DIVING IN CUBA
The island of Cuba is completely surrounded by thousands of kilometers of coral reefs containing the most diverse variety of corals, fish and other marine life to be found anywhere, with steep walls dropping from reefs to the abyss.
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More than 150 species of Atlantic, Gulf and Caribbean fish abound in Cuban waters, from the majestic marlin, swordfish and sailfish to bonefish, tarpon, shook and permit on flats and in estuaries; snappers and groupers on the reefs. Tuna, cobia, mackerel, sea trout, jack and barracuda also proliferate. The socioeconomic development is combined with the conservation of environment. These protected areas are organized in categories of management comprise within the National System.
More than 20 systems of caves and caverns can be explored throughout the island.Some with rivers or underwater caves are connected with the sea. Many of them treasure ancient native pictographs, and all with their unique living species.
In Cuba, nature wonders like the blind fish, can be found living in crystalline waters of underground lakes in carsick caverns in Pinar del Rio. Other truly charming species are part of the Cuban ecosystem like: dazzling snails called polimitas and the smallest frog on the planet (Eleutherodactylus limbatus, less than 1 cm in length), the tiniest hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae or Zunzuncito, 63 mm), rare and beautiful orchids and extraordinary butterfly with transparent wings.
Cuba is, in fact, an ecological paradise with favorable settings for nature and ecotourism lovers. Actually, is possible to take advantage of its immense wealth and ecological diversity.
Sea temperatures vary from around 22°C (72°F) in December to 29°C (84°F) in July
3mm shortie or full length wetsuit
20 to 40 metres (65 - 130 feet) can be expected at most sites
Type of diving:
Steep walls cut by tunnels and caverns and shallow reefs plus a few wrecks
Jewfish, nurse sharks, stingrays, green morays, turtles, Atlantic spadefish, jacks, tuna, tarpon, barracuda, grunts, snappers, red hinds, parrotfish, squirrelfish, triggerfish, lobsters, crabs, shrimps
When to go:
In theory diving is possible all year, although there is a risk of hurricanes around October and the rainy season (June to October) can blow dives our regularly. If you want to a chance of seeing a whale shark, November is the best month to visit
DIVING IN HAVANA: There are two main international dive centers currently operating; La Aguja located at the Hemingway Marina and Tarara in the Beaches of the East area. There are roughly 24 sites identified from Cojimar in eastern Havana to the Mariel Bay in western Havana. There are an additional 10 sites in the Beaches of the East area. The dive area runs parallel to the coast and the sites are at depths of 5 to 35 meters. Vistas include coral fields, sponges, tropical fish, small caves and shipwrecks. There is also a private dive club called Blue Reef in Miramar (24th & 1st).
Coral Island - 25 meters, A merchant ship that caught fire and ran aground. It's divided into three sections, and the stern has become a haven for various fish species. It surface is ideal for the development of corals, hydrozoa, bivalves, sponges and algae.
Sanchez Barcastegui - 25 meters, An old armoured Spanish vessel that foundered in 1895 after colliding with another ship while maneuvering to enter Havana Harbour. Swimming among the remnants of the old man-'o-war, you can discover tarpons, snooks and groupers.
Hollywood Song - 15 meters, Wall with caves, a small tunnel and abundant corals, sponges and gorgonians; coral reef fish species form a multicoloured cloud around divers.
El Muerto - An area with considerable coral and tropical fish (this is offered by Blue Reef), you'll discover a site which has gained in popularity since the 1997 drowning of a young boy in this area. His family has had a marble angel pantheon sunken here in his memory, drawing many divers to see the site.
Comodoro - 24 meters, An intentionally-sunken fishing boat has been turned into an artificial reef. It's extremely well-preserved and fish of various sizes roam its interior and exterior.
Viriato's Song - 30 meters, Staggered coral formations resembling small hills drop to a depth of 20 - 30 meters. Adult and young fish and several lobster species can be found here.
Cabezo de las Chopas - 15 meters, Close to the vertical wall there are large outcroppings peppering the sandy bottom as well as a cave sheltering many species of fish. Also discover pillar corals, large sponges (Venus's Basket) and schools of adult chubs swimming with divers.
