This month I had the opportunity to meet up with Jeanette from Find My Travel Guru to discuss what’s happening at Simply Cuba and what travel is like to Cuba since the borders re-opened in November 2021. If you didn’t get the chance to join us for the live, I am excited to tell you that i can share the video from the event. Check it out!
And here is what we got to discuss on the night!
What is your experience with selling Cuba?
Cuba is not your every day destination. It is surrounded by a level of mystique due to its turbulent history. Not much is really known about Cuba, let’s face it the most known icons are the classic cars, Havana, Cigars and for some visitors from the Northern Hemisphere the biggest allure is the cheap hotel packages. But there is so much more to her beauty past the Havana city limits!
However as most of those areas are largely undiscovered by foreign travelers and to truly discover Cuba those are the areas to get out to…
The first apprehension by people due to Cuba’s image portrayed by mainstream media is that it is unsafe. Yet it is one of the safest countries I have ever been to. In saying that, just like with any travel common sense must be applied.
The other question is how can one get out and about… Because Cuba doesn’t have your every day infrastructure and systems in place. You can’t just easily hop on a train, bus or otherwise.
And for US visitors there are also rules and limits set by their government as to what they can do in Cuba.
So, if you are ready to go past the city limits, and ready to discover this amazing place and need to pass the test of the rules set out, the best way to go is a sustainable small group tour.
They offer an intimate experience, knowledgeable local guide, reliable transport and fascinating insight and you are actually supporting the local communities as you travel.
Guides are local, casas and paladar owners are local, drivers are local and they love to share their experiences and listen to yours. The opportunity to travel this way has provided fascinating experiences for people around the globe. And for US travelers, it is the only way to legally visit the island.
For those who are a little unsure, can you please explain exactly where Cuba is and the geography? E.g. how big is the island/s and what is the best way to get there from Australia.
Cuba sits in the Caribbean Sea, it is the 17th largest island in the world. It is merely 1250km long – although it would most definitely take longer than 12 hours to go from one end to the other. It was put on the map by Christopher Colombus in 1492, due to its shape the locals refer to is as Cocodrillo aka Crocodile at times. It’s barely 86km away from Miami.
Although Cuba has many international airports Havana is it’s main port, the only port for US travelers to use and the easiest for Australians also.
Not all travel routes are back in place as yet. Currently for Australians the best route is through Doha/Madrid/Havana. Once travel normalises again for east coast visitors it may be through LA/Panama or Mexico City/Havana.
What does Simply Cuba specialise in?
Simply Cuba is founded by a Cuban Tour Guide and An Australian traveller with the love of learning more about people and Cultures through authentic experiences, thus our main focus is sustainable small group tours, but there’s a twist.
We are very passionate about capturing Cuba’s beauty, telling her story, and sharing her natural beauty that is not well known. Things like the unique birdlife or the fact that she has the second largest coral reef after the Great Barrier Reef is not widely known. Thus we are offering photography experiences around Cuba. We have three main focuses – travel Photography – capturing the people, architecture and life in Cuba,
Birding photography – showcasing many UNESCO Biosphere reserves, the birds and nature of this island. This one is very close to our heart given that Yoanis is a keen birder and budding photographer.
And whilst we showcase the beauty of the land, we couldn’t leave out the sea for the divers/underwater photographers.
All the tours, provide a different insight to the island, one thing they all have in common is that the natural beauty is accompanied by cultural immersion through staying in casas, eating in paladars, having local guides on hand.
What makes these even more exciting is that we have partnered with amazing photographers from around the world to help our travelers create a beautiful photography portfolio of their trip to Cuba. Not only these experts are well published in NatGeo, BBC Wildlife, New York Times, they have also won prestigious awards and the most important part is that their personal mission is to help conserve nature and through photography bring our attention to issues that needs addressing. Like Shane Gross our Underwater photographer joining us in February 2022 who has dedicated his life to marine conservation and is an ambassador to the cause.
We are aiming to create life long memories through our tours through the experiences provide and even have it documented for you.
What’s something that people wouldn’t know about Cuba?
Havana wasn’t its original capital city. It was actually Baracoa, a place in the eastern corner of the island. However due to only being able to access it via boat till 1960s so it was less then ideal. So whilst Havana was founded in 1514, it didn’t become the capital till 1552.
Now not many people may know this but Cuba is a bird lovers paradise. Can you elaborate on this?
It most certainly is!
Cuba has over 370+ species of birds, 28 of those are deemed endemic. Meaning they can only be found in Cuba itself. Unfortunately quite a few are also deemed endangered.
The avifauna includes such delights Blue-headed, Key West and Grey-fronted Quail-Doves, Cuban Tody, Fernandina’s Flicker, Cuban Trogon, Zapata Wren and the world’s smallest bird, the Bee Hummingbird – the world’s smallest bird in the world being a mere 2.5g. It’s a wonder it can fly.
Apart from the endemics, Cuba is also an important part of the Migration corridor between North and South America, providing a fascinating mixture of permanent and winter residents.
Cuba also has over 11% of it protected as Biosphere reserves, which provides perfect habitat for the varying birds. One of those parks is the Cienaga de Zapata National Park. The park forms a fundamental region of the Biosphere reserve and Ramsar site that share its name. The ecological fragility of the ecosystems has led to an intense effort toward conserving biodiversity and natural resources. The region was established as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2001, and it remains one of the Carribean’s most untamed, least inhabited regions with one of the most concentrated bird habitats.
You will also fly the largest breeding ground of American Flamingos in Cuba. Sight of these amazing creatures is truly stunning.
What are the current travel restrictions for Australians travelling to Cuba?
As long as you are double vaccinated and have your vaccine passport, there’s no other restrictions for entry into Cuba.
One thing to bear in mind is the exit requirement from Australia and getting on a plane, which requires a paid PCR test not older than 72 hours at time of traveling. This is also required on the way home, and can easily be arranged in Cuba prior to departure.
At the moment also need to consider entry requirements into Australia. Which varies state by state so make sure you check your state COVID update website.
Another thing to consider is that to enter Cuba you must have Travel insurance in hand. This must cover hospital stay, repatriation and COVID 19. So make sure that you do read the fine print of your insurance cover.
Can you give us some handy tips & things we need to know before going to Cuba?
Oh there are several! One of the biggest things I ask our travelers is to leave your assumptions at the border and come with an open heart and open mind.
Cuba holds many wonders and opportunities to grow in many levels.
The other, on a practical note is to note that there are no shopping centres in Cuba, so you must bring everything you think you will need for your trip with you. Batteries, medicine, face masks, sunscreen – we actually provide a checklist for our travelers. Because if you don’t bring it, it’s not likely that you will be able to buy it whilst there!
You want to learn more about how to make your Cuba Tour a reality? Check our Small Group Tours today!