Adventures in the Depths
By Benigno Pérez & Aleida Marín Photos: Publicitur
The calm and transparent sea with their cool waters under the surface and excellent visibility give scuba divers and snorkelers the chance to enjoy 850 km of coral reefs located around Cuba.
Imagine a great silence in the big blue. The sun penetrating the ocean abyss. Those are some of the features calling visitors to the Cuban waters and their depths.
Floating Over an Enchanted world
The largest island in the Caribbean has a broad underwater shelf relatively near the surface with about 70,000 km² of area. It includes two minor islands and over 4,000 islets. It contains an absolutely captivating underwater realm.
lts warm and clean waters have an average temperature between 25° and 28° Celsius. There are no strong marine currents in the area and the water is so clear that you can see for 30 m.
Everything is set for you to appreciate the hundreds of kilometres of coral reefs around the island, considered to be among the most beautiful on the planet. The highlight is the Jardines del Rey area with 450 km of coral reefs, one of the largest formations in the world.
These coral gardens are full of caves, meadows of gorgonians and sponges, underwater escarpments, narrow channels, tunnels, fish of many sizes and colours, as well as the potentially valuable remains of shipwrecked vessels. Divers in this world can discover 500 species of ﬁsh and 200 varieties of sponges, a diversity of molluscs and crustaceans, seaweeds, and other underwater species.
For centuries Cuba was the main port of call for commerce between the Americas and Europe. Havana was also the place where the fleets would assemble before sailing with their treasure back to Spain. Naturally, this is where the pirates lay in wait to attack and sink the Spanish Crown's ships.
The sea bottom is also full of crevasses and caves where sponges of many colours, shapes, and sizes, sometimes reaching three meters in diameter, have their natural habitat.
Many of the species of underwater animals can be seen at depths between three and 20 m, including the soft corals dancing to the rhythm of the waves which are easily reachable by snorkelers.
The many international diving centres around Cuba offer snorkelling equipment, simple dives and packages, resort based beginner classes, courses for open sea diving, advanced diving, instructor classes, and specialties like photography and navigation. These centres are located at the main tourist resorts in Cuba on both the north and south coasts and including the keys.
Scuba diving in Cuba is based on the principle of ecosystem conservation which has preserved the hundreds of excellent diving locations.
Where to Go
The best diving areas in Cuba are located on the boundaries of the underwater shelves. Those are located around the Isle of Youth and its Punta Francés Cayo largo, Cayo Blanco, and Jardines de Ia Reina in the south. In the north there is Varadero, Cayo Santa María, Cayo Coco, Romano, and Holguín. We can also include the south coast near Santiago de Cuba.
The international diving centres have diving equipment, specialzed boats, first aid and oxygenation kits, radio communication, and instructors with years of experience who are endorsed by the World Underwater Federation (CMAS) and American Canadian Underwater Diving Certification (ACUC).
There is also a national system of hyperbaric chambers and specialized medical assistance to guarantee treatment 24 hours a day year round.
The Isle of Youth, known during the era of pirates as the Isle of Pines, was supposedly the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island. Perhaps the best diving in the country can be found at the 56 sites and the National Marine Park around Punta Francés. Located about half an hour from the diving centre near the Hotel Colony, this area contains everything from coral to caves to shipwrecks.
Located in the Canarreos Archipelago, Cayo Largo is best known as the "all inclusive island". It also has unique underwater fauna. Its underwater landscape is connected to the north with Cayo Blanco forming a large strip of reefs and sand banks rich in coral and sponges.
Giant whale sharks are quite common in these waters and diving with them is a truly unique experience for those who want to get up close to undersea animals. You can also feed sharks from the surface or, for the more daring, dive deeper to swim with hammerheads, tiger sharks, and other predators.
From simple snorkel dives near the surface to deep open ocean dives to caves and shipwrecks, Cuba's enormous range of dive sites has something for everyone. Come and get wet.