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The Zapata Swamp: A Paradise for Ecologists

The Zapata Swamp, in the Montemar Great Natural Park, is one of the most attractive tourist options in the western Cuban province of Matanzas, in addition to being a paradise par excellence for ecologists.

Blue-water beaches, exotic forests, rivers, lakes, flooded caverns, natural ponds, virgin areas and swamp prairies are safe havens for 30 percent of Cuba's autochthonous fauna.

Some 171 species of birds stand out, including 18 endemic species, in a territory that has become one of the Island's richest regions to develop ecological tourism.

According to experts, the region is inhabited by a variety of crocodile that can only be found in the Cuban archipelago, in addition to manatees, which are considered a treasure of the national fauna.

In the geographic center of this region stands out Playa Larga, with its 400 meters of warm water, excellent sand, coral reefs and several natural paths, where vacationers can enjoy the area's almost virgin nature and visit the International Bird-Watching Center.

Other attractions in the Zapata Swamp are the Bidos's Salt Mines, where bird watchers can observe up to 165 species of birds, and the Cueva de los Peces (Fish Cave), the largest flooded cavern in the Cuban archipelago and an excellent place for cave diving.

One of the largest crocodile farms in the country and the Caribbean region, with nearly 15,000 specimens, is located in the Zapata Swamp.

In a natural lagoon, an excellent spot for fishing and excursions on boat, 12 small islands linked by a system of canals and bridges make up the Guamá tourist center, the only one of its kind in the Caribbean, because of its aborigine-style buildings.

In Guamá, the famous Cuban sculptor Rita Longa made a life-size replica of a Taino village, where its dwellers - the first inhabitants of the largest Antillean Island - are carrying out their daily chores as if surprised by time.

The careful exploitation of the region's resources, with the goal of preserving the natural environment and the animal and plant safe havens, has made the Zapata Swamp a true paradise for ecologists.

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