A National Geographic expert will accompany each departure to share insights and a rare behind-the-scenes perspective. Listed below are some of the experts and the departure date(s) they will be joining.
Fabio Esteban Amador directs the National Geographic Society/Waitt Grants Program and is an associate research professor of anthropology at George Washington University. He is also a research associate at the Institute of Nautical Archaeology. He is an archaeologist specializing in the documentation and visualization of terrestrial and underwater biocultural heritage sites. He has worked in archaeological sites throughout the Americas and is presently conducting research on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Fabio is also developing research projects with Cuban scientists for the study of underwater archaeological sites. He has travelled extensively in Latin America and Cuba. His interest in Taino Indian culture (which spanned the Greater Antilles, including Cuba) is focused on the exploration of submerged cave systems where much ritual activity occurred. Before joining the National Geographic staff, Fabio was a professor of archaeology and a researcher for the Council for Scientific Investigation at the National University of El Salvador.
The Lowell Thomas Award 2008 ‘Travel Journalist of the Year,' photographer and writer Christopher Baker is one of the world's foremost authorities on Costa Rica and Cuba. He has authored guidebooks to Costa Rica, Cuba, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Panama in the National Geographic Traveler series. He is also the author of the award-winning Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro's Cuba, published by National Geographic Adventure Press. His more than 20 other books include the coffee-table book Cuba Classics: A Celebration of Vintage American Automobiles. He has written for more than 200 publications, from National Geographic Traveler to Newsweek, and has been an invited speaker at National Geographic headquarters, the National Press Club, and the World Affairs Council, among other prestigious organizations. Christopher has been profiled in USA Today and featured on the National Geographic Channel, NPR, and dozens of other radio and TV outlets.
Born and raised in Italy, photojournalist Massimo Bassano has published his work in National Geographic Traveler and on the National Geographic website, plus in numerous European and Italian publications. Massimo first visited Cuba just after the breakup of the Soviet Union. He fell in love on that visit with the Cuban people, their lifestyle, and their culture. He has returned to Cuba seven times since, sailing the country's coastal islands and illustrating a book on rum, cigars, and the flavor of Cuba. For this assignment, he followed Ernest Hemingway's travels extensively all over the main island and ate fish with the first mate of Hemingway's fishing boat Pilar, Gregorio Fuentes—widely held to be a model for Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea. Massimo also had a lengthy interview with Fidel Castro at Havana's Tropicana Club on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Cuban Cohiba cigar. He regularly teaches National Geographic photography workshops and is a popular expert on National Geographic expeditions all over the world. His acclaimed photography book The Color of Silence details the 12 weeks he spent in a little-known Italian monastery.
Renowned percussionist Carol Steele has been traveling to Cuba for more than 25 years and introducing the island to fellow travelers for 15. Carol’s enthusiasm is contagious, as is her love of Cuba, its culture, its history, and its people. As a professional musician, Carol’s résumé reads like a Who’s Who of popular music. She has performed or recorded with Peter Gabriel, Steve Winwood, Joan Baez, Tears for Fears, Bette Midler, and many other well-known artists. Carol was the first American women to play with Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, one of Cuba’s iconic folkloric groups, and played and sang on tour in the United States with Lazaro Ros and Amelia Pedroso, two of Cuba’s most popular and beloved Afro-Cuban folkloric singers. After many years of study, Carol has been initiated into the Regal de Ocha (or Santeria, as most people know it). She loves to share her knowledge about the history of this religion, of music and art as a form of prayer, and of how the faith manifests itself throughout everyday life in Cuba.
Tim Weed is an award-winning author and educator with more than two decades of experience developing and leading educational travel programs abroad. A founding director of National Geographic Student Expeditions, Tim played a key role in developing new photography, archaeology, and wildlife conservation programs in Iceland, Peru, Ecuador and the Galápagos, Spain, the Yucatán Peninsula, Alaska, and Yellowstone and Grand Canyon National Parks. After majoring in Spanish at Middlebury College, Tim earned master's degrees in international affairs and creative writing, and lived internationally for several years directing college semester abroad programs in Spain, Australia, and Venezuela. From 1999 to 2004, he headed up a series of pioneering educational programs for American students in Cuba, including a Havana-based program focusing on music, film, writing, and Spanish, and a four-week mobile writing workshop that traversed the island from Santiago to Havana. Tim has since led a number of people-to-people programs in Cuba, and recently helped direct a music exchange program for an American women's choir performing jointly with the Cuban National Chorus and the Cuban Children's Chorus. An avid outdoorsman, fly fisherman, and backcountry skier, Tim's essays and feature articles on travel and the outdoors have appeared in many national magazines, including Backcountry, Cross Country Skier, The Morning News, and Yale Angler's Journal. His short fiction collection, The Camp at Cutthroat Lake, was a finalist for the Lewis-Clark Press Discovery Award, and his essay “Embargoed Brothers: An American in Off-Limits Cuba” won a 2012 Best Travel Writing Award from Traveler’s Tales.
