Guanahacabibes, where the sun goes down
By Claudia González Corrales / Photos: Aslam I. Castellón Maure
The Guanahacabibes Biosphere Reserve, Cuba’s westernmost tip, stands out today for stories of pirates who came to its shores to hide still-unknown treasures, and for land and underwater landscapes, as well as conservation projects.
Bathed by the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the peninsula belonging to the province of Pinar del Río has sites with names of pirates, such as Poza Juan Claro, Punta del Holandés, Playa Antonio..., leading the explorer to believe that legendary places can be found there.
A secluded place, where vegetation and animal species coexist with few permanent residents in its 1, 060 square kilometers, it appears as an oasis with its twenty beaches, trails for bird and reptile watching, high level of endemism and reef ecosystems among the most diverse in the Caribbean.
Guanahacabibes is the largest lake area in the country, and the iguana, the largest lizard on the island, is part of its legend, with male specimens up to two meters long.
In areas specializing in tourism, one attraction stands out: the chance to see sea turtles hatch a few meters away, as part of a monitoring and conservation project for these reptiles that has international significance.
Between May and September, four of the planet’s seven endangered species come to the peninsula’s coasts to lay their eggs in the dunes.
The initiative of scientific and academic institutions includes counting the eggs and groups of specimens, while the beaches they prefer for nesting are analyzed. The tourism press considers the place a dream destination for nature and ecotourism lovers, and recall the submerged heritage of the coastline and the existing archaeological sites, 140 of them related to the life of the indigenous.
Landmarks in the area are the Roncali Lighthouse, the only building built in the colonial period in the far west, and the María la Gorda International Diving Centre, with some 60 dive sites in calm waters with great visibility.
Guanahacabibes has been recognized since 1987 as a Biosphere Reserve, a category granted by Unesco, and home to a National Park, which witnesses every afternoon the setting of the Cuban sun into the peninsula’s seas.