Diving should be a priority for visitors to Cuba

Posted: 27-Dec-16 13:31

Forget Havana and Santiago, and do the inland parks later. Every new arrival in Cuba needs to get submerse themselves in the islands waters at the first opportunity. The reefs around the island are teeming with exotic underwater creatures, and it’s a feast for any traveller’s eyes.

Diving should be a priority for visitors to Cuba

When most people consider the Caribbean’s most secretive island – in terms of aesthetics and iconography – it’s unlikely the first thing that springs to mind will be a gawping parrotfish surrounded by the kind of waters that turn many seas green with envy. But it probably should be.

Well, in fact, it could be any one of a number of tropical fish you can think of, because away from urban big hitters like Santiago and Havana, or indeed the inland national parks that make this country one of the most ecologically sound on the planet, the shorelines are entranceways to vast reefs teeming with life.

So whilst Cuba may not be as famous as locations like Australia’s Great Barrier, the Vietnamese islands or indeed many of Cuba’s own neighbours in this corner of the globe, that’s really only because of the damage to tourism and international exposure resulting from the long standing embargoes put in place by the U.S., recently made far more lenient, meaning things are opening up dramatically.

Perhaps "damage" is the wrong way of looking at things, mind, as this means the area has been spared the evils of mass tourism, at least until now. Writing for Cuba Journal, Simons Chase describes the awe and wonder that comes with diving in Cuba, heading out to the untouched Gardens of the Queen- Jardines de la Reina. A microscopic archipelago just off the south west coast of Cuba, it was apparently discovered by Christopher Columbus, who named it after Queen Isabella of Spain, who had funded his journey.

Chase goes on to explain, with wonderful eloquence, the irony of their name- at the time Columbus would have been unaware of the bounty below the sea, but this is exactly the reason why the word "garden" works so well in this instance. Being lucky enough to stay on board a live-aboard diving ship meant the journalist could spend an envy-inducing ten days in this wilderness, taking advantage of both nature onshore (of which there isn’t much, but what there is won’t shy from approaching humans), and underwater.

There’s no denying the diving element is what stole Chase’s heart, and it’s not really surprising. Describing a wealth of depths, from spectacular ridges plummeting hundreds of feet, walls lined with plants and other life; to shallows acting as nurseries for schools of Sargent Majors, one line probably summarises the read best:

“Diving has the unique quality of putting the traveler closer to exploring than sightseeing.”

Considering he goes on to mention swimming with groupers, sharks, rays and turtles it’s impossible not to appreciate exactly what that means. 


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