Cuba; Scuba Diving and Landside Exploration -- 7/98

Ahhhh, Cuba ! ! !


Of all the traveling I've done, my month in Cuba stands out as the best trip and most unique adventure.


On the way to Cuba from Grand Cayman, I began to keep a daily journal which is also posted to this web site. It offers a much more personal and in depth look at the life and culture of Cuba than this short, summary style Trip Report and is definitely worth some time.


I met Chris in Grand Cayman and spent several weeks making ready "Defiance", a 37 foot Endeavor sailing yacht for the trip to Cuba (see Grand Cayman Trip Report).

We finally set sail late June for Cienfuegos, Cuba from Grand Cayman. The passage took about 36 hours and we docked in the Marina Jagua, Cienfuegos late at night.

Photo Courtesy of C. Taniguchi    

Our plan was to spend a week or so in Cienfuegos resting and preparing for the next leg of our journey - to sail east along the south coast of Cuba to the "Jardines de la Reina" - "The Queen's Garden" for what we had heard is some of the most spectacular, virgin diving in the Caribbean.

We would dive as much of the 100 miles of uninhabited keyes we could with the air tanks we had on board and the weather would allow. We guessed we would have about a week and then would return to Cienfuegos and explore the inland southeast portion of Cuba returning to Grand Cayman in about a month's time.

  My exposure to Cuba began with our arrival in Cienfuegos and walking through town the first day. I found Cuba to be reminiscent of Mexico a bit but with less infrastructure and a warmer, more curious population. I was immediately struck by the people who were very outgoing and watched our every move. They were very forward in approaching us and asking about us and what it was like in the United States. Most of the people I spoke with had never met an American before and my presence was quite a novelty.

During my stay in southern Cuba there was never an attempt to hustle us as tourists, only a genuine desire to greet us and inquire about life outside Cuba. We responded honestly and enjoyed these encounters. Over
the weeks developed many friendships with local families.

In this way, I became very attached to several families who took me into their homes, offered what little they had and made me feel as warm and welcome as anywhere I've ever been.

  After a week or so in Cienfuegos, we sailed to The Queen's Garden and experienced some of the most spectacular Caribbean diving I've ever experienced. Untouched, unseen before, virgin walls, huge fish unafraid of divers, schools of fish, lobsters as shallow as six feet were normal during our explorations.

We spent a week diving and sailing through these remote islands and returned to Cienfuegos to our friends and a warm welcome.


We visited the towns of Trinidad, Casilda and Cuyamanagua, and hiked the mountain jungles to find a beautiful waterfall. Our our way, we traveled through uncountable small towns and settlements where our presence was largely announced and celebrated.

Traveling through Cuba proved to be uniquely moving. Where ever we went, we were treated like kings, welcomed into homes and treated with the utmost respect.

As out time to depart Cuba drew near, the weather became much worse and unpredictable. Hurricane season was approaching and the change in the seas was evident. We had no source of weather information and we decided to leave the yacht in Cienfuegos and return for it another time.

We secured a seat on a plane departing Havana to Grand Cayman and hired a car for the five hour drive north to Havana.

We spend a day and a half in Havana and that was enough for me. During a month in Cuba, Havana was the only place I was uncomfortable and didn't thoroughly enjoy. It was just another third world city, bustling with people hustling tourists for a buck and completely lacking the country charm we had come to enjoy so much.


Photo Courtesy of C. Pritchard

My experience in Cuba was wonderful and hopefully will be repeated in the near future (maybe January '99?) in more depth. There is so much more of this charming land to explore.

Living day to day as a traveler in Cuba is difficult as obtaining food, water and other necessities is difficult and occasionally impossible unless one stays at a Government sponsored hotel.

With access limited to only non-national tourists and guests encouraged to leave the premises only on guided tours, one is deprived of the true flavor of Cuba. The price of the inconveniences is well worth the rewards of experiencing Cuba first hand, as it truly is and before it opens up and changes forever!

  If willing and able, throw yourself into the culture, meet and spend time with the people of Cuba. I guarantee if you are game enough to live as they do, accept what they accept, you will have the experience of a lifetime.

For a more in depth understanding of Cuban life - go to the "Cuba Journal".


Return to "Cuba" Home Page

Return to "Trip Reports"