The Baracoa Umbrellas - 35 meters, This flat coral formation resembles large umbrellas when seen from the surface. Schools of adult fish, large sponges, and colonies of black coral can be sighted.
DIVING IN VARADERO: is offered from the Barracuda Diving Center (beside Cuatro Palmas Hotel), the Aqua International Dive Center (beside Kawama Hotel), the Chapelin Marina, as well as from several other hotels in the area. Weekly trips are also offered from the Barracuda, Coral & Chapelin dive centers to the Bay of Pigs on the south shore (transportation included, no supplement). Sites in Varadero alone total 21 and highlight shipwrecks, flooded caves, gulf walls, coral barriers and even friendly moray eels. A daily schedule at each dive center visits 2 dive sites per day, with a weekly rotation that is intended to avoid repetition. Groups may customize their diving itinerary upon arrival with dive instructors. Gaviota also has a marina in the eastern tip of Varadero, but note that our offers below are valid for the Marlin marinas in western and central Varadero.
Russian Patrol Boat - 30 meters, Intentionally sunken in 1997 for diving purposes, this vessel is almost 100 m long. Located close to Cayo Piedra, the excursion is often accompanied by a professional photographer who will offer you a printed memory of your experience in the afternoon.
Coral Beach - 20 meters, The coral barrier is accessible by the beach. There are more than 30 species of coral, some developed and reaching the surface, interlinking to form channels, passages and caves.
Saturn Cave - 20 meters, A cavern flooded by both fresh and sea water, with abundant secondary formations, stalactites and stalagmites. There is a lake and two galleries where you can find blind shrimp and fish.
The Mandarins - 15 meters, Coral patch with diverse, greatly-developed fauna among which you will find various coral fish, moray eels, groupers and large schools of grunt that eat out of divers' hands.
Caribe - 10 meters, Remains of an old German merchant ship sunken in 1943. There are many angel fish, groupers, lobsters and green moral eels up to 2 meters long fed from divers' hands.
DIVING IN SANTA LUCIA (CAMAGUEY): A dive zone with almost 40 sites offers shipwrecks, the remains of a Spanish fort, fish, and hand-fed sharks. The dive center is called Sharks Friends. A show where the instructors hand-feed bull sharks operates from August to Febbruary. Reservations for the show are not available in advance as its departure strongly depends on weather condition, the moon, etc. Offers for the shark show (including a digital recording of your experience) must be purchased directly at the dive center. In this dive center, we offer regular immersions only for advance purchase.There are approximately 4 sharks still using that dive area in their migratory path. Although sharks are typically sighted from September to November they are also being sighted now, in mid-August.
Poseidon I-VI - 18-32 meters, The bottoms of these 6 dive sites are made up of ridges forming marine terraces and tidal niches abounding in gorgonians, sponges, corals and minute coral fish. Nuestra Senora Virgen de Altagracia - 27 meters, Steel tug boat dating back to the early 20th century, in perfect condition. It's located next to a wall dropping straight into the abyss. Inside and around it rove numerous fish.
Mortera - 27 meters, This site is identified by the ramins of a 19th century Spanish merchant shipwreck at the entrance of the Nuevitas Bay channel. Colorful coral fish , big snappers, groups and shoals of jacks can be discovered here.
Las Anforas - 27 meters, This site is located close to what once was a Spanish fort that guarded the entrance to the bay. Submerged pitchers, bottles and clay vessels bear witness to the presence of the fort.
Sharks Point - 30 meters, Bull sharks up to 2 or 3 meters long are the stars of a show during which they feed out of the hands of diving instructors.
Honda Cave - 32 meters, There is an impressive cave in this site which shelters tarpon and big groupers.
DIVING IN MARIA LA GORDA: Maria la Gorda is well known for offering some of the best Scuba diving holidays the island has to offer. The reefs are wonderfully healthy, the marine life is abundant and varied, and combining this with the tranquil setting above water makes the location one of the best places to visit for an all-round holiday experience. Those visiting Cuba wishing to relax and take in the scenery alongside their diving holiday will definitely find this an exciting place to visit.
