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Dive Review of Avalon/Tortuga in
Cuba/Gardens of the Queen

 
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Avalon/Tortuga: "Excellent trip and some of the best diving I have seen in 30 years", Apr, 2014,

by Robert M Symington, BC, CA (Reviewer Reviewer 4 reports with 5 Helpful votes). Report 7829 has 3 Helpful votes.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 3 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 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Utterly fantastic diving, some of the best I have ever seen and comparable in my mind to Sipidan Island of the 1990's. The trip out was long and tiring but the experience was well worth it. I highly recommend the stop over in Havana before or after as it is well worth the few days I spent touring it. Luisa Sacerdote of Avalon booked all the hotels, transfers and diving and I thank her for her help and the seamless holiday.

Gardens of the Queen is an offshore pristine reef in which I saw schools of fish larger than I have ever experienced. I was drawn to it after watching the Anderson Cooper special on 60 minutes and was not disappointed. Only 60 to 80 divers on 4 live-aboard's are allowed out in any one week and I think I lucked out by staying on the Tortuga which has the most room and a very good internet connection. The daily routine on the Tortuga consisted of heading out on small boats, in our case in a group of 6 divers, to various marked dive sites which generally involved 20 to 30 minute boat rides from the Tortuga (which is a converted bunkhouse located on a barge) through the mangrove swamp to the reef front. The wildlife in the mangrove swamp included crocodiles which we observed during a stop in in mangroves. We did 3 dives a day, all on air as nitrox is not available yet, and by my last dive I was on an 11 minute decompression stop on my computer which gave me pause considering the time it would have taken to reach a recompression chamber.

Numerous Caribbean, Silky and Nurse sharks. Goliath Groupers were observed at a couple of the Sites and the "bark" they make can be heard and felt and was unlike anything I had experienced. Numerous Black and Nassau Groupers, Tarpons and Barracudas. The reef corals were in spectacular shape and showed very little or none of the degradation I have witnessed in most of the Caribbean.

The crowd consisted of mostly Europeans and my dive group was Swiss although luckily for me, most spoke English. Other groups seemed to be from Italy but we had very little contact with the other 3 live-aboard's which were anchored primarily away from the mangrove in open water. Surprising to me was a contingent of Americans who were there legally with a group called Ocean Doctors.

The trip is all about the diving and the accommodation was basic. Food was plentiful and the chef did a great job with lots of lobster (not again we all would groan) and a good assortment of choices served on communal platters.
Websites Avalon   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Belize, Bonaire, Curacao, Honduras, St Lucia, St Vincent Grenadines, Cayman, British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta
Closest Airport Havana Getting There Overnight in Havana, 6 hour bus ride and 3 hour boat ride

Dive Conditions

Weather Seas calm, choppy, surge
Water Temp 78-82°F / 26-28°C Wetsuit Thickness 2
Water Visibility 60-110 Ft/ 18-34 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions We all dove as a group and would enter and exit the water at the same time. The 6 in my group all dove at about the same level which worked well.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? no

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 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 1 stars
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments There is no dedicated area for UWP or facilties and we were left to our own devices. The subject matter, to my mind, made up for the lack of facilities.
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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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