The Beautiful Isle of Paredón Grande
By Neisa Mesa del Toro / Photos: Publicitur
Paredón Grande is one of the smallest and almost virgin islands that make up the Jardines del Rey (King‘s Gardens) archipelago of the Ciego de Ávila province, off central Cuba‘s northern coast.
The absence of any built infrastructure combined with minimal human traffic has resulted in an undisturbed environment inhabited by almost 100 animal species that include many resident and migratory birds.
Paredón Grande is a place of stunning tropical landscapes, rich biodiversity and beautiful coral beaches, of which the strand of Los Pinos stands out for its fine sands, warm and shallow crystal waters and gently flowing currents.
A big natural lagoon on its southern side offers wintertime shelter to a variety of birds that fly south from the United States and Canada.
Although there are no hotels, it is visited by connoisseurs of fly fishing, recreational divers and those seeking a close encounter with its flora and non aggressive resident wild animal population.
A distinctive landmark on the islet is the Diego Velázquez lighthouse, built in the middle of the 20th century and named after Cuba‘s first colony. Situated on a rock north of Paredón, this majestic work of wrought iron represents a significant and high value example of Cuban engineering.
Now more than half a century old and ravaged by passing hurricanes, this bright sentinel sustains the beam that safely steers the hundreds of sea going vessels that cross the Old Bahama Canal, three miles off Ciego de Ávila‘s northern shore.
Paredón Grande is named after the high cliffs that both form its borders and offer it a degree of coastal protection.
Red mangrove, hicacos, dwarf palm, cactus, yuraguano and lilies grow on the dry lands of this key and offer refuge to the herons, gannets, pigeons, rabihorcados, sevillas and other feathered varieties that abound.
Pertaining to the Buenavista Biosphere Reserve, it is the yuraguano that is most prominent in the forests that are home to three unique regional species of flora and fauna: the Consolea millspaughii family cactus, the Bahaman golden oriole and the piping plover, the latter being the subject of worldwide interest due to being on the verge of extinction.
Wondrous sea beds, comprising sections of coral formations that border the shoreline are inhabited by a diverse range of marine wildlife species and make for truly spectacular dive sites.
Crested and promontory coral reefs covering rocky crannies and terraces and bars alternating with sand channels characterize its depths.
The stone coral Montastraea cavernosa is the most abundant and is complimented by about 30 species of gorgonaceae and in- vertebrates common.
The development of Cayo Paredón Grande is to be included in the next phase of the Jardines del Rey investment program and the protection of its bio-diverse integrity and sensitive ecosystems will depend on strict compliance with environmental regulations when it comes to the building of hotels and other recreational facilities.