Maria la Gorda is located in the Pinar del Rio province of Cuba, a scenic 4 1/2 hours drive from Havana past banana, sugar cane and tobacco plantations, giving it delightful views for those non-diving holiday makers. The area surrounding Maria la Gorda is a national park which also extends out into the sea, making for some wonderful views and exotic wildlife to see. Many exotic birds including black vultures, land hermit crabs, a variety of lizards, iguanas, and other birds including storks and woodpeckers are all there to be seen on your scuba travels, meaning you can take in plenty of above water wildlife, as well as the amazing variety beneath the sea. Maria la Gorda's coast is home to a beautiful, remote bay and a sandy white beach lined with palm trees.On arriving at the resort at Maria la Gorda to commence your scuba travels, you'll find the solitude of the place striking, and be amazed by the incredible beauty of the beach which is a picture-perfect paradise. Maria la Gorda is very small, limited to the dive centre, a bar, two restaurants, a shop, a handful of apartments on the beach front and some wood cabins set back in the trees. The dive centre is efficiently run and the guides give excellent briefings, trying very hard to ensure you get the most out of your scuba diving holiday. The restaurants are pleasant and the lodgings are basic, but comfortable, but the only real reason to stay at Maria la Gorda for more than a few days is if you are on a scuba diving holiday - beyond the natural beauty of the place there is very little else to do other than relax on the beach or snorkel in the clear blue waters.
Holiday scuba diving at Maria la Gorda is enjoyed all over the sweeping bay with dive sites 10 to 20 minutes' journey from the main centre by boat. There is a shallow area that gently slopes away from the beach for a short way before suddenly dropping steeply to several thousands metres below sea level on a near vertical plane, creating some impressive walls cut with tunnels and caverns where the huge drop provides an awe inspiring sense of weightlessness. Nerve racking for beginners, but an unrivalled experienced for veteran divers!
DIVING IN CAYO COCO and CAYO GUILLERMO: nearby the Old Channel of the Bahamas those two spots are perfect for diving vacations . In the lower part of the Bahia de los Perros, situated on the south coast of Cayo Coco in an area exposed at low tide, live many sea birds that can be clearly seen from the viewpoint at La Silla.
The drive along the causeway to Cayo Coco is around 18 miles from where its coral reef extends for more than 13 miles, with white, fine sands and clear waters. Cayo Coco holiday makers will be treated to an area renowned for the softness of its golden sands, the stunning beauty of its seafloor, and its landscapes of glorious vegetation, where deer, pigs and other wild animals wander freely.
The region contains many outstanding rocky points, glorious coastal shelves and meandering natural trails making it one of the most aesthetically pleasing sites in Cuba. Among the 158 bird species living on these keys are sinsontillo, arriero, and pelicans.
Cayo Guillermo is 8 miles long, boasting five beaches. They are very similar to the beaches of Cayo Coco, ensuring a similarly beautiful experience outside of the waters! Around half a mile out is a fascinating coral reef where several kinds of coral can be seen including the brain coral. The best beaches are playa El Paso, which is 3 miles long, playa del Medio and playa Larga, all of which boast glorious white sands and warm, clear blue waters. Whatever one's interests, holidays in Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo are always enchanting and captivating.
Those scuba diving in Cayo Coco or Cayo Guillermo will find many varieties of corals and sponges, caves, crevices, walls and tunnels. The special attraction for scuba diving holiday makers in this area is the huge variety and quantity of fish as a result of its proximity to the Bahamas Trench. The sites are filled with tarpons, snappers, groupers, pompanos, Atlantic spadefish, and sergeant majors.
DIVING IN CAYO LARGO :In the south of the island, Cayo Largo is the obvious choice for diving in Cuba. With virtually untouched beaches and coral reefs, this is a great place to feel isolated from the world at large. It's also a great place for beginners, thanks to the huge ne arby coral reef, there are no strong currents. If all of this sounds perfect, except for the location, you'll be pleased to hear that although this is 177km from Havana, there are local domestic flights between the two, meaning you can be there within an hour!
