I have fond memories of our time living at US Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in the early 90’s. I often called it the 90’s version of Gilligan’s Island. Yes we had a McDonald’s & a Baskin Robbins, yet we waited each Wednesday for the plane to come from Jamaica with fresh fruit & vegetables. If you didn’t get to the Commissary early, you missed out. Each Sunday we took the ferry to the other side of the island to wait for the plane from Ft Lauderdale to come with 50 Miami Herald’s so we could get coupons to shop at the Commissary. It often reminded me of the show and the man saying “the plane, the plane….” There was no such thing as 24 hour stores or getting all of your favorite things we take for granted in the USA. Back then, telephone calls were $1.25 a minute and no internet & we only had 3 TV stations. Life was back to the basics.
Now with the Cuba sanctions being lifted and tourism to begin in Cuba it brings back so many memories. Everyone thinks of Havana on the north side of the island, yet the southern side is a different type of tropical paradise. The beaches are crushed lava rock, the terrain is rugged and mountainous almost desert like in areas. The water is turquoise blue that you can see to the bottom. The wildlife is abundant from Iguanas to Banana Rats to endangered Bats to Boa Constrictors to Tarantulas. It’s the island life! You can see the large Iguana in the lower end of the photo. They “blend” into their surroundings by nature.
I learned after a few months to quit asking what the weather would be as it is partly cloudy high 80’s and afternoon showers. There is no comparison to wearing shorts and being at the beach year round!
Fun facts: It is known as the Pearl of the Antilles. On April 13, 1494, during his second voyage to the New World, Christopher Columbus sailed into Guantánamo and named it Puerto Grande, or “Great Port.” He described it in his diary as “a broad bay with dark water, of unsuspected dimensions.”
In February 1903, the United States leased 45 square miles of land and water at Guantanamo Bay for use as a coaling (fueling) station.
A great read on the wildlife and sea life is from a National Geographic excerpt: “Guantanamo Bay hosts a sparkling marine ecosystem, a heavily patrolled 9,000-acre (3,640-hectare) home to fish, coral, and other aquatic animals.Sea turtles nest on Guantanamo beaches year-round, encouraged by turtle-friendly yellow lighting and restrictions on access to sensitive nesting areas.” http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/04/090403-guantanamo-bay_2.html
The “island life” is simple. You learn to give up luxuries for simplicity. Life “slows down” on the island. You begin to appreciate your surroundings, the beauty, although it can be a change to know you only have the island and for us it was only having the base, it was difficult for some with the isolation. I loved it!
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Cuba in the future and if tourism permits, be sure to check out the “other side of Cuba” as I am sure in years to come it will become more commercialized for tourism on the southern side of the island too!