John Echave is a photojournalist and a 20-year National Geographic veteran. As Senior Editor for Photography and Research Grants, he produced and edited 217 stories and 37 covers for the Society's flagship magazine. Working with various Cuban ministries, John gained unlimited access to Cuba for the Geographic beginning in 1989. This led to the publication of seven stories and a book profiling various aspects of life in the country, including its historical heritage, wildlife, pristine coral reefs, political structure, and people. John was born in Havana and emigrated to the American Midwest as a “Peter Pan” in 1961. His experience working as a journalist in today’s Cuba as well as his vivid, first-hand recollections of events leading to the triumph of the revolution in 1959 will fascinate participants in this expedition. Before joining the National Geographic staff, John was a photojournalist with US News and World Report and the Associated Press. He is currently a producer and videographer with Blue Lagoon Productions and LS Films.
Scott Wallace is an author, photographer, and television producer who has covered armed conflict, the environment, and vanishing cultures from around the world. A former correspondent for Newsweek and the Guardian based in Latin America, he is a regular contributor to National Geographic and National Geographic Traveler. His television work has been featured on CBS, CNN, and the National Geographic Channel. Scott is the 2012 recipient of the Explorers Club's Lowell Thomas Award for his expedition reporting. He has served as a photographer and consultant for the World Bank on development projects in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.
Born in the U.S. but raised in Spain and Cuba, Rob Hernandez was in Havana during the pivotal early years of the Cuban Revolution. After leaving in 1960, he first returned in 1987 with the hope of gaining access on behalf of the National Geographic to what at that time was largely a closed nation. He has traveled widely throughout the island and will enjoy sharing with you his broad knowledge of the history, culture, and environments of this enigmatic nation that's still struggling to reconcile its past with its future. A 28-year veteran of the Society, Rob first served as a senior editor for the magazine, later becoming Senior Vice President and head of the Society's International Publishing division that produces books, magazines, and other media in more than 35 languages. An ecologist by education, he spent his early career doing field research and documenting through films and photography many of the world's more remote places, work that has appeared in leading global publications. After spending two years circumnavigating the Indian and Pacific Oceans in a small sailboat, he went on to lead many expeditions to Africa, the Arctic and Antarctic, Southeast Asia, and South America, among other regions.
As National Geographic Maps' Geographer and Director of Editorial and Research, Juan José Valdés is responsible for ensuring the accuracy and consistency of its maps and map products. He guides and assists the Society's Map Policy Committee in setting border representations, disputed territories, and naming conventions for the Geographic. Born in Havana and later raised in the U.S., Juan oversaw the development of National Geographic's groundbreaking new map of Cuba.
Award-winning photographer, journalist, and author Kike Calvo was born in Spain, has traveled in more than 85 countries, and transformed his his fascination with Latin America into a career focus. He is a guest lecturer for the Leica Akademie and a freelancer for the New York Times. His cultural and environmental documentary photography has also been published in National Geographic, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair, as well as other publications. His book Habitats, with forewords by famed National Geographic marine photographer David Doubilet and Jean-Michel Cousteau, showcases a collection of his work in Cuba and his road trips across the island, where he was charmed by its culture and people. Kike´s images of Cuba have been internationally exhibited and collected with traveling exhibitions of his work in New York, Chicago, Manila, Spain, and Panama at venues including the United Nations, King Juan Carlos I Center, and Instituto Cervantes. With a strong interdisciplinary background, Kike continues his education by teaching photography at workshops and seminars around the world. When he is not on assignment, instructing, or guiding, he is having gazpacho made from his grandmother’s Andalusian recipe.
Cynthia Gorney is a professor in the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley . Her prior career at The Washington Post included serving as an award-winning national features writer, South American bureau chief, and the first writer for the Post’s Style section based on the West Coast. Cynthia is the author of Articles of Faith: A History of the Abortion Wars, and has written for many magazines, including The New Yorker, Harper’s, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times Magazine, Runners World, O: The Oprah Magazine, and the American Journalism Review. She is currently a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and National Geographic. Cynthia's article "Cuba's New Now" appeared in the November 2012 issue of National Geographic.