It’s our last full day in Cuba and we’re up bright and early. Today we’re visiting Laguna Guanaroca, about 40 minutes outside Cienfuegos, to see the flamingos that live there. And I for one, can’t wait!

We’re attempting to arrive as soon as they open as this is a popular activity and the groups fill up fast. It also gets much hotter as the day goes on and you are essentially sitting in a giant reflecting pool with no shade. I’ll get up as early as needed to avoid becoming a lobster.

The signup process is a bit chaotic. There are several people here right at opening, and everyone is vying to be at the top of the list. There’s only so many people per guide allowed out at a time, and only 2 guides, so anyone at the bottom of the list has to wait for one guide to come back from the first tour. Fortunately, we get placed with the second tour and only have to wait about 15 minutes to give the first group some space.

PUPPIES!! They are SO CUTE! How can anyone resist these squishy faces? This kid can’t, and neither can I. I will never mind waiting for a tour if it means I get to play with puppies.

Finally it’s time to set off and I reluctantly leave the puppies behind. Our guide takes us on a walk through the forest, explaining the landscape, trees and various critters we see.

Sadly, I’m too focused on how uncomfortably hot I am and can’t remember what creature makes these hills. It’s not ants, and I don’t think it’s sand crabs, but I can’t remember what it is. Travel blogger fail.

The land tour finishes at the lagoon where we ¬†wait for the group ahead of us to come back from their trip around the lake. It’s a pleasant place to relax for a bit.

As the people disembark from the boats, the exclaim how cool it was to see the flamingos up close. That sounds promising. We can’t see them from the shoreline, so I’m glad to know they’re about. Then it’s our turn to load up and head out.

Laguna Guanaroca is a shallow (no more than 3-4ft deep), brackish (saline) lake – perfect living conditions for the shrimp the flamingos feed on. They like to hide in the roots of the mangrove trees surrounding the lagoon. These shrimp are also what give the flamingos their pink color. Does that mean flamingos literally are what they eat?

Laguna Guanaroca

My only other experience seeing flamingos in the wild was at Lake Manyara in Tanzania two years ago. I was there during dry season, so the lake waters were low and we weren’t able to get very close. We still have to keep our distance here, but by being on the boats, we’re able to get much closer than we did on the shores of Lake Manyara.

It’s a smart idea to bring an umbrella or fan to help keep cool.

These are some chatty birds. Look at them squawking at each other, necks high in the air. I’ve included a video that’s a bit much to watch, but will give you an idea of what they sound like.

I know flamingos fly, they are birds and I’ve seen it on TV, but for some reason, seeing them fly in person fills me with excitement. They actually move very quickly and I have trouble photographing them. Fortunately a few pictures come out alright.

All too soon, our boat ride is over. I honestly would have enjoyed watching them for much longer, but it wouldn’t be fair to the others waiting their turns. And it’s time for us to make our last trip back to Havana to fly home. This time using a prepurchased, correctly dated ticket on the Viazul bus. We finally got it right, at last.

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Cienfuegos - City of One Hundred Fires