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Dive Review of Avalon/Tortuga in
Cuba/jardines de reina

 
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Avalon/Tortuga, Feb, 2014,

by MBB, VA, US (Reviewer Reviewer 4 reports with 2 Helpful votes). Report 7770 has 2 Helpful votes.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 3 stars
Dive Operation N/A Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments Tortuga is a beautifully outfitted barge turned into a hotel that looks much like a live aboard.This is a shark feeding operation, though they said when asked when I reserved that was not the case. They did not feed from the boats I was on, but did from the others. The difference in the shark behavior was significant. The sound of the engines alone brought them; almost every dive they were circling on descent and ascent. Great for videography if you want to video a circus show, but not if you want to see natural reef behavior. The sharks were also overly interested in humans compared to non- fed animals. It was often only possible, even with a wide lens, to get an image of an eye or gill, because the sharks remained arms' length from the divers, often for the entire dive. Often I'd feel a presence behind me and turn around to find I was being tailgated by a shark. The angles for shark images were also different than with non- fed animals, in that these sharks primarily approached divers directly from the front, only turning at the last minute if the diver raised their camera. Again, good for thrill seekers unconcerned with the toll on the reef ecology their thrill requires.

Otherwise, the people were lovely. Staff was kind and helpful. The head of the boat staff was a marine biologist.

Cubans are in a very difficult situation. They can go to prison for dissent, and must be careful what they say. Yet I watched some very drunk Europeans asking pointed political questions using names of government officials, even after the person to whom they were speaking asked them not to use names.Food is rationed in Cuba for locals. There are two types of currency but, for the most part, not two pricing schedules. 1 tourist peso is equal to 25 local pesos. Cubans make, at most, 550 of their pesos a month.Often more like 250. Something costing 5 tourist pesos is 125 local pesos. That is 1/2 to 1/4the usual monthly salary. Cubans can no longer go on vacation themselves, or buy the kind of food we were eating, yet these same Europeans complained bitterly about the idea of tipping the staff. This is a great trip, but there are things to consider about being a good guest, as well as the fact that this is a shark feeding operation and some folks may not wish to support that. There is lots to see topside as well, from culture to wildlife. Cuba has 21 remaining endemic bird species, for those interested in birds. There are geological formations, forests, museums, and nightlife. But there is also great poverty, and some danger to locals with whom you may wish to discuss politics, if you are not discreet. There is a 99% literacy rate, but the libraries have few books because reading material is censored. Orwell, Kafka, are not names that are familiar. Hemingway is another story. I found Cubans to be almost uniformly helpful, kind, and friendly. But some sensitivity to their financial plight, as well as what could happen to them should they be found to be making statements considered to be against the revolution, is a decent thing to bring with along with your dive gear. (and there are 10s of thousands of "committees to defend the revolution" all over Cuba, just waiting to hear a misstep from the mouth of someone they may already dislike) This is a trip not to miss, but there are things to consider.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 101-250 dives
Where else diving French Polynesia, Honduras, BVI, Tobago, Saba, Isla Mujeres, Fla Keys, central Florida springs and rivers, Turks and Caicos,
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm
Water Temp 78-81°F / 26-27°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 100- Ft/ 30- M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions All go in a group with the divemaster.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities 4 stars
UW Photo Comments Dove from small boats or zodiacs. Separate rinse bucket and table for cameras upon return. Divemaster is a well known local photographer so plenty of help and facilities.
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Report currently has 2 Helpful votes

Subscriber's Comments

By Seth Resnikin CA, US at Mar 15, 2015 23:33 EST  
Excellent review, framed in a cultural and political context. Thanks.
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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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