Cubans bag rice dried on the asphalt
Bio-sphere, “The place on earth’s surface where life dwells.”
Edward Suess, 1875.
“Well, at least you have a wiper.” I’ve noticed the windshield on my side has none.
Native guide Chino is steering his 52 Chevy “power glide” south on the four lane autopista and into a misty rain, straining hard to see. We’re on the shakedown run of his freshly painted international auto, her first time out of Havana.
“Yes Filipe, there is a wiper.” He says, then shrugs. “ But there is no motor.”
A slate sky, leftover clouds of a stalled cold front linger over our destination,”Bayo de Conchinas”….”The Bay of Triggerfish.” Duck and cover Americans remember it as….”The Bay of Pigs.”
Three hours south of Havana, bounded by the vast Zapata Swamp Biosphere and the Caribbean sea, this pristine bay – like Florida’s Everglades – is best visited in winter and spring. Picturesque, wild, teaming with crocodiles, birds and white tail deer, Zapata constitutes the largest wet- land preserve in the Caribbean.
Playa Larga, at the head of the bay is where light-tackle fishermen turn right. From there to the hard to reach Las Salinas, the rivers and shallows teem with juvenile tarpon and snook. The flats hold some of the largest concentrations of bonefish in the world.
As of November, 2011, Zapata once again allows a limited number of outboard operators inside the preserve, opening areas previously unreachable by oar and push pole. For fly guys, this is a priceless angling opportunity.
To the east, Playa Giron is a beautiful bump in the road. Tucked along a low limestone shoreline, it’s interspersed with patches of sea grape shaded beaches. Live coral patches, a short swim from shore are crystal clear snorkel and dive sites. Just beyond, the sheer wall drop is a painted blue line.
After nightfall, during the spring and fall spawns, the beaches and rocky points become favored snapper fishing camps for locals and visitors alike.
Playa Giron is surrounded by vast expanses of wilderness, full of fowl and fish. Nighttime here is dark, no city glow hides the stars.
Fundora, our chef and local contact filled me in over a lunch of sauteed snapper, black beans and rice, avocado salad, with fresh chilled guava for desert. Fundora, who owns a nice rental house/restaurant grew up on these waters.
Willing village fishermen are available for inshore and offshore trips. In addition to multiple varieties of snapper and grouper, dolphin , sailfish, wahoo and tuna are plentiful as well.
Surprisingly, Fudora’s first love is bird hunting, ducks and dove. He shoots from late October until the birds leave in early spring, and claims their numbers have increase over the years. This pleases him.
If quiet, abundant beauty is what you seek, earmark a few days for Zapata and Playa Giron.
Next Month, the Largemouths of Hanabanilla.