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Guanacahabibes: An Option for Ecotourism

The Guanacahabibes Peninsula, in Cuba's westernmost province, Pinar del Río, has become a major destination for ecological tourism, due to its unique natural wealth and its well-preserved natural resources.

The Guanacahabibes National Park is the country's largest natural reserve and is separated from the rest of the island by an isthmus of white-sanded plains where Cuba's largest lakeside area lies.

A relative small area holds some 100 lakes, as well as the largest and purest fields of silica sand, which is 99.8 percent pure.

The Guanacahabibes Peninsula, which was declared a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1987, was also the last refuge of aborigines in western Cuba as they tried to escape from Spanish conquistadors.

Ecotourism enthusiasts can enjoy a wide range of options, from themes trails such as "Las Perlas Cave", "Forest Facing the Sea" and "Guanacahabibes before Columbus", to excursions to Cabo de San Antonio (Cape San Antonio) and local communities, which are representative of the region's population.

Development prospects include the incorporation of such options as the trails "La Majagua" and "Hoyo del Palmar", and excursions to "El Valle Community", "In favor of Ecological Agriculture" and bird-watching spots in Cabo Corrientes (Cape Corrientes), La Bajada, el Bosque, Hoyo del Palmar and Herbazal de Ciénaga.

Cabo de San Antonio. View from the Roncali Lighthouse
Cabo de San Antonio. Coast
Guanacahabibes. Palm trees

The project also includes boosting animal farms to raise both domestic and wild species, and where vacationers can learn about the animals' eating and reproductive habits, and their life in general.

Visitors who tour the region are surprised by the diversity of its landscapes and ecosystems, including evergreen forests and several categories of coasts - from reefs to sandy beaches - which are complemented by typical vegetation.

In general, Guanacahabibes is a low plain with many underground cavities - such as Cueva de la Barca (the Barge's Cave), which has a great speleological potential -, as well as freshwater springs in the sea.

The area, called "El Cabo" by the local people, fascinates vacationers with its unique landscapes along some 50 kilometers.

Preservation measures have resulted in abundant animal species, such as hutias, wild dogs, deer and cattle, in addition to iguanas and crabs on the coast.

As a peculiar sign of the region's potential for nature tourism, experts say that four of the seven species of marine turtles living on the planet have survived in the Guanacahabibes Peninsula, thanks to Cuban authorities' protection programs.

For all these, Cuba's westernmost tip has the necessary attributes to become a stronghold for ecological tourism on the Caribbean Island.

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