Cuba's protected pristine reefs could become popular diving destination for Americans

Posted: 25-Jun-15 12:23

If travel restrictions for U.S residents visiting Cuba are lifted, scuba diving enthusiasts could be in for a treat at the remote Peninsula of Guanahacabibes, which could become a popular diving destination. Boasting clear waters and thriving coral reefs, the region has thrived as a result of the enforced travel embargo that has lasted more than five decades.

Cuba's protected pristine reefs could become popular diving destination for Americans

Cuba's decades-long travel embargo with the United States has had a positive effect on the island's marine eco-system, and in particular, the remote Peninsula of Guanahacabibes.

While many say that has time has stood still in Cuba since the travel ban was enforced more than five decades ago, this has spared the island's reefs from degradation that can be found in coral reefs elsewhere in the world.

Lack of agricultural run-off, limited coastal development and strong environmental laws have helped keep Cuba's reefs and ocean waters healthy.

If the travel ban to Cuba for U.S residents is lifted as a result of recent resumed relations between the two countries, the region could become a popular scuba diving destination.

Boasting crystal clear waters, thriving colourful coral reefs, and thousands of diverse marine species, the Peninsula of Guanahacabibes spans 200 square miles of land and marine reserve with protected forests and pristine white sand beaches.

Situated 135 miles northwest of Havana, the peninsula only has one military-run tour company that oversees scuba diving in Maria La Gorda, the resort inside the Guanahacabibes reserve, and if the U.S-Cuba travel ban is lifted, will it be ready for the influx of visitors?

Tony Dorland, an American diver and contractor from Chicago, who has visited Cuba many times to scuba dive. Explained his opinion about what Americans will experience, he said:

"No, there is no way they are going to be ready for them, like all the bells and whistles when they travel, but it's going to be for the people that know that this is the way Europeans travel, not the way Americans travel."

Manuel Mons is the marketing manager for a Cuban state-run tour agency, who says that Cuba is suited to ecotourism because of the island's lack of coastal development and strong environmental laws. He explained:

"You're diving in a protected area, so there aren't areas that are under pressure from manmade activity.

"On the contrary, the policy is of conservation, so it's assumed under this conservation policy they should be that way for a long time."

However, if the country wants to see more scuba diving visitors, it will need to improve its infrastructure to accommodate them.

While general tourism has not yet been approved as a reason to visit Cuba, American residents can visit the island for educational, religious, academic and cultural and family purposes across 12 categories and people to people programmes, and licences for these trips are no longer required.


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