The Bahia de Cochinos is infamous for the botched invasion, carried out by CIA-trained Cuban rebels, that led to a tense Russian-US standoff. We happened to be on-site on the 52nd anniversary date of the invasion (Apr 17, 1961), but managed to avoid the local “celebrations”.
This section of the southern Cuban coast was either named for the native pigs that ran wild through the region, or is a mis-translation of the Spanish name for a species of orange-sided triggerfish commonly found in the bay. The bay is lined by stunningly beautiful beaches of white sand and aquamarine water, and is a popular dive and snorkel site.
Over our three days at sites surrounding Playa Larga (at the head end of the bay), we found 101 of the total 143 bird species seen during our 9 day adventure, many of them North American migrants, as well as Cuban endemics. These numbers alone speak to the importance of the unique character of this region in the Peninsula de Zapata which is a vast complex of marsh, sawgrass wetland, shallow lagoons, palm savanna, as well as dense forest.
Wild pig, mongoose, iguana, crocodile, and the native Cuban Jutia (or Hutia, similar in size and looks to a nutria but less aquatic) also are found throughout this Biosphere Reserve.
Cuba has 24 endemic bird species, and our guides did a great job ensuring that we saw a majority of them. I was able to photograph quite a few of them, even with my meager 270 mm lens. Some of my favorites: