Some of us started the day a bit early, with a bird watching opportunity at the Zapata National Park. We met with a local birding enthusiast, Orland Ramirez, who took us along the edges and then through the forest. This was perfect timing and habitat for seeing several Cuban endemic bird species, including the national bird, the Cuban trogon. In all we sighted 37 species before moving on to the hummingbird house. The Cuban people are proud of their unique fauna, as well they should be, the endemic bee hummingbird is the smallest bird on the planet, and we met an avian enthusiast associated with this tiny bird. Bernabe Hernandez has created a mini-oasis in his backyard for the bee hummingbird. The Cuban emerald hummingbird also visits his yard along with an assortment of other beautiful birds we sighted this morning including the tawny-shouldered blackbird, black-throated blue warbler and West Indian woodpecker. Just a few months ago during the last hurricane, Bernabe created a temporary home with mosquito netting inside his own home to protect the birds through the worst of the storm. His efforts were successful and today the birds buzz around the feeders, flowers and visitors in his yard.
Lunch was served at the Tiki Restaurant in Playa Larga, where we heard more about the Zapata National Park in a presentation by Armando Herrera. We learned amongst many other items of interest that the Archipelago of Cuba is home to 600 species of plants, of which 50% are endemic. Even more impressive was that its surrounding waters are home to more than 4,000 species of mollusk.
While our morning included the natural history of Cuba, our afternoon leaned towards the cultural arts. We visited a unique project founded by Manuel Porto Sanchez called The Korimakao Community Project. This is an endeavor which offers alternative careers for artists, dancers, musicians and actors who come into the project with no formal training. Lileat Gonzales introduced us to the program and to several of the artists in residence. Included was a dance recital, a performance of Cuban music by Pascua’s duet and a showing in a small art gallery.
It was a full day of information and exploration of the people and fauna that call the archipelago of Cuba home.