Topes de Collantes – Natural jewel in the Sierra de Escambray mountains
By Montreal Times
Cuba Topes de Collantes – In the heart of the Escambray mountain range, discover the Hanabanilla Lake where the rivers Guanayara, Negro and Jibacoa join to form the Hanabanilla reservoir, a splendid artificial lake in the province of Villa Clara. For nature lovers, this water mirror has an area of 15 km2, a depth of 30 and 40 mt. and it is located at an altitude of 364 metres above sea level.
To reach Topes de Collantes, you can take a boat departing from Lake Hanabanilla Hotel, crossing the magnificent Río Negro, appreciating fertile valleys, beautiful waterfalls with dense forests. The activities more practiced here are fishing especially trout and bird watching where you will discover the parrots, tocororos, flowered ducks and carpenters, not forgetting the surprising toad of Hanabanilla.
After half an hour, one reaches the banks of the lake where you find a typical Cuban restaurant. The “Restaurant Río Negro” is embedded in the middle of the forest where you can have a great view of the lake and its surroundings and then taste exquisite Cuban traditional food.
One way to visit the Topes de Collantes National Park is by taking a tour on some trucks from the 50s along a natural trail where you can contemplate amazing landscapes and wildlife. The park is located between the provinces of Sancti Spiritus, and Cienfuegos, in the mountains of Sierra del Escambray, about 800 meters above sea level, near Trinidad city.
Of natural beauty, the park impresses by its imposing elevations, its wide valleys, the diversity of its fauna and flora, its cave systems, the beautiful scenery, as well as transparent rivers and streams that form picturesque waterfalls and natural pools. The Park is organized in six smaller parks: Guanayara, Codina, Altiplano Toples de Collantes, El Cubano, El Nicho and in the heart of the Trinitarian Caribbean Sea, Las Iguanas Key, all sites of spectacular landscapes that specialized guides who speak English, French, Spanish, German and Italian will help you discover by participating in eco-tours programmes.
In an interview to Mr. Ángel Camacho, Director of Topes de Collantes Park, he commented: “The Park is protected by all Cuban laws on flora and fauna. Among the species that we have here I can name, the highest mahogany in Cuba, the cedar, the majagua, there is an endemic plant called the Aralia Rex, that is in danger of extinction since it is very difficult to reproduce. Scientific experts are working for the preservation of this environmental treasure and popular awareness is promoted for its protection”. Camacho also added that the jutía, the deer, the pig, the cattle, the goats are raised here. Camacho invited the Canadians to come here for a nice hike in one of our parks, then bathe in a transparent waterfall, and finally enjoy a typical Cuban meal in one of these parks.
Upon entering the park one discovers a variety of species including orchids, eucalyptus, butterflies and arborescent ferns that live in great harmony in the rich Caribbean ecosystem fed by a semi-tropical climate where the sun and rain feed its peculiar vegetation. We can observe a variety of birds specially the endemic birds to Cuba the Vencejo del Collar and the Colilargo Sparrowhawk.
Salto de la Hanabanilla, also called “the little gold basket” in aboriginal language, is the highest waterfall in Cuba with 364 meters, and is considered a tourist destination not yet fully exploited, with a virgin aspect and is the unique intramontane landscape of the Caribbean island. It is a destination for ecological tourism where you can come alone or with the family to go hiking and learn about the natural species that abound in Cuba.