Trip Overview 

Situated on the southern side of Cuba, the wild and largely undeveloped Zapata Peninsula juts out into the Caribbean to the south of the Matanzas Province. In 2000, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) declared the entire peninsula and the surrounding areas a biosphere reserve. A year later, the Ramsar Convention included it on its list of wetlands of international importance. Collectively, the Ciénaga de Zapata (the Zapata Swamp) is the best-preserved wetlands system found anywhere in the Caribbean islands. Similar in many ways to the Everglades National Park in Florida, the Parque Nacional Ciénaga de Zapata is located on Cuba's southern coast in the middle of the country, roughly a two-to-three-hour drive from Havana. Home to a huge networks of mangrove wilderness and some of the most pristine beaches and flats in the entire region, this area is now a national, regional and world natural preserve, home to large numbers of rare birds, crocodiles and fish species that include tarpon, permit, snook and bonefish. 

Less than 10,000 people live in the 2,685-square miles of the Ciénaga de Zapata (Zapata Swamp), making this the least-populated municipality in a country of 11.5 million people.  Aside from offering a rich habitat for animal life including boar, mongoose, iguana and crocodile, Zapata is also a birdwatcher’s paradise. It is also an excellent area for diving and snorkeling, offering crystal-clear waters and healthy coral reefs located within easy swimming distance of the shores. This area is also the location of the famous Bay of Pigs, site of the American-backed invasion in 1961. The communist propaganda billboards along the road from Australia to Playa Larga may be the best in Cuba – partly due to the government’s pride in the outcome of the Bay of Pigs and partly because this was the first area that the communists developed post-revolution with roads, schools, and a hospital. 

Destination Quick Facts 

LOCATION:  San Lazaro and the Ciénaga de Zapata Biosphere Reserve - Cuba

SEASON:  Early October through late July

CAPACITY:  8 anglers per week

TARGET SPECIES:  Bonefish, permit, tarpon, with possibilities for snook, jacks, snapper, barracuda and more

CLOSEST MAJOR AIR HUB:  Havana, Cuba (HAV)

DOCUMENTS REQUIRED:  Valid passport and a Cuban visa are required for citizens of most countries 

CONTACT US FOR MORE INFO     888-777-5060     INTL 01-1-406-585-8667       info [at] yellowdogflyfishing [dot] com

ACCOMMODATIONS

Lodging Details
This Georgiana is a 100-foot, custom-built yacht that accommodates groups of eight anglers at a time. The boat features six comfortable cabins (four single cabins and two double occupancy cabins) each outfitted with bunks and private bathrooms. The interior areas of the boat and all staterooms are air conditioned, and there are numerous outdoor sitting and lounge areas on the upper decks. The boat is the ideal base of operations for exploring the mangrove wilderness, endless flats and wild backcountry of the Zapata Peninsula. The ship is strategically anchored in a well-protected location that allows for easy access to the most productive flats and fishing areas in the reserve. 

Food and Beverages 
The galley aboard the Georgiana takes pride in serving a diverse menu of traditional Cuban food, fresh seafood and various international dishes. Breakfasts are cooked-to-order each morning. Lunches can either be packed for a full day on the flats, or guests have the option to return to the ship mid-day to eat and relax. Fresh fish of the day is utilized for most meals, and salads with fresh vegetables and a variety of fruits are always available. In addition, you’ll have excellent pork and chicken entrees, fresh sashimi and Italian-style pizzas for appetizers. All dinners typically include a great line-up of fresh seafood and are served with wine, local liquors and desserts.

Typical Length of Stay
The typical package is seven (7) nights / six (6) fishing days, starting on Saturday and ending the following Saturday. A normal week includes one overnight in Havana on the front end of the trip followed by six nights aboard the mothership. There is no need to overnight in Havana on the back end of the trip. Since this area is so close to Havana, anglers can typically transfer directly to the International Airport on departure day. This is something that maximizes fishing time and allows for fewer travel days and overnights. All packages include six full days of fishing. Additional days and nights in Havana or on other parts of the island can easily be arranged and itineraries can be fully customized. Combo trips between Zapata and other fishing areas can also be arranged. Please contact Yellow Dog for more details. 

