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Scuba Diving in Santiago De Cuba October 17, 2008

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log.
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This area of Cuba is on the South Coast on the eastern end of the island, almost as far away from Havana as you can get. It was still the days of really cheap holidays in Cuba (they’re still cheaper than other places), and that’s what we were looking for, so we booked at the Delta Sierra Mar (a Canadian hotel chain). The resort was lovely, the beach OK but not a patch on Varadero, and the food was good but monotonous. At least the dive boat worked.

The first dive was led by a young woman. I didn’t have my own gear at the time except the mask and snorkel I’d brought along, and I was given reasonably up-to-date gear except I had no Octo or depth gauge. Lacking the former, I thought, would be someone else’s problem, and the depth gauge wasn’t all that necessary as I was just sticking with the group.

Without so much as a briefing on hand signals, she said “everybody ready?”, and when we said yes, she just backrolled into the water. We all followed her down, down, and down some more. I was thinking that we’d been descending for quite a while and swam up behind another diver to check her depth gauge. It read 130 feet. After a couple of minutes she signaled everyone to go up and we returned to the boat. She’d missed the reef. Quite a surprise she’d take an untested group of divers that deep without so much as a briefing, but that’s Cuba, and that was my deepest dive to date and remained so for a dozen more years.

The rest of the diving was unmemorable, and all the more so as I’d reached a new low in my dive logging, merely writing down “Santiago De Cuba, 7 dives” in my log book – and I’m not sure of the date, although I think it was around March, 1994. However, one of the surface intervals was quite the thing. We were asked if we’d like to visit the “bat cave”. So we snorkeled from the boat to the shore and through a half submerged opening into a small cave. There was the odd bat flying around but nothing exciting. We were then directed through another opening into a larger cave. Once our eyes became used to the darkness we saw the bats, all hanging from the ceiling shoulder-to-shoulder. There must have been tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of them. I’ve never seen anything like it. Through another entrance we could see another cave that accessed the shore. This apparently was a favourite secluded spot for youthful romance. Just the two of us and the bats.

On one of the dives my sunglasses fell off while I was unloading from the boat, moored about 100 feet from the shore. On the last day, being unable to dive due to the upcoming flight, I spent two hours with snorkel, mask and fins searching before I finally found them. During the time the dive boat pulled up, anchored, and proceeded to pump its oily bilge, fouling the area in which I was swimming. I realised that they had much to learn about environmental protection.

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