Wildlife travel: What animals can I see in Cuba?

Visit this vibrant island to see over 20 endemic bird species, explore a swampy wilderness and dive on magical offshore reefs. 

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Illustration by Dawn Cooper

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1. Hawksbill turtle, Cayo Largo del Sur

A hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) at Turtle Alley

Hawksbill turtle ©Dave Fleetham/Getty

Hawksbills arrive at Cayo Largo to lay their eggs between April and September. There is a turtle conservation project here whereby eggs are taken and hatched, giving hatchlings a better chance of survival when they are released. 

2. Antillean manatee, Humedal Río Máximo-Cagüey

The same species (but separate subspecies) to that found in Florida, the Antillean manatee does well In this protected are of mangroves and swamp evergreen forests. 

3. Bee hummingbird, Guanahacabibes Peninsula

SANTA CLARA, VILLA CLARA, CUBA - 2017/03/04: Cuban hummingbird perched in small branch of tree. The bee hummingbird, zunzuncito or Helena hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae) is a species of hummingbird regarded as the world's smallest bird. (Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Bee hummingbird © Roberto Machado Noa / Getty

These are not just any humpback whales – they are bubble-netting humpback whales, and they have been the subject of a unique scientific study stretching back 20 years.

4. Cuban parakeet, Finca La Belén, Camagüey

Cuban Parakeet (Psittacara euops) perched on a branch in Cuba.

Cuban parakeet © Glenn Bartley / Getty

South of the town of Najasa, on poor roads, Finca La Belén is both a working ranch and a government-run hotel. You can see plenty of endemic bird species here, such as giant kingbirds and Cuban parakeets.

5. French angelfish, Playa Pesquero 

Pomacanthus paru

French angelfish ©Eco UIG / Getty

Renowned as one of the best snorkelling sites in Cuba, Playa Pesquero is a good location to see a huge variety of reef fish, including the beautiful French angelfish.

6. Cuban crocodile, Zapata Peninsula 

A Cuban crocodile dives down to the bottom of the swamp. The crocodiles inhabit the mangrove areas of the archipelago of the Gardens of the Queens, Cuba.

Cuban crocodile © wildestanimal / Getty

Zapata National Park is important for its extensive wetlands that provide the best habitat in Cuba for this endemic crocodile. 

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