Non-Angling Activities and Options
The Zapata Peninsula and the area where the Georgiana is moored is very secluded and there are no nearby towns or private residences. This is truly and “off-the-grid” locations where you can disconnect and get away from it all. Non-angling activities are limited, and overall this destination is best suited for anglers, nature lovers, snorkelers and birdwatchers. This part of the Matanzas Province is very flat and contains the basins of the Hatiguanico and Hanábana Rivers. The Hanábana empties into Laguna del Tesoro, one of the largest lakes in the country, which features a restored Taino Indian village (with life-size statues of the Indians engaging in their everyday activities) on a series of islets. The Tainos were one of the three groups of Indians who lived in Cuba prior to the Spanish Conquest. The coast is also home to numerous flooded caves and cenotes, making it a popular destination for divers. Playa Girón, the site of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, has a fascinating museum with aircraft and other artifacts from the historic battle.

Internet/Communications
Wi-Fi is not available aboard the Georgiana, which means that once you board the ship, you will be offline and totally unplugged (something that is getting harder to find these days). Keep in mind that U.S. cell phones currently DO NOT work anywhere in Cuba. Also, satellite phones are strictly prohibited in Cuba and will be confiscated at the airport on arrival.

FISHING

General Fishing Information
On of the things that make this fishing area so unique is the large amount of skinny, shallow water. Much of the area simply cannot be accessed and fished using traditional flats skiffs with two anglers and a guide. It is for this reason that the Zapata operation utilizes four custom “single angler” skiffs – smaller, skinny-water boats designed for a solo angler and one guide. Each fishing day four anglers will fish from these single boats, with the other four fishing two-to-a-boat (along with a guide) in a traditional Dolphin Skiff. The schedule rotates throughout the fishing week so that each angler can fish solo for four days and share a boat and guide for the other two days. There is no other destination in Cuba that offers solo fishing as a part of their weekly program. The skinny water solo boats are typically used for shallow water bonefishing and permit fishing, while the larger boats are ideal for tarpon fishing and waters that require a bit longer run time.

Each morning, guests will step from the live-aboard mothership Georgiana directly into the smaller skiffs to head out for the day on the water. Because the Georgiana is located right in the middle of the most productive flats, run times are always fairly short. Anglers can expect to fish for bonefish, permit and tarpon throughout the week, with possibiities for other species (snook, jacks, cuda, etc.) as well.

Boats and Equipment 
The fishing boats used in the Zapata fishery are a combination of Dolphin Super Skiffs outfitted with Yamaha 60 or 70HP motors, and single-angler boats specifically designed for very skinny water. It is recommended that anglers bring all of their own fishing equipment. Flies, leaders, tippet, all terminal tackle and all accessories should be brought down, as very few items are available anywhere in Cuba.

TRAVEL DETAILS

How To Get There
One of the great benefits to this destination is its close proximity to the Havana, which means that anglers can easily transfer to the boat with no need for long bus rides or in-country flights. While one night in Havana is included on the front end of these Zapata packages, on departure days it is possible to skip overnighting in Havana altogether and proceed from the boat directly to the international airport for departure. All packages begin with arrival at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport (HAV), where you can fly in and arrive from just about any place in the world. There are numerous daily flights in and out of Havana from Mexico, Canada, the Bahamas, Jamaica and numerous other countries. There are also direct, third-party charter flights from more than ten major U.S. cities that currently fly directly to Havana. Many guests choose to fly to Havana from Mexico City (MEX), which is a quick and easy trip. Upon arrival into Havana, you will clear immigration and customs before heading to the main reception area of the airport, where you will easily find a cab into Havana. You will typically overnight in the city on your arrival day, followed by a private transfer directly to Zapata and San Lazaro (the location of the Georgiana mothership) the following morning.

