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Scuba Diving in Cuba, Caribbean
Dive Site: El Coral
Location: East of the lighthouse, Cienfuegos, Cuba
Description: Wreck / reef
Depth: 18 metres + (59 feet)
Visibility: 15 metres (50 feet)
El Coral is also known as Notre Dame (the Cathedral) and sometimes referred to as the Lady of the Caribbean. Located just a short boat ride (around 5 minutes) from the shore at the Faro de Luna hotel this dive site has much to offer. Named for the fantastic coral columns and pillars this site also has prolific small marine life and the wreckage from two vessels. The large coral columns rise from around 10 metres, coming to within just a few metres of the surface. The seabed is a mixture of coral columns, coral formations and sand gullies which provide an undersea maze to explore. Large brain corals, staghorn coral and a whole host of stony corals provide a backdrop for small reef fish to dart in and out of.
Following the slope south east down to 18m and you'll find the wreckage of an old fishing boat. There appears to be fire damage, but the wreckage is very low-lying making it difficult to tell. Often mistaken for more than one wreck the vessel is torn into several sections and what remains is quite broken up. Nevertheless chromis, wrasse and groupers as well as nudibranchs have made their homes here. If you head east you'll find the second wreck, which is a passenger steam ship, known as the Rancho Club. I can't help wondering if this is the actual name of the wreck or if it was named after the Rancho Luna Beach or Rancho Club located in Cienfuegos. Perhaps in the absence of a name a local dive guide chose to name it after the beach resort? This wreck was broken up in 1996 by Hurricane Lili and what remains is scattered debris which is now being colonised by soft corals. There was no current when we dived here, although diving here in the September rainy season visibility was limited to around 15 metres.
Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor
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