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Diving in Cuba

Discussion in 'Greater Antilles' started by Dann, Sep 27, 2011.

  1. DandyDon

    DandyDon Old men ought to be explorers ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: One kilometer high on the Texas Central Plains
    I've heard that they have local dive insurance. I'd hate to dive without DAN but something is better than nothing.
  2. Torontonian

    Torontonian Contributor

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Toronto, Ont., Canada
    Hey Dan, my family also was at this same resort, Villas Jibacoa Cameleon, end of Aug. to early Sept. The resort was decent, but my son got sick one day. I also got sick the 2nd last day. We noticed they never changed the tablecloth the entire week we were there, and we've heard other guests questioning the hygien too. We also had our laptop computer stolen. That was another story.

    But the diving was pretty good. Elicio and Chino were both good guides. My kids got certified by Elicio, with ACUC OW. It was interesting that we go to the dive sites by peddle boats, put the gears after they tie the boats, then we jump down. After the dive we take the gears off, they host onto the boats, then we peddle back. Not a lot of fish, but interesting enough corrals, especially for my kids to learn.

    There was another guy who was at the resort and did some diving. He goes to Cuba every 2-3 months, and dove all over. He said Giron has good diving, but not very good resort. He likes the diving at Santa Lucia too. We both liked Bay of Pigs, very nice shore dive with lots of colors at the wall.

    On the way back, my checked bag of regulator/computer/reel/dive-light was lost. That was yet another story, as many people thought it is stolen, not lost.

    Oh, well, it was a good trip, as my wife was just recoverying from illness, so it was good for our family to be able to go there to relax for the week and got some decent diving in.
    Mark Derail likes this.
  3. Mark Derail

    Mark Derail Photographer

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Montreal, Quebec CA
    Thanks for the story.

  4. Dann

    Dann Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: KW, ON, CA
    @ Torontonian

    I'm definitely sad to hear about your experience at Jibacoa. We had nothing bad happening to us for the duration. The tablecloth story - we had similar experiences. At the table, we always made sure not to set anything directly on the tablecloth, always used a plate. If needed to - replaced the cutlery also. Same went for glasses, mugs, etc.
    One main point - we always tried to eat at the beginning of the bf/Lunch/Dinner period, rather then at the end. We found out the hard way the 1st day, when we arrived late and had no edible choices. No biggie, just re-schedule our eating habits - which was easy to do since I was always diving early in the morning with Breezes.
    As for Chino and Lemay (instructor at Breezes) - they were nothing but the best with us. Always made sure we're looked after (this included the "incident" with our daughter when she couldn't equalize), every dive planning started with: "Dan, where would you like to dive today? How deep? What do you want to see?"
    We always left the equip in the shop to dry overnight, never had a problem, nothing grew legs and walked off. This was pretty impressive since that shop is left somewhat unattended for periods of time. Chino came early on our last day so I can get all the gear out of the shop and leave in time.

    In the room, we did use the safe box. We never left valuables out - just in case. The only items that are still in Cuba are the ones we gave away.

    We always take the reg bags and masks in the carry-on with us. One bag has 2 complete sets of regs, the other has the 3rd set, computer, compass, save a dive kit, etc. The rest of the bulky stuff is in the checked bags.

    Again, sad to hear about you guys getting sick and going through some hard times during your trip. Hopefully will be better next time.

  5. Torontonian

    Torontonian Contributor

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Toronto, Ont., Canada
    So Dan, you always dove with Breezes next door but not with the dive shop at Chameleon? That's interesting. I did go next door to the Breezes dive shop. They didn't offer certification, while the dive shop at our resort did, and I wanted my kids to get certified. I also thought Breezes charge $30 CUC for the dives, while Chameleon charged $20. Maybe Breezes lowered the price in Sept. Well, Breezes used a motor boat, while we used peddle boats. No big deal, we had actually gone quite far with the peddle boats.

    Good point about not setting anything on the table/tablecloth. We were not that careful. Fortunately for my son it was 1/2 day being sick. For me it was a whole day the 2nd last day, to morning of the last day.

    This was a 3* resort. We almost went to Giron where they are supposed to have good diving/snorkeling, but resorts are mostly 2*. Just before booking the availability was gone (no more flight seats, so no availability at any resort there). That's why we ended up at Villas Jibacoa Chameleon this time. Next time we won't come to this resort and may consider Breezes albeit at a higher price, and elsewhere.
  6. Dann

    Dann Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: KW, ON, CA
    edit: My previous post was a bit confusing. Sorry about that.
    I did dive with both shops. Morning dives (deep dives) i did with breezes since they were going farther and deeper. All other dives of the day (from 10am) I did with villa cameleon.
    Where I enjoyed the deep dives in the morning, I did prefer the more friendly, personable side of the smaller shop at villa cameleon. this is not to say that breezes is unfriendly, it's just that chino's shop has the "personal touch" with less cattle-boat feel.
    I'd definitely go back to dive with those 2 shops. made lots of friends on our trip, some of which we still keep in touch with. Could the resort be improved? Sure it could! But again, the resort was not the main reason we vacationed here. :wink:
    Give it a second chance. :)
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2011
  7. Torontonian

    Torontonian Contributor

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Toronto, Ont., Canada
    Hi Dan. So you did dive with both shops. Yes Chino and Elicio at the Villas Chameleon were quite nice. It made the diving and learning for my kids a good experience.