Arrival and Departure Details / Times 
Anglers typically fly into Havana's Jose Marti International Airport (HAV) on a Saturday, where you will overnight in the city on the first night. The following morning you will be met and trasnferred (very early!) to San Lazaro and the mothership for six full days of fishing and six nights. The following Saturday your wake-up call call will be followed by breakfast and a ground transfer back to the Havana Airport. Many visitors choose to add an extra day or two in the city to explore Havana and the surrounding areas. While this is not included in the package, Yellow Dog can help with hotels, tours and full travel details.

Documents Required
A valid passport is required for all visitors to Cuba and must be valid for at least six (6) months beyond the duration of your stay. Citizens of the United States are also required to have Visas with proof of authorization to travel under one of the 12 approved categories of travel. A Cuban entrance visa can be secured when checking in for your direct flight to Havana. The visa can be purchased for approximately USD $25.00 (payable in cash) when checking in for the flight. 

Travel Arrangements
Yellow Dog offers a full in-house travel and reservations system and can assist with airline tickets, hotels, transfers and all travel logistics for every destination that we offer. Contact us at 888-777-5060 or travel [at] yellowdogflyfishing [dot] com for more details on airfare ticketing, travel services and trip insurance.

RATES

Package Rates
Remember that Yellow Dog's services are completely free! When you book a trip with Yellow Dog, you never pay more than when you book directly with the lodge or outfitter. Trips of any length of stay can be arranged, so please call Yellow Dog for details and custom package pricing.   

For all Zapata packages, the mothership Georgiana is available for private charters that area ideal for 6-8 people. The total package price listed below is the cost to charter the entire boat. Individual angler prices (also listed below) are cost per angler based on eight (8) anglers per week. Package includes 6 skiffs (2 double skiffs and 4 single skiffs).

2016 RATES (For bookings received prior to September 30, 2016)

Low Season
October 3, 2016-February 25, 2017                
USD $3,900 per person

High Season
February 26-July 29, 2017                        
USD $4,500 per person

2017 RATES (For bookings received after October 1, 2016)

Low Season
October 3, 2016-February 25, 2017                
USD $4,300 per person

High Season
February 26-July 29, 2017                        
USD $5,300 per person)

What's Included

  • Meet-and-greet reception upon arrival into Havana's Jose Marti International Airport (HAV)
  • Overnight in Havana hotel on arrival day
  • Private ground transfers to/from Havana to San Lazaro/Zapata
  • Six (6) nights accommodations aboard the mothership Georgiana
  • Three meals per day while aboard the Georgiana (all-inclusive meal service)
  • Six full days of guided fishing
  • Eight (8) beverages per day while on board Georgiana (including beer, soda and bottled water)
  • Taxes and GSTs  

What's Not Included 

  • International flights to Havana (HAV) from the U.S., Mexico or Canada (These can be arranged through Yellow Dog.)
  • Hotel nights, meals, drinks, taxis, tours and any additional expenses while in Havana
  • Fishing tackle, equipment, flies and all terminal tackle 
  • Cuban entrance visa (approx. USD $25.00)
  • Gratuities for guides and staff (must be paid in cash with CUCs) 
  • Bar tab and beverages over and above the 8 drinks per day

