Until a little over a year ago I could have never imagined I would become a scuba dive addict… Diving was something my husband Frank had dreamed about for years, but truth to tell, the idea of going diving scared me!
I was afraid I would feel claustrophobic being completely surrounded by water. I couldn’t have been more wrong, diving doesn’t feel claustrophobic to me at all! In fact, it’s quite the opposite: it feels like ultimate freedom!
I love flying over the beautiful coral, surrounded by colorful fish, spotting the occasional turtle or stingray while hearing nothing but the sound of my own breathing.
Scuba diving in Cuba
I had read about the many diving possibilities in Cuba, but I wasn’t sure if there would a dive center near Guardalavaca where I was staying for the majority of my time in Cuba. Luckily there was, located on the beach 300 meter from my hotel, Club Atlantico.
Dive school in Guardalavaca: Eagle Ray
The dive center is called Eagle Ray Marlin Diving Center and when I visited (March 2016) it was opened every day. There are usually 2 dives a day: at 9am and 11am.
I went diving on Saturday (I went on both the 9am and 11am dive) and Monday (I went on the 9am dive only).
On Saturday there were just 4 people on the dive and 2 dive masters. Since it had been more than 9 months since my last dive, I very much appreciated dive master Alejandro helping me putt my gear together properly. Don’t get me wrong, I assembled my own gear (very important to check your own stuff and know if everything works!), he just gave me some pointers on things I forgot.
On Monday there were a lot of people, so we split up in 2 groups of 7 people. I didn’t mind the larger group size that much, however I do prefer smaller groups (4 people per dive master). Ah well, the awesomeness of my Monday dive more than offset the slightly higher number of people being on the dive.
I paid 90CUC for 3 dives, which comes down to 30CUC per dive (around €26/$30). The more dives you do, the lower the price per dive.
About the dive sites around Guardalavaca
There are 26 dive sites in front of the beach of Guardalavaca, I went to 3 of these dive sites:
• Coral Garden
What surprised me was how close the dive sites were to the shore. Just 5-10 minutes on the boat and I could pretty much wave to my mum (who I traveled around Cuba with:-) who was relaxing on the beach.
When I asked one of the Dive Masters about his favorite site he mentioned Laberinto (lucky me that we went there:-). In the Lonely Planet of Cuba Corona is also mentioned as a nice dive site.
Scuba dive site 1: Sirena
The Sirena dive site is between 18 and 40 meter deep and it was my first wall dive! I have to admit it took me a while before I was able to fully enjoy my surroundings as it had been more than 9 months since my last dive. Diving isn’t difficult, but you do get better the more often you do it.
I had to refresh my skills during the first part of the dive and get back into the routine of breathing slowly, moving slowly and checking my dive console for information about my air and depth. Once I had gotten back into my ‘dive groove’ I was wowed by the impressive coral formations on the steep wall.
Highlight of the dive: my first wall dive and seeing 2 lion fish!
Scuba dive site 2: Coral Garden
Being the second dive of the day, this was the shallow dive, between 6 and 15 meters deep. What I love about shallow dives is how the sunlight filters through and sparkles off the colorful fish.
Another reason I like shallow dives is because I get cold quite easily. Well, that may be an understatement. My husband would say this is a severe understatement, he sometimes calls me his little vampire… I don’t know why, but my body sucks at maintaining a proper temperature.
But I am rambling, back to diving. When I am diving in water below 26 degrees Celsius I get cold. Last year in El Nido the water temperature was round 24 degrees Celsius and I couldn’t stop shaking when I got out. I actually started wearing 2 wetsuits, a long one and a short one on top of that, following the advice of my awesome instructor who had the same problem…Unfortunately, there was only a short wetsuit available in Cuba and after the first dive at Sirena I was cold. Brining my to my second point (finally;-) why I like shallow dives: it’s a little less cold at 12 meters than it is at 30 meters. Warmer and lighter.
Highlight of the dive: seeing a huge crab (unfortunately no picture)!
Scuba dive dive site 3: Laberinto
The dive site is 15-33 meters deep and it was my absolute favorite dive site in Cuba! The site is like a maze (hence the name) because of the massive rocks and coral formations on these rocks. Swimming between the steep walls we came across 2 lion fish, a needle fish, 2 stingrays and last but certainly not least, a giant lobster! A beautiful dive!
Highlight of the dive: having Daniel as a dive buddy who had an underwater camera, meaning I at least have some photos of my dive to share with you! I really have to buy my own camera…