Named after the German scientist considered the second discoverer of Cuba, in 2001, UNESCO declared the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park a World Heritage Site. Today, the park has become a “not to be missed” part of any nature-lover’s itinerary while visiting the Caribbean island nation.
In all, Cuba is home to 253 protected areas, 257 national monuments, seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, seven Natural Biosphere Reserves and 13 fauna refuges among other non-tourist zones.
The Alejandro de Humboldt National park occupies territories in the provinces of Holguín and Guantánamo, and covers an area of 70,680 hectares, of which 2,250 correspond to territorial waters and 68,430 to land.
Singular natural characteristics distinguish the region, which has the highest indexes of cloudiness and rainfall in the country, with records ranging between 2 400 and 4 000 millimetres of rainfall per year. Rich for its pristine beaches and mountain rainforests, Alejandro de Humboldt Park is also home to Cuba’s largest hydrographic network and the largest reservoir of pure water in the Caribbean. According to the renowned Cuban scientist Antonio Núñez Jiménez, this area has the most crystalline water rivers in the world.
Over time, Cuban specialists have been assuring that the biodiversity values, the high endemism of the flora and fauna and the continuous description of new species or other very rare ones that inhabit the region are closely followed. In this area alone, one can find more than 1,500 species of Cuban flora and endangered animals such as the almiquí or the Caguarero hawk.
The region’s main economic activities of forestry, coffee, coconut and cacao cultivation, are carried out in a controlled manner in harmony with nature, so as not to have a negative impact on the region’s rich ecosystem.
This area of eastern Cuba arouses great interest among travellers, so routes and excursions have been created that allow visitors to appreciate the unique environment in the company of specialised guides.
Main attractions of the Park include the Cabeza de Jaguaní River with several waterfalls and cascades, the Loma del Mulo viewpoint, El Toldo, a peak and plateau that constitute the highest heights of the Moa-Baracoa massif, the Alto de Iberia plateau, with unique lagoons of its kind in Cuba and the world, Taco Bay, habitat of the manatee (an endangered aquatic mammal) and the Farallones de Moa, an area with a developed fluvial cavern system, whose Gran Caverna is a National Monument.
Put quite simply, the park is one of the most complete opportunities that specialists and nature tourism enthusiasts can enjoy in the Greater Antilles.
Cuba returns to the tourism scene
After some “dark” years, as the previous US administration blacklisted the nation, Cuba is re-emerging as an important part of the Caribbean tourism scene.
International confidence in Cuba as a destination has been reinforced by the announcement that Havana will be the embarkation and disembarkation port for the UK-based Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines company for the 2021-2022 season in the Caribbean.
The company announced that having the Cuban capital as its new homeport allows it to showcase the Caribbean in all its glory, and means they can offer guests time to enjoy this vibrant city, with overnight port departures or overnight stays where possible.
Fred. Olsen is relaunching its Caribbean itineraries for next year to showcase two types of holiday experience for guests: those looking to refresh and refuel with some winter sunshine, and those looking to immerse themselves in the history and vibrant culture of the islands they visit.
Clare Ward, Director of Product and Customer Service at Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, said: “Too often the Caribbean is thought of as a single destination, but it is so much more than that, with so many islands offering different and unique yet equally exceptional experiences.”
The eastern Caribbean, with destinations such as St Kitts and St Maarten provide the perfect setting for those looking to recharge their batteries and enjoy the laid-back way of life while escaping the colder winter temperatures back home. Ms Ward says guests can take in the many stunning waterfalls and beaches in St Lucia, take a trip on a Rhum Runner in Grenada and indulge their Bob Marley knowledge in Port Royal.
“The western islands offer endless opportunities to explore, immerse and learn,” said Ms Ward, adding, “For example, during calls into Cozumel, guests can explore the Mayan Ruins – one of the Seven Wonders of the World – and trek through the jungles in Belize. Using Havana, Cuba, as our new turnaround base allows us to really showcase the Caribbean in all its glory. It also means we can offer extended stays into Havana so that our guests have plenty of time to enjoy this vibrant city, with late-night departures or overnight stays where possible. Havana has always delivered high guest satisfaction ratings on our sailings, so it is great to be able to offer more opportunities for them to explore this wonderful port.”
To mark the new turnaround port, Fred. Olsen’s virtual cruise will this week sail around the beautiful islands of the Caribbean, with Basse-Terre, St Kitts; Port Royal in Jamaica and, of course, Havana, Cuba.
While the US has been a very unstable source market of late, travellers from around the world visit Cuba, arriving by a mixture of scheduled and charter airlines to one of Cuba’s ten international airports. By far the largest number come from Canada, where arrivals had been increasing by almost 10% annually from 2007 until 2019. Europeans follow next, primarily arriving from Great Britain, Spain, Italy, France and Germany.
Photo – top of page – Indira Rivero Reyes, Cubatravel.cu