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Caves, Karst, Aboriginal Inhabitants
and our Cuban colleagues who study them

November 1-14, 2018
Holguin – Camaguey – Santiago de Cuba
An optional extended trip to Havana will be available.

Cuba’s Oriente takes us to less traveled areas on the island and introduces us to new Cuban counterparts who pursue the study and exploration of caves and karst in their region. Visits to archeological sites will illustrate the life of aboriginal inhabitants. Physical science and archaeology are entwined in the studies of eastern Cuban caves.

While recent changes have been proposed by President Trump, travel for groups continues to be allowed. We will be in compliance with all U.S. and Cuban rules and regulations. Cuban organizations that will give sponsorship and provide permits are:

Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation for Nature and Humanity (FANJ)

Sociedad Espeleológica de Cuba (SEC)

Cuban Institute for Friendship with the People (ICAP) / AMISTUR

Eco Cuba Network / Marazul Charters, Inc

Image by Jim Patera, 2016, Cueva Santa Catalina


As on our previous karst trips, we will be interacting with our Cuban colleagues and sharing cave exploration and research experiences. This is a real People-to-People opportunity.  Our focus is Eastern Cuba, and there is a lot to appreciate in what is called the Oriente. We cannot do it all in this short time, but we will give you the flavor of the country with caves and karst as a unifying theme.  This is not a caving expedition but more like a field trip where we will get into caves and also learn about the people and the countryside.  

Many opportunities will feature cultural and historical experiences.  One theme that comes into focus is the genesis of a revolution.  Fidel was born and raised in this region, and the Sierra Maestra with its mountains and deep forests was perfect for hiding the fledging patriots.  We plan to spend a day along the southern coast from Santiago de Cuba to see for ourselves the nature and challenges presented by this terrain.  We will make an easy hike to the Comandancia de la Plata – museum and Fidel’s head-quarters and envision his operation to meld together misfit members who developed into highly organized cells coordinating a large scale urban resistance that became instrumental in the success of the Cuban Revolution.

We will connect with Revolution sites and visit the grave of Fidel Castro who lies among other revolutionary heroes in the military cemetery in Santiago de Cuba.


Holguin – a city population but more like a town in construction and community expression. Several active caving groups work together and are assisting us to explore nearby karst areas. A region of magotes lies just northeast of town. 

Gibara  – a fishing village with beaches, crashing ocean waves, strong winds, and a "developed" cave beneath its suburb. It also has a quiet protected square and cinema that hosts a popular International Film Festival that transforms this mostly ignored northern coastal town into a buzzing cultural nerve centre of Cuba. The cavers carry on throughout the year with their projects, one which offers cinema in a cave. 

Santiago de Cuba – historically the second most important city on the island after Havana, it has a bay connected to the Caribbean Sea and is an important sea port.  An early influx of immigrants added to the city's eclectic cultural mix, already rich with Spanish and African culture.  

Camaguey – pronounced “cam-a-way”, was a colonial city by the sea, but after almost continuous attacks from pirates it was moved inland in 1528.  Built by the Spanish with a confusing lay-out of winding alleys and forked streets that lead to squares of different sizes, it was thought to be done by design to make the city easier to defend from any raiders.  Others say it was to allow people to be close to their church – and there are many of those.  It is delightful to get lost and discover another charming plaza. 

Read the Cuba Article, September 2017 NSS News

Let us know if you have questions or interests to consider in our planning.  We try to make our trips fit the desires and abilities of our travelers.  Sometimes there are options to allow stronger cavers to forge farther underground while others enjoy a cultural exploration in the city.  Those of you who have traveled with us in the past know that although we cannot promise this, it has often worked out once we are in Cuba and working closely with our local colleagues.

No formal scientific qualifications are required for trip participants and anyone with general good health will enjoy the program. A majority of the travelers will be members of the National Speleological Society, but membership is not a requirement.



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