CORALREPUBLIC

 

Cuba 2005

 

 

 

 

Trip dates:

29 October Ė 7 November 2005

Boat / resort:

2 nights in Havanaís Hotel Sevilla, 6 nights at the Hotel Club Santa Lucia

Dive centre:

Sharkís Friends in Santa Lucia

Photo-friendly?:

Day boats with basic facilities. No camera room or charging stations.

Number of dives:

10 in 5 days of diving.

Diving conditions:

Clear most of the time, with occasional showers. Although we travelled in the wake of Wilma, the most powerful hurricane on record till then, it had gone through the western part of the island and we had no signs of it in Santa Lucia. The dive sites were all similar, with reef tops at about 20m and no walls. We had relatively short bottom times and Nitrox would have been an advantage. The shark dive was special in all senses, see below. Otherwise, the diving here is pretty uninteresting. They seem to have fished the place out.

Comments:

Our trip was arranged by Abando. Yes, I had said I would never use them again, but since this was organised in Spain I did not complaint. In fact, they did OK this time, changing our initial plans to dive in Maria la Gorda for Santa Lucia. Maria la Gorda, at the westernmost part of the island, was closed a couple of days before our trip because of Wilma. The agency re-booked us to Santa Lucia in the north-eastern coast, a place famous for a bull shark dive.

We spent the first and last nights of our trip in Havana. We liked the Sevilla, a bit posh, but charming and well located in town. We flew with Cubana to and from Santa Lucia (careful, they charge for extra weight! And donít negotiate). We met three fellow Spaniards along the way, a couple and another guy, with whom we got along very well.

In Santa Lucia, we had some trouble with the hotel. They gave us rooms close to the guest entertainment area, and they had very loud music and shows every night. We couldnít sleep! We asked to be moved away, but they did not grant us this for three nights. The new rooms were nicer and calm. I really donít know why they refused to move us the same day we asked; there was hardly anybody else around but us.

The dive centre is located in the hotel compound. The boats were quite OK and the crew smiling and helpful. We were crazy excited about the shark dive. Bulls are probably the most dangerous sharks of all, and these guys were the only ones I knew of back then doing a dedicated feeding dive.

The dive site is on a wreck in a channel between the mainland and an islet where a Spanish fort used to be. It can only be dived between tides, otherwise the currents are impossible to deal with.

You either jump in from a boat or from a pier very close to where the stern of the wreck comes up to 5 m of the surface. The dive centre crew usually bring to the pier the bait that the divemaster will use to attract the sharks. You descend along the wreck until you hit a sandbank at 30 m (yes, itís a very deep dive, no novices allowed), sit along it at right angles to where the divemaster, without any mailcoat or other protection, feeds by hand the big bull shark females that turn up. We did this dive twice and at least there were a good half-dozen of them around. They tell you to yell into your regulator if they come too close. Some in our group lost their voice during those dives.

In the first shark dive, I tried to use my strobes, but the sharks swim close to the bottom and there is too much sand in the water. My pics were so full of backscatter I had to give up. Also, one of the sharks got very interested in the strobes (I guess because of the electric field they generate) and came straight for it, making me duck and regret being there very much. No question of giving up, though. Two days later we had rebuilt the courage to go again.

On the second shark dive, the guys from the dive centre failed to show up with the bait. We were going to miss our window to dive the place. No problems. Lazaro, our divemaster, told me to jump with the rest of the group in 15 minutes, then jumped with a speargun to harpoon a few fishes for the feeding! Down we all went, made our way down and found him below happily ready with a bunch of catches. I sat a bit farther away this time and did not turn on the strobes. Not the best pics Iíve taken, but I was quite proud of myself nevertheless.

Apart from those two memorable dives, we will always remember the superior drinking sessions by the pool (free mojitos, even if a bit weak for my taste), and the drunken party nights, so much so that at least once, one of us could not find his way back to the room. Thatís Cuba Ė Guateque hasta que salga el sol, Compay!

 

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