Monday, January 26, 2015

Cuba's Healthy Nature

We are setting off on our Cuban adventure – four weeks travelling around the island. Bus will be our means of transport between Varadero, Trinidad, Havana, Viñales, and Guanabo, and we will be staying mostly in casas particulares, which are bed and breakfast-style homestays. Travel will not be easy; we expect it to be like the old days as budget travellers in Indonesia.

The image of rustic simplicity and beauty above has drawn us to Viñales where we will be setting down for ten days or so to soak up the Cuban countryside and diverse wild life, birdlife. A  scenic village, Viñales perches midst the Sierra de los Organos above an extensive valley punctuated by otherworldly Jurassic-age outcrops called mogotes.  This is traditionally tobacco country, but I am really looking forward to checking out  Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso, a spacious organic farm with restaurant on a hill with incredible views of the 'silencio' valley. Cuba’s farming methods are these days famously organic, with farms having being forced to quit chemicals with the loss of supply with the fall of the Soviet Union. What a blessing!

In Havana we will feel the energy of the city scene – people, music, dance, art, architecture, which have either been preserved in time or evolved in their own Cubana style. In Trinidad we will soak up a slower pace midst old colonial-style buildings and cobbled streets, the nearby beach.

The Nature Conservancy reports:

Cuba has a secret: This country's thousands of miles of coral reefs appear to be healthier than others in Caribbean waters.

Preliminary assessments indicate that the reefs do not exhibit the widespread disease and mortality occurring in places like the Florida Keys, Jamaica and Mexico, in part due to the decades of isolation from mass tourism as well as limited agricultural practices.

A study of the health of Cuba’s reefs can provide valuable insights into coral reef conservation for the Caribbean, and possibly, the world.

In 2012, the Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund completed a three-week expedition of Cuba’s Jardines de la Reina national park. Despite some localized coral bleaching, the research team was awed by what they found – many intact reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds teeming with fish and marine life. This work has laid the foundation for Cuban scientists and officials, who will decide if the 840-square-mile park should be expanded.”

With political change afoot with the heralded easing of tensions between Cuba and the United States and the proposed end to the trade embargo, this is a precious opportunity to see Cuba the way it has become one stage removed from the Western world with all its “bells and whistles.” Time will tell how the island copes with what will almost be a whirlwind of change, hopefully managed so that the people, economy, arts, culture, nature, farming can adapt without huge upheaval.