Wildlife & Nature
Freddy Camara Garcia
Trips run: CU - Salsa Cubana
What is your travel experience/background?
I lead tours only in Cuba. I have a MSc degree in geography with most of my work in ecotourism. I mostly do active tours that involve a misture of interpretation of natural and cultural heritage, with a particular interest in some specialist tours, like bird watching.
How long have you been leading trips?
I have been leading tours since 1996.
What is your favourite activity/even on the trips you lead?
I prefer two week tours that allow you to discover all the different highlights of Cuba: walking, sightseeing, eating at family run restaurants, dancing with Cubans etc.
What is the best thing about your job?
I have come across people from very diverse cultural and economical backgrounds, who see travelling as a way to enhance respect, tolerance and understanding for other, sometimes ery different, people and cultures around the world. On a smaller scale it has helped me to develop the same attitude towards the diversity within my own country. By sharing with other people the different aspects of life in Cuba, I have become more aware of my culture, history and nature.
It has given me the chance to support the local economy in different ways, like running a small conservation project at Yacabo Abajo Beach. This is a place where we stop for a swim and a local family keeps the beach clean. In exchange we buy from them their traditional products: coconuts, cucuruchos etc. This year, with this same family, we will start a reforestation plan of Lignum Vitae, a native tree with the world's hardest timber that has many industrial and medicinal properties.
In your mind, what is the best place to visit in your country?
Impossible to tell just one as it is so diverse. Vinales is great for the scenery and the rural life that you discover by walking, lovely roast pork and taro root. Colourful Trinidad is a paradise for those who like colonial architecture, beautiful warm beaches, great seafood and the atmosphere at night with the music is unique. Sierra Maestra with the background of the 1950's revolution is ideal for walking. Vibrant Santiago de Cuba with it's music and history everywhere. Baracoa is laid back, with gorgeous beaches, fantastic scenery and amazing seafood. Old Havana has an extraordinary restoration project, which is full of art galleries, restaurants and bars.
In your mind, what is the most interesting custom in your country?
The Cubans are very friendly, open, loquacious and happy to share everything (except their cars!), so you feel very safe.
In your mind, what is the most important phrase to know?
I live by my own motto: "Dreams are people's wings".
In your mind, when is the best time to visit and why?
Any time from late October until May, as it is less hot and humid and you can do a wider range of outdoor activities. But September and June are lovely too as it is quieter.
In your mind, what are the most important items to pack for your tour?
An open mind, a wish to understand our culture and fully charged batteries to enjoy a very intense tour. The rest you can find here.
Please come up with a short statement that describes your experience.
A tour leader is more than somebody who gives facts and organises accommodation and meals and works 8-5. You are the host to your country. The group has a once in a lifetime opportunity to see your place. You take them by the hand and go under the skin of the culture, you want them to feel that they are discovering and experiencing the same life that you live. You paint a realisitic image of the country and show them that life is not always easy and we have our problems and needs, but we also have great achievements and the people are so friendly and welcoming. They surely want to contribute to your country, so you visit farms, local artists, street markets and buy their products.
But you are the dream maker too, so you take them to the places where you love to do what you love the most: hiking, caving, bird watching, snorkelling etc. You arrange surprises, like using local transport, sometimes rickshaws, horse-drawn carriages, or cocotaxis. You want them to know your culture and tell them about music and history and take them to museums and art galleries. You take them to the restaurants where you eat the best food, or where a family has a unique recipe. If it happens that it is somebody's birthday you arrange a cake for them. As music is big in Cuba, in the evenings we go drinking, dancing, clubbing... and late at night we make our way back in a vintage American car.
All that in two weeks!! In the end, all that you want them to say is, "Wow, Cuba was great, I would love to come back!"
Can you tell us any interesting facts about your region?
Trinidad in central Cuba is like a little country itself. The mountains are lush and full of birdlife and cascades. Near the top, the cooler temperatures make the walking easier. When you descend to sea level, you find warm and almost unspoilt Caribbean beaches. In the city you feel as though you're in medieval times, with cobbled streets, untouched 250 year old colonial houses, street vendors on horseback and a very stong Afro-Cuban influence. In the evenings the atmosphere is amazing, with locals showing off their salsa skills and they are always happy to share them...