A few kilometres from our next stop is Playa Giron, part of the more famous Bahia de Cochinos or Bay of Pigs, known for the historical importance in 1961 when the newborn socialist government got attacked by an American offensive in this same area. Fortunately, for Fidel, the capitalists were defeated and the place is now a touristic attraction with a museum.
We stayed in Playa Larga, a beach not far from this important site but, unfortunately we got sick the first day (damn traveller’s diarrhoea!) and had to recover for some days so we didn’t get to go to Playa Giron. But, has we were going to experience later, it was a blessing in disguise. The biggest attraction, and most interesting in our point of view, is the Parque Nacional Cienega de Zapata, one of the best birdwatching sites in the world. The park is divided into several sections and you can choose according to the type of experience you prefer: trekking and watching endemic fauna or observing the migratory birds in the swamps. We paid 50 CUC each for a four hour drive in the swamps.
There are dozens of species, from the noisy pink flamingos to the graceful herons and the hungry pelicans. It’s best to rent a car or pay a taxi to drive you through the only road that cuts the swamps and get scared at the perfect “Hitchcockian” scene that unfolds before your eyes: hundreds of land crabs invade the road with their forceps piercing the air (and the tires if you’re not careful), they run away as soon as the car approaches but the number is really impressive. The vegetation is mostly composed of mangroves which play an important part in protecting the landscape from storms and creating the perfect habitat for hundreds of animal species.
There is also a crocodile breeding farm in Playa Larga, where you can see crocodiles from all ages and up to sixteen species of Cuban and American origins. The best time is to go when they feed them, which we got lucky enough, as they throw pieces of fish and crab into the cages and hundreds of starving animals run for the feast. We also got to see a huge American crocodile with more than fifty years old (scary mouth…) and the farm workers inside one of the cages to recover eggs from a nest. If you would like to try croc meat this is one of the places but you can also ask the host from your casa particular and eat it for dinner, illegally of course.