Trip Deposit and Trip Cancelation Information 
For all Cuba trips less than 90 days out, full payment is required to secure guides and reservations. For trips outside of 90 days, a 70% deposit is required within 10 days to hold and confirm reservations. Payment for all Cuba trip must be made in US dollars and can be made using check, money order or wire transfer only (no credit card payments for Cuba trips will be accepted and PLEASE do not write 'Cuba' in the memo of checks). Any cancellations on Cuba trips will incur a $250.00 Yellow Dog handling fee regardless of timing. Passport number, date of birth and full name (as printed in passport) is required to confirm any Cuba reservation. Outside of 180 days from start of trip, deposits are refundable minus an $800 Cuban operator handling fee, which will be held and retained by the operators unless trip is resold. Inside of 180 days of start date of trip, all deposits and payments are non-refundable unless Yellow Dog or Cuban operator are able to resell your spot(s). No refunds are available for unused portions of packages. Trip cancellation insurance is highly recommended. Please note that credit card payments cannot be accepted for any incidentals or expenses once in Cuba. All programs and execution of programs remain subject to weather and other unforeseen circumstances. Claims for refunds from Cuban operators will not be accepted.

OTHER INFO

Client Testimonials

"I would like to thank the Yellow dog team for an amazing Cuba trip. I recently returned from my first trip with Yellow Dog to Zapata, Cuba. Not any easy destination with all the logistics involved. The Yellow Dog team covered everything from A (airport arrival) to Z ( Zapata). They set me up with insurance, permits, transportation, visa, lodging, and even a list of restaurants, tours and music venues in Havana. This was also my first 'live aboard' trip, what a great way to fish Zapata. Zapata is an outstanding fishery with major potential. We saw and caught good numbers of fish. The area is quite vast with many flats, channels and mangroves. I have fished more than a few spots in the Caribbean, but have not seen a more pristine ecosystem. The guides were very good and they worked hard to put us on fish. They assisted with gear set up, leaders, picking the right flies to entice the fish and more. Thanks to all who made this an outstanding trip. I can't wait to book my next trip with Yellow Dog. "

           - John M.

Currency and Credit Cards in Cuba
You can easily exchange money at the airport or at any bank for CUCs (Cuban Convertible Pesos). At the present time, US credit cards do not work anywhere in Cuba, although this is expected to change in the near future. This will be applicable while in Havana and traveling throughout the country.

Laundry Services
Laundry services are available on the boat for a small fee, and laundry can be done on a daily basis. This means that you can travel and pack light. We suggest leaving an additional gratuity (in CUCs) for the crew and staff at the end of the week for laundry services.

Sample Itinerary

Saturday

  • Flight arrival in Havana
  • Greeted at airport
  • Overnight in Havana

Sunday

  • 4:00 AM pick up at Havana hotel
  • Private transfer to San Lazaro and Georgiana live-aboard
  • Full day of fishing upon arrival
  • Settle in and overnight aboard the ship

Monday-Friday

  • 7:30 AM wake-up call and breakfast
  • Full days of guided fishing utilizing the single/double skiff rotation
  • Overnight aboard the ship

Saturday

  • 7:30 AM wake-up call and breakfast
  • Ground transfer to Habana International Airport and departure
CUBA F.A.Q.'S

CUBA:
Frequently Asked Questions

As new rules take effect and the restoration of diplomatic relations thaw, the situation and what it means for traveling anglers will continue to evolve and change. Below are some specific answers to common questions about the new rules:

Can anyone travel to Cuba now?
No. General tourism is still technically banned. Shortly after the landmark announcements of December 2014, however, the US Treasury and Commerce Departments unveiled new rules that further ease travel to and trade restrictions with Cuba, thereby greatly expanding the leeway applicable to US travelers visiting the island. One of the most notable changes is that Americans will no longer be required to obtain pre-approval from the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) before embarking on a trip to Cuba. As long as Americans certify that they are traveling in one of 12 legal and approved categories — which include educational, religious, people-to-people, scientific, journalistic and humanitarian trips — they can simply head to the island without applying for permission in advance of their trip. Traveling to Cuba solely as a tourist (or an angler), remains prohibited UNLESS you qualify for one of the 12 approved categories. We can assist in obtaining a legitimate People-to-People License allowing for legal travel to Cuba as an American.  Obtaining this license allows you to buy airline tickets and make travel arrangements through any travel service or airline that provides services to Cuba, including Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures.

