Ocean First in Cuba 2015

By OceanFirst on 9/17/15

Field Report from Klara:

Cuba, where the rum flows like wine and even the shyest of people will salsa. From the moment you exit the airport a constant party enthralls you. The culture flourishes bright yellow and pink, loud and exciting, always with something to do. The locals are out all night along the Malecon drinking the most delicious rum I’ve tasted and listening to strictly Cuban music.

Cuba was everything I imagined it would be. Havana offered an array of restaurants, jazz clubs, and walking malls. The whole city seemed to be on at all hours of the day, while the countryside was tranquil, covered in livestock, and very family oriented. We spent three days in Havana, exploring historical monuments, local restaurants, and music. Beautiful farmlands with tall trees, suitably dubbed “Tourist Trees” due to their red color and peeling nature, help fill the landscape, waterfall havens where the locals spend their weekends border the capital, and we were lucky enough to explore this countryside as well.

Before I would ever be able to finish off a Cuban cigar, we were headed for the Gardens of the Queen. A six-hour bus ride beginning before the sun rose shuttled us to another world. We went from the aching muscle and smoggy bustle of Havana to the relaxing sway of the Avalon II atop the turquoise seas of the Caribbean. 1,000 square kilometers of marine protected waters filled with beautiful and lively creatures.

First, a penga ride to our dive site, zipping through mangroves and saltwater crocodiles before we back-rolled into 82 degree water. The soft gorgonians sway in the persistent surge, making a mockery out of my mid-photo buoyancy and sometimes even the fish stop to take a ride. Crustaceans both giant and tiny hide in confined spaces, always on the lookout, while colorful reef fish comb the coral for food. Pelagic life is prevalent as well; large, beautiful rays make guest appearances while gray reef and silky sharks stole the show. The local dive guides often refer to the Caribbean reef sharks as flies due to their number and shear peskiness. It’s hard for me to imagine I’ll ever feel the same way. The sharks wait as we make our descent, circling, observing and following us for a good portion of the dive.

Back aboard the Avalon II, the crew is friendly, accommodating, and ready to out-salsa you in a moments notice. The boat came fully equipped will all the usual amenities; a deliciously warm hot tub awaits us on the sun deck at the end of the day while a fully functioning waterslide occupies us until we’ve off-gassed enough to feel comfortable soaking it up. It is here, on the waterslide, that one’s true age shines through. We boasted a group full of esteemed professionals, attorneys to herbal specialists, surgeons to rocket scientists, and yet contests for the most original sliding positions got heated and bruising quickly accumulated within the six person trains.

Between the wonderful group, exceptional diving, and quintessential experiences in Havana, Cuba was well worth the wait. Thanks to our wonderful partner, the Ocean Doctor, we were able to explore the country’s splendor as well as learn about the assimilation between its people and the environment.

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