Diving in Maria la Gorda Cuba

Diving in Maria la Gorda, Cuba

 

Maria la Gorda is in Pinar del Rio province in western Cuba. It is mostly synonymous with the diving camp that is situated there.

The entire settlement consists of a hotel, diving centre, small shop, sandy beach and 2 restaurants.

However, even if you are not a diver, it is a nice place to spend a night.

If you walk a few kilometers away from the camp, towards the top of the peninsula, you see interesting landscape — mangrove swamp and the sea are divided by wall of old shells/corals. Some big (50 cm) empty shells there.

This entire peninsula was recently run over by Hurricane Ivan (and subsequently Hurricane Wilma) and it will probably take some time to restore its natural beauty.

Diving is the main activity on offer. A range of options are available, and snorkeling trips go out with every dive (though on one trip there was little to be seen by snorkelers that couldn’t be seen by snorkeling from the jetty). There is also a volleyball pitch.

The hotel also advertises that it runs hiking excursions, and other entertainment, but travelers report little evidence of any of that.

If you have your own transport it is possible to drive (with a paid guide) to the western end of mainland Cuba. You may see some Iguanas. There is a deep swimming hole with an underground connection to the sea (and containing some tropical fish) at the Ecological station, where the road meets the sea on the way in. Other trips (including hikes) are also available from the station. If you’re interested in Cuban birdlife there are a few bits and pieces to be seen. Bee Hummingbirds (the smallest bird in the world) are said to be present on the peninsula and at Playa Larga. Royal Terns loaf on the piles near the resort entrance and there are some Yellow-headed Warblers and Black-throated Green Warblers around a dump not far from the resort – follow a track into the scrubby woodland next to a roadside pool on the inland side of the road half a mile or so from the resort entrance. In spring large black, yellow and red land crabs swarm in their hundreds across the roads (especially after rain) and the inevitable casualties attract scavenging flocks of Turkey Vultures. Quite a sight.

Getting there:

There are no public buses to this part of Cuba. You can however book transfers easily through tour agencies.

From Vinales for example a transfer bus leaves daily at 8:00am and returns at 5:00pm – journey time 3hrs cost 15CUC per person. Bear in mind that Maria la Gorda is a long way from anywhere.

Hotel Maria la Gorda, CUC 66 for a room with 2 beds (hot water, TV, rich breakfast). This is the only hotel in entire area down from Guane. They have a complex of wooden cabins connected by walkways which were comfortable and pleasant.

If anyone knows if there are Casa Particulares, please add them as a comment or write an own tip. Thanks!

The dinner buffet is no good and at 15CUC per person is very bad value. There is also a small a la carte restaurant which is marginally better. When booking the hotel don’t take the dinner option – you can decide when you get there if you want to risk the buffet! (In March 2006 the food was found to be OK, though the restaurant was better than the buffet. Both were no better or worse than most of the meals in various parts of Cuba.)

 

Shark Cage Diving

Top Five Shark Cage Diving Hotspots in the World

 

Shark cage diving is the exhilarating experience of diving with the ocean’s apex predators with the protection of a steel cage.

There are only a handful of places where you can reliably see the most infamous predator of them all, the great white shark.

Here are the top five places to dive with great whites in the world.

Top five great white shark diving hotspots

Gansbaai, South Africa

Dubbed the ‘great white capital of the world’, Gansbaai’s large population of sharks congregate between Dyer Island and Geyser rock, creating an ideal situation for those willing to brave the cold waters and come face-to-face with a number of shark species.

In addition to great whites, Mako, tiger, black-tip and blue sharks can all be found in Gansbaai. The local cape fur seal colony provides the sharks with a perfect place to hunt for food, making it arguably the best location for shark cage diving in the world.

Isla de Guadelupe, Mexico

Located roughly 240km off the west coast of Mexico, Isla de Guadelupe is a popular eco-tourism destination because of its diverse marine life and visibility unrivalled by any other location on the list.

Guadelupe Island is the main dive spot to see great whites off the Mexican coast, while the Rivelligegedo Archipelago further up the coast is a hotspot for dolphins, manta rays, humpback whales and a number of shark species.

False Bay, South Africa

False Bay is without a doubt the best place to witness great whites ‘breaching’, the unique hunting technique where they use the element of surprise to catch seals with such force from below that they fly out of the water.

Shark cage diving is popular in the bay, and many operators offer the opportunity to scuba dive within the cage, allowing divers to observe sharks at greater depths for a greater length of time.

Neptune Islands, Australia

Neptune Islands Conservation Park is a safe haven for great whites, who continually face challenges worldwide for survival due to human factors such as shark nets, overfishing and habitat destruction. This is the only place in Australia where shark cage diving is permitted.

Split up into two sets of islands, the Neptunes are characterized by rocky terrain and are home to the largest colony of fur seals in the country. In addition to the impressive ocean life, the islands are also well-known for their terrestrial flora and fauna and include an impressive array of mammals, reptiles and birds.

Farallon islands, United States

Just 30kms from San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the Farallon Islands are a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean. Known as the ‘Islands of the Dead’ by Native Americans, they have remained largely uninhabited for most of their history, but marine and weather researchers maintain have recently established a small presence.

The islands are closed to the public but the surrounding waters are an excellent place to view great whites due to the large elephant seal colony scattered around its shores, which provide an excellent food source.