Zapata Peninsula

The Zapata Peninsula is a great shoe-shaped territory jutting west into the Golf of Batabanó, by the southern half of the island of Cuba. The more than 4200 square kilometer landmass is a region of limestone with flooded faults called “cenotes”. Into it, the swamp-land (the Ciénaga de Zapata) sweeps south to the Caribbean Sea. The region, the hosting of nearly 900 plant species, 12 mammals species, 175 bird species, 31 reptile species, and more than 1,000 species of invertebrates, is a natural park and wildlife reserve – Parque Nacional Ciénaga de Zapata – incorporated within the Gran Parque Natural Montemar. It is the largest protected area in Caribbean.

Zapata extends west of a deep, finger-like bay, the 20 kilometer long Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs), the site of the failed U.S.-backed invasion attempt in 1961.

Mangroves, marshes, and woodlands there are home to a wide variety of birds. The Zapata Peninsula is probably Cuba's richest bird-watching destination and several trails through and around the national park are available to birders. Some 18 of Cuba's 24 endemic bird species can be spotted here, as well as large flocks of resident waterfowl and seasonal migrants

The marshes and rivers of Zapata are good areas for fishing. Prime fishing sites include the saltwater flats and mangroves of Las Salinas on the eastern edge of the peninsula, the Hatiguanico River deep within the national park, and the lagoons of Boca de Guamá. Fishing for bass, trout, tilapia, permit, tarpon and bonefish is excellent in this area.

The hotels and tour agencies in the area can arrange bird-watching excursions and fishing trips with local guides.

The Bay of Pigs with its beaches Playa Larga and Playa Girón, is a paradise for snorkeling and diving lovers. A steep wall, rich in coral and sponges, plunges to depths of over 300m (984 ft.). There are numerous caves to explore and visibility is typically excellent.

Most of the coral walls are no more than 40m offshore so dives take place from the shore itself, while there are also a number of easily accessible shipwrecks to explore. The principal cave dive on the peninsula is at the “cenote” known as Cueva de los Peces (Cave of fishes).

Both, the hotels Playa Girón and Playa Larga have full-service dive facilities on-site. Zapata Peninsula is an attraction that encompasses blue-water beaches, forests, rivers, lakes, flooded caverns, ponds, and swamp prairies, where travelers can enjoy leisure, nature, and adventure.

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