How can I buy an airline ticket?
The new regulations allow agents and airlines to sell tickets to travelers to Cuba as long as they can demonstrate that they have a specific license from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Yellow Dog can help you obtain a license once you have booked your trip to Cuba with Yellow Dog.

We are already seeing US air carriers selling flights to Cuba directly from major US cities (including Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, Baltimore, Dallas-Fort Worth, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico). We expect more routes to open and new services to be announced in the months ahead as direct flights begin their services direct to Havana.

For now, most of the direct US-to-Havana flights are being operated by third-party charter companies. US air carriers like American, Delta, Jet Blue, Sun Country and several others already operate chartered flights to the island. Currently, direct flights are available between many US cities and destinations outside of Havana and across Cuba (Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Camaguey, Cayo Coco and Varadero) which will make getting to and from Cuba much easier. Direct flights between many US cities and Havana will start operating in the fall of 2016 which will make getting to Cuba much easier.

For now, anglers wishing to book their own travel to Cuba can book one of the direct US-to-Havana charter flights. If you would like Yellow Dog to book your flights, we can assist with the process and provide guidance for you based on your departure city. Please contact Yellow Dog for more information on flights and travel, and please be aware that this is something that is changing and being updated on a frequent basis! Things are changing fast.

How many cigars and bottles of rum can I bring back if I travel to Cuba? 
As of October of 2016, the US has removed limits on the value of Cuban rum and cigars that American travelers can bring back from Cuba.

How can I fly from the U.S. to Cuba?
Most of the direct US-to-Havana flights are being operated by third-party charter companies. US air carriers like American, Delta, Jet Blue, Sun Country and several others already operate chartered flights to the island. Currently, direct flights are available between many US cities and destinations outside of Havana and across Cuba (Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, Holguin, Camaguey, Cayo Coco and Varadero) which will make getting to and from Cuba much easier. Direct flights between many US cities and Havana will start operating in the fall of 2016 which will make getting to Cuba much easier.

Can I use my American Express, Visa or MasterCard when I go to Cuba?
Yes, eventually. It will take time for banks to establish the infrastructure needed to handle credit and debit cards in Cuba. Travelers should first check with their credit card companies to find out when such services might begin. It is worth noting that travelers are now able to use some US credit and debit cards in Cuba, with more coming on-line in the near future. There is no longer a per diem rate for how much visitors can spend once they reach the island. All this being said, there are few places that will actually ACCEPT your credit cards, so Yellow Dog still recommends that you carry cash for eventualities.

Can I purchase trip insurance and Global Rescue policies for my trip to Cuba?
Yes! US. travel and trip insurers are now authorized to provide coverage for travel insurance policies for individuals who travel to or within Cuba. In fact, Yellow Dog recommends that you make this investment into protection for your trip and is happy to get the process started for you.

Is it safe to walk around Havana?
Cuba is known as one of the safest destinations in the Caribbean, but as should be the case everywhere, common sense should be taken into account for your own safety. It is recommended that you leave flashy jewelry at home, refrain from showing large quantities of cash in public, and not accept rides or buy things from unknown people in the streets. In general, be prudent and be smart.

What is the currency situation in Cuba?
There are two types of currency in Cuba: 1.) The Cuban peso that can only be used by Cubans in places that require it, and, 2.) the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) that is used in all restaurants, stores, museums, hotels, etc. The CUC is basically the tourist currency and the official currency of Cuba. US dollars are widely accepted in Cuba, but CUC’s are preferred.

How do I purchase a Cuban entrance visa?
Visas / tourist cards are available for purchase in advance of your trip to Cuba and is largely dependent on how you plan to get to Cuba. The visa ranges in price from $25 to $100 and Yellow Dog can guide you through the process of the best means of obtaining your visa based on your travel plans.

What is the departure tax when leave Cuba?
The departure tax is now part of the airline ticket price. You do not need to pay any departure tax upon leaving Cuba.