Cuba’s Isle of Youth – The Invisible Island (Dates to Be Announced)
Travel with the “Ocean Doctor,” Dr. David E. Guggenheim, founder and president of Ocean Doctor and adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, on an unforgettable adventure to Cuba’s “invisible” island — the Isle of Youth. Visited by Columbus and scores of pirates, the island has a rich and unusual history, including decades as a territory of the United States. Today, however, residents of the island often feel invisible, forgotten and disconnected from the rest of Cuba, an “island within an island.” (See the EcoWatch article, Finding Hope for the Isle of Youth.) Dwarfed by the massive main island of Cuba, the world is barely aware of its very existence, despite the fact that it is the seventh largest island in the Caribbean. The island has struggled for decades, with limited economic opportunities for its residents, mostly in agriculture and fishing. Formerly known as the Isle of Pines, it has long since been forgotten as an international tourist destination.
Our journey, focused on Cuba’s environmental future — but also including a rich dose of arts and culture — includes in-depth visits to historic Havana, Isle of Youth, Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs) and Trinidad. The trips highlight is a visit the uncommon destination of Cuba’s Isle of Youth where we will go behind the scenes of Ocean Doctor’s work there, the first-ever official project between the Cuban Environmental Ministry and a U.S. organization. We’ll visit the island’s capital, Nueva Gerona and visit Presidio Modelo, the prison where Fidel Castro spent 5 years under the Batista regime. We’ll explore the island’s flora and fauna, both above and below the water, hiking to the highest point on the island with local naturalists and scuba diving and snorkeling in Punta Frances, a stunning protected area with healthy coral reef ecosystems. Visitors will be able to explore caves to see primitive cave paintings in remarkable condition. We will also visit the small community of Cocodrilo (“crocodile”) where Ocean Doctor is working with the community to develop sustainable alternatives to fishing, such as ecotourism, in a project called Red Alerta. Throughout the trip, we will experience warm, meaningful and fascinating engagement with the Cuban people, from leaders in science and education to community residents trying to make a difference.
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