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Dive Review of Avalon Dive Center/Tortuga in
Cuba/Jardines de la Reina

 
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Avalon Dive Center/Tortuga, Aug, 2014,

by Eric Schindler, AZ, US (Contributor Contributor 13 reports with 15 Helpful votes). Report 7722 has 4 Helpful votes.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Gardens of the Queens is far and away the best diving in the Caribbean, and the marine life present is comparable to top notch locations in the Western Pacific/Coral Triangle and Indian oceans. The highlights are dive encounters with sharks unlike any other. Caribbean reef sharks, Silkies, nurse sharks abound and accompany you on every dive. The largest fish I have ever seen -- a goliath grouper guestimated to be over 600 pounds, relatively healthy corals, including some color (this was peak ocean temperature for the year so some bleaching noted). Pelagics and smaller tropicals are here too.

Avalon is a partnership between an Italian outfit and the Cuban Government and it is a huge operation including the stationary Tortuga unique barge/hotel, and up to six liveaboards varying in comfort from quite luxurious (Avalon 2) to nice, with the Tortuga comparable to above average level liveaboards. While accomodations vary, the food and dive program is identical

Top notch service and the best food I have ever enjoyed on a diving trip! Made to order breakfast every morning, an abundance of seafood including lobster and fresh fish and sashimi regularly, and plenty of Cuban meats, chicken and side dishes at both lunch and dinner. No complaints or suggestions. Free rum each night, and pay for sodas, beer.

We went on our own "illegally" and I encourage everyone to consider this option. You can easily fly in from Canada, Mexico, Bahamas. You can book on the Avalon web site and pay in advance through their system safely with credit card. They emulate the package offered to European/Canadian divers and include hotel in Havana before and after the diving. We paid around $3500 but this varies depending on which vessel you pick. We were astonished to learn that the "legal version" through Ocean Doctors is well over double that price.

We spent a week prior exploring several cities in Cuba and were warmly welcomed. We used Pototo Travel Services (check out on Trip Advisor). It is hard to describe the experience of visiting - going back in time in some ways. No internet essentially throughout the country but the Tortuga resort has free wifi through satellite!

Be prepared for the 6 hour comfortable bus ride followed by potentially rough 3 hour sea crossing on large high speed transport boat to get to Tortuga or board your liveaboard and same crossing to the archipelago.

This is a great diving week in a protected marine reserve and the benefits of its remoteness and strict government enforcement of no fishing are evident

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving [Indonesia, Palau, Maldives, Caribbean venues, etc
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm, choppy, no currents
Water Temp 82-86°F / 28-30°C Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 40-100 Ft/ 12-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions Very professional, respectful. Guide led dives for as long as you want to stay down and have sufficient air
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish 5 stars
Large Pelagics 5 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments We are not photographers, but plenty of space on board for accommodating cameras, etc. Staff are supportive of needs
Was this report helpful to you?
Report currently has 4 Helpful votes

Subscriber's Comments

By Jeff Moore in FL, US at Oct 07, 2014 19:58 EST  
How many dives per day/week?
By Jeff Moore in FL, US at Oct 07, 2014 19:59 EST  
How many dives per day/week?
By report author: Eric Schindler in AZ, US at Oct 08, 2014 10:43 EST  
Jeff, the package is for five days of diving, three dives per day. It is possible to add extra "twilight" dives for a stated $40 per. Night dives are technically not allowed, but our twilight dive started late enough to transition from dusk to darkness
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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