    However, if you did get sick, and had your laptop stolen, you may also not want to give that resort a second chance again.

    The diving/snorkeling was one of the main attractions for us in the resort. But it was also the chance to go as a family, chance for my kids to get certified, chance to take my kids to see Havana (before Cuba opens up and get over-run by Americans), etc. What we didn't expect was the laptop to be stolen, or getting sick.

    Yes it's Cuba, and the food is not that good. My wife and I stayed at Beaches Veradero before and as a 4.5* the food was a lot nicer, and not the problem of the unchanged tableclothes. Upon checking tripadvisor, there were quite a few people saying the same thing - tableclothes not changed in the dining room. Wonder if maybe they change it once or year or what.

    Well, at least both of us did have good diving experience there.
  8. Darol

    Darol ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    Let's say, I know Americans who go to Cuba. True they will not stamp your Passport unless you
    want it. It's not illegal to go to Cuba, however it is illegal for Americans to take American currency to Cuba. So Windsor, Cuba, Canadian Money....
  9. theaudone

    theaudone Registered

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Ontario, Canada
    Hi, have been to Playa Giron many times, a package is inexpensive however you do get what you pay for- the hotel is basic, the entertainment is non existant, the food consists of mainly rice and processed meat and the beach is not pretty, something to consider if these things are important to you or your non-diving partner.

    I have however found ways around most of this. There is a very nice Casa Particulares (room in someone's home) that you can rent for $25 a day, and the home cooked food is amazing. You can email Ivette or Ronel at lidi@informed.sld.cu to arrange to stay at their house or just get escape the hotel for a few good meals, it will only cost you about $10 a plate and is only a five minute walk from the hotel. Ronel is a divemaster as well and speaks very good english so you will have lots of fun and good conversation. There is a restaurant near the hotel that makes a decent pizza for $2. and good rice and chicken for $3. There are other beaches you can go to that are spectacular, some sandy and others rocky. All of these put the hotel beach to shame. If bored at the hotel you can visit the town or take a day trip to another city- driving in Cuba is always an adventure!

    Now for the diving- if you want to see huge schools of fish and large animals you will be disappointed. I don't know why but there just isn't a lot of aquatic life. The CORAL however is absolutely stunning in front of and around Punta Perdiz. I am usually disappointed by lack of fish etc, but the abundance and health of the coral in this area is really something. I'm into macro photography and can spend the whole week at 20 feet in Punta Perdiz and not get boredor see the same thing twice. Something I can't say about many other place I've been. You can dive with the hotel dive shop, they have gear to rent, it's in ok shape, but I would bring your own regulator. They have a really kooky dive bus that takes you to the sites, it's roomy, breezy and a lot of fun to drive around in. You can also dive at Punta Perdiz with Daniel Perez and friends. Daniel is a well known photographer in Cuba and it seems that his shop is a little more flexible to "dropping in" for a dive wheras the hotel shop is on a set schedule. You can also have a private dive with a man named Julio who is married to a woman named Lydia who works at the hotel. He is a certified dive master and will show you all of the spots where the locals like to dive. So there are lots of options in case you sleep in and miss the bus.There is also a few cenotes and a wreck which are interesting. The cenotes are deep with a lot of time in between openings, so it feels more like a cave dive, which is kind of fun. Bring your own lights and lots of fresh batteries if you do this. Haven't done the wreck yet. Diving is between $20 / $25 per tank, depending on how many you do.

    Rancho Luna is a party hotel, so if getting a good nights sleep before an early morning dive is important to you, don't stay there. The diving was not as good as Playa Giron. If you like to drink more than dive- go to Rancho Luna. If you like to dive more than drink- go to Playa Giron.

    We like to go on scuba vacations 4-5 times a year, we alternate more "fancy" trips with Playa Giron to keep our yearly cost of diving more reasonable. Have been to other places in Cuba too- Jardines de la Reina was the best by far- a great liveaboard that lives up to its promise of up close shark action. Santa Lucia was good for the bull shark dives, but I wasn't too impressed with much else. Cayo Largo was good ten years ago, but has been illegally fished and the coral seems to be bleaching. Trinidad was a great city to visit but the diving was extremely disappointing- no fish and drab coral. Planning a visit to Maria La Gorda and Isla de la Juventud in 2012, the divemasters in Cuba all agree that these are the best places along with Playa Giron and Jardines de la Reina.

    If you do go anywhere in Cuba, remember to bring gifts like otc medicine, chocolate, good kids shoes and toys. All of these items are warmly accepted by Cubans and may even get you a free home cooked meal or complimentary dive!
  10. austinspace

    austinspace Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Austin, TX
    Thanks for all the information on Playa Giron. I am looking at going there for a week toward the end of April, by myself.

    Wondering what you think the prospects are for hooking up with a dive buddy for shore diving there?

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