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World | Caribbean | Cuba | Diving Maria la Gorda:

Maria la Gorda overview


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Maria la Gorda dive site map


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Scuba Diving in Maria la Gorda, Cuba, Caribbean


Water temperature:

Sea temperatures vary from around 22°C (72°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:

Nurse sharks, stingrays, green morays, turtles, 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


Maria la Gorda beach

Maria la Gorda is home to some of the best in diving in Cuba, only beaten by the more remote islands such as the Jardines de la Reina or Isla de la Juventud. The reefs are incredibly healthy, the marine life is abundant and varied and combining this with the tranquil setting above water, it makes the location one of the best places to visit for an all-round holiday experience. For a diver visiting Cuba wishing to relax and take in the scenery, this is definitely the place to go.

Maria la Gorda is located in the Pinar del Rio province of Cuba, 4 1/2 hours drive from Havana heading southwest past banana, sugar cane and tobacco plantations. The area surrounding Maria la Gorda is a national park which also extends out into the sea. It is refreshing to see that the effort really has been made to preserve the local habitat - the access road to the resort even has park rangers stationed on it. As you drive past the dense vegetation lining the roadside you will see many types of birds including huge black vultures, swooping down to feed on the remains of orange and black land crabs squashed by car tyres. Driving past the crabs that have escaped the tyres will make them lift their claws in defence as they scuttle out of the way. There are also land hermit crabs, lots of lizards, iguanas, and other birds including storks and woodpeckers. The coast is home to a beautiful, remote bay and a sandy white beach lined with palm trees.

Jacks at Maria la Gorda, Cuba

On arriving at the resort at Maria la Gorda the solitude of the place will strike you, as will the incredible beauty of the beach which is a picture-perfect paradise. The resort is very small, limited to the dive Center, a bar, two restaurants, a shop, a handful of apartments on the beach front and some wood cabins set back in the trees. The dive Center is efficiently run and the dive guides give excellent briefings and try very hard for you to get the most out of your diving. The restaurants are satisfactory and the lodgings are basic, but comfortable. The only real reason to stay at Maria la Gorda for more than a few days is if you are a diver - beyond the natural beauty of the place there is very little else to do other than relax on the beach or snorkel. No credit cards are accepted at Maria la Gorda.

The diving at Maria la Gorda is done all around the wide, sweeping bay with sites 10 to 20 minutes journey from the dive Center by boat. There is a shallow shelf that gently slopes away from the beach to about 10-15 metres before it suddenly drops steeply to thousands of metres below sea level on a near vertical plane, creating some wonderful walls cut with tunnels and caverns where the feeling of weightlessness above such an immense drop is awe-inspiring. When on the wall you stand a good chance of seeing some tuna or jacks and in the shallows there is an abundance of reef fish.



Although the dives at Maria la Gorda were very beautiful, the divemasters and dive equipment was very poor and not well-maintained. In the time we were there we experienced 5 diving accidents, fortunately without serious consequences. The causes were very bad to no briefing, ~10 divers per divemaster, more divers on a boat then there was space and equipment not being maintained.

The equipment was, at the time we were there, very bad - leaking octopuses, BCDs, and tanks. Kit was not numbered, so if you returned your equipment due to it malfunctioning it was passed on to the next visiting diver. Nearly all of the octopuses were leaking. Nearly all of the depth gauges or compasses were not working. Only air pressure measurement was working. Some BCD's spontaneously inflated under water, some could not deflate, others were leaking at the connection with the octopus. There was a limited number of sizes of suites, the smallest is S, which were worn and too large for anyone under 1.75 m and 65 kg. So a lot of water circulation and thus very cold dives guaranteed.

Some accidents that happened:

1. Australian girl, was not informed about the steel tanks (only need very little lead!), had too much lead. When entering the water with inflated BCD, the BCD broke hereby letting out all air. The combination of too much lead and no air in the BCD made her sink like a rock. She had to be rescued by the divemasters.

2. Me. At my dives I always take pictures. Taking a picture, I was informed by my buddy to come up a little. Checking my depth gauge (showing me I was at 15 m) I did not see the problem. Later on, checking his computer I appeared to be at 35 m. That moment I found out that the depth gauges were not working. So quite essential to bring your own computer.

3. Me. Could not maintain one of my safety stops, because the BCD could not deflate. Even the divemaster could not make it deflate - it only worked on the boat.

4.+5. An Austrian guy, at 20 m suddenly his BCD fully inflated and he lost all air. At the same dive we were entering a cave. The divemasters never checked air during the dive. A Dutch guy got stuck in the cave. When being stuck, it appeared he had only 30 bar left - apparently something had been leaking, since he was quite an experienced diver and we all still had >100 bar. After getting him out, the divemaster sent the Dutch guy up with the Austrian guy. However, they were both out of air - the Austrian made an emergency ascent and the Dutch guy skipped his safety stop coming up with no air (0 bar), used his snorkel to the boat. In conclusion; the divemaster sent two people without air up together, without someone to buddy breathe.

These were just some examples. The dive crew is changed every week and can thus differ to a great extent every week. In my opinion this is very serious and if they continue like this there might be casualties. I will inform the certifying organization, too. Hopefully they will check the dive centre and force them to maintain the equipment because the dive sites are really beautiful!

Chantal Smulders

dive site directory recommends that if you are diving in Cuba you take your own kit with you. The minimum kit you should take is a dive computer or own depth gauge so that you can confidently monitor your dive. Cuba is a poor country and dive centres may not be ran to the standard that you are familiar with elsewhere. It is also important to thoroughly check kit before each dive, be aware of your limits and not be afraid to ask the dive guides to stay shallow or slow down if you do not feel comfortable. These rules should be applied wherever you travel to dive. However we hasten to add that the diving at Maria la Gorda is first class and we would recommend it to all divers.


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