Protecting Cuba’s beaches
At Home In Cuba is committed to sustainable, responsible tourism which benefits not only local people, but the local environment as well. This is particularly the case when we bring our visitors to those ‘off the beaten track’ locations. Read on to find out how one of our tour guide friends has encouraged his local community and visitors alike to protect a very special place.
Finding out about responsible tourism in Ciénaga de Zapata National Park
For many travellers in Cuba, a visit to one of the picture-perfect beaches is a must. White sand, swaying palm trees, sapphire water… all of it combines to create an almost unreal image of holiday perfection. Far from the sunbeds of Varadero, Cuba’s beaches can offer not only these views, but a chance to glimpse the extraordinary flora and fauna of the island as well. Some of the loveliest beaches are within just a couple of hours’ drive from Havana. They are situated in the Ciénaga de Zapata National Park, on Cuba’s southern coast.
As well as all the history connected to the Bay of Pigs conflict, there are several fantastic diving spots, natural cenotes to swim in (natural underground reservoirs) and the charming beachside communities of Play Girón and Playa Larga. On our guided tours, we often include lunch or a sunset at one of the secluded beaches.
What are the effects of tourism on Cuba’s beaches?
These beaches are not only beautiful: they support complex ecosystems of plants, animals and sea life. Sadly, not everyone takes care of their natural surroundings. About 18 months ago, a good friend and fellow tour guide Yeye realised one of the beaches near his family home in Playa Larga was being ruined by visitors. They were throwing garbage, burning trees with their barbecue fires and driving cars across the meadows to get close to the beach, ripping up plants and tree saplings as they went.
Ahead of the trashbag challenge curve
Long before the trashbag challenge became popular, Yeye mobilised a group of family and friends to clean up the beach. Sweeping for garbage, they first recovered over 15 bags of trash from a small area, returning to collect more bags, several weeks later. Next, Yeye installed wooden posts to prevent cars from driving off the road and onto the beach. He planted sapling mangrove trees to replace those which had been destroyed by car tires and horses’ hooves.
An unusual sight in Cuba: the recycling bins for sorting waste. Yeye installed wooden baskets at the beach which allow at least some of the waste to be recycled or re-purposed. Finally, he commissioned thought-provoking signs to remind visitors of the privilege of enjoying such beautiful settings.
The result of all this hard work? A pristine beach for everyone to enjoy. We last visited just a week ago and Yeye’s hard work is paying off: the beach was spotless. What’s even more encouraging is that the local authorities have noticed Yeye’s work and have promised to help him ensure that visitors use the beach respectfully.
Private guided tours to Playa Larga
Contact us to find out more about our overnight tour to Playa Larga! We are committed to sustainable tourism which benefits the local community and is respectful of the environment. Visit this beach, meet Yeye’s family and find out more about this beautiful and historically significant location.