The Desembarco del Granma National Park in southeast Cuba, includes spectacular terraces and cliffs, as well as some of the most pristine and impressive coastal cliffs bordering the western Atlantic which constitute the world’s largest, best preserved coastal limestone terrace system.
The Desembarco del Granma National Park (DGNP) is situated on the southwesternmost tip of southeast Cuba and more specifically, in the municipalities of Niquero and Pilon in Granma Province. The property lies within the tectonically active zone between the Caribbean and the North American Plate and conserves the limestone terraces of Cabo Cruz at the western end of the Sierra Maestra Mountains.
The marine limestone terraces were formed by tectonic uplift and sea level fluctuations triggered by past climate change. Their number and height is as remarkable as their good conservation status. The little-disturbed landscape and seascape offers a wide spectrum of karst phenomena, such as giant sinkholes, cliffs, canyons and caves.
In more recent history, in 1956, the ship "Granma" landed here, starting a chain of events which changed the course of history in Cuba. The province, the property and the national park are all named after this yacht in which Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Raúl Castro, and 79 of their supporters sailed from Mexico to Cuba and incited the Cuban Revolution.
The terraces of Cabo Cruz form a singular coastal landscape in Cuba and are the world’s largest and best preserved coastal limestone terrace system. The imposing and nearly pristine coastal cliffs bordering the Western Atlantic are both a remarkable natural phenomenon and a stunningly beautiful sight. Jointly with the diverse, mostly native vegetation, the cliffs form an extraordinary visual ensemble of forms, contours, color and texture within a spectacular coastal setting.
The boundaries of DGNP encompass the intact limestone terraces system both on land and in the sea. The property thereby contains a full array of associated geological phenomena and features. It also provides for the conservation of valuable plant and animal species, both terrestrial and marine, some of which are restricted to the property in their global distribution. The design of the marine and coastal portion comprises the coral reef of Cabo Cruz, as well as sea grass beds and mangroves.
Despite the overall naturalness of the property there are localized impacts of past logging in the semi-deciduous forests north of the highest terraces, which occurred between around 1940 and 1980. These areas have since left to recover naturally. An old forest road, quarries used prior to inscription and small abandoned agricultural plots are all likewise in the process of recovery.
While recognized on the World Heritage List primarily for its landscape beauty and geology, DGNP also hosts noteworthy biodiversity values. More than 500 plant species have been recorded in what may still be an incomplete inventory. Around sixty percent of the known plants are endemic. Twelve species are only to be found within the DGNP making the property one of the centers of floral endemism within Cuba.
The documentation of terrestrial fauna includes 13 mammals, 110 birds, 44 reptiles and seven amphibians. The degree of endemism for reptiles and amphibians is in the range of a remarkable 90%. The marine areas are home to coral formations while mangrove stands are found along the shores.
Within DGNP there are noteworthy archaeological sites, including ceremonial caves and squares of the original indigenous inhabitants. Numerous sites containing petroglyphs, pictographs and artifacts left by Taina potters, and even pre-agrarian, pre-pottery making cultures, are spread across the property.