Southern Boating

Kayaking through Cuba

South of Havana and the visiting hordes of Americans, Cuba offers a wilderness that even a half-century of revolution left unspoiled.

I spot the flamingos as I paddle my sea kayak around a corner in the coffee-colored lagoon. There are about a hundred birds along the mangrove shore, and it’s so quiet and I’m so close that I can hear their gurgled chuckling as they high-step through the shallow water. I remember what a taxi driver told me when I first arrived in Cuba and asked how far you had to go from Havana to really get out into Cuba. He laughed. “You don’t have to go very far in Cuba to go very far in Cuba.”

I’m on a weeklong sea kayak expedition with ROW Adventures ( along the southern coast of Cuba. They’ve promised me a chance to get off the tourist-packed streets of Havana and experience the island beyond frozen mojitos and joyrides in vintage Chevys. And now, halfway through our journey, Havana feels as far away as Miami. It’s just me, the muddy labyrinth of mangrove channels, the gorgeously delicate birds, and the misty blue mountains of the Sierra Escambray rising beyond.