bird species and heard two more, plus many other resident and migratory ones.
Once the day's heat made the bird's activity decrease, we headed towards the town of Playa Girón, where the main fights took place during the failed invasion at Bay of Pigs in April 1961. There we learned more about those events and saw artifacts, uniforms and even an airplane and tanks that were utilized during the three days that it took the Cubans to win the fight. After that, some of us went snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters of the Bay of Pigs and enjoyed watching colorful reef fishes and healthy corals and sponges.
After lunch at Playa Larga, we visited the Korimakao Community Project at the small town of Palpite. Korimakao is the home of professional artists with no formal training that bring their art in the form of dances, music, and paintings to the public in remote towns and villages throughout the region. We had the chance to watch a couple of their rehearsals, interact with some of the dancers and musicians in residence and continued to marvel at how deeply ingrained the arts are in people's souls in this beautiful country named Cuba.
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