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World | Caribbean | Cuba | Diving Isla de la Juventud:

Isla de la Juventud overview


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Isla de la Juventud dive site map


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Scuba Diving Isla de la Juventud, Cuba, Caribbean


Water temperature:

Sea temperatures vary from around 24°C (75°F) in December to 29°C (84°F) in July

Suit:

3mm shortie or full length wetsuit

Visibility:

20 to 40 metres (65 - 130 feet) can be expected at most sites

Type of diving:

Steep walls cut by tunnels and caverns and shallow reefs plus a few wrecks

Marine life:

Jewfish, nurse sharks, stingrays, green morays, turtles, Atlantic spadefish, jacks, tuna, tarpon, barracuda, grunts, snappers, red hinds, parrotfish, squirrelfish, triggerfish, lobsters, crabs, shrimps

When to go:

In theory diving is possible all year, although there is a risk of hurricanes around October and the rainy season (June to October) can blow dives our regularly. If you want to a chance of seeing a whale shark, November is the best month to visit

How to get there:

From the UK - Iberia and Air France fly to Cuba from major UK airports, but a changing require a change in Paris or Madrid. Alternatively Cubana Airways fly from Gatwick direct


Isla de la Juventud

The only real reason to go to the Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth) is to dive. Travelling around the island is fraught with problems and there is very little of interest to see - certainly the rest of Cuba holds more of a draw for non-divers. The hassles begin with getting the flight from Havana Airport. Make sure you turn up in plenty of time to book in because Cubana Airways will re-sell the seats when check-in closes so that all the seats on the plane are filled. If you miss a flight, you will be told to wait on the off-chance there is a space on the next flight and with only two to three flights a day, seats seem to be like gold dust. Once you get on the plane you will be astounded - the aeroplanes they use must be at least 40 years old. They are tiny seating only 50 or so people, they have two propellers rather than jet engines, and as you take off the cabin fills with condensation that looks like smoke. If your flight is in the day, the view out of the window over the shallow seas is distracting in its beauty.

Divers visiting Isla de la Juventud will be most likely staying at the Hotel Colony on the west of the island, which is close to the marina where the dive boats leave from. Hotel Colony was built by the Hilton chain in 1958 but was confiscated soon after by the revolutionary government. The rooms in the hotel are very run down and the atmosphere is one of a ghost town as there are very few visitors. Sitting in the huge dining room alone with three waiters hanging around you is a very bizarre experience! There are some bungalows at the edge of the hotel that are very pleasant to sleep in, so if at all possible book into one of those. There are no other eating options other than the hotels' restaurant, so make you sure your booking is for full board.

Atlantic spadefish at Isla de la Juventud

The diving itself is fantastic, probably some of the best in the world. There are a couple of wrecks that you will be charged 10 pesos to get to should you want to visit them as they are a bit further a field. The rest of the dive sites are located around Punta Frances which is about a 40 minute journey from the marina each day on some very noisy old dive boats. It is worth it however, as when you enter the water you will come across schools of Atlantic spadefish, jacks, tuna, huge tarpon, countless barracuda, huge stingrays and pristine reefs except for some minor hurricane damage. The dive boat doesn't anchor to anything whilst it waits for divers to surface which is excellent news as it means there are no anchor scars or damage to the reef. Every day lunch is served up on the boat, cooked by one of the crew members and it tastes surprisingly good!

Should your days diving be blown out for whatever reason there are a few options to entertain you such as the crocodile farm, a cave that has some ancient Caribbean-Indian paintings in it or a trip to the island's capital, Nueva Gerona. The rest of the island is only swamps, grapefruit trees and palm trees interspersed with some small villages. Anything you decide to do will pale in comparison to the wonderful diving and the only place to escape the incessant mosquitoes is out at sea or under the water. Whilst the diving around this island is beautiful and consistently leaves you in awe, if diving is only a minor hobby for you this might not be the place to visit. The solitude at the hotel, long boat journeys, the hassles of getting to the island in the first place, and the mosquito bites are enough to really dampen the experience if you are after a more varied holiday. If you have a non-diving partner you really should not bring them here - they will get very bored and very badly bitten!!


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