Published on 21 October, 2017.
Alexander Humboldt National Park embodies a unique approach to the relation between human beings and their environment. A hike through the park offers you a living portrait of the coexistence of rural communities and natural wonders.
An ever-growing harmony in view of conservation
Roughly 3,000 people live within Alexander Humboldt National Park. Composed of agricultural, fishing and forestry workers, these small communities were already there before the creation of the national park and the Cuchillas del Toa Biosphere Reserve, within which the park lies.
The staff in charge of Humboldt Park multiplies awareness-enhancing strategies among local folk, striving towards a solid understanding and the generalization of integrated environment conservancy practices.
Thus, the park’s staff members offer educational activities in the context of the celebrations marked throughout the year’s calendar, such as the Day of the Child and Mothers’ Day.
These actions aimed at consolidating a conservancy culture complete other government supports for the development of an ecological agriculture in the area.
On Part 1 of this blog entry you can read about Alexander Humboldt National Park’s general ecological facts.
The fauna in Humboldt Park, colourful and unique
In terms of animal species, 30 % of mammals, 21 % of birds, 83.3 % of reptiles, 95.8 % of amphibians and 27.7 % of insects are endemic to the region or the country. Several of them, such as the almiquí (Solenodon cubanus) are considered endangered and require highly specialized management approaches.
During your visit to Humboldt Park you’ll be able to observe birds such as the tocororo or Cuban trogon (Priotelus temnurus, Cuba’s national bird), the minute and colourful cartacuba (Todus multicolor) and hummingbirds, including the zunzuncito (Mellisuga helenae), the smallest hummingbird in the world.
Other species that live in the park include the Monte Iberia frog (Eleutherodactylus iberia), which measures less than 1 cm, the bright green chipojo or saltacocote lezzard (Anolis baracoae) and the polimitas (Polymita picta, multicoloured tree snails). In Taco Bay there are manatee colonies.
On Part 1 of this blog entry you can read more about the flora in Alexander Humboldt National Park.
Taco Bay is an integral part of Humboldt Park. Few travelers opt for the boat ride in this bay considered to be a “simply sublime” place by the wonderful Caroline Krauze, a blogger specializing in family travel (Voyage Family) whose family we had the pleasure to host for a few days at Villa Paradiso.
The boat ride is 2 km long along the bay shores (don’t panic – it won’t be you who’ll do the rowing, but a physically fit member of Humboldt Park’s staff!)
If you are lucky to take this boat ride on a good day, the manatee who make the bay their habitat might come close to the boat and greet the visitors.
At some point doing the 2 hours ride, the boat goes in depth into the dense mangroves surrounding the bay and you’ll be able to watch different kinds of birds.
Later on, the boat gets close to the bay mouth, with its limestone forms covered by palm trees shining under the sun, before starting the way back to the departure area.
Balcón de Iberia Trail
At 5 km-long, Balcón de Iberia trail is the longest of those available for a one-day excursion – but also one of the most beautiful and diverse.
The departure point is at a community named Santa María. You will undertake the ascending hike along the edge of a hill and you will see on both the right and left-hand sides wonderful landscapes covered in a dense and diverse vegetation.
Balcón de Iberia trail constitutes a round trajectory covering two types of plants systems. On the first part of the hike, you’ll see royal palms (Roystonea regia, Cuba’s national tree), coconut trees, fruit trees and different medicinal plants. The interaction between human beings and nature is quite visible here. Further down, you will enter a dense tropical rain forest.
You will be able to see tree ferns, pajúa palm trees, Mayarí pine trees… Cuban trogons, cartacubas, hummingbirds, Monte Iberia frogs…
At the end of this trail you’ll find El Majá waterfall, on river Santa María, where you will be able to cool down in the clear waters after the long walk.
On Part 1 of this blog entry we tell you about El Copal trail and El Recreo trail at Alexander Humboldt National Park, whose lengths are 2 km and 3 km respectively.
How about a beautiful beach after Humboldt Park?
Numerous travelers combine a visit to Alexander Humboldt National Park with a bit of time at the beach. Two lovely options are available to you after exploring the Park: Maguana beach and Mapurisí beach.
If you go to Humboldt Park with the Ecotur agency, their organized excursion includes a stop at Maguana beach late in the afternoon (see more details at the bottom of this article). If you go to the Park on your own (rental car or taxi), you can discover the beautiful (and little known!) Mapurisí beach, at the Nibujón community next to Humboldt Park.
Did you know?
Alexander Humboldt National Park is one of the main nature tourism destinations in Cuba. Last September saw the Baracoa region host the 11th International Event on Nature Tourism (Turnat 2017). Humboldt Park was one of the main attractions discovered by the 150 tour operators from several countries that attended the event. The park will certainly continue to attract travelers, hikers and bird watchers who love this mode of sustainable tourism.
Practical information and budget tips
- The various trails and the boat ride in Humboldt Park count on excellent guides who belong to local communities and who know these lands since their childhood. Their knowledge covers the history of the protected area, the flora and the fauna, the area’s peasant culture and traditional medicine. They are really good at spotting the different plant and animal species that could otherwise go unnoticed by visitors were they to do the hiking on their own. Using a guide is compulsory – you cannot explore the park unaccompanied.
- To access the National Park, you have to go through the facilities at the entrance, which have a Visitors Centre as well as washrooms.
- Entrance to Humboldt Park is 10 CUC per person and that includes the guide service.
- Ecotur agency runs excursions from Baracoa for a global price of 24 CUC per person, which includes transportation (round), the entrance fee, the guide service and, on the way back, a one-hour stop at Maguana beach. For that price, you can do one of the trails or Taco Bay the boat ride.
- If you would like to combine one of the trails and the Taco Bay boat ride, Ecotur will charge the usual 24 CUC plus an extra 5 CUC to add the boat ride (total = 29 CUC).
- If you’d rather get to the park on your own, a taxi for the day to Humboldt Park charges 45 CUC. If you share this expense with 3 other travelers, the cost per person comes down to 10 CUC.
- Don’t forget to bring with you water to drink and a sandwich or other form of food.
- We encourage you to offer your guide a tip, an always welcome extra bit of income for a local family. Likewise, we encourage you to buy from local women the sweets they offer to visitors (almond or peanut brittle, or the grated coconut cucuruchos typical of Baracoa). Such treats can be a good source of energy during the hike. And such little expenses help more local families benefit from a sustainable tourism.
- We invite you to learn more about sustainable tourism in the Baracoa region.
- Don’t miss the photos and videos of El Copal trail and El Recreo trail in Alexander Humboldt National Park in Part 1 of this blog entry.