Just got back from my first visit to Cuba…and yes, it won’t be the last. From beginning to end, the people, amenities and diving did not disappoint!
We were welcomed at the airport and escorted to our 5 Star hotel by the Havana team from Oceans for Youth/Aggressor Liveaboards. They made the arrival easy and comfortable which gave us plenty of time to relax and/or explore Old Havana before our welcome dinner and orientation. With everything already being paid for, all we needed to do was show up…and enjoy the ambiance of Old Havana.
On our city tour the next day, we were able to see some of the major sites such as El Moro, Plaza del Revolucion, Florita Bar, etc. The music, the vintage cars, incredible architecture, Cuban hospitality and food, and the mojitos were amazing. The Cuban people were very curious about us as Americans, but in a good way, and seemed very open with their questions and comments. Our time with a Cuban family in their home was a great cultural exchange between people of all ages and backgrounds. The language barrier was not an issue as the genuineness of the people and their passion for their country came thru. My only regret was not having more time to spend there. I will definitely be going back!
We boarded that boat with incredible anticipation especially after the orientation we received from the scientist in charge of the National Marine Sanctuary- Jardinas de la Reina. Protected for over 20 years and rarely dove, it is a flashback to the Caribbean of the past before the pressures of overfishing and tourism. So our expectations were high! Fortunately, you can see that the reefs are healthy and full of fish. The nearby mangroves are a nursery for fish and also provide protection against storms and habitat for many species, including Nino, the crocodile! Swimming with him was a definite bonus as was visiting the small islands themselves.
The fish seemed very approachable and less skittish than most as well so getting fish portraits was a little easier. Big groupers seemed almost pet like as they often followed us throughout the dive. The tops of the reefs were loaded with small fish swimming among the swaying sea fans and gorgonians. Not a bad place to spend your safety stop!
Sharks and more sharks! We saw sharks on most dives…which I consider a real treat. And a sign of a healthy ecosystem. Caribbean Reef Sharks, Nurse Sharks and Silky Sharks were very approachable and relatively easy to photograph. We had several deep wall dives with Caribbean Reef Sharks on the deep wall part of the dive and then finished with silkies on our safety stop. I could have done just the safety stop! Towards the end of the week, a couple of people did just that as their ears had given up so they just hung out with the silkies in 5-10 feet of water while we did our dive and then joined them later….They got some great shots.
I have a feeling this is just the beginning of what Cuba has to offer. Much of the Jardinas are only now being explored. The Marine Park is taking it slow and is evaluating new areas carefully and installing moorings before opening up to diving. It is a testament to what careful management can do to preserve an area for future generations. I look forward to returning!
Ready for your dive adventure? Join us on a DUI Dive Trip.
[ngg_images source="galleries" container_ids="76" display_type="photocrati-nextgen_basic_thumbnails" override_thumbnail_settings="0" thumbnail_width="100" thumbnail_height="75" thumbnail_crop="1" images_per_page="24" number_of_columns="0" ajax_pagination="1" show_all_in_lightbox="0" use_imagebrowser_effect="0" show_slideshow_link="1" slideshow_link_text="[Show as slideshow]" order_by="sortorder" order_direction="ASC" returns="included" maximum_entity_count="500"]