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

 
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Avalon/Tortuga, Feb, 2014,

by MB, VA, US (Reviewer Reviewer 4 reports with 2 Helpful votes). Report 7543.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 3 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling 4 stars
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments Avalon emphatically said in advance emails when I was arranging my trip that they did not feed the sharks. They did. On my boat, they did not, out of respect for my sensibilities, which I had politely made clear before I went. But the other boats fed the sharks, which they readily discussed after each dive, and it was apparent in the shark behavior that they were accustomed to being fed or having chum set out to attract them. (They appeared the minute they heard the boat motor, circled the boat as we descended, and approached divers during most dives, repeatedly and very closely, within 1 meter - facing the diver head on, or approaching from the rear directly, and only turning aside when the diver raised a camera or turned or made other sudden movements.) Many times the only picture I could get was an eyeball or gills, because the shark was so close. This made for great filming, but was clearly a change in behavior of apex predators accomplished by human interaction. I am no marine biologist. It is often said that the existence of sharks indicates the relative health of a reef system. I don't know if that applies when the sharks are fed.

Otherwise, the diving was calm, not much current, great vis, lots of fish, lots of lionfish unfortunately, and they were not catching and eating them. (under the idea that this is a marine park, which is the same reason given to me when I was assured that they do not feed the sharks. Since they do feed the sharks, I don't see exactly why they could not eat the lionfish, but there you have it.) Good beginner diving. Not being a biologist, I can't speak to the health of the corals. There were quite a few varieties. Some brittle stars. Lots of Nassau and Goliath grouper.

Very interesting mangrove swamps, in which we dove once and that was a very interesting experience. upside down jellies, mangrove roots and the attendant fish nurseries, etc. And lots of birds in the mangroves, for those interested in birding.

Tortuga, a converted barge made into a hotel, is lovely, and the staff are wonderful down to the last person. Long trip to get there - 5 plus hour bus ride at 4 am to get to Jucaro, and another 5 hour boat ride (very calm) to get the 40 miles offshore to Tortuga. Theoretically, it would be possible to take a domestic flight on Air Cubana from Havana to Cayo Coco, an then you would only have a short trip south to get to Jucaro. However, Air Cubana is hilariously unreliable in terms of departure times, so this option is not used, as many people would miss the boat departure from Jucaro. (Air Cubana will sell a flight for 10:30 am, for example, then post at the airport that it is departing at 11:40, On Time. Sitting there in Havana, or in Nassau you hear the usual airline announcements that a flight has been delayed. Never on Air Cubana. Their flights are not delayed - the time is simply changed with no mention of the change, and the flight time is posted as the new time and listed as if it were on time. So, abandon hope of shaving the bus ride off the trip. On the other hand, the best roast pork I got the whole time I was there was in a roadside vendor next to the gas station where we stopped to refuel, so the trip was worth it! And the bus was comfortable.

The staff from Avalon was very helpful - helped me to arrange a rental car for further Cuba exploration once my diving was over - could not have been nicer or more helpful.
Websites Avalon   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 51-100 dives
Where else diving French Polynesia, Saba, Utila, Fla Keys, Central Fla springs and rivers, Tobago, Mexico, BVI, Turks and Caicos
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 82-°F / 28-°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 100- Ft/ 30- M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions Group went down together, surfaced together when anyone was below 10 Bar, unless you used up your air very quickly, in which case you could surface earlier and sit on the boat until the dive was finished.
Liveaboard? no 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 3 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics 4 stars

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities 5 stars
UW Photo Comments While I was there there the guy who wrote the first book on digital underwater photog was there. I don't know if that affected things, but there was a rinse station just for cameras upon return from diving, as well as a fresh water rinse and protected dry tables. The dive staff are interested in photography, and one divemaster would go down with his camera each time.
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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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