The Peninsula de Guanahacabibes, located at the far western end of Cuba, is a Biosphere Reserve of nearly 120,000 hectares in size, 40,000 of which are designated a National Park. Its secluded location and impressive size makes Guanahacabibes a perfect destination for birders looking to enjoy the island’s birds in a quiet, remote setting.
The Guanahacabibes National Park is separated from the rest of the island by white-sand plains where one of Cuba’s largest lakeside areas lies. It is believed that 4 of the 7 species of marine turtles living on the planet have survived in the Guanahacabibes Peninsula, and the coastline there is known for preserved coral reefs, bottlenose dolphins, spiny lobsters, and red snapper fishing grounds.
The terrestrial portion of the park is largely made up by a forested, flat limestone plain, with cliffsides over 20 meters in height along the periphery. Limestone formations and caves are scattered throughout the landscape. The Endangered (and endemic) frog Eleutherodactylus guanahacabibes occurs here, as do other endemic reptiles including Anolis quadriocellifer and Antillophis andreai peninsulae. Guanahacabibes also boasts a number of endemic rodents and bats, as well as 14 plant species.
This Important Bird Area (IBA) supports 190 bird species (31 of which are biome-restricted species), including 11 Cuban endemics and 9 globally threatened species of which the Blue-headed Quail Dove (Starnoenas cyanocephala), Giant Kingbird (Tyrannus cubensis), and Gundlach’s Hawk (Accipiter gundlachi) are all Endangered. The restricted-range Yellow-headed Warbler (Teretistris fernandinae) and Red-shouldered Blackbird (Agelaius assimilis) can both be found here.
Guanahacabibes forms part of the migratory corridor of the Mississippi flyway, and is a bottleneck site during fall migration. Bird capture rates during migration mist-netting studies have been higher in this IBA than anywhere else in Cuba. Cerulean Warblers have also been observed here in the fall months.
Reaching Guanahacabibes requires a 270 km drive from the capital city, Habana. Aim for the small town of Sandino.
There are a few hotels to consider:
- Hotel operated by La Gaviota: Maria La Gorda; this hotel is located on the eastern peninsula of Guanahacabibes and is a notorious center for scuba diving in crystal clear waters.
- Hotel operated by La Gaviota: Villa Cabo de San Antonio, located at the most extreme western edge of Cuba, is located near a bird banding station.
- Bed and Breakfast: managed by Jorge Luis Garriga (known locally as “El Pollo”) located seaside in the town of La Bajada.
The offices for the Parque Nacional Guanahacabibes are located In the town of La Bajada. Here you can find guides to take you birdwatching including Roberto Varela, Jose Alberto Camejo, Osmani Borrego, and Abel Sosa.