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Nature and Tourism in Zapata Swamp

In addition to traditional regions to enjoy the sun and the beach in Cuba, tourism has spread to one-of-a-kind natural areas, thus taking advantage of the country's environment.

That is the case of the Zapata Swamp (Ciénaga de Zapata), one of the most attractive tourist sites in eastern Matanzas province and a paradise par excellence for nature enthusiasts.

Beaches with blue crystal-clear water, exotic forests, rivers, lakes, flooded caverns, natural pools, pristine areas and typical swamp vegetation provide shelter to 30 percent of Cuba's autochthonous fauna.

In addition, the region's forests cover an area of more than 500,000 hectares and are made up of 1,000 species of native plants grouped in 110 families, including 130 endemic species, six of which are native to the area and 14 are rare or endangered species.

In that area is Playa Larga, in the north of Bay of Pigs, where several of the best flooded caves in the Caribbean are located and where tourists can go diving.

The region also has a crocodile-breeding farm, one of the most attractive places there, where visitors can see excellent specimens of Crocodylus rhombifer and Crocodylus acutus, most commonly known as Cuban crocodile and caiman, respectively.

Monte Mar Ciénaga de Zapata, Matanzas
Diving site at Caleta Buena

Also in the Zapata Swamp are Salinas de Bidos, where nature enthusiasts can watch up to 165 species of birds in winter, and Cueva de los Peces, the largest flooded cavern in the Cuban archipelago and an excellent place to practice cave diving.

The Zapata Swamp also holds the Treasure Lagoon (Laguna del Tesoro), a freshwater reservoir that covers 900 hectares and is four meters deep. It is the home to the golden trout, which is highly coveted by anglers.

In the middle of the reservoir is Villa Guamá, which reproduces a Taino village with cabanas on pillars over the water.

A dozen small islands connected by a system of canals and bridges make up Villa Guamá, the only tourist resort of its kind in the Caribbean due to its aboriginal characteristics.

The villa is decorated with life-size sculptures of aboriginal people made by the famous Cuban sculptor Rita Longa, who recreated the life and work of the Tainos, the island's first inhabitants.

The estuaries and lagoons in the region are inhabited by two species of endangered aquatic vertebrates: manatees and Cuban gars, the latter is a fish that can only be found in that Cuban region.

There is a special type of caves that make up the Zapata speleological system and runs along a 70-kilometer-long crack between Bay of Pigs and the Bay of Cienfuegos.

The caverns hold semicircular lagoons on the surface that provide access to flooded galleries, many of which are underground rivers.

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