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Nature in Western Cuba

The Zapata Swamp, which is part of the Great Montemar Natural Park, is a one-of-a-kind site for nature enthusiasts, as it is considered one of the largest wetlands in the insular Caribbean region.

Beaches of fine white sand and crystal-clear blue water, exotic forests, rivers, lakes, flooded caverns, natural pools, pristine zones and swamp savannas provide shelter to 30 percent of Cuba's autochthonous fauna.

Located in the south of western Matanzas province, the Zapata Swamp offers tourists an exceptional landscape made up of several kinds of ecosystems, including lowlands and swamps that are on peat and limestone deposits, with hydromorphic soils and natural savanna vegetation.

That kind of scenery is perfect to take photos with a high esthetic value at areas like the Treasure Lagoon and the Basin of the Hatiguanico River, the region's main waterway, in addition to Playa Larga and Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs).

The local fauna is privileged and includes the so-called Zapata rails (Cyanolimnas cerverai) and Zapata wrens (Ferminia cerverai), which are native to the region and have the most restricted habitat in the world.

In addition, about 100 species of birds, including bee hummingbirds, swamp sparrows (Torreornis inexpectata), Gundlach's hawks (Accipiter gundlachi), Cuban parakeets (Psittacara euops), parrots and ptarmigans, which live in large populations all year around, can be watched.

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

Additionally, the region is the habitat of 16 species of reptiles and amphibious, including the Cuban and American crocodiles, as well as iguanas, lizards, snakes and several kinds of frogs.

In the estuaries and lagoons, it is possible to find two species of aquatic vertebrates: manatee and manjuari (Cuban gar). The latter only lives in the Zapata Swamp.

About 56 percent of the wetland is covered by forests that hold about 900 species of plants, as well as in independent communities.

That biodiversity also holds 109 animal forms, including 12 species of mammals, 160 of birds, 31 of reptiles and a wide variety of amphibious and invertebrates.

The geographic center of the region is Playa Larga, which offers a 400-meter-long beach of warm water and excellent fine white sand, as well as sea bottoms covered with corals and several pristine natural trails where the International Bird-Watching Center is based.

The region's attractions are complemented by the Bidos Saltworks, where nature enthusiasts can watch up to 165 species of birds in winter, and Cueva de los Peces, which is Cuba's largest flooded cave and an ideal place for spelunking.

One of the largest crocodile farms in the country and the Caribbean is in the Zapata Swamp, with more than 10,000 specimens of those animals.

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