DIVING IN GUARDALAVACA (HOLGUIN): Almost 14 dive sites are identified and the Eagle Ray Diving Center on the western tip of the beach takes you diving in the Old Bahamas Channel in sites from 5 to 40 meters with coral barriers, tall crags, cozy dales, and vertical walls. The dive zone has an extension of 30km with more than 22 dive sites identified. Some of the most notable include Canto Azul, Coral Garden, Cueva Uno and Pesquero de Esponjas with indescribable beauty presented to the diver in fauna and multicolored vistas. The underwater relief is irregular and complex in some sites, and in others the platform gradually descends with ample shapes of terraces completely covered in gorgonias, sea fans, and coral.
Coral House - 10 meters, A coral barrier with abundant fauna, mainly small coral fish, diverse coral species and large gorgonians and sea fans are the main feature of this site.
The Crown - 40 meters, The site has a semi-circular coral formation resembling a crown, hence its name. There are big gorgonians, corals, sponges and medium to large fish.
Pretty Song - 35 meters, In the area there's a wall dropping from a depth of 15 meters, abounding in lobster, crab, octopus and myriads of coral fish.
Fisherman - 40 meters, A coral bottom teeming with sponges, gorgonians and fish. Its major attraction: numerous black coral colonies.
The Chain - 40 meters, There is a chain with massive links that spans the entrance channel from east to west. The area has a wide variety of invertebrates that have made it their habitat.
DIVING IN SANTIAGO DE CUBA: The area is primarily concentrated in the Baconao Park Zone, with the exception of Chivirico to the west (covered separately). Sixteen dive sites are in the immediate vicinity of the Bucanero hotel offered by Marlin in Bucanero. There are thirteen more sites in front of Daiquiri Beach. In the eastern end of the park there are at least 6 more notable sites accessed via the Sigua center. Characteristics of the area include the formation of large coral crags that communicate through tunnels and narrow channels. There are large fish, crustaceans and molluscs. The bottoms hold shipwrecks where you can personally feed enormous groupers. Sunken Spanish galleons are the main attraction in the Sierra Mar dive center.
Open Water - 16 meters, There are coral outcroppings of attractive shapes abounding in large gorgonians and fans and populated by a wide variety of coral fish species.
Guarico - 15 meters, A shipwreck lying on a sandy botttom, its hull harboring numerous fish that roam the remains. Black groupers are hand-fed by divers.
La Pared - 35 meters, The site is identified by a wall that drops abruptly into the deep. A privileged spot due to its abundant submarine life.
Spring Carol - 25 meters, Foundered vessel, practically intact is the home of large black groupers, parrot fish and many other coral fish species.
Ferry - 35 meters, The resting place of a merchant ship more than 100-feet long. You can swim into the hold, over the bridge and see the impressive jewfish up close.
Morrillo Chico - 18 meters, The zone is a veritable underwater paradise due to its exuberant, varied and colourful submarine life and the transparency of its waters.
Piedra de Ariguas - 27 meters, The site's main characteristic is a wall with a small cave inhabited by yellowfin groupers and smaller coral fish.
The Wall - 17 meters, An impressive seascape features a wall that drops abrulptly from 17 meters down to unknown depths. There is an abundance of black coral and hammerhead sharps are frequent visitors.
The Cave - 7 meters, A peculiar formation here develops from the base of a high terrace that falls straight into the sea. Diving is therefore practiced in terra firma inside a cave 17 meters long, 3 meters wide and 7 meters deep. It is the dwelling of abundant juvenile coral fish and lobster.
Conch Reef - 15 meters, The most outstanding characteristic of this area is a coral barrier teeming with fish, plentiful populations of queen conchs and excellent visibility.
The Maze - 25 meters, Long passages formed by coral barriers of extraordinary beauty, the thruway of jacks, snappers, black groupers and barracudas.
Mandinga Reef - 35 meters, The bottom emerges from a depth of 35 meters. There is an enormous variety of fish of all sizes.