Photography is my hobby and I also fancied exploring Cuba so I googled for photographic tours in Cuba. Several companies were listed but on reading the various websites I was attracted by what Veronika of VamosCuba had to say.
As I wanted to experience something of the real Cuba and explore several areas of the island I wanted a tour of more than two weeks. I wanted to go in early March and since there were no plans for a group tour then, Veronika was willing to organise a tour just for me. Numerous e-mails later and a couple of phone calls from Veronika discussing what would be an appropriate itinerary saw a 19 day itinerary organised. Veronica was so good at adjusting to my suggestions.
I was to stay in Casa Particulare, thus being in family homes rather than impersonal hotels, was to be guided by a local professional photographer and when outside Havana was to be driven by him to and in the surroundings of the various areas I wanted to explore.
On arrival I was met by Alfredo (Veronika’s agent in Havana) and Oscar, who was to be my guide and driver and taken to my Casa. I had five days in Havana, during which Oscar took me not only to the tourist sites but also a variety of other places and things which most tourists would not encounter. I was able to take large numbers of pictures. Two particularly notable experiences were a lunch with a Cuban family in their apartment and an afternoon in the National Theatre watching and photographing a rehearsal by the National contemporary dance company of Cuba (DCC). The lunch was absolutely delicious and the whole experience was wonderful. The 2 1/2 hour dance rehearsal was fascinating, and I was able to take whatever photographs I wished. I think it unlikely that other companies offer similar experiences.
Then it was off in an elderly Lada (which proved to be very reliable) on tour for two weeks. The itinerary was planned in outline and most accommodation already booked but there was always the flexibility to modify, which indeed we did to some extent. Oscar, my guide/driver, was wonderful. Quite often he would take me a bit off route to visit some place which he thought would be interesting for me. Accommodation along the way was good. In particular, I must mention two nights on a little farmstead close to Matanzas. During the day our hostess took us out on a half day walk/scramble around the local coastline which was fun. Most of the places we stayed offered not only breakfast but were also willing to provide lunch and dinner if we wanted. In most places we stayed two or three nights, giving the opportunity to explore the surrounding area and Oscar often suggested people and places to visit, which were not specifically mentioned on the itinerary. These included an artist friend of his, in her studio in Trinidad, a ‘locals only’ hotel and a nearby specialist medical treatments centre in both of which we were shown around by the manager. Experiences of the real Cuba which few tourists would be privileged to see.
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable holiday. If you want luxury don’t choose this tour. But if you want a real insight into Cuba and opportunities to take lots of photographs then I would recommend this holiday to anyone.
On the matter of cost, I felt that Veronika’s quote was very reasonable for what I received. The quote included all accommodation, the services of Oscar as photographer guide throughout the trip and car hire when touring outside Havana.
Thank you very much, Veronika, Alfredo and Oscar!